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.

14 comments on “The Steve Cohen warning to Mets fans

  • ChrisF

    I think there is word for the wise in there John. The biggest problem that the Mets face is that, as the NY Times reported, in absolutely no zip codes anywhere in America, including Queens, are the Mets the preferred team. The data in the article are from 2014, and maybe some things have moved since the ownership change, but the fact is the Mets are in a huge market without an “area” dedicated fan base. Of course the other team in NY looms over absolutely everything baseball making the Mets challenge even greater. In all the zip codes in Queens, the Yankees are at >50 % Yankee fans, with Mets fans never even making 30% of the population. That makes drawing crowds all the time very difficult. Another major market with 2 teams, is LA. Even there, there is a significant Angels fans base that occupies Orange County (I lived there for a long time and know it well). Side note: LA Angels…please… One could also look to the DC area where there are the terrible Orioles and Nationals, but even there and with one team not even 20 years old yet, there are areas with dedicated fan bases. Same in Chicago with the Cubs and White Sox.

    The unfortunate fan-base equivalent for the Mets is the Oakland A’s. In all zip codes in the Bay Area, the Giants rule the roost, even in Oakland – just as the Yankees rule the roost in Queens.

    We can hope the change in ownership and a huge burst of money will change things, but fandom is a tricky thing, with loyalty very hard to overcome.


    • Foxdenizen

      I’m not sure Oakland is a good comp for the Mets. They have a bad team and a worse stadium, undoubtedly the worst stadium in the Majors. There have been eras when the A’s ruled the roost, in the mid 70s when they were good (3 WS winning teams) they significantly out drew the Giants.

  • Brian Joura

    In 2008, the Mets drew over 4 million fans. Five other times in franchise history, they’ve drawn 3 million-plus. Citi Field is nice and still relatively new. But it’s not a destination ballpark like Fenway or Wrigley. If the Mets want fans to come, they’re going to have to put a winning product on the field. Consistently.

    Attendance frequently is a year behind. The Mets drew over 500,000 more fans in 1970 than they did in 1969, despite being 17-games worse in the standings.

    In 2021, the Mets drew just 1.5 million fans – which was 10th in the NL. This despite Cohen taking over and the big trade for Lindor. They were lousy in 2020. This past year, attendance increased by over a million fans, despite coming off a year with just 77 wins. I’d say that was excellent progress.

    Given last year’s record and the buzz over the free agents added, I’d expect the Mets to surpass 3 million in attendance this year, which would likely put them in the top five in MLB in attendance if it were to happen. The team will never draw 4 million fans again, due to the capacity of Citi being significantly lower than Shea

    • Foxdenizen

      2021 attendance for the Mets is not a good comparison to 2022. There were various Covid restrictions in effect that were imposed by the city government, including a cap of 20% capacity (8,492!) to start the season.

    • Paulc

      Agreed that Citifield is not a destination stadium. Last summer, I saw games at Petco, Dodger Stadium, and Coors Field. All were a better in-game experience. I’ve also found that getting to Citifield from my NJ home for a weekday game is an ordeal whether by car or subway. We were able to reach the other stadiums with much less traffic (even LA) than slogging through Queens. Coors Field, despite a poor team, was the best overall experience and that matters in attending games. Just a beautiful place.

      Unless you live in Queens or Long Island, a Mets game is an inconvenient option.

    • MikeW

      Before last season, the last Mets team to win 90 games was 2015 and the six years prior to that, they had win totals in the 70’s. It will take a couple of years to get over the Wilpon hangover.

      Last year they had a great year, but deGrom missed four months. If I am going to a Mets game I would have wanted to see deGrom or Scherzer pitch. . Also, the big news was in the Bronx with Judges home run chase. I think all of this has factors.

      Now, without Correa, we have almost the same team that we fielded last year, without the home runs.

  • Name

    People tend to think that the relationship between city/region population and attendance is linear without restriction, when it more like a diminishing returns graph, where after a certain sweet spot of population, the congestion factor starts to outweigh other variables and actually will cause a decease in attendance.

