Lose or lose, Rockies fans are there.
Recognizing that attendance data is heavily skewed right now due to COVID-19 capacity and social distancing limits, the Rockies currently rank No. 4 in attendance in 2021 at 518,771 total fans in 34 home games. That equates to an average of 15,258 people in the seats per game.
This is surprising, and not surprising, for many reasons.
First, the Rockies are a bad baseball team with a troubled first office trying to regroup after Jeff Bridich’s destruction and departure. In 2019, when the Rockies finished 71-91 (.428), they also ended the season with the sixth-best attendance figures, trailing only the Dodgers, Cardinals, Yankees, Cubs, and Angels. On Tuesday, Nick Groke of the Athletic wrote an article titled “How do the 2021 Rockies measure up against the 2020 team? Let’s take a look at the numbers,” showing that the two teams are very similar. The offense is a little worse, while the starters and the relievers are a little better, which follows an MLB-wide trend. The 2020 Rockies ended the shortened season 26-34 (.433) and were 24-36 (.400) through 60 this year. There were no fans in 2020 and in 2021, the Rockies have moved up to the top five in attendance 10 weeks into the season.
Part of the surprising attendance of this year is that it comes in the aftermath of the Nolan Arenado trade where Bridich pulled the trigger to send the franchise player and $50 million to St. Louis and have only Austin Gomber, some less-than-remarkable prospects, and a lower payroll.
On the other hand, we are coming out of a pandemic that closed down in-person baseball attendance in 2020. Vaccines have allowed the world to open up a bit and people are excited to get back to activities they enjoy. In that context, it’s hard to beat a night out at Coors Field.
Do fans boycott to try to force change in the front office? Or keep loving their team anyway and go to the Rocky Mountain version of the Happiest Place on Earth? I totally get both sides. So this post isn’t about condemnation of in-person fans or encouraging a boycott (for those see The Denver Post, The Denver Post again, 5280 Magazine, The Fan Radio, and The Colorado Sun) or telling everyone to go back to Coors and catch a game (for that see the Colorado Gazette). Instead, it’s simply an observation of what’s happening so far in 2021 and what it might mean for the future.
Getting back to the numbers, it’s very interesting to see who is close to the Rockies when it comes to attendance figures. Currently, according to Baseball Reference, only Atlanta (824,148 2021 fans for an average of 24,240 fans per game), Texas (818,924 for an average of 27,297), and Houston (715,629 for an average of 15,258) have higher attendance figures than Colorado. Right behind the Rockies are more talented and winning teams like the Padres Dodgers, and Cardinals.
There is a wide variety of factors that impact those numbers from overall stadium capacity, to fluctuating COVID-19 restrictions, and everything in between. When it comes to who can pack the fullest house with no restrictions, Coors Field’s capacity of 50,398 is second only to Dodger Stadium at 56,000, which gives the Rockies the edge. The capacity for the current top-three teams are 41,084 for Atlanta’s Truist Park, 41,168 for Houston’s Minute Maid Park, and 40,300 for Texas’ Globe Life Field. San Diego’s Petco Park fits 42,445 and St. Louis’ Busch Stadium seats 45,583.
The Rockies started the season with 42.6 percent (21,363) capacity before moving to 70 percent (35,000) on June 1. They will go 100 percent with Opening Day 2.0 for homestand against the Pirates and Cardinals starting on June 28 (just in time for Cardinals fans and Arenado fans to pack the stands). Atlanta started with 33 percent, moved to half by the next homestand, and then 100 percent by May 7. Houston started at half capacity and moved to no restrictions on May 25. The Rangers have played all season at full capacity, the only MLB team to do so. Eight other teams are also currently at 100 percent capacity (Cleveland, Arizona, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston, Cincinnati, Kansas City, and Detroit).
The Dodgers’ and the Padres’ figures are more complicated. Both teams have been on a tiered system dependent on each county in California’s “positivity rate, adjusted case rate, and health equity metric.” Both started with 20 percent, then moved to 33, but also had space and logistics issues with six feet of social distance requirements that didn’t fully allow those numbers, among other requirements. The Dodgers will move to full capacity on June 15, while the Padres will do the same on June 17.
Rounding out the top seven, the Cardinals started the season with 32 percent (14,720). They added 10,000 on May 21 and will advance to full capacity on June 14.
