Right on Q: Analyzing White Sox attendance

Alejandro De Aza personally counts the fans in the bleachers - Brian Kersey

A by-the-numbers look at how the White Sox did at the box office.

It could have been much worse.

The 2013 White Sox were the worst White Sox team since 1970. But the final attendance figure wasn't that bad.

Under the circumstances.

1,768,413 fans paid to enter US Cellular Field in 2013. That's down from 2012, of course. The 2012 Sox were in contention until the final week of the season. The 2013 squad nosedived in late May. That being said, a terrible baseball team only managed to scare away 197,542 paying customers compared to the year before.

The Cubs lost 240,074 fans year-over-year. Now, before you razz your Cub fan friends about the lagging box office at Clark and Addison, you should know that the Cubs' attendance level has remained fairly consistent. Their yearly attendance has dropped by 650,000 fans since 2008, when the Cubs won 97 games and their second consecutive NL Central title.

The White Sox, meantime, have lost nearly 1.2 million paying customers since the post-World Series year of 2006.

Comparing White Sox attendance the Cubs is like comparing apples and oranges. The Cubs are in a different baseball universe. Wrigley is a tourist attraction that is on every "things you must do/see in Chicago" list.

The White Sox will never win that fight. So, it's better to compare the White Sox to themselves.

More people paid to watch the White Sox in 2013 than the following teams that were much better:

1977, 1978, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2001, and 2002.

In other words, the fan-murdering 2013 White Sox were a bigger draw than the Bill Veeck-led "South Side Hitmen" circus of 36 years ago.

White Sox attendance remained fairly consistent throughout the year. The White Sox followed their usual "mediocre in April and May" in 2013. After Opening Day, Sox attendance settled into the 16,000 weekday/28,000 weekend pattern. April and May also happened to be cooler and wetter than normal.

In previous years, the White Sox finally start playing good baseball in late May. They usually ride a hot streak into first place before cratering in August or September. When the White Sox get hot, people start showing up at the ballpark.

It doesn't hurt that previous Sox hot streaks tended to coincide with the end of school and the arrival of warmer weather.

When times are good, the weekday games that typically draw 18,000-20,000 fans start to draw 25,000-30,000 fans.

Obviously, that didn't happen in 2013.

Family Sundays? 311,965 took advantage of the lower prices for tickets and parking during the 13 Sunday home dates in 2013. 314,608 people went to 13 Sunday games in 2012.

At first blush, it would appear that Family Sundays didn't really help. But, it could have kept attendance from falling off a cliff.

The good news is that the state of White Sox fandom is fairly strong. 1.7 million fans in a year that was historically bad might be the new "floor" of White Sox attendance.

On the other hand, attendance is a misleading stat. "People buying tickets" is just one source of baseball revenue. The White Sox also get money from ballpark advertising, naming rights, skyboxes, Scout Seats, parties in the Patio and Center Field Fan Deck, the Club Level, Gold Coast Tickets Club, Stadium Club, Bacardi at the Park, Chicago Sports Depot, along with their broadcast rights deals with WSCR-AM, WGN-TV, and Comcast SportsNet.

Plus, the nature of "attendance" might change. I recently watched a focus group in which a bunch of middle-aged men talked about their sports preferences. They were all fans of Chicago sports, but they considered attending a game to be a tremendous hassle. They lived in the suburbs, and they didn't like the idea of driving to the ballpark, paying for parking, paying for food and drinks, and then driving home. They said they were fine with the idea of watching the games on TV.

The final 2013 attendance number is an indictment of the product on the field. The team does go out of its way to be fan-friendly. The "US Cellular Field experience" is a pleasant one, regardless of the outcome. In recent years the team cut ticket prices, added new food items, and introduced craft beer stands around the ballpark. The stadium staff bends over backwards to make sure the fans have a good time.

Now it's up to Rick Hahn to give ‘em a full house.

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