Miami Marlins – Worst Season in Over a Decade

New ballpark, Marlins Park, didn’t help. Signing free agents worth more than $200 million didn’t help. Bringing in Ozzie Guillen to be the manager certainly did no good. Nothing seemed to work for the ambitious project that was supposed to make the Miami Marlins into a force to be reckoned with.

Not just a better baseball team. Having a new ballpark always brings in the fans, but when you can’t win on the field, the enthusiasm of actually having a Baseball stadium and not playing in a Football venue evaporates under the hot South Florida sun.

The Marlins will end up with 69 or 70 wins when the 2012 season is over, their lowest total since the 1999 season. All the money spent on Jose Reyes, Carlos Lee, Heath Bell, Carlos Zambrano and Mark Buehrle meant nothing in the end. Hanley Ramirez and other key players were traded in July as Jeffery Loria simply gave up on the season. Saddest of all was how the team couldn’t capture a significant part of the city’s interest in sport after the slow start.

Only three sellouts in the 37,642 stadium. The season average sits at 27,028, 18th in the Majors. An average capacity of 73.2% is 13th in the league, but they certainly expected more. The fans expected more of this team. According to the Miami Herald, parking spots which sold for $50 early in the season can’t even sell for $10 these days. Winning brings fans, losing doesn’t.

Especially in a city like Miami, that isn’t a sports crazy town, especially not crazy about the Marlins. Despite their two World Series titles, there has never been a huge following, except for their debut season in the majors, the only year in which the Marlins drew over 3 million in total attendance. This year marks only the third time in franchise history of over 2 million, but it’s still a huge disappointment.

We were just never able to get any momentum on the field, and that impacted attendance. I can’t say that we were very surprised. We thought our honeymoon was going to last five innings. We thought the team would be competitive. Clearly we were wrong about that. (Team president, David Samson)

This will be the lowest attendance numbers for an inaugural season for a ballpark since 2001, with Marlins Park being the 11th one being built. When their isn’t a craving for seeing this team, at least up close and personal, all the new amenities  comforts and modern additions to a ballpark won’t help. A team that doesn’t win wont’ bring in the crowds, and obviously, won’t be very providing financially.

A lesson to be learned? As much as there was somewhat of an attempt, maybe for the first time, to get the community, especially the Latino one, behind and around this team, it looks like the Marlins aimed too high, too fast, by changing their entire conception and becoming a free agent attraction and high paying team after years of being exactly the opposite. Someone needs to balance these things. Maybe after getting burned in the first year, things will start to look a bit calmer and more calculated in 2013. Maybe the fans will return, having their faith restored in this ball-club. The Marlins need a good offseason for that, and an even better start next season.

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