When the Phillies suck, the working man suffers

The team is terrible. That means attendance is down. And that means the stadium's workaday folks feel the pain.

By Randy LoBasso
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 7 | Posted Aug. 20, 2014

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Nice stadium. But who's buying the beer?

Photo by Ffooter/Shutterstock.com

Former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is counting himself lucky tonight. He’s getting an award he claims he doesn’t really care about, and, in a rare showing of fan support this season, virtually all the seats in Citizens Bank Park are filled.

“I was here nine years, and nine years went by real fast,” says Manuel, who stands on a stage in the infield, speaking jovially into a microphone. “We had some great teams, and everybody played a part in those teams.”

Manuel—who led the Phillies to five straight division championships, two World Series appearances and one World Series win between 2007 and 2011—is being honored with a plaque on the “Wall of Fame” beyond Center Field in Citizens Bank Park, where an etching of his mug will be on display next to Phillies greats like John Kruk and Steve Carlton—both of whom are physically standing on stage with Manuel, along with several other Phillies legends.

There are 39,153 fans here—the fourth highest home attendance of the year—to watch it happen.

Manuel’s got a blue and white, checkered button-down shirt on underneath his Phillies jersey. His face is beet red, and the view from the large screen shows he’s begun sweating as he rambles through an obviously-unprepared speech, in which he accidentally calls Broad Street “Broadway,” in a reference to the 2008 World Series victory parade.

Fans cheer anyway.

Beer vendors strut up and down the aisles, too, calling out brands from Miller Lite and Coors Light to Stella Artois to Bud Light Raz-Ber-Rita, the latter of which the stadium began providing this year. Many beer sellers seem eager at the prospect of an extra hour to move their product.

“When you go to events like that, when they come to town, we look forward to working harder, working more, sweating more and pushing more,” says Andrew W. Reddin, a beer vendor who sells Miller Light, aisle-to-aisle, “but it’s stuff like that that’s drawing crowds. Not the team.”

The Phillies 2014 season is a wash, as is, really, any upcoming season in the near future. And, as vendors note, it’s actually been bad for a while. Of everyone associated with the Phillies’ 180-degree turn from first to worst, it’s actually the beer vendors whose pockets are directly impacted by the team’s suckitude.

“As far as vendors are concerned, the last three years have been pretty much consistently . . . you can call it bad,” says Reddin.

For many of Citizens Bank Park’s workers, it’s simple trickle-down economics: pay rises and falls with the team’s fortune. These workers, who vend beer section-by-section, aisle-by-aisle, are paid based on tips and commission. Poor teams mean fewer fans. Fewer fans means less product moved. Less product means less pay—and as the team gets worse, for lots of these workers, their wallets get emptier.

We got a reality check in June, when Emory University in Georgia released a study analyzing Major League Baseball fans, attempting to show the correlation of “attendance sensitivity to performance and prices”—meaning, they conducted a scholarly study to find out which city’s fans were least likely to show up if ticket prices went up and winning percentage went down, using data from 1998 to 2013.

If you’re a Phillies season ticket holder, the results were not shocking.

“The most demanding MLB fans live in Philadelphia,” wrote Manish Tripathi, a professor of marketing at Emory, who conducted the study. “This fits the stereotype of Philadelphia fans as aggressive, demanding fans that are willing to cheer injuries and boo Santa. The numbers say that Philadelphia fans require their team to perform or they won’t show up.”

Despite the tired, clichéd, stupid example of “booing Santa” and the fact that he cited data which revolved around one of the two historic World Series wins, Tripathi has a point.

In 2009, the year after the Phillies won the World Series, Philadelphia had the third-highest attendance in baseball, averaging 44,453. They only lagged behind the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.

In 2010, attendance went up, and so did our ranking: 45,027 fans per game, ranked second in the majors. 2011: First in the MLB; 45,440 per game. In 2012, we were first again (largely due to pre-season ticket sales), averaging 44,021 fans per game.

Then things changed. The Phillies missed the Wild Card in 2012, and the reign of powerhouse players like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins was largely declared over, even though all three received large, extended contracts.

Last year, the team slipped to eighth in attendance. So far in 2014, we’re ranked 15th, averaging just 30,289 fans per homegame, the biggest one-year drop in Major League Baseball. And things are looking down.

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Comments 1 - 7 of 7
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1. Anonymous said... on Aug 20, 2014 at 08:15PM

“Neglected to mention in this article about the rising cost of a ticket for a game or a season. There comes a point when the number of dollars required are measured against other venues. It's called price resistance.

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2. Joe Ogorki said... on Aug 22, 2014 at 12:53PM

“I recently received three tickets from a friend at no cost. Had I bought them, they would have set me back quite a bit. At the game, I bought two beers, a bottle of water and two pretzels. Price tag: $48.25. Add that to the heavy parking fees and you have a night that could break the bank for most working folks.
The game had about 31,000 in attendance. I'll go out on a limb and say that at maybe 25 thousand people spent at least ten bucks on concessions...so...25K x ten bucks equals...a quarter of a million bucks in hot dogs, beers and crab fries. Not bad for an off night. And I'm sure that many people spent much more than ten bucks.
I dislike being gouged for some crappy chow at stadiums and I dislike whiners with fat contracts at stadiums even more. In a time of near depression conditions in America, when a nickle ain't worth a dime, they should be glad anyone comes out at all.
May a sink hole open and swallow the sports complex!”

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3. John said... on Aug 24, 2014 at 04:24AM

“Simple statement: that Phillies team stinks out loud. Rollins, Howard, and the "Phenom" Dom Brown and especially Cody Asche. They stink. Utley is still good but looks tired and frustrated. Forget about going to a game at that price gouging stadium. I still watch on TV occasionally, but if someone were to offer me free deluxe box tickets I would certainly decline.”

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4. Anonymous said... on Aug 28, 2014 at 04:55AM

“Any baseball team has ups and downs in the standings. It's the nature of the game. The Red Sox have gone from first to worst in their division and Fenway prices make Citizens Bank look laughable. While teams like the Phillies and the Red Sox are terrible to watch on television, the atmosphere of the stadium compensates for poor play and gives the fans a chance to partake in booing underperforming players. The Phillies rode the high for a long time and now they stink, but that shouldn't deter anyone who likes the game from still attending. People need to tone down their hysterical reactions, accept that the team will take time to rebuild and enjoy the game experience as a chance to have a few drinks and socialize. And Glen b should take his medication.”

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5. DaveFC said... on Aug 28, 2014 at 09:43AM

“Baseball and sports is cyclical . You have highs and lows over the years and sometimes generations. It's just the way it is. I totally get the decline in attendance. The only thing that bothers me is the Philadelphia sports fan calling ourselves the best in the world, or implying that we are. We are no different then any other city in that we want to see a winner.
My .02. Cheers”

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