The Orioles have spent, roughly, $45.43 million on players this offseason. This includes signings of former All-Stars Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero, but doesn’t include trades for J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds. It is easy to say that the 2011 offseason was the busiest Orioles’ offseason since 2004 when the Orioles brought back slugger Rafael Palmiero and signed former-MVP Miguel Tejada and catcher Javy Lopez.
Even though the team finished below .500 in 2004, they were 5th in attendance and saw 47,683 fans on Opening Day.
The very next season they traded for Sammy Sosa. Baltimore exploded. They were in love with the idea of having future Hall of Famer Sammy Sosa on a team that included Palmeiro – another future HoFer, Tejada – a former MVP, and Lopez – an achieved slugger.
Not many people read into the fact that Sosa was struggling with his career. He wasn’t a team player and just couldn’t hit like before.
48,271 people still showed up on Opening Day to see Sammy and the Orioles. And yes, it was Sammy first. The O’s were, again, 5th in attendance in the American League.
Once the Sammy experiment flopped, Palmeiro was exposed, and we realized that Javy Lopez wasn’t anything special, fans just stopped going to the ballpark. The O’s were 10th in attendance in 2006, 11th in 2007, 10th in 2008, 9th in 2009, and 10th in 2010. The only thing that saved them were the Yankee and Red Sox fans, as well as the fact that Baltimore is a baseball city.
Last season, however, saw 48,891 fans on Opening Day – the largest attendance in the history of Camden Yards.
In the 2010 offseason, the O’s didn’t do much. They only signed Garrett Atkins and Mike Gonzalez, and traded for Kevin Millwood. No big names there. Many fans were optimistic about a young club that featured a superstar caliber catcher and Cy Young caliber young pitchers.
When you consider the amount of fans at the stadiums with the amount of food and merchandise purchased, the Orioles made bank.
Since an offseason that only brought Millwood, Atkins, and Gonzalez triggered a record crowd to file into Camden Yards for Opening Day; an offseason that brought Derrek Lee, Vladimir Guerrero, and Mark Reynolds should cause more to show up, right? Let’s get to 50,000! Just shove them all into Eutaw Street! Put up bleachers like they had for the playoffs (playoff high in attendance was 49,137 in the 1997 ALDS) and some other Opening Days. Maximize profit!
There’s only one problem.
Also during the offseason, the O’s decided to remove 2,300 seats from the outfield of Camden Yards. Not only did the Orioles’ spend money on new seats and removing old ones, but they also are losing money at a time they need it the most.
The possibilities would have been endless for the 2011 Opening Day. An attendance mark close to the 1997 ALDS could have been seen. The Porch on Eutaw Street could have been packed to its gills. With the raised ticket prices, the Orioles could have made even more bank.
Instead, 2,300 people will be forced to watch from home or from a bar, giving their money to the bartender as opposed to half their wallets to the Orioles.
But hey, at least those in the outfield will have extra leg room!