Walking around FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches Monday afternoon, it wasn’t immediately clear that a Miami Marlins game was taking place on the diamond below.
Granted, it was a school day and a workday in Palm Beach County, but that didn’t stop a fan in a Mike Trout jersey sitting out in right field from catching the Marlins take on the Nationals. Nor did it stop the throngs of Washington fans of all ages, decked out in World Series gear celebrating the team’s first-ever title this past October, from making the trip to the ballpark.
In fact, after a few trips around the concourse, it’s safe to say there were more Marlins jerseys being worn by players on the field at any given moment in Monday’s 3-2 loss to the Nationals than there were fans wearing gear in the crowd. And that’s quite an embarrassment for a team whose home park is less than 100 miles South.
Miami’s poor fan attendance has been well documented. The Marlins had the worst attendance in all of baseball in 2019. The team drew an average crowd of 10,016 fans per game in a park that has a capacity exceeding 36,000 and opened this decade. Miami was the only team in the MLB that failed to draw 1,000,000 total fans last season.
If Marlins Park were a shopping mall, all that would still be open is an Orange Julius and a Everything 99 Cents store. pic.twitter.com/jqkKdvU2Yr
— Mark Kiszla (@markkiszla) March 29, 2019
For context, the Los Angeles Dodgers led the league with over 49,000 attendees per game and almost 4,000,000 total fans for the season. Granted, the Dodgers won 106 games, the second-best record in the MLB, and have a much larger park than the Marlins, but the discrepancy is staggering.
Miami was home to the third-worst team in baseball in 2019 as the Marlins went 57-105, their worst record since 1998 and third-worst record ever. Still, the two teams with worse records than Miami (Baltimore: 54-108, Detroit: 47-114) finished well ahead of the team in attendance.
Only once in the past decade have the Marlins finished better than dead last in attendance in the National League; Miami finished 12th of 16 teams in 2012, their first year in Marlins Park after their move South. And in the team’s 27 years of existence, it has yet to win a division title, though it did win the World Series as a Wild Card team in 1997 and 2003. But even in those title years, attendance was poor: the Marlins, then the Florida Marlins, were fifth out of 15 teams in 1997 and 15th out of 16 in 2003.
So it’s not exactly surprising that Marlins fans weren’t out in abundance on Monday. Years of mediocrity (a generous term for Miami) and trading players only for them to flourish in other team’s colors gets tiring for a fanbase after a while.
The bulk of the Miami supporters were wearing gear from two rebrands ago: the original teal, pinstripe Florida Marlins uniforms. There was a fan in an Andrew Dawson Florida Marlins jersey and another wearing a Miami Marlins Giancarlo Stanton jersey, who is now with the New York Yankees.
The fans who were wearing current Marlins gear did not have names on the back of their jerseys, likely learning from years past that anyone on the team worth something will be flipped before the late-summer trade deadline for prospects. Even Miami hats, the bare minimum baseball equivalent of showing allegiance to a team, were not out in abundance.
Compare that with the Nationals fanbase (which, granted, was the home crowd in this game at the Nationals shared facility and just won the World Series) where there were fans of all ages in jersey sporting all different names: Trea Turner, Juan Soto, Howie Hendrick, Sean Doolittle, Stephen Strausburg, Max Scherzer and Anthony Rendon all had fan support at FITTEAM Ballpark.
When the Nationals scored in the bottom of the first inning, the crowd roared. When the Marlins took a 2-1 lead in the top of the fourth inning, there were scattered claps.
The Marlins have a support issue that, in turn, translates to the fanbase. But it starts with the product on the field, which has not produced a finish better than .500 since 2009.