Offseason before last Pirates fans and media tried to organize a boycott of the Pirates. The hope was to put pressure on miserly owner Bob Nutting to either increase payroll in an attempt to win or to sell the club. The boycott had perhaps some small effect as attendance did in fact decline. But Nutting did neither of the two objectives. He still owns the club. Payroll is still relatively low.
What I have said in the past is that what Pirates fans should do now is actually the opposite of what those boycott organizers and media rebel rousers have insisted. Instead of boycotting, the fans should do the opposite and come out in droves regardless of the product.
Regardless of your stance on that, evidence indisputably shows something quite counter to what most would believe about the Pirates, their on field performance, and attendance. most would tell you that Pirates fans have supported the team in vain while a greedy owner has taken the cash and left the on field product wretched.
Truth be told though, the opposite is true. Don’t believe me? Well………………………………………..
Since 1979 the Pirates have not exactly been the model franchise. No one would say otherwise. However, on field success has far surpassed attendance. Counting this season so far the Pirates have played in 41 MLB season including 1979. Of those the team has ranked higher in attendance than in the standings 8 times. They have been dead even 6 times. 27 times the team finished higher in the standings than at the turnstiles.
On average, the Pirates have finished as the 17.87th best team in baseball over that 41 year span. they have finished 22.68th in attendance. In that 41 year span the team has had attendance in the top half of the league exactly 4 times and each time they were exactly on the even line. They were 13th out of 26 teams in 1980, 13th out of 26 in 1990, and were 15th out of 30 in 2104 and 2015. they have not been in the top 10 in attendance for as far back as I was willing to look starting with the 1979 season.
On the other hand, the last 41 seasons has included 1 World Series champion, 1 team that finished with the best record in baseball (1991), and 7 playoff teams. Further, the Pirates have finished in the top half of baseball by winning percentage 14 times, been top 10 seven times and finished top five in record six times.
But what if we just narrow it down to the currently vilified front office and management team. In 2011 we had the first combination of Nutting, Coonelly, Huntington, and Hurdle. In the nine years this team has worked together the Pirates have actually been an above average squad finishing at 13.67th in the standings. Attendance has improved slightly but still lags on field performance by a lot. On average the Bucs since 2011 are still 21.33rd in attendance. In that time the team has been no better than 15th in the league in attendance while making the playoffs 3 times, having a winning record 4 times, and having by record the 2nd best team in all of baseball in 2015. Last year’s team finished above .500 for the 4th time in 6 seasons and this year’s club is currently 21-19 at the quarter pole. Last year the Pirates finished 28th in the league in attendance and are currently exactly that this year. Thank goodness for Miami I suppose.
My point here really isn’t to try to persuade you to go to Pirates games. I don’t care really. What you do with your time and money is certainly up to you. But I do think people should understand that right now Bucs fans are not only getting what they are willing to pay for in on filed performance, but are actually getting quite more than that.
For the folks who want the team to make a big splash or spend a ton of money or do “everything” the club can to win the World Series (Ricky Bobby fans, “if you ain’t first you’re last” folks), that is fine. But what that would take is a fan base willing to support the team in a World Series like manner. Even when the Pirates last won the World Series they drew 1.4 million fans and finished 18th out of 26 teams in attendance. Even when the team had the best record in baseball they finished 15th in attendance. Even in 2015 when the team had the 2nd best record in all of baseball it finished 15th in the league in attendance.
Baseball fans in WPA have every right to go to games or not. They have every right to whatever opinion they may have of the Pirates, the management or the ownership. But factually speaking no one can deny that over the past nine years and even the past 41 years the team on the field has been far more competitive than the attendance in the stands. Meanwhile, it is hard for me to understand how people want to beat the Cardinals, the Dodgers, the Yankees or anyone else on the scoreboard while losing to them miserably at the box office every single year.