Two of the more challenging jobs in America this week: public relations manager for former CIA director David Petraeus, and Miami Marlins ticket agent.
Many Marlins fans were in a foul mood Wednesday, after the club unloaded five players and $160million in payroll in a 12-player trade, the latest in a string of fire sales. Just seven months ago, 40,000 fans showed up for the Marlins FanFest, giddy about the brand-spanking new stadium in Little Havana, eager to see marquee free agent signings Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle.
Team president David Samson boasted on that day that the Marlins were approaching 15,000 season-ticket holders, more than triple what they had their final season at Sun Life Stadium. That put them in the upper third of Major League Baseball after ranking 125th among all pro teams, behind all hockey teams and even some minor-league baseball teams.
Samson said there was “a whole different vibe” around the team in April, dubbed it “Mar-lin-sanity,” and predicted that ticket sales would soar for the foreseeable future.
The Marlins’ attendance increased a whopping 44.1 percent, from 19,007 per game in 2011 to 27,400 per game in 2012. They ranked 18th in the majors in attendance, up from 28th the year before. The Marlins had ranked between 28th and last place for eight of the previous nine seasons. Although that was cause for celebration and optimism in the Marlins’ front office, the 27,400 was the worst average paid attendance for a team in a new ballpark of the 14 parks built since 2000.
The New York Yankees, who also opened their stadium in April, drew 45,918 per game. St. Louis, which christened its new building in 2006, drew 42,588 that year. And San Francisco drew 40,930 its first year at its new park.
History shows that after a couple of years in a new stadium, the novelty wears off and attendance dips. The dip might come sooner for the Marlins. They finished last in the National League East with a 69-93 record, fired much-hyped first-year manager Ozzie Guillen, and then, the Tuesday dismantling.
The Marlins ticket office got plenty of calls Wednesday from disgruntled fans, who also hit the airwaves and Twitter. The team, through spokeswoman Carolina Perrina de Diego, declined to comment on whether fans threatened to cancel their season tickets. But some longtime fans told The Miami Herald they would not renew.
Jose Gomez, 65, of Miami, has owned season tickets on and off since 1995. He called the trade “a travesty” and said he would not renew his 2012 ticket package.
“I love baseball too much to say that I will boycott attendance but I will only buy occasional seats in the secondary market for the next several seasons,” Gomez said. “I would like to apologize to Norman Braman and all others who apparently knew this owner better than a lot of us. I have in the past defended Marlins ownership and felt vindicated by the charade of free agent signing last winter. I even accepted the Hanley [Ramirez] trade as better for the franchise long term. Now I see that we were all duped and learned what folks in Montreal knew and warned us about [Marlins owner Jeffrey] Loria and his lackeys.”
Carlos Martin, 39, of Miami, bought season tickets last season but said he won’t renew.
He called the trade “a betrayal of fans, especially the season-ticket holders. Loria should be forced by MLB to sell the team. At this point, it’s hard to pony up for season tickets when I can buy tickets for less than $1 on StubHub. I likely will not renew as long as Loria owns the team.”