Peter Schmuck

Imperfect weather adds to perfect storm that has diminished Orioles attendance

A general view during the third inning of the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 29, 2016 in Baltimore.

It has been almost a month since Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez made headlines here after calling out Orioles fans for not showing up in force for the first homestand of the 2016 season.

He was scratching his head over some very small post-Opening Day crowds. He dismissed the weather as a legitimate excuse for the seeming lack of enthusiasm for a team that hiked its payroll dramatically over the winter and features one of the most power-packed offensive lineups in history.


Well, nothing has changed. The Orioles averaged just 20,310 per home game in April after averaging 33,288 a year ago.

So, what gives?


With all due respect to Martinez, the seemingly obvious answer is Maryland's unpredictable climate. Just about every game in April featured cold temperatures and some kind of precipitation. But there has to be more to it than that.

The average temperature and precipitation numbers for the same period last year were not all that different, but O's fans -- and the team -- couldn't help but notice that the weather seemed to get warmer and drier every time the club left town.

The spike in violence in Baltimore after the Freddie Gray unrest might have been a factor, since it had a direct and probably indirect impact last season. The Orioles had their worst full-season attendance total since 2011, which was impacted directly by the loss of three home dates and the infamous no-fan game.

It's certainly fair to suspect that a lot of potential walk-up customers -- particularly tourists -- chose to steer clear of the ballpark during the five months that remained of the season after the unrest.

There probably is no comparable situation elsewhere in the major leagues, but the White Sox were the hottest team in either league in April and their home attendance also declined year over year after Chicago also experienced a dramatic surge in violent crime. The drop was not pronounced as that of the Orioles, but significant when you consider the quality of this year's team compared to last.

There are other factors that vary from year to year. For instance, last year's big April average was over a span of just nine home games, six of them against the Orioles' most popular rivals -- the Yankees and Red Sox. This past April featured less-popular opponents, most notably the Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays.

In other words, a perfect storm of imperfect conditions has conspired to keep fans away and those conditions are expected to persist until this weekend.