On December 21, the Mets made news by announcing the signing of Carlos Correa to a big money, long-term contract, which as of this writing is on hold because of medical concerns. At the time it was a feel-good moment for the franchise, with the fans giddy with excitement about the prospect of a power-house team and a 2023 season for the ages. However, in discussing the deal and the impact, owner Steve Cohen made what could be construed as a cautionary warning. He was quoted as saying “I hope the fans show up.”
What Cohen was presumably referring to, was the fact that despite the Mets being an exciting 101-win team that was in first place in the division for almost the entire season, the 2022 Mets home attendance was… well, underwhelming, to say the least. They finished 11th in MLB home attendance despite playing in the biggest baseball market in the country in a beautiful, relatively new stadium. Following is a listing of the highest-drawing teams plus the other Eastern Division NL teams.
1. Dodgers – 3,861,408
2. Cardinals – 3,320,551
3. Yankees – 3,136,207
4. Braves – 3,129,931
5. Padres – 2,991,470
6. Astros – 2,688,998
7. Blue Jays – 2,653,830
8. Red Sox – 2,625,089
9. Cubs – 2,616,780
10. Rockies – 2,597,428
11. Mets – 2,564,737
12. Giants – 2,482,686
13. Angels – 2,457,461
16. Phillies – 2,276,736
17. Nationals – 2,026,401
29. Marlins – 907,487
Some takeaways from the list include the fact that the Braves, with the same record as the Mets drew over a half-million more fans in a slightly smaller stadium. The Padres, a small to medium market team that was never in the hunt for the division title, drew a little over 400,000 more fans than the Mets.
Boston, a team that was out of the race almost from the get-go, and playing in the smallest stadium in the majors, outdrew the Mets by 60,000 some fans. The Cubs, who were out of the race by the 4th of July, drew more fans than the Mets as well. The Angels, big under-performers, were only about 100,000 fans behind the Mets. Washington, with a gutted team that fell out of contention about as quickly as any team, still drew in excess of 2 million fans. The Colorado Rockies finished last in the NL West with a record of only 68-94. Yet they somehow drew over 30,000 more home fans than the Mets did.
Besides the fact that the Mets had a team with a fair amount of stars and an excellent record, ownership also made some fan-friendly moves during the season that did not translate to the level of fan support that it should have. That included moves like the unveiling of the Tom Seaver statue, additional special uniforms, and the return of the old-timers game.
In-park attendance may not be as important as it once was for team profitability, considering the amount of broadcast revenue teams receive, but it is important. Teams mostly know how much broadcast revenue they will receive each year, but attendance revenue fluctuates, and it can make the difference as to whether a team is financially successful or not.
Cohen could be indicating in the opening quote that if the fans continue to produce sub-par attendance, he just might consider cutting back on the considerable payroll he is funding. It’s unlikely, but it is at least possible that he might even consider selling the team unless attendance improves. It could also mean something else entirely that I have not thought of. However, I do not think it is just posturing, it seems likely if the fans remain apathetic to seeing the games in person, there will be some type of consequence.
As to why the Mets are lagging with respect to home attendance, I don’t think there is a clear simple reason. Baseball attendance in general has been in a declining trend, but that would affect all teams, not just the Mets. There are minor reasons like the out-migration of residents from New York City, and perhaps the perception of increased crime has had an effect as well. The bottom line is although Cohen may be the richest owner in MLB, he is bothered by the attendance drop and he has definitely taken notice of it.