Rangers Fans: The Pot Calling the Kettle Black?

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Ever since the Houston Astros joined the American League West in 2013, Rangers fans have made it a point to make the Astros – and their attendance issues – the brunt of their jokes. This year, the jokes have gotten noticeably more audible and far more frequent. The jist of the jokes seem to be along the lines of “they’re in the middle of a pennant race and can’t even fill the seats!”

When the Astros played their first game as an American League team, it was a sellout, but that was thanks in large part to Rangers fans. As a matter of fact, I, along with my friend Jennifer Brown, organized a rather large group to head down to Houston to watch the Astros open the season against the Rangers. There was roughly 100+ of us and we had an entire section to ourselves. The Astros would only sell out one more game the rest of the season.

2013 was so bad for the Astros. They lost 111 games and would draw more than 30,000 fans just four times the entire season. Two of those games were games against the Rangers and the other was against the Yankees – the last two home games of the season.

Attendance has always been weird for the Astros though. They actually averaged more fans per game (and overall total attendance) in 2004 and 2006 than they did in their World Series year of 2005, and it wasn’t even really close. A difference of 2,800+ in 2006 and 3,600+ in 2004. Total attendance? Down roughly 300,000 in 2005 from 2004 and 2006.

But it wasn’t long ago that we, as Rangers fans were in that exact same boat.

The Rangers, since moving to the new Ballpark in 1994, have always drawn fairly well. In the 21 years at the Ballpark, the Rangers have drawn less than 30,000 fans in all but seven seasons. Three of those seven seasons were at 29,000+ for the average. So it’s safe to say that the Rangers are a decent draw. And in all but five years, the Rangers have had a total attendance more than the American League average.

There were four straight years, 2006-2009, that the Rangers were were less than league average in total attendance. The other was 2003. Those were some pretty dreadful times in Arlington. But what about the magical ride of 2010?

There were 30,928 fans at the Ballpark on a daily basis in 2010 – good for 10th best in the history of the Ballpark in Arlington.

Wait.. what?

That’s right. 2010, the first World Series year, the Rangers averaged just under 31,000 fans a game. Less than several of the dismal years.

The attendance went up in 2011 – by about 20% to just over 36,300 per game. Then, in 2012, it went up again, by about another 20% to just under 43,000 per game – a franchise record.

The Rangers didn’t see the benefits of winning until after they started winning. It took a year or two to make believers out of the fans. That’s what’s going to happen in Houston too. It’s going to take a deep playoff run and then another great year next year before the fans in Houston decide to turn their attention to the Astros. Of course, finally having the team on TV definitely helps too.

The Rangers have their lowest attendance this year since 2010. So it appears the attendance roller coaster works both ways. It takes a year or two of winning to bring in the fans, and then it takes a couple of years of losing to start losing their attention again.

As a matter of fact, the Rangers averaged just 700 fans less in 2014, than they did in the Division winning year of 1999. Both 1999 and 2014 were two years after playoff years. 2014 was drastically different than 1999 however.

The Astros on the other hand are averaging just over 26,000 a game, their highest total since 2010 – about 21% higher than last year writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle.

I’d be willing to bet that the Astros average 30,000+ next year for the first time since 2009. It’s going to take a year or two for the fans to buy into their young talent, but once they show they can win and sustain it, the Astros will be relevant again, and the seats will be full.

Just as the Rangers did.

Remember, the Astros may have empty seats in the middle of a pennant race, but so did we.

So be careful, Pots, on what Kettles you’re calling black. Besides, we have more important things to worry about. Like catching the Astros in the division.

 

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Billy Casey
Billy is a baseball fanatic and has been around the game since he was four years old. The first ever game he attended was in September of '89 and Pete Incaviglia denied him an autograph after he had a bad batting practice session. Billy has held a grudge since. Billy is also a baseball coach who is known to dance around the dugout like Ron Washington during big plays in the game.

2 comments

  • Very good analysis, Billy.

    One other factor in the poor Astros’ attendance, I think, was the terrible state of their local-market television coverage involving a dispute over cable subscriber fees, that started in 2012 and didn’t get resolved until this season. I believe the Astros’ fan was only able to watch the team’s games on Comcast, leaving out other well-established providers like UVerse and DirecTV for that entire period. On-field performance is, as you wrote, the primary building of a loyal fan base, but TV exposure is critical to cementing it. Now that the ROOT Sports agreement is in place, with plans to broadcast virtually all of the team’s games into the Houston market, the Astros’ fan base is only growing to grow.

  • The Rangers attendance in 2010 could be partially due to the Great Recession. They had a pretty decent season in 2009. I haven’t compared attendance numbers to the rest of the teams, though.

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