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White Sox attendance is yet another reason for the Sox to be sellers at the deadline

With all the media shaming about attendance at Sox games, what does it actually mean to the team's bottom line?

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"Where did my money go?"
"Where did my money go?"
David Banks

As part of the excellent Sabermetrics 101 class I'm taking, we had a very simple problem to solve -- determine the most expensive teams in terms of payroll dollars per paid attendance.  While not a great figure for estimating team effectiveness, it should be a decent gauge for the financial health of the team.

If you guessed that the 2013 Yankees were the most expensive like I did, you were right. Two and three surprised me a bit.

Team and season Payroll $ per fan in attendance
2013 Yankees $70.73
2013 White Sox $67.89
2011 White Sox $63.86
2013 Angels $59.67
2012 Red Sox $56.91

So while last season was bad, 2011 did hold the number one spot in cost per fan for two seasons, beating the previous high by $9.06.  In 2013, to make gross profit just for on field payroll off of fans attending games, the average family of four would have had to pay $271.56 on tickets, concessions, parking, and souvenirs at the park.

While this doesn't give a perfect view of the Sox' finances, it does indicate that the Sox were doing some financial harm to themselves two out of the past three years.  This year's numbers don't seem all that rosy so far either.

Through 39 home games, the Sox have an average attendance of 20,354.  With a payroll of $90,551,983 that puts the White Sox on a pace for a cost per fan in attendance of $54.92. That's good for ninth most expensive team all time, putting the 2014 Sox right between the 2011 Yankees and 2010 Yankees. Also, this team also knocks the 2001 Expos and their dismal attendance of 642,745 out of the top 10. The 2001 Expos had led this category from 2001 to 2010.

While the Yankees and Dodgers will likely keep the 2014 Sox out of the top 10, these numbers just provide another reason for the Sox to be sellers before the end of the this month. Even the arguments on keeping Adam Dunn through the end of the season begin to make less sense when looking at this. If the Sox traded Dunn with effectively no compensation or even by sending up to $1 million with him at the end of August, the Sox could save between $5.00 and $8.33 per fan per game in September at the current attendance numbers. If there is an attendance spike for Konerko's last games, the savings could be even greater. This might be a necessary evil for a team preparing to miss the postseason for its sixth consecutive season.