The big lie: Baseball attendance

The question of calling out “lies” was a big topic on NewsCut this week. Let’s consider another, less passion-filled example.

Every now and again, you’ll read a comparison of baseball fans by virtue of attendance numbers issued by the individual teams. How, for example, can the first-place Cleveland Indians be 28th in attendance (averaging about 19,000 fans), while the worst-in-baseball Minnesota Twins are 22nd, averaging 24,266 a game at Target Field?

Better fans?

Not likely. More likely: Baseball lies.

Announced paid attendance at last night’s Twins game: 22,683.

Announced paid attendance at last night’s game in Cleveland: 18,937

As the New York Times revealed a few years ago, baseball attendance is a meaningless statistic because it has nothing to do with attendance. It has to do with the number of tickets sold.

Until 1999, National League clubs reported attendance based on turnstile counts and the American League teams reported paid attendance. In 2000, all clubs started reporting the number of tickets sold because those figures were used to calculate revenue sharing between the clubs, according to Major League Baseball.

What can be concluded by the Minnesota Twins attendance figures? That the economic times are good for the baseball fans of Minnesota, who can afford to waste money on tickets they don’t bother using.