On Tuesday night, Albert Pujols missed his first road game this season, much to the chagrin of Baltimore baseball fans who had hoped to see one of the sport's best players at Camden Yards. Following a collision at first base nine days ago, Pujols -- an impending free agent who is reportedly seeking a contract in the neighborhood of $300 million -- is out four to six weeks with a small fracture in his left forearm.
The news must have been disheartening for an Orioles front office that surely expected a boost in ticket sales with the prodigious slugger at Camden Yards. However, upon further review, overall attendance numbers don’t suggest that Pujols would have provided a bump in attendance -- at least not during the week.
According to ESPN attendance figures, Pujols’ impact on road attendance is much more significant during the weekend. No real surprise there, but the magnitude in difference is stunning. In the seven weekend road series Pujols has played in this year, the home team’s attendance has been higher than its season average all but once. For example, Kansas City’s attendance went up an average of 7,151 fans when St. Louis came to town last month for interleague play. They had been averaging 19,645 fans on the season.
On the other hand, in the six road series Pujols has played in during the week, the home team’s average attendance has plummeted four times. (It did go up when the Nationals, the Orioles' neighbors to the south, hosted the Cardinals two weeks ago.)
Of course there are myriad factors that affect attendance on a given day -- weather, the opponent, the pitching matchup, giveaways, other sporting events locally or nationally -- but with a decent amount of data, it seems the Orioles attendance may not have gotten a significant boost had Pujols played this week.
The Orioles have averaged 21,697 fans at Camden Yards in 2011. Tuesday, 20,556 came to the ballpark and saw the Orioles lose to the Pujols-less Cardinals. We’ll see how the next two nights go.
Matt Castello, a Maryland student, is an intern at The Baltimore Sun. Our fine interns will contribute guest posts to Baltimore Sports Blitz this summer. Contact Castello at firstname.lastname@example.org.