The announced attendance tonight at Sun Life Stadium was 10,402. The actual attendance was somewhere between 10,000 and 402. On TV, it couldn't have looked much emptier.
The Florida Marlins will open a new stadium next season on the site of the old Orange Bowl. The new park will seat 37,000 and have a retractable roof. The new park will either show that South Florida is a great baseball town or that Major League Baseball's expansion to the Sunshine State was a huge mistake.
Since 2003, when they won the World Series, the Marlins have never won fewer than 71 games, and have won at least 78 games every other year. They've not scored fewer than 717 runs in any of those seasons. They've been one of the most entertaining baseball teams in the major leagues.
Still, the fans stay away. The major excuse is that Sun Life Stadium is a terrible place to watch a ballgame. That's weak. There are many better ballparks, yes, but Sun Life - or Pro Player, Joe Robbie or whatever you wish to call it - is not so dreadful that if you were a real baseball fan, it would keep you away. The new place is in what's been described as a sketchy neighborhood, but some fans may not be concerned about that.
Perhaps the Marlins will experience a major jump in attendance in 2012. They have to hope so. All I know is that, had the Nationals played the kind of baseball the Fish have since 2005, Nationals fans would not have to concern themselves with how visiting fans behaved.
There wouldn't be any visiting fans if no seats were available.
MLB has to hope they do well as the re-branded Miami Marlins. If a new ballpark in that market doesn't increase attendance by at least 30 percent with a product as entertaining as the Marlins' roster seems to be, there's no hope for the Tampa Bay Rays either.