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The value of 30,000 fans

Colorado Rockies news and links for Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Welcome to trade deadline day. At 4 p.m. MDT, the transactions will cease.

If the Rockies serve as bystanders in the remaining hours, the extension of Daniel Bard will serve as their biggest move of deadline season.

The value of holding on to Bard goes far beyond the win column.

He is someone that people come to see.

He is familiar. His comeback story is cherished. With him on the mound, it often means the Rockies are in line for a win. For the 32,450-fan average at Coors Field this year, that alone warrants a celebratory moment, and a chance to see continued domination from their guy in the latest chapter of his return to pitching.

Our guy.

Without players like him, fans have one fewer reason to follow the team — and one fewer reason to go to the ballpark.

The Rockies have averaged at least 30,000 fans at home in all but three seasons since their 2007 World Series appearance. One of those years was the crowd-less 2020. Another was 2021, when all parks had early-season capacity restrictions. Without COVID? The Rockies could be averaging 30,000+ crowds in each of the past 15 years.

Colorado Rockies - Attendance and Payroll Since 2014

Colorado is not packing Coors Field on a wish and a prayer. With guys like Bard, the hometown kid Kyle Freeland, the bearded Charlie Blackmon, and the icon Kris Bryant, among others, there always seems to be players that people gather to watch, no matter the win column. (Todd Helton was one of those guys for 17 years.)

In other places, it can take a payroll around $125 million to fit 30,000 inside a ballpark:

San Diego Padres - Attendance and Payroll Since 2014

The San Diego Padres’ strategy since 2020 is admirable. After shelling out millions for Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer, Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, Sean Manaea, and even a five-year extension on Monday for Joe Musgrove, the expectation in San Diego has shifted toward winning a National League pennant, even if it takes burning a hole through their pocketbook. The spending has continued from Padres general manager A.J. Preller, landing Milwaukee closer Josh Hader on Monday.

This year is just the second in the past 15 seasons that San Diego has averaged more than 30,000 fans at home.

Without COVID, the Padres would have likely surpassed a 30,000 average in both 2020 and 2021. This would still mean they only reached that threshold in four of the past 15 years, 11 shy of a presumed 15 in Denver, sans pandemic.

Even in 2012, when the Rockies held the worst win percentage in franchise history, Coors Field still drew an average home crowd of 32,475.

Defining The Priority

Baseball is a business, and businesses are geared to make money. Owners would not invest in baseball teams if they were not profitable, after all.

Before evaluating moves at the trade deadline, or competitive team construction, or any other directive meant to exclusively win baseball games, one must identify the priorities that determine a successful season from the eyes of everybody with a seat at the franchise boardroom:

  • Success can be measured by wins, as any diehard fan will plead.
  • Success can be measured by revenue, as any investor or money manager will state.

Both often tie together in baseball, but any seller at the trade deadline is tampering with immediate measures of success. The end-of-year ledger hurts as a seller. A prospect haul for a beloved veteran takes time. Even then, it may never blossom.

Take off your fan cap, and put on your business cap: how big of a risk are you willing to take? It certainly isn’t that simple, as we all aren’t qualified GM’s or multi-million-dollar business owners.

At Coors Field, the cathedral/gathering place/greatest bar in the Mountain time zone, perhaps the biggest travesty would be no fans wanting to be there. Avoiding the slightest immediate threat could be the bedrock of a rebuild-averse mantra by Rockies stakeholders.

Why not make it even better?

It has to be said at least once in this column: How much better is Coors Field if the team truly is a contender?

It does get better even on the business side: A couple weeks of beer and extra ticket sales helped the Blue Jays pay for Troy Tulowitzki after he left Colorado. This year, San Diego has assembled a team capable of drawing the largest crowds in Petco Park history, and the related boost in revenue seems to have only fueled their payroll capabilities with Hader now in the brown and gold. The Padres are a direct case study on how it takes money to make money.

Coors Field seats 50,398. At the current 2022 average, this means 36% of the ballpark seats are empty at any given game. Denver’s MLB home was built to handle the crowds of a contending team.

If the route of retaining coveted players is a comfortable way toward a 30,000-ticket average, it appears proven to allow the Rockies a projectable revenue model where fans still have something to look forward to, no matter what the National League standings may show.

It could be dangerous to sell the beloved veterans, launch a rebuild, and risk the average attendance dropping below 20,000.

Risking it could also make some 40,000+ dreams come true.

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Rockies icon Charlie Blackmon on sticking it out with Colorado: “Never tell me the odds” | The Denver Post

Speaking of players that Rockies fans love to watch: Charlie Blackmon is quoted in this piece by Patrick Saunders, discussing his long tenure in Colorado with fortified impact on the franchise. At 36 years old, Blackmon holds a player option for next year and is officially off the books in 2024.

San Diego Padres get Milwaukee Brewers closer Josh Hader in trade, send out closer Taylor Rogers, 3 others | ESPN

Josh Hader did not make his Padres debut on Monday night, but with 36 innings of action left in this Rockies-Padres series, it seems like only a matter of time until he does. 18 of those 36 innings will take place today.

Rockies Kris Bryant goes on IL for third time this season | The Denver Post

The tough stretch of injuries have continued for Kris Bryant, this time due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot. He was scratched from the starting lineup on Monday and was previously placed on the injured list twice this year due to a back strain.

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On the Farm

Monday, August 2: League-wide off day for all minor league affiliates

New series starting today:

Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes (COL) at El Paso Chihuahuas (SD)

Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats (COL) at Reading Fightin’ Phils (PHI)

High-A: Eugene Emeralds (SF) at Spokane Indians (COL)

Low-A: San Jose Giants (SF) at Fresno Grizzlies (COL)

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