With a Wednesday win over the Washington Nationals, the St. Louis Cardinals completed their 2017 Grapefruit League schedule and 20th year playing at Roger Dean Stadium.
Having been a regular at spring camp back when the Cardinals still trained across the state in St. Petersburg, it is hard for me to believe that two full decades have passed since the move to the then-new complex in Jupiter, Florida in 1998.
St. Louis’ 20th spring at “The Dean” was marked by extreme highs and lows. The team played better than ever before, but fewer people than ever traveled there to see it.
In the most important measure, on the field, the results were very positive. Specifically, the club’s 20-8-4 record and .714 winning percentage are both tops in the Jupiter years. In addition, the spring improvement over last year of 17.3 percent (.173 in terms of winning percentage), tied 2012 for the top annual gain.
On the downside, fan participation hit an all-time low this spring. Both St. Louis’ average attendance per game (5,644) and year-to-year change (-19.4 percent) are the worst showings in the team’s 20 years in Jupiter.
In the table below, I bolded the high and low points in key columns. Though not connected to spring results, I also included at the far right whether the Cardinals went on to the playoffs that fall. In an oddity, in almost every prior case when there was a spring extreme in winning or attendance – either high or low – the club ended up staying home that October.
Some have speculated that the 2017 World Baseball Classic may have eaten into spring ticket sales. Until full MLB attendance figures are released, this cannot be fully assessed. However, I have seen reference to several Arizona-based teams setting new attendance records this spring.
These factors will certainly bear watching during the regular season as well. In 2016, a dismal .469 winning percentage at Busch Stadium led to the team’s second consecutive year of declining home attendance. The Cardinals’ 2016 drop of 2.2 percent was considerably more than the overall MLB decline of 0.6 percent compared to 2015.
Further, Cardinals television ratings, while still second highest in MLB in 2016, were down by a whopping 21 percent from 2015 (from 10.86 to 8.54) – during a year in which MLB television ratings overall were up 1.0 percent. (More details on 2016 attendance and ratings can be accessed here.)
St. Louis Cardinals spring training record and home attendance – 1998 through 2017
|Spring||Overall record||Win pct.||YTY||Home attend.||Dates||Average||YTY||Playoffs|
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