The Phillies have been in first place or tied for first place in the NL East for a full month now. So where are all the fans?
Why isn’t Citizens Bank Park a packed house for every homestand? Why aren’t the Phillies dominating the airwaves on sports talk radio, especially at a time of year when baseball is literally the only game in town?
I wouldn’t worry about that. If the Phillies keep winning, the fans will be back.
In fact, the evidence suggests they already are.
Attendance is climbing. Citizens Bank Park has averaged 27,790 per game this season, which represents only a slight increase over the past three seasons. Yet, that figure has been growing steadily since June 25. Over their first 37 games, the Phillies were averaging just 24,714. In the last 19, it’s jumped to 33,782 – a difference of over 9,000.
And if people are talking about the Phillies on the radio and social media, even if only to complain nobody is talking about the team, well, then people are still talking about the team, aren’t they?
It’s reasonable to project attendance will likely continue improving as long as the Phillies are in contention. This town loves a winner. The bandwagon is coming.
As for why it’s taken a little longer for some folks to get on board, that part is easy. The Phillies don’t have a problem with being likable or relatable, as some have said.
Quite simply, this team came from nowhere.
Some people have a short memory or never went away. Others tuned out while the Phillies were stumbling to 63, 71 and 66 wins over the past three seasons, with two last-place finishes and the worst record in baseball in 2015. While there was hope the organization was on the rise, expectations weren’t very high in April.
The Phillies hired a first-time manager. Much of their young core was still at Lehigh Valley a year ago. Even after some savvy free-agent additions and deadline dealings, there are few stars on the roster, particularly on offense.
This squad has drawn comparisons to the 2007 club, which saw the franchise return to the playoffs after a 13-year drought. There might be a similarly special feel surrounding this group, but the circumstances weren’t remotely the same.
When the Phillies were averaging 38,374 fans per game in ’07, they were coming off a competitive 85-win season and second-place finish in the NL East. They had stars like Ryan Howard, who hit 58 home runs and was named Most Valuable Player in 2006, along with Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. People love offense, and that team delivered.
In ’07, the Phillies were even still benefitting slightly from Citizens Bank Park being relatively new. The building opened four years earlier and was still by itself a draw.
Most of all, they were already established as a competitive team, with many picking the Phillies a trendy pick to make the playoffs, and a lineup that would mash dingers. So many dingers.
The 2018 Phillies were projected to be a .500 team, coming off years of losing, and competing with playoff-bound Sixers and Flyers squads the first month-and-a-half of the season. Even now, the Phils are still fielding a below-league average offense.
Which is not to say the ’18 Phillies haven’t been fun. It’s just that they were easier to dismiss in April and May, when people were being treated to low-scoring affairs, few star performances and a rookie manager’s unorthdox approach to the game – all while watching nervously to see if the wheels would come off.
But the wheels never did come off, and, finally, the fans are coming around. No matter how the Phillies wrap this season up, the red hats aren’t going back into hiding anytime soon, either.
The Phillies are winning again, which means they’re interesting again. With a host of developing young players and leadership getting a taste of success, and a front office that has money to spend in free agency, the fans are also beginning to understand this season is only the beginning.