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Have Mariner fans lost hope?

Ted S. Warren
Mariner fans have left the building. Some never even arrived. Safeco Field attendance hit a record low this week. This photo is from a game from last year's 101-loss season, in which the M's lost to the Cubs in extra innings.

The Mariners have said that 2011 is a rebuilding year. But, judging by recent attendance at Safeco Field, they're going to have to rebuild more than just the team. KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says the bond between the Mariners and their fans has been broken. Art says the bond is the degree of affection and the degree to which people will go out of their way to attend an ordinary game. These are baseball fans, not necessarily diehard Mariner fans, but people who really care about the game.

"I think the bond has been broken. And that's a very serious thing with any pro franchise."

After two recent 101-loss seasons and seven losses in a row this season, attendance at Safeco Field hit a record low on Wed., April 13. The capacity of the stadium is 47,166 and Wednesday's attendance was 12,407.

"Those are Kingdome numbers. We've not seen that kind of poor attendance for the Mariners in such a long time that we're thinking back to the bad old gray days of indoor baseball."

There are a lot of young players on the Mariners' roster this year - and only a few household names left (Ichiro, Felix). Art says the young guys aren't ready to make an impact - beyond hot rookie pitcher Michael Pineda. That's enough to keep many fans away. And there other factors.

"The casual fan can look at $4 (a-gallon) gasoline prices, a cold night, a school night and say that's reason enough not to go to see this very ordinary team. There's an old Vaudeville saying: 'Don't give them an excuse not to go.'"

The Mariners' owners have invested a lot of money in the team. Art says they consistently land in the Top 10 in the Major League for player payroll, spending more than $90 million each year. But he says they've spent that money poorly. And many fans seem to have moved beyond anger.

"Fans aren't mad, they cease to care. And when you cease to care, it's a hard win back."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest.





Kirsten Kendrick has been hosting Morning Edition on KNKX/KPLU since 2006. She has worked in news radio for more than 30 years. Kirsten is also a sports lover. She handles most sports coverage at the station, including helping produce a two-part series on the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the ongoing series "Going Deep."
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.
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