When I booked my trip to Clearwater this year, something was noticeably different. First, I got the lowest price for a hotel (that was NOT the roach-ridden Super 8 just north of the ballpark) in many years. While Phillies fans had to fight to get into the La Quinta near the ballpark in the past, I observed the hotel clerk tell customers that there were vacancies. If Phillies fans are no longer willing to head somewhere warm for Phillies baseball in one of the snowiest winters ever, there much be plenty of Phillies seats left over. The reason is that Phillies fans are smart enough to know what is worth a dollar.
Chris Hepp of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that sales are down significantly: over 20% from 2013.
"Our sales numbers are down," said John Weber, the Phillies' vice president of sales and ticket operations. "Last year, we had about 24,000 season-ticket holders. We are going to have between 18 [thousand] and 19,000 this year, which still ranks us in the top of baseball. It is a very solid number, but not where we have been."
I must admit, I am one of those 5,000-plus who did not renew tickets. After five years of sharing a full-season plan, 2014 will be my first year without. I'll explain why.
First, my partner dropped out. He and I shared a full season the last four years, splitting the games down the middle. We had the least expensive full-season plan in the ballpark. But, I simply could not have gone to all 81 games myself. I have to go earn a living. But there is something more that I think other Phillies fans really agree with: The organization needs to move on.
There was lots of talk about how the Phillies had to hang on to their 2008 glory in order to secure a new television deal. The theory was that if the Phillies let players like Chase Utley move on, there will not be enough fan interest to make a television deal happen. Trading any Phillies former-but-still-employed All-Stars? No way.
However, Phillies fans know that a rebuild is best for the Phillies. Refusing to do so has left an excruciating remainder, says Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports:
The scouts' early reviews on the Phillies are in. And to put it kindly, they are less than glowing.
"They're awful," said one.
"Painful to watch," said another.
"Their window didn't close slowly -- it shut," said a third
But part of us - admittedly or not - would miss Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard. But not enough to go all out to see them.
We all know that once you drive a car off the dealership lot, it loses its value. It continues to do so year by year, until the car cannot be driven anymore. That's the reality of car ownership. It's much like baseball players. But, the Phillies have an 1982 Buick with rust and dents. Phillies fans just don't want to pay for that.
The Phillies have their new television deal, but are losing the fans. Sure, it will still be fun to watch Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels and A.J. Burnett pitch. But the overall tone is one that is less than inspiring. When the Phillies finally turn the page and (if it's not too late) trade their assets for some young players, I will pay to see that.