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Mariners trying to attract bats, fans with Safeco changes

Oct 2, 2012, 6:08 PM EDT

Safeco new dimensions

Let’s face it, there’s one very big reason the Mariners are pulling in the fences at Safeco Field next year:

Attendance/game
2007: 32,588
2008: 28,762
2009: 27,105
2010: 25,749
2011: 23,411
2012: 21,417

The Mariners peaked at more than 43,000 fans per game while leading the AL in attendance in 2001 and ’02. They ranked sixth-to-eighth each year from 2006-11 before plummeting to 11th this season.  That’s despite the fact that they’ve gone from 61 and 67 wins the last two years to 73 with two games remaining this season.

From a performance standpoint, there’s good reason to think the Mariners are better off playing in an extreme pitcher’s park. They have one of the game’s five-best pitchers in Felix Hernandez, they’ve gotten quality results out of journeyman arms and they possess two of the game’s top 10 (and three of the top 20) pitching prospects in the minors. To put it kindly, more of their talent is concentrated in pitching than in hitting.

But it’s also true that the Mariners aren’t winning anyway, and 80 percent of the time, they’re just not very interesting. The truth is that more people would rather watch the Mariners lose 7-5 than 2-0.

Now, that possibility alone won’t bring fans streaming through the turnstiles. But adding a couple of quality hitters might, and it’s going to be easier to sign free agent bats in the new Safeco than it was in the old Safeco. As it was, no big-time power-hitter with a bunch of suitors was going to choose Seattle.

That has to be part of the thinking here. It doesn’t seem at all likely that Josh Hamilton will make the move to the Pacific Northwest this winter, but the Mariners will try to add two hitters, one likely an outfielder.

I’m still not at all convinced this is the right move, at least not to the extent to which they’ve gone. They’re bringing in the left-center power alley by 12 feet and as much as 17 feet in one spot. It’s only going to be a four-foot difference down the left field line and in center (right field is staying the same), but combine the power alley difference and the lower wall in left and it looks like Safeco is in for quite the significant change. Something more mild that would have guaranteed Safeco remained at least a modest pitcher’s park would have been a better idea in my mind. But this is more about money than winning ballgames and it shows.

  1. emeraldcityfan - Oct 2, 2012 at 6:22 PM

    I agree Aaron. They should have played to their strengths and kept it a pitchers park. I’m interested how this will affect King Felix’s stats next year. Hope it doesn’t kill our chances to resign him.
    I think empathy more than anything else is why attendance is so poor here. You can only hear the “we are rebuilding spiel” for so long.

    • emeraldcityfan - Oct 2, 2012 at 6:38 PM

      My bad Matthew!

  2. lew24 - Oct 2, 2012 at 6:28 PM

    Hmm…winning brings fans…Just ask the Oakland A’s…oops…nevermind!

    • APBA Guy - Oct 2, 2012 at 7:32 PM

      Attendance is up about 15% this year at the Mausoleum. Attendance always lags winning in an existing ballpark, especially when ownership spent several years telling fans to stay away.

    • dcfan4life - Oct 2, 2012 at 9:09 PM

      Seattle has one of the most loyal fan bases in sports. I mean just look how nuts they go for their MLS team. That says a lot in itself.

      • nygiantstones - Oct 3, 2012 at 11:28 AM

        Nope, sorry. I’ve lived in Seattle for 9 years, and for 4 years in Pullman at college. Seattle fans are not one of the most loyal fan bases in the US. They are a fair-weather fan base that ignores their teams when they’re losing. All you have to do is look at attendance for the Sonics and Mariners when they are (were) losing. The Sounders are extremely popular because they are great right now, and because Seattle is a very euro-centric (Northern-European specifically) town and soccer presents the perfect way for them to express that sentiment. The Seahawk fans are extremely loyal, but I would argue that the truly loyal Seahawk fans are from the working class areas outside of Seattle, such as Kent, Auburn, Tacoma, etc. Seattle is a very educated, yuppy, wine-sipping type of place where sports are merely a choice among many other choices of entertainment.

  3. blacksables - Oct 2, 2012 at 6:30 PM

    Dumb move. I’ve been to Safeco many, many times, and I’ve seen lots of balls caught at, or over the fence, in the exact area they want to shorten.

    So, to clarify, dumb move to bring the fence in 12-17 feet. Too much offense, as lots of balls end up out there.

    5 feet in? Yeah, that makes sense.

    Of course, in Bud’s world (and remember, MLB has to approve this) anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  4. randygnyc - Oct 2, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    Fences moved in on Hal Steinbrenner’s advice. King Felix signs with Yankees for 2014

    • drewsylvania - Oct 2, 2012 at 6:38 PM

      You think he wants to pitch in front of a 295-ft RF wall?

  5. drewsylvania - Oct 2, 2012 at 6:53 PM

    Mariners had 12.2 oWAR as a team, worst in the AL. Moving in the fences won’t improve lousy hitters.

  6. vegagreenleaf - Oct 2, 2012 at 8:57 PM

    Yeah, more opposing hitters can jack ‘em out now. Figgins still can’t hit and Smoak’s shallow fly outs are still shallow fly outs…

  7. willclarkgameface - Oct 2, 2012 at 9:47 PM

    I personally like that its a pitchers park, but I also like close baseball games that end 2-1. Most “fans” want runs and home runs and teams listen to the middle of the road “fan”, not someone that is super into the game. They already have us. They need to keep the middle of the road fan.

    For that, I get very pissed. Pink hat fans can suck it. You ruin everything.

  8. paperlions - Oct 2, 2012 at 10:31 PM

    The point everyone is ignoring is that when you have an extreme pitchers park….mediocre visiting pitchers turn into CY candidates too. You still have to have more talent than the other team….regardless of park configuration.

  9. kruegere - Oct 2, 2012 at 11:19 PM

    Could be an improvement just in the hitter’s mentality. When you play in a ballpark that is infamous for suppressing RH power, you may subconsciously let it impact your game. Also, visiting pitchers. There will be some changes in the way teams play at Safeco, it will be very interesting to see. Losing 7-5 is better than losing 1-0, less heart-breaking because at least we did something. That may just be personal bias.

    The Mariners actually hit a ton of HRs on the road this year and the Home/Road splits are very pronounced.

    Now, trade Vargas Jack Z.

  10. footballer4ever - Oct 3, 2012 at 12:55 AM

    “Seattle has one of the most loyal fan bases in sports. I mean just look how nuts they go for their MLS team. That says a lot in itself.”

    You have a good point! Don’t forget to treat fans well or else they won’t be as loyal and the Mariners seemed to have forgotten that golden rule.

  11. schneidler - Oct 3, 2012 at 3:43 AM

    I doubt this will turn safeco into a hitter’s park. I’m an m’s fan and I think it’s a good move. I bet it moves the park factor closer to 100, but still on the pitcher’s side. That left-center area was just brutal and needed to come in. It was an extreme pitcher’s park, and this year was the most extreme yet, and no one is quite sure why, but it was crazy. Given all that, it will STILL be a slight pitcher’s park, I think. Also, you said the fence isn’t moving in right, but it is. Coming in by at least 4′ all the way around except at the foul poles.

    Oh, and Felix will do fine there. Come on. His home/road splits aren’t that extreme at all. But trading Vargas now probably isn’t too bad an idea…

  12. dirtyharry1971 - Oct 3, 2012 at 7:34 AM

    Wow those attendance numbers remind me of the bluejays!! Sadly it wouldnt matter if the jays decided to play in a sandbox, nobody is coming except the other team’s fans and all 5 known jay fans!!

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