    If you had to rank the stadiums by least accessibility, Citi Field has to rank as either #1 or #2. It’s basically on the west end of Long Island, so unlike most other stadiums, it’s pretty much surrounded on 3 sides by water, which means most of the traffic can only come from 1 direction, whereas most other stadiums there are at least 2/3 directions that you could come from. Then add on that fact is that it’s adjacent to a major airport hub, thus furthering the congestion. And unless you live in Queens (or Brooklyn), you have to either cross bridges/tunnels and often multiple, which is another congestion pain point. How many other stadiums have to deal with all these issues? Only San Fran has a challenge in my opinion.
    I live just 45 miles away from Citi Field. But because i either have to cross a combination of 2 bridges/tunnels, it takes me at least 2.5 hours/$50 to get to the stadium on a normal, if not more like 3 hours on most days.

  • JimO

    I can’t see Cohen adjusting spending based on 2023 attendance or making a decsion to sell the team. Wasn’t the Saturday event at CitiField, an open house to discuss ways the surrounding area can be developed to add more attractions/entertainment to the fan experience? I think Cohen is looking at all the ways the club can make the “Mets” experience more enjoyable both in the short and longer term.

  • Metsense

    Citi Field seats 41,922 fans and a season sellout will yield 3,295,682 in attendance. Last year, they average 33, 308 fans or 79.45% of the seats sold. If 91.02% of the seats sell it would yield 3 million fans. That would be very hard, unlikely, but not impossible.

    • Metsense

      It is interesting that Mets drew over 4 million fans in 2008. They averaged 51,165 fans per game. They can’t do that anymore because the stadium can’t fit that many.
      Similarly the Yankees also set their record in 2008 with over 4 million fan averaging 53,069 fans a game. They can do that again because Yankee Stadium has a capacity of 54,251. Last year the Yankees only filled their Stadium 74.11% on the time.

      • T.J.

        I believe 2008 was the last season for Shea Stadium, which likely played a factor.

  • T.J.

    Excellent topic and write up, thanks. I’ve thought about this often as well, and I live in NJ and attend a few Met games each year. I can remember as was part of the 3+ and 4 million annual fans.

    The comments noted many good points – yes, it is hard to get to and for most fans not a destination point, but that was the case in the 3+ million years as well. Yes, they share the city with the Yankees, but again, nothing new.

    One other observation – ranking the total home attendance figures is a tad misleading as not all teams had 812 home dates; the Mets had 77, probably due to some rain-forced single pay double-headers. When using average attendance, the Mets ranked 6th – behind division winners Yankees, Cardinals, Dodgers, and World Series Champs Braves. They were also behind the Padres, who are literally the only game in town. They were slightly ahead of the Astros, who won the WS and were in it the year before. So, this doesn’t appear quite as “soft” as the ranking by total home attendance.

    My two cents is that the brand was damaged quite a bit by the post-Madoff Wilpon ownership. It has yet to recover despite positive steps by the mega-wealthy fan/owner. Additionally, the Mets haven’t had (and still don’t have) a true ticket-selling star. deGrom may have bumped the gate on his day, but he missed most of the season. Winning surely helps, and 2023 attendance should increase.

    Winning in the regular season and into the World Series, combined with a big-time star or stars (in the mold of an Othani, a Judge, a Trout, the top shelf guys) would pack Citifield regularly.

    Lastly, assuming every unsold seat last year was valued at $50 (likely high), that is a total of about $41 million in gross revenue. Add another $10 million in profits for parking, concession profits, that’s about $50 million. That a lot of dough, but just a minor dent in the losses this owner will take on a $450 payroll/luxury tax. Uncle Steve is losing a ton in cash flow/income to build a winner and please the fans. Someday he may get it back if he sells the team for $5 billion, but there aren’t many people on the planet that would take this type of hit for a fan base.

  • TexasGusCC

    A very enjoyable read of an article John!

    Great points about the average attendance TJ. Cohen had said that he foresees a loss for the first three years at the press conference to announce the sale of the team.

    Metsense makes a very good point about the disparity in seating of the two stadiums. If the seating capacity doesn’t allow the Mets to reach top 5 levels simply on lack of tickets to purchase, then the percentage of available tickets sold is really the only way to measure success.

    Too, Name makes a great point about the travel to Flushing. As someone who lived in Brooklyn, I hated the Belt Parkway and absolutely avoided the BQE at all costs. That’s 5 millions residents that will have to preserve to get to a game.

  • Denis Engel

    Put a winning product on the field and Mets fans will come out in droves. The Mets dominated the mid-late 1980’s – even though the Yankees were a winning ball club as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 100 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here