What if Winning Just Isn’t That Important?

When reality stops making sense, perhaps it is time to check our assumptions. Here are two I’ve made about the goals of a baseball franchise:

  • A baseball franchise’s primary goal is to attract and retain paying customers
  • The best way to attract and retain paying customers is by routinely fielding a team that wins more than it loses

I’m still reasonably confident about the first assertion, but the second is causing problems as it relates to the Padres. Fans have spoken with their mouths and with their pocketbooks, and the consensus seems to be that winning — in and of itself — ain’t all that great.

Baseball is a form of entertainment. People want to have fun at the games, which may or may not have anything to do with wins and losses. We’ve talked about the importance of good marketing and having marquee players on the team, but we haven’t really talked about excitement.

The complaints I hear from Padres fans generally fall into one of two categories:

  • The team isn’t committed to winning a World Series
  • The team plays boring baseball

In terms of commitment to winning the World Series, we’ve noted that 97% of teams fail in their pursuit every year. It’s how the system is rigged. The best we can do is assemble a good team and then deliver a message of hope compelling enough to make people come along for the ride despite the ridiculous odds against them.

As to the second issue, excitement is largely a function of runs scored. More runs equals more excitement. We’re not placing a value judgment on this statement, just observing that it tends to be true, particularly among the more casual fans who are out to “see stuff happen.”

These people, whose money is just as good as everyone else’s, may view a strong pitching performance as the failure of many hitters to execute rather than the success of one player to keep those others from executing. So even though these customers get to watch a pitcher dominate, that may not fall into the category of “stuff” that they want to see happen.

They come home from what you or I might consider a brilliant game and complain about how boring it was. This isn’t their fault. It may be aggravating, but it’s not their fault.

Before we go any further, let me tell you that I don’t have a solution in mind. What I do have is a question.

Kobayashi Maru

In the Star Trek universe, the Kobayashi Maru test presents a no-win scenario that cadets must face as a test of character. How does that relate to the Padres?

Well, we’re going to play a little game. Basically I’ll give you two scenarios and you’ll tell me which one you prefer and why.

As background, from 2004 to 2007, the Padres won between 82 and 89 games each season. Since 1998, when the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays joined MLB, a total of 79 teams have finished with a wins total in 82-89 range. Of those, 12 (15.2%) have reached the playoffs, and two (2.5%) have won the World Series.

In the following exercise, we make a few assumptions:

  • You are thinking as a business owner or other stakeholder, not as a fan
  • In any given year, you can guarantee one of the two outcomes presented
  • No other outcomes are possible
  • Your payroll and marketing efforts are identical in both scenarios
  • You are not James T. Kirk, i.e., you cannot change the rules (don’t tell me that a team can win and play exciting baseball; we both know that, and it misses the point)

My question is this: If you run the Padres and are trying to maximize attendance in a single year, which predetermined outcome do you choose for your team as a means to achieving this goal?

Two Scenarios
  Scenario A Scenario B
Wins 82-89 74-81
Chance of reaching the playoffs 15% 0%
Chance of winning the World Series 2.5% 0%
Runs scored per game 10% below league average 10% above league average

Here are some additional questions to consider:

  • Does your response change if we extend this to a period of 5 years? Or 10?
  • How many wins are needed to offset the lack of scoring? Would 90 wins be enough to make “boring” baseball palatable for fans?
  • How many losses are needed to quash the excitement of high-scoring games?

Like I said, I don’t have any answers. I know what I like to see as a fan, and I’m also quite aware that I don’t represent the vast majority of folks who attend baseball games. Short of watching Eddie Oropesa pitch, I can appreciate just about anything that happens on a diamond, but I’m kind of a freak that way.

For many people, the game itself isn’t inherently exciting. So, we make tradeoffs. And I’m wondering whether maybe it’s okay to sacrifice a few wins here and there in the name of capturing the attention of folks who don’t necessarily appreciate the game’s finer points.

Scenario A or Scenario B? Which way do you prefer to fail? ;-)

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47 Responses »

  1. I would need to know the attendence for Rockies games…I think they are a good example of exciting baseball without much winning going on…I think that will give you an idea of which way is better from the business aspect.

  2. If I were running a team and had to choose between winning with a weak offense and losing with a strong offense, I would take the winning every time. I believe, and much academic research supports, that fans respond extremely strongly to winning. In fact, these gains actually carry over to the next season, boosting attendance the next year as well. Runs scored may have some effect, but this is minimal compared to winning.

  3. #1@Coronado Mike: Last year was the first time since the Padres moved to Petco Park that the Rockies outdrew them:

    Rockies attendance
    Padres attendance

    Based on this additional information, which scenario do you choose?

  4. As Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh said: “Winning is, like, better than losing.”

    Other than runs, I think fans would respond to pitching strikeouts and stolen bases.

