Mac Engel

Texas Rangers’ empty seats troubling with stadium vote near

The only thing more embarrassing than the Texas Rangers’ performance in the first two games of the MLB playoffs has been the crowds.

Do not believe the announced attendance of 48,019 for the Rangers’ 5-3 loss in Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Blue Jays on Friday.

There were at least double-digit unsold suites, not to mention thousands of empties for the “sellout” crowd for Game 2. Given the weather and start times for both games, some empties should have been expected, but this was embarrassing.

At this point, no one can blame the Texas Rangers for flirting with Dallas. Not after this season. Not after Games 1 and 2 of this series.

By equal measure, no one should blame Arlington if, on voting day next month, its citizens tell the Rangers, “Find another sucker.”

Rangers: Gagging away home-field advantage is not the best method to court votes for a new $1 billion stadium. While I am no fan of tax-subsidized stadiums, this club has reinvested in its stadium and its on-the-field product the past several years. That merits standing-room only for big games.

The Rangers should not need a $1 Hot Dog promotion or Jon Daniels Bobblehead Night to entice fans for the American League Division Series.

While the talent of the Blue Jays can be used to explain the Rangers’ 0-2 hole in this series, there is no such logic to explain the chunks of empty seats for a home playoff game.

Owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson have repeatedly given The Chosen One( Daniels) every available dollar to spend on a roster. The Rangers’ payroll of $168 million is eighth in baseball.

Maybe the problem is indeed the lack of a roof and an air conditioner. Or it’s something much deeper.

Despite billed as sellouts, neither Game 1 nor 2 was full to capacity, which was sad but rather consistent with how the regular season played out.

And I have no idea why, but I do know this issue matters far more than this current ALDS.

With the large mixed-use development, Texas Live!, featuring bars, hotels and shops, slated for construction — albeit several months behind schedule — Arlington is banking on the November tax measure passing. Can you imagine Texas Live! being built without the Rangers next door?

But in reviewing attendance for this season, Davis and Simpson must be asking themselves if a stadium that will feature a roof and air conditioning solves the problem, or if the only solution is downtown Dallas.

The product the Rangers produced in each of the past two years merits more butts in the seats. The team ranked 16th in MLB attendance in 2015 despite a first-place division finish; that figure rose to 10th this season with a team that was superior in the standings.

The rub is that the Rangers were coming off an AL West title and only enjoyed about a 200,000 spike in attendance this year.

The total of 2.7 million in ’16 is not awful, but it’s a losing one for Ray and Bob. A club official told me it takes about 3 million fans for the home team to make some money.

In 2012 and ’13, the team broke club records with 3.4 million and 3.1 million in attendance.

Despite the dog-show performance by the Rangers in the postseason, this team should have been a 3-million attendance figure club.

They were in first place, or close to it, from Day One. The roster comprises good guys who are good stewards of their franchise and the game for their community.

By our own standards for heat, this summer was mild compared with some of the equator-like temperatures that have clobbered us in the past.

But in the final week of the regular season, the team was announcing home crowds of 30,000 when the eyeballs knew that was a Lochte-esque load.

As to an explanation? Much like what happened to the Atlanta Braves during their run of division titles from ’95 to ’05, perhaps Rangers fans are just numb to regular-season success and need another visit to the AL Championship Series for proper motivation.

Maybe it is the heat. Or maybe it’s the electronic age where watching a game at home is not only cheaper, but with HDTV often just as good. Or maybe the thing just needs to be in Dallas.

Or maybe the fans who skipped out are simply smarter than the rest of us. The best team in the American League aims to maintain this franchise’s time-honored tradition of mauling its loyal fans’ hearts in a way that few teams in any sport have.

The type of home-field advantage the Rangers displayed at The Ballpark this week is about as valuable as 3-week-old milk, only it doesn’t taste as good.

“Of course, giving away home-field advantage is tough,” Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. “At least you should scratch off one win.”

You would think. Of course, you’d also think the place would be full, too.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

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