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SBD/September 20, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
The Pirates are nearing their first postseason appearance since '92, and "growing enthusiasm" for the team is "most evident at the box office," according to a sports section cover story by Carmen Gentile of USA TODAY. Once one of "the worst draws in baseball, the Pirates have sold out a record 20 games this year and have the second-highest attendance" since PNC Park opened in '01. Team officials said that attendance over the last few months "has averaged 32,576 fans a game." In previous years, when the Pirates "were well out of the playoff race, 10,000 or less often showed up for a September game." Fans at home "are tuned in, too." Local TV viewership has "jumped 22% vs. last year, making this season the highest rated of all time." The Pirates currently rank third among MLB teams in local viewership. The club has "developed a substantial following on Facebook as well, and not just in the city itself." Fans of the Pirates' team page "have jumped 75% to 454,000 the past two years." Facebook data shows that while "most live in the Pittsburgh area, 19 of the top 50 cities for Pirates fans (roughly 38%) are outside Pennsylvania." MLB.com data shows that team merchandise sales "are up 53% from last year," the fourth-largest increase among MLB teams this year. The growing support for the Pirates "isn't going unnoticed in the clubhouse." Pirates 2B Neil Walker, a Pittsburgh native, said that the "renewed interest is a big boost for a club hoping to add their own chapter to a storied franchise that dominated the sporting landscape here for decades until the Steelers rose to prominence" (USA TODAY, 9/20).
FOR HE'S A JOLLY GOOD FELLOW: In Pittsburgh, David Templeton in a front-page piece reports fans are buying Jolly Roger flags "by the thousands, with Pirates retail sales now equaling those of the Steelers, even with the NFL season underway." Pittsburgh-area retail store Yinzers Owner Jim Coen said that he has "sold out of the flag several times, with 500 flags flying out the door weekly." Coen: "It's getting to the point where it's like the Terrible Towel." A major flag supplier indicated that 5,000 Jolly Roger flags "were sold last week and 'all went to Pittsburgh.'" Coen: "This time of year traditionally we're trying to give Pirates stuff away. Now I'm trying to get as much as I can get, Jolly Roger-wise." Local retailer Pittsburgh Fan manager Michael Romano said that the store is "selling 100 flags daily, making it its No. 1 selling item." Pirates Senior Dir of Communications Brian Warecki said that the Pirates "own the phrase as a trademark." However, the team "holds no rights to the historical skull and crossbones image" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 9/20).
ESPN's Keith Olbermann Thursday criticized recent comments by A's Owner Lew Wolff concerning the low turnout to games at O.co Coliseum during the final weeks of the season, saying, "Everybody in sports knows to never attack the hometown fans no matter what." Olbermann: "Do you think the people who are not going to the A's games are reading that quote in USA Today? No, they're already busy ignoring the A's. That quote is being read by his loyal fans and they think he's blaming them for ... not reproducing quickly enough?" Olbermann said if someone is running a business and "your response to low customer turnout is to wonder what's wrong with the customers, you may be in the wrong business or the wrong guy may be running your business." Wolff's quotes imply that he "thinks attendance operates in a vacuum, that there are no other factors other on the field success, that geography is irrelevant or weather or transportation, or the fact he's been trying to move the team to San Jose. ... Or sewage." MLB Network's Richard Justice said, "You don't rip the home fans and … until last year, the team had been bad. As we've seen in Cleveland, we've seen in Baltimore, if you are irrelevant for a long time, sometimes the fans just don't come back automatically." Justice: "My advice to Lew Wolff would be just say, 'We love you. Please come out. We've got a good team to watch.'" Olbermann said it is "particularly a shame now that those comments or sewage issues or the attendance numbers or anything else would overwhelm in terms of publicity what they're doing on the field, because no one thought they were going to win that division last year" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 9/19).
WELCOME TO REALITY: ESPN's Israel Gutierrez said he understands Wolff's "frustration," but O.co Coliseum is a ballpark "where sewage leaks into the dugout and into the clubhouse." Gutierrez: "There's nothing appealing about going to this place. The baseball season is really long. And even if you're in the hunt, if they know you're going to make the playoffs, they'll just wait for the playoffs." ESPN's Pablo Torre said there is "too much supply and too little demand." Torre: "You need to reduce the number of games -- 162 is way too long for a playoff team in a small market. It's not the fans' fault, it's baseball's." Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw called the ballpark a "dump" and noted while Wolff has "tried to take the team to Freemont, now he's trying to take the team to San Jose, and the fans are very aware of that." Cowlishaw: "That keeps them from coming out in droves" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 9/19).
In Miami, Linda Robertson writes under the header, "Marlins' Instability Begins With Jeffrey Loria." Observers "could argue that Loria’s meddling on personnel decisions hasn’t had much effect on a team that was doomed to hit the 100-loss mark." However, his "constant interference is causing instability -- again -- for a ballclub that desperately needs to follow a blueprint." Passion is a "positive thing," and Loria "loves baseball, loves to win, loves to be involved." But he "goes about it in the wrong way by micromanaging and second-guessing his employees" (MIAMI HERALD, 9/20).
YAMAUCHI'S LEGACY WITH MARINERS: In Seattle, Jerry Brewer writes late Mariners Owner Hiroshi Yamauchi will "go down in Seattle a most peculiar silent donor," as he "saved baseball here in 1992, enduring six months of harsh scrutiny and discrimination to become baseball’s first foreign principal owner." If fans "view Yamauchi more as a donor and not a typical majority owner, then you’re left to reason that he did all that he intended with the Mariners." The team is "still in Seattle," and the "product is awful right now, but the Mariners are financially stable" (SEATTLE TIMES, 9/20).
BREWERS SEE ATTENDANCE DROP: In Milwaukee, Don Walker reported the Brewers "will likely draw in the range of 2.5 million or more fans" this season entering the final home series. That is a "big drop from last year (2,831,385) and in 2011 (3,071,373)." However, when comparing the team's 68-84 entering Friday with the "records of other poorly performing baseball teams and their attendance," fans continue to support the Brewers in "impressive numbers" (JSONLINE.com., 9/18).
NATIONALS AUCTIONING OFF JERSEYS: In DC, Sarah Kogod reported the Nationals are auctioning off the game-worn, patriotic blue jerseys worn Tuesday during the team's first game following the Navy Yard shootings to "benefit the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS)." The jerseys are autographed, and the bidding for Nationals CF Bryce Harper's jersey "is currently sitting" at $2,300 (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/19).