    But I’ll still take wins over those things, too.

  5. The interesting thing is that while the Padres play at Petco, the choice is made for them. At least insofar as their scoring compared to league average. Which, for me, is totally fine.

    I still think that winning is what motivates people to come to games. The Chargers were a pretty miserable franchise before Marty showed up and got them some wins. And since then, the City has been swooning over them worse than a teenage girl at a Jonas Brothers concert.

    Maybe it’s because we haven’t hit the magical threshold of 90 wins? I don’t know. Traditional baseball knowledge holds that a 90-win team should be a playoff contender. Maybe a) the relative quagmire of the NL West and b) our inability to reach that artbitrary plateau has convinced fans that the Padres are merely the best of the worst, rather than a legitimately competitive team.

    This is going to sound totally stupid, but I really think that a good interleague record would go a long way to establishing some credibility in the minds of casual fans. After all, the only thing worse than losing more games than the Giants is losing the season series to the Mariners.

  6. If we are using your guidelines, GY, I would pick B… I don’t think this is a fair comparison though because if in option A there is a chance that the team may not score any runs and you only have a 50/50 shot of seeing your team win if you go to the ballpark it just does not seem as worth it if you have a 45% chance of seeing your team win and there is a very good chance that you will see some big home runs (from either team), some great plays on the base paths, and knowing that your team has a great chance of scoring a guy from third when there is less than 2 outs.

    I think the problem with boring baseball is that people only remember their last experience; if the team wins by a Hoffy, now Bell, save all is great but if they lose because they cannot get anything going offensively or they cannot finish out innings once they get men on, then it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

  7. Can we really say that winning isn’t that important? The Padres in Petco seem to have followed a standard attendance pattern. Big boost right after the new park opens, with only slight decline in strong winning seasons. The two seasons with the lowest attendance were the two seasons with the lowest win totals. That looks like winning matters quite a bit.

    Gotta win first. A good marketing team can market almost anything, and baseball shouldn’t be that hard to sell. The fans of every team but one spend every winter broken-hearted, so the lack of a championship can’t be a critical failure. If it was there’d be a lot more empty parks.

    This is only my personal experience and that of a few friends who’ve gone to games with me, but Petco feels somewhat sterile. That may make it harder to sell the Experience. It may be just a marginal impact on attendance, but the park, to me, lacks charm. I don’t go to games for charm, but it’s nice to have, and there might be 100,000 possible ticket buyers who would.

  8. #6@Steve C: Does losing because the other team hit more HR than you leave a better taste, though?

    There’s no one fan type. The Padres need to figure out what type of fans aren’t coming, then figure out how to appeal to whichever sub-group of those fans is most easily swayed without compromising the things that make everyone else show up. I’d hope that the appeal doesn’t involve more noise between innings and more scoreboard graphic games, but maybe it does. Maybe a change in ownership will help repair the implicit social contract between the team and fans, whether you believe it was actually violated or not.

    Option B, “Excitement,” is just the grass on the other side of the fence. Once you’re standing on it, it’s going to turn brown faster than winning.

  9. For starters, I pick winning and take my chances with the rest.

    As far as attracting fans is concerned, I would suggest home field dominance may place a large rule in attracting fans. In the years in question 2004-2007 the Padres won 53% of their games, 55% at home and 52% on the road. During the 2004 and 2006 seasons their road record record was better than their home record.
    You ask the question does winning draw fans? Yes, but fans in attendance will judge but what they see and they have not seen dominance at home. I would suggest the fans will accept a team that has a mediocre record on the road, if they dominate at home. Something the Padres have not been able to do, with Petco in its’ current configuration.

  10. VERY GREAT post, GY … perhaps keep this comment string going for a while? Or at least continue this thread of thought for several posts (and/or come back to it frequently) … it’s more than I can embrace right now … but here’s a few thoughts off the top …

    – as a business own, I’d choose A, quickly and clearly … I want to sell “a chance to win” … for B, by definition, this cannot be done … to that end, I’d submit that B does not exist in the real world (i.e., teams that can/do score 10% above league average have a non-0% chance of making the playoffs, and *any* team that makes the playoffs has a chance to win it all).

    – personally, I’m OK with an ownership/management philosophy of “do what it takes to be above-.500 every year and then see what happens” … but I’m coming more and more to the opinion that the Padres would be more successful (as a business) with a philosophy of “we’re working a plan that will bring a World Series to San Diego” … because what’s *really* fun for all fans is when that happens … and the prospect of that happening again can/does sustain for a *long* time. Do you remember 1984? 1998? I still do! My view of the challenge of this philosophy is to be patient enough to take good risks without being careless … it seems to me the Padres have good/smart enough people in the FO to do this … and so I’m confused by why they choose to present their philosophy as “our goal is be above-.500 (i.e., win 82-89 games)” …

    – perhaps “boring baseball” is the same as “we don’t have a star”? Jake is great … but somehow he hasn’t filled the need for “a star” …

  11. I would take Scenario A because all I want is for the Padres to win a World Series and that has no chance of happening with Scenario B.

