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Giancarlo Stanton and the Marlins' fan base

The Miami Marlins will eventually lose Giancarlo Stanton by trade in the next two years. But will this be the straw that breaks the camel's back for the fan base?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today, we mentioned that the Miami Marlins were going to inevitably have to trade Giancarlo Stanton in the very near future because of the near-untenable contract situation between he and the team. The Marlins are unlikely to be able to offer the mammoth, free agent-like extension Stanton would deserve, and Stanton would not see the Marlins as a strong long-term fit because of the chronic instability of the roster.

Yesterday, in response to our article about how to retain Stanton, loyal Fish Stripes reader miller.h.lepree said that Stanton might represent a breaking point for the fans.

I personally believe if they are unable to retain Stanton, and keep their promise of building around him, it will be a breaking point for the fan base. The organization really needs to step up next off season and offer him some money. The common fans know now that there is dead money floating around, and that the payroll could be much higher, the team is running out of excuses for letting young studs walk. Chances are both Ozuna and Marisnick won’t see sustainable success at this level, and keeping Stanton around is going to be critical for success in 2015-2016.

The sentiment makes sense in light of a typical fan base. The Marlins would be losing a critical piece of their puzzle over the last few years, and many fans would be upset that they invested emotionally with a player like Stanton, only to see him leave for greener pastures because the team could not afford him. He would be the latest in a line of horrific superstar losses that have followed the Marlins since the first fire sale. Stanton would forever be linked with Miguel Cabrera and the infamous Detroit Tigers trade, especially if the return the Marlins receive for him also falters like Cabrera's.

But the Marlins are no regular team, and fans of the organization are not regular fans. They are fire sale survivors, fans of a team that has tortured and neglected its base for what seems like the longest time. Marlins fans are a jaded group that is used to failure and the drama of the rebuild. They are used to ownership not seeing to their needs in favor of monetary concerns. In a way, we as fans have been through it all.

And this is by no means a way to pep up the fan base in preparation for Stanton's departure. Marlins fans should be upset that yet another franchise cornerstone will be heading out of Miami, and they should be even angrier if that player continues on to be an elite player like Cabrera did. But how much will the fans really care after yet another player in a line of others leaves? Those that would jump ship after one player's departure probably already have.

Attendance Evidence

The Marlins have some experience in attendance loss after the loss of a star player. In 2007, the Marlins were 71-91 after superstar campaigns from Hanley Ramirez (.332/.386/.562, .405 wOBA) and Miguel Cabrera (.320/.401/.565, .403 wOBA) at the plate. Think of Ramirez as this generation's Jose Fernandez, a young superstar ready to enter into his prime as leader of a new Marlins franchise, while Stanton represents the old guard star and the last vestige of a bygone (and in this case forgettable) Marlins era. In that season, the Fish were dead last in attendance, one year removed from an ugly offseason of fire sales. The Marlins drew 16,919 fans a night when the rest of the league was averaging 32,770. That means Miami drew a 51.6 percent of the league average. The Fish drew 46.6 percent of Dolphins Stadium's maximum attendance (baseball edition), which represented the second-lowest figure of all stadiums that year.

The following offseason, Miami traded Cabrera in an infamous deal. What was the result in terms of attendance?

Marlins, Year Attendance Attendance Index (%) %Capacity Capacity Index (%)
2007 16919 51.6 46.6 64.3
2008 16688 51.3 45.9 63.7

The needle following the Cabrera trade did not budge at all. Marlins fans showed up at almost the exact same rates, average attendance across the league was fairly stable, and the numbers reflect that there was simply no difference between fan interest in the Fish before and after the Cabrera trade. What makes you believe that there would be a difference with Stanton, a player who was not as good as Cabrera was back in 2007?

You might argue that the Marlins back then had hit the ground level and had nowhere to go but up. But this past year's Marlins are in a similar boat. They were 29th in attendance in 2013 at 19,583 on average. The Marlins were filling just 52.3 percent of their capacity last season, a mark that ranked 27th in baseball. And all of this was despite the well-known "new stadium effect" that should have artificially enhanced attendance last year. Given the numbers, it is safe to say that Miami is in a similar boat as the 2007-2008 Marlins when they lost their star player. If it did not affect attendance then, why should it now?

Who Leaves?

Which Marlins fans are really planning on leaving the team? It seems safe to say that very few, if any, diehards like myself or some of the other Fish Stripes faithful would leave, especially if they witnessed the 2005 and 2012 fire sales and Cabrera's departure. It is not as though this team is bereft of talent like the 1998-1999 Marlins, and a number of fans stuck around through that ugliest era as well. If you are a long-time Marlins fan, you probably already made your bed and are unlikely to stop lying in it.

One could say the casual fans may leave. But what casual fans are left in the Miami fan base? Miami is a transplant population with a sea of "event town" people who go to spectacles rather than sporting events. A losing team is not likely to attract those fans, and the Marlins with or without Stanton are going to be a losing team until at least 2016. If the Marlins cannot retain him past free agency, his mark on casual fan interest is likely to be small in that regard as well.

Stanton is a special ballplayer, but he is not a special attraction for Marlins fans. The key to draw more eyes to the Fish is to start winning games, and that will matter more than fence distances, certain star athletes, or any other factor. The Marlins have to build a winning franchise under this latest front office leadership, and then the fans will follow.