With each losing season that the Houston Astros endure, fewer and fewer fans have shown up to Minute Maid Park. So how do you solve attendance issues for a team that has lost a combined 213 games over the past two seasons and is expected to hit that 100 loss mark again in 2013? Move them to the American League West of course!
Many have been concerned with the steep decline in attendance since 2007′s 3.02 million number, and rightfully so. Last season, the Astros set a record low for Minute Maid Park attendance with an abysmal 1.61 million fans (which was the lowest of any National League team). Astros owner Jim Crane has tried to “focus group” his way to higher numbers with many fan friendly initiatives but, unfortunately for him, the only way to get more diehard fans to ROOT. ROOT. ROOT. is to WIN! WIN! WIN! Luckily for Crane, Bud Selig has helped out his pocketbook by forcing his team into an extremely popular league and division.
The American League West has been called “the new AL East” due to the heated rivalry formed between the Angels and Rangers in the past few seasons. Add that to the up-and-coming Mariners and the 2012 division champion Athletics, and this may very well be the best division in all of baseball. While the Astros being moved into this division will certainly not help the win total rise immediately, it will have an immediate impact on the attendance numbers. In the 81 homes games last season, the Astros had an average attendance of just 19,848, which topped only Cleveland and Tampa Bay. However, in the 3-game home stand against the Rangers on May 18-20, the average attendance was 37,754. That’s great, right? That means we Astros fans really want to see our young guys sock it to the “other Texas team,” right? Not quite. Anyone that listened to that series on the radio would be surprised to know that series was not played in Arlington. Between the “Let’s Go Rangers!” and “Na-Po-Li” chants filling the Houston skies, it definitely appeared that Astros fans were WAY outnumbered in their home stadium.
Astros fans should probably get used to that for a while thanks to the popularity of so many of the American League teams. The Rangers will have 10 games in Houston next season. The Angels will pull in crowds thanks to their Hall of Fame type middle of the order that includes a guy, Mike Trout, that many have compared to a young Mickey Mantle. The Yankees and Red Sox series should be easy sellouts thanks to having the two largest fanbases in baseball according to the last Harris Poll. We will also see huge crowds when Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and the 2012 AL Champion Detroit Tigers come in, as well as the new and much improved Toronto Blue Jays. Heck, we’ll probably even see White Sox fans split the stadium with Astros fans.
You thought that it was going to be tough on the Astros moving into the mighty AL West? Try playing every one of your games in a road environment. There is absolutely nothing worse than sitting in your home team’s stadium and listening to a bunch of bandwagon fans that know nothing about the game or “their team”, except how to use their names in cheerleading chants. Unless something changes quickly with the Astros fanbase, that’s what we are going to have to look forward to in 2013 and, more than likely, 2014 as well.