Each team in that top seven has a significantly higher payroll than the Rockies, who rank No. 19 at $90,775,000, except for the Rangers, who have the novelty of a new stadium in Globe Life Field. (When it comes to payroll, Dodgers are tops at over $256 million, Houston is third at over $190 million, the Cardinals are eighth at over $155 million, the Braves are 12th at over $126 million, and the Padres are 13th at over $121 million.
The 2021 season isn’t even halfway done. There is lots of time for attendance figures to change, especially as stadiums start to open all the way up. The question is, where will the Rockies end up? Will fans send a message to the front office with a dip in attendance? Or will the aftermath of the pandemic, team loyalty, and the beauty of Coors Field win out?
Only time will tell if the status quo will endure or if change could actually be on the horizon for those gorgeous Coors Field sunsets.
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The Rockies and UCHealth have not only paired up to Rock Your Routine, but also to offer vaccinations during home games on Tuesday, June 15 and Friday, June 18 in a bus on Blake Street outside the park from 5:30-8:30 p.m., as well as in the Platte Platte River Rendezvous picnic area on Saturday, June 19 from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Anyone who gets a vaccine at those sites will get a voucher good for two free Rockies tickets.
Charlie Blackmon is starting to really creep up in the Rockies record books. This week he moved up for second-most hits and third in runs scored in team history. He’s just celebrated his 10th anniversary with the team and this is a nice tribute to him.
After beginning with the anecdote that Blackmon could have just as easily ended up as an accountant rather than the four-time All-Star and cornerstone for the Rockies over the last decade, Nick Groke includes this paragraph to sum up Chuck Nazty’s career thus far:
“Over those 10 years, Blackmon built himself into one of the most studied hitters and one of the best leadoff hitters of his generation. He is one of just two players over that span to hit at least .300, with 1,300 hits, 175 home runs, 250 doubles and 125 stolen bases. Mike Trout is the other.”
How far he climbs up the record books will be determined by health, whether or not Blackmon wants to keep playing for his two option years of his contract that goes through 2023, and what the Rockies front office decides. Groke points out that the Rockies not only need him for his leadership and mentorship, but for his studious batting approach that’s resulted in a remarkable career.
Patrick Saunders treats Trevor Story’s departure as a foregone conclusion that’s just a matter of when. Then this article is filled with quotes about how Brendan Rodgers feels more confident playing in the big leagues, more comfortable playing second base or shortstop, and “holding his own” at the plate, in the words of Bud Black.
Saunders also reports that Jon Gray, while still not having a target date for his return, is starting to play catch and expected to “increase the intensity of his throwing program.” Gray figures to be back before Jordan Sheffield, who will be sidelined for at least two months with a right lat/shoulder strain.
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On the farm
Triple-A: Salt Lake Bees 7, Albuquerque Isotopes 4
Rio Ruiz and Brian Serven both hit two-run homers, but it wasn’t enough as the Isotopes lost the six-game series opener in Salt Lake. Serven’s homer came in the ninth inning after Sam Hilliard singled. José Mujica had another rough outing for Albuquerque, giving up four runs on eight hits, including a two-run homer to Jose Rojas, with one walk and six strikeouts. Mujica is now 0-5 on the season with a 9.00 ERA. Logan Cozart recorded one out to get the Isotopes out of the sixth, but then Jake Bird gave up two runs on two hits, including a homer, in the seventh and Chris Rusin surrendered one more run on two hits in the ninth.
Down to the last chance, with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, Hartford shortstop Taylor Snyder hit a go-ahead three-run homer that ended up being the game winner for the Yard Goats on Thursday night. Synder finished the night with four hits, including two homers and six RBI. The night before, Synder had three hits, including a double, and two RBI. The Yard Goats found themselves trailing 6-1 after two innings, but then rallied back for a win that needed six pitchers to battle through.
Ryan Feltner (3-1) got the pitching rolling for Spokane, throwing five scoreless innings with only allowing two hits and two walks while striking out seven before the bullpen added four more scoreless and hitless innings with three more strikeouts for the big win. Isaac Collins hit a three-run homer, Aaron Schunk added a two-run single and had a two-hit night, Willie MacIver threw in an RBI double, and Hunter Stovall scored three runs to lead the scoring for Spokane.
The Grizzlies scored nine runs in the first inning to end this one before it even had a chance to get going. Each and every starting Grizzly hitter recorded at least one hit and scored at least one run. Daniel Montano went 3-for-5 with a two-run homer, Colin Simpson went 2-for-5 with 3 RBI, and Zac Veen chipped in an RBI single with two runs scored and two walks.
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