    But as far as what appeals to the majority of fans, the question is a good one. Another way to think about it might be to compare the ’05 team to the ’92 team. Putting aside that they faced different competition, I prefer the ’05 team because they did what they needed to do to stay in first, made the playoffs and extended the season. But it wouldn’t surprise me to hear people say they’d rather the watch the Four Tops (Fernandez, Gwynn, Sheffield, McGriff) every night even though that team peaked early and then flamed out as other teams passed them by.

  12. To me I think a team’s excitement value is not so much determined by the amount of runs it scores but rather the individual players. For example, take the 2004 Padres. In my opinion they were one of the most exciting teams we have had. You had Ramon Hernandez and his big power and his fire behind the plate. You had Mark Loretta acting like a young Tony Gwynn at the plate. You had a rookie Khalil Greene reaching base and dazzling on defense, and Sean Burroughs, who wasn’t much of a hitter but was at least interesting as a character. You had Nevin and Klesko, the holdover stars from the final Qualcomm years and the novelty of having homegrown stud Brian Giles return to his hometown team. What did this get them? A third place finish. But they were more fun to watch than the Kouzmanoffs, Bards, Iguchis, and Blums we’ve watched more recently. Some of those teams with the latter group of players won division titles and reached the playoffs, which I personally prefer, but they didn’t connect with me the same way the 2004 squad did.

    Also someone pointed out the fact that we have not won 90 games since we moved to Petco. I think this is interesting because if you look back to the 90′s, teams that won 86-89 games rarely made the playoffs, let alone the World Series. Back then 86-89 wins often meant third place. I don’t know why this is not the case anymore, but I’m suggesting that maybe the 05-07 teams really were not that great, and only finished where they did because of the parity that’s befallen the National League.

  13. What if it’s neither winning nor scoring runs? Sulu refuses to enter the Neutral Zone, as do I.

    It seems to me that for those of us who can appreciate everything on the diamond, those of us who would read a blog about a baseball team in January, are not swayed by these factors. We will always be there, funds willing. There seems to be a steady “hardcore” base that is topped off by the “casual” fanbase, and I really believe the difference is in the marketing.

  14. #10@LynchMob: Good call. A team with a +10% differential on offense almost surely has a non-zero chance at the playoffs, even with bad pitching, and it would also lead to strident demands (and hopefully efforts) to improve the pitching, which wouldn’t solve the KM problem that season but might render it moot the next.

    A Kobayashi Maru variant would be +20% stolen bases, or +20% team speed in general, rather than a net +10% offensive gain. On any home night the fans have a chance to see multiple SB and guys flying around the outfield. You see a lot of people clamoring for small ball, but when it leads to a losing record, it’s likely to result in clamoring for a slugger, or somebody who can advance a runner with a double instead of a bunt.

    I think you’re on the right track with “stars.” Peavy and Hoffy are / were stars, but Peavy’s on a cycle and Hoffman’s appearances were at the mercy of circumstances. Agon’s a great player but he doesn’t address what seems to be a real fan desire for excitement. Neither does OG, even though if he was thinner and stole 20 bases a lot of fans would love his offensive game. Adding fast subpar players wouldn’t work, but if they could acquire / develop a guy who gives you the speed, the offense, and some defensive value, they could market the heck out of him. Maybe Cabrera seizes his 2% chance and turns into that guy. Stars won’t be the total answer either, because there isn’t one fix. But there are some players (not many) who, for certain teams / situations, should be valued not just for what they do but how they do it. Ichiro!, for example — not all that stupendous. Very good player, don’t get me wrong, but he adds a marketing / excitement angle above and beyond his actual production.

  15. #8@Tom Waits: Yeah, but not as much as being down one nothing and having a man on third with no outs and watching the team lay an egg (like the Padres did a few times last year). Pitchers are gonna give up HR’s — at least you get to see something great from a baseball standpoint.

  16. This is difficult because more runs and more winning so often coincide, but I have to go with winning, winning, winning. I’m a little biased because I prefer watching a great pitcher pitch with great defense behind him. (I’m never more excited than when a San Diego pitcher has a no-hitter going into the 6th or 7th inning.)

    I think winning is way more important to the vast majority of sports fans. I think that goes for other sports as well… My BYU Cougars football team has sold out every game the last couple of seasons and they’ve won every game at home the last couple of seasons as well. In contrast, the BYU basketball team had a 53 game home win streak recently broken by Wake Forest in a very high scoring game. They lost again to UNLV at home, and when SDSU came to town, only 13,000 (out of 22,000) seats were filled to watch a very exciting game against one of our toughest Mountain West Conference opponents. Had we beat Wake Forest and UNLV, there would have been 20,000 people watching us beat SDSU if not a sell-out.

