One week ago today, Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler crossed the proverbial line in the sand with some of the franchise's most passioniate supporters in issuing this controversial claim on The Ticket's BaD Radio: "It's kind of a shame that people in this area don't really believe in us ... they don't want to come out and support us."
The notion that a well-populated crowd positively contributes to the home team's mentality -- providing a psychological boost of sorts -- and, by extension, the home team's chances of winning is hardly radical, but nigh-impossible to quantify. Nevertheless, let's give Kinsler -- and, to a lesser extent, David Murphy, who has also chimed in on the attendance situation -- the benefit of the doubt when he submits that "if we can get people to come out and watch, it's going to give us a lot more energy." Fine. Okay.
After completing a moderately successful six-game road trip that culminated in a three-game slaughter of the Indians at Progressive Field, perpetual showers, lackluster divisional opponents and some very uninspired baseball from the Rangers over the ensuing days further depressed home attendance totals ... and then, on Wednesday evening, with the specter of additional rain looming over the Ballpark and Texas reeling from consecutive body blows, the Rangers actually pushed 23,372 through the turnstiles -- their strongest single-game attendance mark since August 19th.
Is that a mind-blowingly large crowd? Of course not. I do, however, think it's reflective of the fact that there are a respectable number of people who still want to believe in this team (contrary to Kinsler's assertion), and are backing up their faith with their hard-earned bucks in spite of a gate receipt-decimating confluence of factors: terrible weather, a bad economy and a struggling baseball team that is quickly falling out of the post-season picture.
The Rangers' response to that apparent expression of faith -- manifesting as a fairly reasonable crowd, in light of the circumstances -- was a putrid one-hit performance by an increasingly maligned lineup, extending the ballclub's streak of offensive futility to a single run over its last 37 innings. Lots of entertainment value to be found there.
By and large, the prevailing problem at 1000 Ballpark Way right now is not the fans (or a lack thereof), who desperately want to keep believing, but are not being given much reason to do so right now, much less pour their scarce discretionary income into a currently floundering product. In fact, if you look at the day-to-day correlation between attendance and the Rangers' divisional standing, you will find that home attendance had been relatively strong -- in the realm of 20,000-plus per night -- up until the point when the Rangers found themselves entrenched in a five- to six-game hole in the division, at which point it would stand to reason that interest would begin to wane just a bit:
About 90 minutes from now, the Rangers will commence their last-chance scuffle with the first-place Angels, placing their hopes upon the broad shoulders of rookie revelation Tommy Hunter and presumably pulling that coveted 30,000-plus showing through the turnstiles. No more excuses.
Frankly, I've reached the point where I don't want to hear about a perceived deficiency in fan support from the players again this year, and Kinsler's already dubious position on the matter will go flying through the window entirely if the Rangers respond to a potential 100,000-fan weekend showing at the Ballpark by dropping two out of three games.