Originally Posted by Ltlabner
To answer my own question, on a macro sense, baseball is merely entertainment. If they build an entertaining team (i.e. one that wins consistently), price it correctly and market it at a skill level above 5th grade, the fans will come back.
Cleveland had a very long sell out streak because of that entertainment value. They had a good club to go along, but it became the thing to do in Cleveland during the mid to late 90's. Even when the Indians got good again the fans didn't turn up at the same rate.
My wife loves going to Reds games. She hates watching them on TV. My company has 4 season tickets about 15 rows up on the 3rd base side. Customers and employees love going to the games. If they had to pay face value for those tickets I doubt they would go. But when given the opportunity to go for cheap they jump all over it. If you have a MLB team, sans the Marlins, they will always draw people for the entertainment value as well as watching a baseball game on a summer night. You can't beat going to the ball park to watch a MLB team play on a nice night.
FWIW I think the Castellini organization recognizes that they need to create a "fun" environment for you casual baseball fan. Its a nice improvement from the Linder run organization.
In a micro sense, the Reds have dug themselves in pretty deep. It's not an insurmountable task, but they'd really started to paint themselves into a corner. Fans are apathetic, younger kids (on average) aren't as involved in baseball as they might have been in "the golden years", disposable income is harder to find, corporate involvement is getting smaller....these factors all play into the original question.
They'd have to continue to lose at a Pitsburgian rate to actually jeopardize the fanbase long-term, so no, the hole isn't "too deep". But they keep digging downward IMO and that doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon.
I think baseball is a dwindling sport all over. Kids just don't play baseball at the rate I did 15 years ago. Basketball has take a large chunk of not only inter city kids, but also kids in the burbs. I never saw kids playing pickup baseball in Columbus when I was at OSU and I have family in Canton and baseball is almost like a foreign language up there. I would imagine that there are more soccer players than there are baseball players growing up now.
I heard Colin Cowherd on the radio talking about how baseball was for your middle aged man. I think it is a problem that baseball has largely ignored over the past decade. They like to show the progress their inner city baseball development program has made but they ignore a larger portion of their base who is flocking away from baseball in general. I still think little league baseball is fairly strong in the Cincy area.
Winning helps. I have little doubt that if the Reds put together a good season they will create an atmosphere like that of the Brewers (Having the banks developed will also help the Reds.) A decade of lackluster baseball hurts the fan base, and I can only imagine how much worse that would have been had Jr. not been on the team. For your mid market clubs the only thing they can do to help attendance is put a winning team on the field. They also will need help from MLB and Selig, but that just isn't going to happen.
To answer your question, the Reds have dug themselves a hole to some extent, but they haven't been helped out by the the people who run MLB.