    Sports fans like to see their team win. Bottom-line. Win streaks are going to put the butts in the seats more than an exciting team at the bottom of the NL West.

  17. Good stuff, Geoff. I think, as an owner, I’d certainly go with A.

    The one thing I’d say, though, is that I’d probably rather win with a high scoring team (with worse run prevention) than a low scoring team (with better run prevention). So, if you give me two equal teams, I’d take the one with better offense/worse pitching (as an owner). Maybe that is obvious; I don’t know. I know that is not the question at hand, but it is at least somewhat related I hope.

    Anyway, I think fans (in general) like home runs, steals, high batting averages, hit and runs, bunting, etc. Obviously, some of that is truly related to run scoring and some of it is not (at least not significantly). But I think it’s more exciting than pitching, to the average fan.

    That said, I think in the end, winning .. um .. wins out. There are certainly some fans who are more interested in run scoring (or “excitement”) than winning, but I think there are a lot more who are more interested in just plain old winning.

  18. I think the reasons for the casual fan losing interest in the Padres are deeper than just wins vs. offense. Over the past few years, a number of things have happened that have been major turnoffs, even to hardcore Padres fans like myself:

    - Obviously, winning and losing are a big part of fan happiness – and while the Padres won more than they lost between 2004 and 2007, they weren’t exactly setting the world on fire. Two of those years they did not make the playoffs, and in 2005 they made the playoffs with a .500 record. If the Chargers had a similar record the last few years you would probably see a little more apathy from their fan base as well. Still, their record was sufficient to make the playoffs twice in four years, which is absolutely a success.

    - As far as the lack of scoring, it is hard for me to comment because if my team wins 1-0, I am just as happy as if my team wins 10-3. But apparently this is affecting the average fan.

    - Playoff success has been non-existent.

    - Feeling that the Padres have been doing it “on the cheap.” I’m not sure that fans should really care HOW the team is winning, but I get the feeling that a lot of casual fans feel that they are owed a larger payroll.

    - Out of touch front office. Alderson, DePodesta, etc. . .they are all smart guys and I am glad we have them in our FO. But let’s face it – Alderson comes off as a grade-A a-hole. Cocky, arrogant. . .whatever you want to call him, his public appeal is lacking. That makes it tough to support any move he makes for some fans. Interestingly enough, AJ Smith is the same way – yet his record of drafting is light years beyond what Alderson has produced here.

    - Lack of hope. This is probably the most important piece. There isn’t much for a Padres fan to get excited about in the near future. A weaker farm system where most of our above-average talent is below AA-level. Marginal big league guys filling in all over the field in 2009. This team could be very bad again this year. It could be very bad again in 2010. The fans were willing to put up with that from 1999 – 2003 because there was hope – a new stadium that would allow the FO to increase the payroll, plus a farm system that was getting undeserved praise from the FO.

    Put all of this together, and you have a fan base that is largely unhappy.

    I guess my point is that I just don’t think it’s fair to boil it down to winning vs. offense. I understand it’s just an exercise, but the message that some fans would get from this is “see how stupid you casual fans are? You would rather the team score more but win less.”

  19. Great stuff, folks. I knew I could count on you. :-)

    A few quick responses…

    #2@Daniel Gettinger:

    …much academic research supports, that fans respond extremely strongly to winning…

    Yes, Vince Gennaro, among others, has demonstrated this.

    #5@Phantom: Good point about 90 wins. Gennaro has demonstrated this as well (see his book Diamond Dollar$).

    #7@Tom Waits: I agree that the “honeymoon effect” may be part of the issue. I’ll be discussing that a bit in the book. As for the ballpark, I’m surprised to hear that because I find Petco Park incredibly charming, but I’m comparing it to the Q, which was… very big.

    #9@Field39: Ah, home field dominance. That is another excellent consideration.

    #10@LynchMob: I’m pretty sure we’re not done talking about this. ;-)

    #11@Ryan: Interesting comparison between ’92 and ’05. This might be worthy of further investigation.

    #12@Bryan: Yep, marquee players is a big one. Again, Gennaro has done some good work in that area.

    #13@Axion: Yeah, marketing is a huge problem. It probably trumps just about every other problem the Padres have, with the possible exception of declining payroll (although with the right approach, I think even that could be spun well).

    #14@Tom Waits: I may not have been clear on the +10% runs. I didn’t mean for the Padres only, I meant for their games. The extra runs could be distributed evenly between them and their opponents. The Rockies, e.g., routinely see more runs scored in their games than most other teams do in theirs, but they’ve reached the playoffs just twice in 16 years of existence (and never with 74-81 wins).

