Thanks to Twins, attendance steady

Tom Van Riper on some early returns:

    Good thing the powers that be in Major League Baseball reconsidered their idea to contract the Minnesota Twins in the 1990s. They may just end up saving the 2010 season.

    Before Game 2 of the 2009 World Series at Yankee Stadium, MLB Chief Operating Officer Bob DuPuy said he'd be happy to see attendance, coming off a recession-induced 6.7% drop, stabilize in 2010.

    That's pretty much how the season is shaping up through the first two weeks, thanks mainly to fans in Minnesota flocking to the Twins' beautiful new ballpark, Target Field. Through 185 playing dates, MLB clubs have drawn just under 6 million fans, about half a percentage point below the same period last year. Take away the Twins, whose average crowd has rocketed to 38,382 per game from 24,405 at the dank Metrodome a season ago (through April 18), and the league is down 2% year-t0-date from 2009.

    Last year at this time, only the Cleveland Indians were averaging fewer than 20,000 fans per game (19,226). This year they're joined by the Oakland A's, Toronto Blue Jays and Florida Marlins, all of whom are down at least 4,000 a game in the early going. Also down big: the Arizona Diamondbacks (25,142 per game, off 19%), Baltimore Orioles (20,941; down 18%), and New York Mets (33,477; down 9%).

It's always something, right? A year ago, some of the attendance drop was due to new ballparks in New York, with both holding fewer seats than the buildings they replaced. This year, the new ballpark is helping. I'm sure the Marlins will provide a nice bump when their new stadium opens in 2012.

I have to admit that I don't really understand all of those huge drops in other ballparks. The Blue Jays, sure: They just traded their best player. But the A's, the Marlins, and the Diamondbacks? None of them gave up last winter, and all are expected to at least flirt with contending. And the Orioles haven't contended for so long you'd think they might by now be impervious to attendance fluctuations of any sort.

Of course, there's a reason we don't pay much attention to numbers in the middle of April. No team in the majors has played more than eight home games, and most have played between two and six. It's simply too early to draw any real conclusions, except perhaps that the Twins are going to draw more fans this year than last year.

But we already knew that, didn't we?