Stark: Does baseball’s slow free-agent market hurt attendance?

From SABR member Jayson Stark at The Athletic on January 11, 2019:

For​ a year now,​ I’ve had a theory. It’s a theory to​ explain​ how Major League​ Baseball unintentionally​ performed a trick last​ season​ never​​ duplicated by even Dave Copperfield:

It made 3 million people disappear.

That would be the 3 million paying customers who dropped off MLB’s total attendance figures compared with 2017. And here’s my theory.

It wasn’t just the weather. It wasn’t just that the AL playoff field was pretty much wrapped up by Memorial Day. It wasn’t just pace of game, too much whiffing or new ways of counting fannies in the seats.

I think at least some of it was a direct byproduct of an offseason where, for many teams, it felt like nothing happened! Or almost nothing. Much like this offseason so far, as a matter of fact.

I’ve spent the last week trying to find a way to document that theory. It’s hard to prove. It’s harder to disprove. So let’s tell a few stories first – stories that connect the dots between adding the right player(s) in the offseason and the butts they put in seats.

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Originally published: January 11, 2019. Last Updated: January 11, 2019.