    #17@Myron (MB): The question of winning with low-scoring teams vs winning with high-scoring teams as it relates to attendance would be interesting to study.

    #18@BigWorm: Lack of playoff success and lack of hope are probably factors as well. As for “stupid vs smart,” I don’t think that distinction offers much insight. In a previous thread, Steve C. made a great point, which I’ll repeat here:

    Do the best movies make the most money? Or do the movies with the biggest stars and explosions make the most money? Major League Baseball is entertainment so is it really all that fundamentally different from Hollywood in the eyes of the public?

    If we want to extend this a bit, are folks who want to see big stars and explosions inherently stupid or do they just have a different set of values in terms of entertainment choices than people who hang out at the Ken or whatever? And from a more practical standpoint, without getting into demographics, isn’t their money pretty much the same?

    * * *

    Okay, so I guess those responses weren’t very quick. Y’all have given me much to ponder…

  20. PLAYOFFS are inherently exciting.

    Give your fans HOME playoff games and your ticket sales and revenue will increase.

    Then you can go out and get better players and repeat the cycle.

  21. From a strictly business standpoint, the Marlins are a study in profitability.

    They spend no money, have winning seasons only occasionally (4 times since 1998) and draw as many fans as a top notch AAA team and still make a profit.

    Most of that profit is due to revenue sharing in MLB.

  22. From a strictly marketing standpoint, it is a lot easier to get people who are already attending some games to attend more, than to get people who are not attending games for whatever reason to start attending games.

    The Padres should be focusing on two areas.

    One get people who are already coming out to attend games more often and more regularly. In other words turn occasional attendees into season ticket holders.

    2nd they need to appeal to a younger crowd who will drag mom and dad along. Namely elementary school kids. This establishes a lifelong fan of the team.

  23. Wow, somebody already mentioned the Jonas Brothers in their post, thus stealing much of my pop culture referential thunder.

    I will have to dazzle with my intellect and wit as usual, thus leaving me with a tall order.

    I think it is instructive to look back at the period after 1998 when the team was down after the 1998 season. The attendance dipped from about 2.5 million, but never went below 2 million in the lowest year pre-Petco. I think somewhere in that range is where the attendance will lie for this team, barring a run of deep playoff appearances every year.

    Let’s face it, the U.S. is a football country at this point, baseball is #2. There are your baseball fans, like those of us on this forum, and then there are those that go to the park when the team is good, the park is new, the beer is flowing, etc. Wins help, but I think every team has a natural attendance level, and the Padres is between 2 and 2.5 million a year.

    Many teams with new parks, like Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Cincy, have gone right back to struggling at the gate after the new park joy wanes. I can’t wait to see how SF fares this year, 2 years after Bonds has left.

    Call me crazy, but I’m fired up to go this year with less crowds, less drunks, more space and better seats. BTW, I’m disappointed with Petco, but can’t put my finger on it. I DID have more fun at the Murph, despite its concrete bunker architecture…

  24. I won’t repeat any of the above– most of which I agree with — and just note the core of my thoughts.

    Even though we’ve had a few winning seasons as of late, they were BARELY winning seasons. Just a couple wins over .500 or at .500. When you win roughly 83 games a year you are almost losing the same amount of games each year. Most of the playoff years wouldn’t have materialized if the NL West wasn’t so smelly. When we got to the post season — we got beat.

    In reality, the Padres have been pretty darn mediocre since moving into Petco. We’ve had some kick @$$ pitching but no offense.

    As for winning vs. fun to watch/losing I prefer winning. It’s just that our winning has been so mediocre. Really — when you watch 162 games and you win roughly 83-85 games can you really tell you’ve had a winning season without checking the standings? It feels as if you lose as much as you win cuz the discrepancy is so minimal.

  25. #20@Websoulsurfer: Sure the playoffs are exciting…for a week, but once your team loses, you’re back to square one again. Would you rather enjoy 5 games or 162?

  26. Like some have said in this thread, playoff success is a huge factor. I just looked at some numbers on the 2000-2003 A’s, four teams that won 91, 102, 103, and 96 games in the regular season and brought home three division titles and a wild card berth (in the season they won 102 games – remember when I was talking about how remarkable it is that 87 win teams are in the playoffs now?) In each of those seasons they finished 11th, 7th, 8th, and 6th in the 14 team American League in attendance. Also in each season they won exactly two playoff games, getting bounced in the first round each time. Now of course the A’s played in arguably the worst ballpark in baseball (I’ve been there, the place makes Qualcomm feel like Coronado), but the fact is that even 100 win teams couldn’t bring them into the top 25% in the American League in attendance. Maybe until this team can start winning after the regular season is over (like the Chargers have), they won’t ever be able to reel in large numbers of casual fans.

