We’ll Never Know

What if they planned a baseball game and nobody came?

The official word is that the game would be played. MLB will sometimes not reschedule a game that gets canceled due to weather if it has no playoff implications, but the rule is that if a game can be played, it will be. I do have to wonder, though.

Monday night, the Mariners’ paid attendance was 9,808, the lowest in the fourteen years they’ve been playing in their current stadium (I can’t find attendance numbers prior to that, but the odds are good there were a few games where they drew fewer fans.) Keep in mind that “paid attendance” includes season ticket holders who don’t bother to show up, so the number of actual bodies in seats was undoubtedly lower.

Those who did show up got to see this year’s final start by one of the Mariners’ hottest pitching prospects, a close ballgame through eight innings, capped by rookie Abraham Almonte’s first major league home run — and a Mariners’ loss to Houston, the worst team in baseball, thanks to a ninth inning pitching meltdown.

Tuesday, the paid attendance improved to 10,245, but apparently the Mariners failed to show up to play that same Houston team. They were behind 1-0 after the first pitch of the game and 6-1 after three innings. It only got worse from there. By the eighth inning, the score was 10-2 and the estimated actual attendance was down to 2,000. By the time the Mariners came to bat in the ninth, it was 13-2, and reports suggest that less than a thousand spectators were still there to see the Mariners get the leadoff batter on base before going pop out, fly out, line out.

It makes one wonder if the game would be called on account of disinterest if the last fan left.

But you know what? We’ll never find out.

Despite all arguments on the side of sanity, people will continue to show up, and some of them will stick around until the final pitch is thrown.

Did any of those last thousand or so spectators really think the Mariners would score 12 in the ninth to win the game? Or 11 to go to extra innings? Or even one run? Probably not. I’d even be willing to bet that the majority of them winced when Zunino was hit by a pitch — not because they sympathized with his pain, but because it extended the game.

But they stayed anyway.

The Mariners are playing another game against Houston tonight, and I expect around 10,000 people will show up to watch at least part of the game. The game doesn’t matter in the standings. It probably won’t even have an impact on the draft (even with a win, Houston’s chances of giving up the first pick to the pathetic Marlins are almost nil.)

But they’ll show up anyway.

Why?

Some of them will show up for the chance that they might see a miracle (Giants fans almost got one last week, when Petit missed a perfect game by about 2 1/2 feet). Some of them will show up in the hope of seeing something they’ve never seen before (it happened Monday night, when a run scored on a foul ball after the fielder’s throw hit the batter). One or two of them will show up because they’re emigres from Houston and it was the only day they could get away to see their team. Hell, some of them will show up because it’s a chance to get outside in gorgeous weather.

And no matter how the game turns out, some of those people will be there from the beginning to the end.

Why?

Loyalty. Faith.

For the teams, baseball is a business. They have no loyalty to the fans or the city they’re in. If they think they can make more money by moving they will — just look at the current five-way battle between the As, MLB, the Giants, the city of Oakland, and the city of Fremont.

It doesn’t matter. As I’ve been saying all season, for the fans baseball isa religion. Services are held 162 times a year, and the faithful will come to worship. Their reward isn’t in the next life, it’s tonight, next week, next month, and next year.

Ite, missa est.

Play ball!