Monday, April 13, 2009

Panic Early

One of my favorite people in the broadcast business, longtime KTVU-TV producer Bill Weeks, likes to say it: "panic early". It's his way of dealing with the relentless pressure of the news desk.

And it might be time for Major League Baseball to think about a little panic. It's not like the ballparks have been empty in the first week of the regular season, but the early returns are less than overwhelming.

19,000 in San Diego (many of them Marines in the upper deck) on a sunny Sunday, with Tim Lincecum pitching for the Giants. 12,000 in Oakland. 18,000 to see the loaded Mets in Miami. 14,000 in Cleveland. 25,000 in Phoenix to see Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers. And so on.

OK, those are Easter Sunday figures, and some parts of the country are still emerging from winter. But I pulled some numbers, and many teams that have just wrapped up their season-opening series are averaging about what they did for the full season last year. That's not a good sign, because typically, the first series includes an Opening Day sellout, skewing the average gate high.

Overall attendance numbers will be padded by the openings this week of the two new ballparks in New York. The Dodgers will fill their yard. But the reality of a down economy is like an annoying noise in the next room. MLB has to be hearing it.

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