While the San Diego Padres may have finished the 2016 season with one of the worst records in baseball, they still did pretty well in one statistical category.
They were 15th in attendance among the 30 MLB teams.
As Al Michaels once said, “Do you believe in miracles?”
The Padres drew 2,451,426 fans to Petco Park — its second highest single-season tally in the past eight years.
They did better than two playoff teams — the Cleveland Indians and the Baltimore Orioles.
How? Well, the All-Star Game, which was played in San Diego this year, was a key factor. To guarantee tickets to the Midsummer Classic, you needed to be a season ticket holder.
Even those purchasing the 21-game package were eligible to buy two tickets to the All-Star Game, a fact the team hyped in season ticket renewal notices.
Initially, the Padres excluded those fans, making All-Star tickets available only to those with 40- or 80-game packages.
The team later reversed course, allowing all ticket holders the chance to get All-Star tickets — a move that had some wondering if the Padres weren’t doing well in selling the more expensive packages.
That decision likely attracted more season ticket holders, which in turn helped 2016 attendance. It’s hard to find other reasons.
The team stunk — pretty much from the start. Before the season, they traded away pricey free agents whom they had hoped would make a difference the season before. (Um, they did not. In 2015, they finished fourth in the National League West, winning 74 games.)
Instead, the team began a rebuilding project — again. This past season, they won 68 games, creating a three-way tie with the Atlanta Braves and the Cincinnati Reds for fewest wins in the National League.
During the season, they got rid of other high-profile players. By the end of the season, the lineup consisted mostly of unknowns.
Not only did they play badly but General Manager A.J. Preller was suspended by the MLB for withholding medical information on a player he traded. President and CEO Mike Dee recently left the team — the reason was not given — continuing a streak of front-office instability.
How important is on-field performance to attendance? The Padres have upgraded Petco Park, making it, according to USA Today, the best ballpark in the nation.
But historically, attendance has swooned when the team plays poorly. So next year, if they don’t start hot, the Padres may be playing before some increasingly intimate crowds.