  27. #7@Tom Waits: I’m making all of these numbers up, but it’s to illustrate the point.

    If ticket holders are segmented, say they go something like this:

    Segment         | Games  | Tix ea game | Total tix | Tix per 81
    Season ticket   |        |             |           |
      holders       |     81 |      16,000 | 1,296,000 |     16,000
    Package holders |     20 |      25,000 |   500,000 |      6,173
    Baseball Fans   |     15 |       5,000 |    75,000 |        926
    Fans of the     |        |             |           |
      opposing team |     81 |       1,000 |    81,000 |      1,000
    Casual fans     |     10 |       5,000 |    50,000 |        617
    Peripheral fans |      5 |      10,000 |    50,000 |        617
    Bandwagon       |     30 |      10,000 |   300,000 |      3,704
    Total           | 72,000 |         n/a | 2,352,000 |     29,037

    The last three segments are the ones that make the difference within the year. The assumption is that they’ll start going to more games from the middle of the season on if the team is doing well, but they’ll never show up if the team isn’t going well. That’s the difference between 1.9 mil tickets sold and almost 2.4 mil. At an average of $40 per ticket (including ticket concessions, parking, etc.), that’s an extra $16 mil in revenue. Even if you have to split the $20 ticket revenue with the visiting club, that’s still $12 mil in extra revenue. That’s a big difference (it would pay Jake’s salary for a year). (Remember my disclaimer at the top – all these numbers are made up!)

    Obviously the record at the end of the season will impact how many season ticket and package holders renew, but once they’ve purchased, their half of their revenue is guaranteed for the season. Getting the other half means having an exciting enough product on the field to make them actually attend the games, buy concessions and pay for parking.

    Of course, when I do a quick graph of the Padres attendance at home for 2008, my hypothesis doesn’t hold water, but, hey, it was worth 15 minutes. The big drop off is in May and July, which could be due to the teams they were playing – series against East coast teams, which won’t have as many away-team fans in the area.

    Fodder for someone more statistically minded to investigate further… :)

  28. #3@Geoff Young: Given that information, as an owner, I would pick Scenario B.

    Why win if you don’t have to? It is more costly and the financial rewards don’t seem to justify the cosst outlay. Give me 2.5 million guests every year (just like the Rockies when they were winning 74 – 81 games) and I make money. Isn’t that the idea behind owning a business? Making money?

  29. #24@Foster Brook Robinson: Right on about Petco. I can’t put my finger on it either, but it is my least favorite park on the West Coast…

    Yes, I said it. I like seeing games in LA, Anaheim, SF and Seattle more…I even like the BOB (or is it Chase Field?) and Coors better. Heck, out of all the new parks I have been to, Petco is one of my least favorites and MY team plays there.

  30. #28@Sean Callahan: Sorry ’bout the table format; this is the best I could do. :-(

    #30@Coronado Mike: Yeah, I hear that a lot about Petco. Granted, I haven’t been to many big-league parks (although I have been to LA and Ana), but I absolutely adore Petco, especially as compared to the Q, which just did nothing for me.

  31. #25@Oside Jon: The lack of a truly great season is probably a contributing factor. 98 was a lot of fun for a lot of reasons, one being the truly dominant home record of 54-27.

    On the pitching vs no offense: No. That’s not true. Just….no. The offense has been better than the pitching in Petco almost every year. Pitching was better in 2007. They were equally good in 2006. In 08, 05, and 04 the hitting was much better.

  32. #19@Geoff Young: I agree, stupid vs. smart doesn’t offer much insight – really none. But I get the feeling that many casual fans who fall on the “I prefer to see exciting baseball (i.e., runs scored)” side of things feel that to boil the argument down to offense vs. winning is to simplify their thinking. I don’t even know if that makes sense – it’s too early.

  33. #33@BigWorm: Well, because it is simplifying their thinking. We’re just isolating one component here. As others have mentioned, there are many parts to this equation.

  34. #31@Geoff Young: Totally agree. As someone whose family does the whole “visit other parks” thing, I can’t really say that I’ve found a better stadium than Petco. I do like Angels Stadium a lot, but I still prefer Petco any day of the week.

    I really think that people don’t know enough about Petco. There are literally so many interesting nooks and crannies that you can find if you ever take the time or the tour. Maybe I’m biased because my mom works for Petco and I’ve enjoyed some exclusive experiences. But I like that I can go to a game and that I don’t have to deal with super-obnoxious drunk fans. At the same time, the crowd DOES get into it. People almost always stood with Trevor in the game, especially with two outs.

    San Diego is a laid-back, casual city, and the stadium reflects that well. Professional sports venues don’t always have to be about mass adrenaline and a willingness to riot boiling just below the surface. For my money, there’s no place I’d rather be than watching a game at Petco. And, for those of us who have started to consider these things, it will be an excellent place to raise a kid.

