Attendance and Payroll
Chuck Armstrong spoke with Geoff Baker yesterday, offering his thoughts on the M’s turnaround, the critics of the prior administration (including us, I’m sure), and how the team is going to go forward. Included in the article is this brief mention of attendance and payroll.
Armstrong said the team won’t know its 2010 payroll until mid-October. The team had budgeted for 2 million fans, and while it should exceed that by about 200,000, Armstrong says prices of tickets being bought are lower.
“People used to come to the ballpark and say ‘Give me the best available ticket,’ ” he said. “Now they say ‘Give me the cheapest available ticket.’ “
The M’s attendance has only dropped off about 4.5% from last year, which is pretty remarkable given the circumstances. Attendance in MLB as a whole is down 6.5%, and the Mariners were coming off the kind of season that chases away season ticket holders en masse. The San Diego Padres, for instance, went from 2.4 million to 1.9 million fans this year, as 500,000 people decided not to come see a team that finished 63-99 last year.
The combination of a good season from the team this year, good will generated from the new front office, and the return of some guy named Griffey has helped hold off a significant part of a potential slide in attendance. Armstrong includes discounting as part of that as well, as the average revenue per ticket being generated is apparently lower now than it used to be (he offers no proof of this, of course, but it’s believable enough to be taken at face value).
So, what impact should all this have on the payroll?
It should go up, even if not a lot. The Mariners gave Zduriencik a budget that was around $20 million lower than the 2007 team, in large part because of their projected attendance losses and uncertainty surrounding the economy. Jack Z did them one better than that, as the team’s total player expenditures are going to come out close to $25 million lower the prior year, thanks to the mid-season trade of Jarrod Washburn and the team’s insistence on having the Pirates and Brewers pay the remaining 2009 salaries of Jack Wilson, Ian Snell, and Bill Hall.
So, despite a rebuilding year and a drop in attendance, the M’s didn’t take a big financial hit this year. And, given the winning season that the M’s have just guaranteed plus some signs that the economy is recovering, the M’s projected attendance and revenue for 2010 has to be higher than it was for 2009. With higher projected revenues should come a larger budget.
So, Mr. Armstrong, please give the front office some additional financial flexibility. We know these guys aren’t wasteful with your cash the way the previous regime was, and that you can expect that a solid ROI on money invested in the on field personnel. Bump the payroll back up over $100 million. Give Jack and his ability to spend some money this winter, and see what kind of revenues pour in when they put the franchise back in playoff contention.