M’s vs. Royals. Four games. If you thought Wednesday’s Safeco crowd was small . . .
Each Thursday, Art Thiel checks out the weekend sports scene locally and offers more casual sports fans some observations that can get them in and out of conversations without anyone catching on to your, ahem, casualness.
Whether at the water cooler, bus, lunchroom, frat kegger or cocktail party, you can drop in a riposte, bon mot or bit o’ wit to start a conversational conflagration, or put one out. Then walk away.
Mariners baseball — Seattle at Kansas City; 5:10 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 10:10 a.m. Saturday; 11:10 a.m. Sunday (ROOT): The 4-8 Mariners take their dreary little show on the road, probably relieved that they no longer have to please the teeming hordes at Safeco Field.
In case you missed it, the Mariners Wednesday drew just 12,407, which was the teensiest teeming horde in stadium history. It broke the record set Monday. For the three games against Toronto, a little more than 40,000 showed up, suggesting either that the Blue Jays are uglier than the back shelf of a frat-house refrigerator, or that the Mariners have finally broken the bond with a once-adoring fan base.
If it’s the latter — and it has to be, because the Blue Jays, despite their propensity for bases-loaded walks, are not that homely — they are heading into a town that foretells the future of what happens when the bond breaks.
A once-stout baseball town, Kansas City finished 25th in attendance last season (1.61 million; Seattle was 19th at 2.1 million) and through six home games this season was averaging 18,641, including their opener.
Aside from $4 a gallon gas prices and an economy that defies the analysts’ claim that the recession is over, the simple fact is that the Royals haven’t been to the playoffs since 1985. That makes the Seattle drought, heading inexorably to a 10th postseason-free year, seem like half-past-six o’clock.
A decade is no match for a quarter-century, and the Royals are rarely a match for anyone, except they are 7-4 this season and second in the American League Central Division. It won’t matter, however, to most fans, because they are benumbed.
The April uptick is better than nothing, but it is no match for the mountain of skepticism. The Royals can always hide behind the traditional fig leaf of small market status. That works until one considers the feats of the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays, both of whom have overcome pathetic attendance to achieve beyond their stations, thanks in part to revenue sharing in baseball that has induced parity.
The Mariners, however, don’t even have the luxury of a fig leaf. The haven’t been a small market in some time, certainly not since they built a splendid, money-making stadium ($8.50 for a crepe, for those scoring at home). Nor has the ownership been cheap, usually providing a top-10 payroll.
What the Mariners and Royals have become, sadly, is irrelevant via incompetence, which is the worst thing that can happen to a pro sports franchise. Frankly, it doesn’t get much more bleak than Mariners vs. Royals in mid-April, with a threat of thundershowers.
Could be that the 12,407 figure the Mariners drew at home will exceed anything they see in KC this weekend, unless the Royals have scheduled a George Brett Hemorrhoid Prevention Night promotion (first 20,000 receive free suppositories).
So the relative novice to this malaise in Seattle will be wise to grab the TV remote and pursue alternative entertainment: “What channel is the the Barry Bonds trial on? Is there any news about Kobe Bryant being named grand marshal of the LA gay rights parade? Wait, here’s something about a point-shaving scandal in college basketball. How 1960s!
“OK. Never mind. Let’s watch Jack Cust attempt to run to first base.”
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