  35. #35@Phantom: A lack of adrenaline or rioting has nothing to do with it. As for that, the Jumbotron and speaker system in Petco is just as loud as in other parks.

    It’s the sterility of the park that bothers me. Qualcomm was big and gray, yes. How many hundreds of square feet of gray concrete stare you in the face at Petco? It’s everywhere. It’s a park within spitting distance of the ocean that feels like it could be in any city in the country.

    Walk into PNC Park, or whatever they’re calling SF now, or Kaufmann Stadium in Kansas City, or Camden Yards, and it’s unique from the moment you enter. No searching required. I just don’t feel that with Petco.

  36. I too love Petco more than the Q. Although being a native San Diegan, (born in ’61), I have been to many, many games in Mission Valley and miss some aspects of it.

    My issue with Petco is all the unpainted concrete around the park. It makes me feel as though I am in some sort of an institution like a prison or hospital (not that I have experience in prisons mind you). It feels really sterile.

    If it were up to me, I would paint or pad the concrete walls, maybe put murals or pictures of Padre greats. Even advertising would be better than bare concrete. It makes what could be a nice cozy park feel bigger and colder than it is.

    Might not be a bad thread, What would you do to Petco to make it feel more cozy/attractive?

  37. #35@Phantom: I have never been to Petco, so I don’t venture an opinion on it or the other West coast stadiums, but what you just said was well articulated.

  38. We talked about this a bunch last season as well and I remember saying that the only thing that really matters for attendance is winning — not home runs or stolen bases or runs scored or any of the rest of that stuff. Some are trying to say that baseball games are much like other forms of entertainment so that more explosions and star power are more important. However, I’m not sure sure that people would go see a movie with a terrible ending (i.e. a loss). Who cares about the rest of the movie if you are disappointed at the end?

    I think what’s really killed the Padres over the past few years is the perception that the ownership doesn’t really care about winning. Fans pick up on that. If John Moores cares more about making himself happy (by saving a few bucks) than in making me happy (by putting the best possible team on the field), why should I spend my money on the team? Add in the fact that they have been absolutely horrible at promoting the team and explaining the rationale behind their moves (and Sandy Alderson’s bs lawyer-speak doesn’t help out). They’ve also been terrible in the playoffs (1 win in 8 games) which doesn’t exactly generate excitement.

    Of course the real reason we are even talking about this is because the Padres decided that they would just punt this season, hopefully get rid of their crappy cheap owner and gear up for when (or if) Moorad buys the team. If the season before you lost 99 when you are trying how many are you going to lose when you don’t try? However it probably wouldn’t take much to generate some positive interest for the team, anything slightly positive would look great since the off-season has been so terrible so far.

  39. This discussion reminded me of two teams that were very exciting but didn’t win their division and didn’t come particularly close:

    1977 White Sox: 90 wins, 12 games back
    1980 Athletics: 83 wins, 14 games back

    Bill Veeck bought the team in 1975. He acquired Richie Zisk and Oscar Gamble before the 1977 season, their option years. Both had career years: Gamble hit 31 homers, Zisk hit 30, Eric Soderholm 25, six other players hit 10 to 19. The team hit 192 homers, second in the league to the Red Sox.

    The White Sox were third in the league in runs scored and 10th in runs allowed, winning the average game 5.2-4.8.

    They were an exciting team (home runs) that won (90 games), run by a master promoter (Veeck). I have heard White Sox fans say this season was more exciting than other seasons in which they won their division. I can see why.

    But they didn’t have another winning season until 1982.

  40. 1980 Athletics.

    The Athletics hired Billy Martin as manager after three consecutive seasons of 93+ losses, and Rickey was a 21-year-old rookie.

    Rickey hit .303/.420/.399, stole 100 bases and scored 111 runs. Dwayne Murphy was an elite center fielder. He stole 26 bases. Right fielder Tony Armas hit 35 home runs. Billy let Rickey run and because the offensive had little power outside of Armas, he also bunted and played small ball. Columnist Ralph Wiley called it “Billy Ball.”

    Martin also took a non-descript pitching staff and made them Cy Young Award candidates or simply overworked them. All were accused of throwing spitballs.

    Mike Norris: 22-9, 2.53 ERA, 24 complete games
    Rick Langford: 19-12, 3.26 ERA, 28 complete games
    Matt Keough: 2.92 ERA, 20 complete games
    Steve McCatty: 11 complete games
    Brian Kingman: 10 complete games

    The Athletics finished 10th in runs (Rickey was fourth), second in steals, second in runs allowed (just a hair behind Orioles) and first in complete games (94).

    The Athletics were exciting because Billy Martin was such a character, Rickey was Rickey and their pitching staff was unusual, completing twice the games of any other team in the league. Kool and the Gang’s hit “Celebration” played at the stadium after every win.

    They won the AL West the following year but didn’t have another winning season until 1988.

  41. Those are two examples of when some winning/excitement can be better than flat-out winning a division. Two extreme examples. Not sure I remember the question or my point now.

  42. One of the things that I liked about Qualcomm and about the BOB and many other stadiums is a chance to walk all the way around the stadium while still watching the game most of the time and without having to change levels two or three or four times like Petco.

    At Qualcomm I made friends all over the stadium, but in Petco I am compartmentalized in my little section in Lower Left Field Boxes.

  43. Just one last thought and then off to bed.

    The Padres are not going to have an exciting offense in Petco.

    NO ONE hits well in Petco. Not the Padres and not the visitors. The guys over at The Sacrifice Bunt did a great job of covering it so here is the link:


    Until the walls are brought in, the Padres are going to win at home with good pitching and defense.

    That does not mean the Padres have been bad offensively, they haven’t been at all. In fact since 2004 they have the 3rd or 4th best road offense in the NL.

    So if your idea of exciting baseball is high run production, you are going to be highly disappointed at Padres games in Petco Park.

    At least until they decide to bring the walls in 10-15 feet in the gaps. Especially in RF.

  44. It has been said before, but I think playoff record needs to be considered. In 40 seasons, the Pads have made the playoffs only 5 times. Of those, they went to the World Series twice (won 1 of 9 games). The other 3 times, they were obliterated by the Cardinals in the first round: out before most people even realized that the playoffs had begun. In between there have been lots and lots of lean years.

    It is not really the point of this blog, but might bring some insight to this thread to consider the difference between the Chicago Cubs and the White Sox. I lived in Chicago from 1992-2006 and could go on and on about this. The Sox consistently had better teams who had better records, more playoffs, a WS victory, marquee players, etc. But, the Cubs always had a full ballpark. If you were a true baseball fan (and could put up with the DH), the Sox were the team to follow without question. But, the city went nuts for Sammy Sosa and Wrigley Field. It was certainly more fun to watch a game at a full Wrigley than a half-full Comiskey as far as energy and excitement goes. But, the Cubs teams were horrible almost without exception every year, again and again. Why would the Tribune Co pay more for players or do anything to spend more money, when they were filling the park every game with a mediocre team and a decrepit stadium? One organization was committed to winning consistently and one was not. But, the one that was not had the “excitement” and sold lots of tickets. I know that I liked the Sox formula more than the Cubs (and have you seen what they’ve done to US Comiscular Park over the past 5 years? It’s beautiful inside. The neighborhood is a bit sketchy and no night life after the game).

  45. Well, this probably shouldn’t need saying, but…

    Draft wisely. (Our Pads haven’t. I’m crossing my fingers regarding recent drafts.)

    Invest heavily in international scouting. (Until recently, we haven’t.)

    Develop front-line big league talent from the international signees and draft picks. (Still crossing my fingers.)

    Win. (If only…)

    This sh*t ain’t easy. There are 29 other organizations, run by billionaires and hired geniuses, trying to kick our ass. But if we ever actually win a World Series, I may die from the sheer joy.

  46. Some thoughts on fan relations for you, may not tie in too closely with your points though!

    I think that somewhere in this love of stats and analysis you may have lost sight of some of the reason people love sports. Most people support a team. They love the team and want to the team to do well. They feel connected to “their” team. When people lose this connection for whatever reason, (selling a high profile player, changes in stadium, prices, over-commercialisation) you lose them.

    I live in the UK and people’s connection with teams is a lot stronger over here. The tribal nature of support has evolved over the 100 hundred year existence of these teams. The very idea of a team upping sticks and moving to a new city would be enough to cause riots.

    When I read your blog or similar (no slight intended here) I am constantly shocked about how little emotional attachment you seem to have and how you almost seem to look down on this emotional attachment in others. Being a fan to me is all about being irrational and at times illogical. When I went to some Padres games I was converted. Part of the appeal to me was the players, the history, the respect for Trevor and others, things I hadn’t seen in American football or basketball. When he was dumped and treated like crap I was a bit pissed off with the FO and expected more of a backlash. Teams shouldn’t let their legends go like this, I thought, whatever about his win-share contribution declining or whatever. However in blogworld most people thought it made sense. Maybe it did but I didn’t care! Fans are illogical. We want what we want and maybe it is not what’s best for the team but its what feels right.

    I think this may be what is leading to fewer fans. A feeling that they are not being listened to (they never really are, but they don’t need to know that). All the comments on the Union-Tribune website expressing stupid amounts of rage or on talk radio are thought of as idiots. These idiots are the average fan and they are the ones that the Padres need to connect with. They need to feel a connection with the club, that certain cornerstone players will be there long-term and that the organisation cares for them and has a “human touch”.