August 14, 2013

More record TV ratings for Royals, but box office lags

The Royals’ 1-0 loss in 10 innings to the Marlins on Tuesday night produced a record 12.3 household rating on Fox Sports Kansas City and peaked at 15.6, meaning 145,000 households were tuned in. But entering Wednesday’s game against the Marlins, the Royals, enjoying their best season in a decade, are below last year’s attendance pace.

The numbers are in, and the Royals set another ratings record Tuesday on Fox Sports Kansas City.

The Royals’ 1-0 loss in 10 innings to the Marlins on Tuesday night produced a 12.3 household rating and peaked at 15.6, meaning 145,000 households were tuned in.

Once again, a Royals game was the most-watched program in Kansas City for the evening. The team has an audience. But has that translated into attendance?

Not yet.

Adding Wednesday’s total of 17,760 who watched the Royals fall 5-2 to Miami in the finale of a 10-game home stand, the team remained behind last year’s pace despite enjoying its best season in a decade. Through 61 games, the average attendance of 22,128 is 278 fewer than at this point in 2012.

Shouldn’t fans be flocking to the K?

They will, Kevin Uhlich is convinced, because of the ratings.

“It happens on TV first,” said Uhlich, the Royals’ senior vice president of business operations. “It’s a low-cost sneak peak. For the fringe fan, somebody who isn’t out here nightly, it’s a great way to taste baseball.”

Like it — and there’s been little not to like about the Royals, especially lately — and Uhlich said they’ll want more, in person.

Although the Royals’ rank 12th of 15 American League teams in average attendance this year, there are positive attendance trends:

Uhlich said no-shows, people who have purchased but don’t use their tickets, were at 6 percent for the home stand that ended Wednesday. Royals records show that at this time in previous years, when the team wasn’t competing for a playoff spot, no-shows have been in the 15-20 percent range.

“People who are buying tickets are using them,” Uhlich said.

Also, although prospects for improvement followed the team into the season, season-ticket sales were down by about 2,000. In 2012, All-Star Game seats were guaranteed with a season ticket, which pushed the Royals’ season-ticket total to about 12,500. Counting full- and partial-season packages, the Royals started this year having sold 170,000 fewer tickets before the season.

“We knew we’d pick up some of that in single-game sales by playing well,” Uhlich said.

That’s happened. The Royals averaged some 1,300 more fans during this home stand than the entire season, including the best-non opening day crowd when 38,742 saw the Royals-Red Sox last Saturday.

Now, can the Royals’ parlay the interest into a better television deal? The Royals’ deal with Fox Sports Kansas City runs through 2019 and pays the team about $20 million annually, among the lowest in baseball.

“There’s no doubt our TV package is undervalued based on what we’re seeing around baseball,” Uhlich said.

But the interest is growing, slowly in attendance, rapidly in the ratings.

Friday’s probables

Royals manager Ned Yost offered little about the starting pitching for Friday’s day-night doubleheader at Detroit, and there’s a bit of cat-and-mouse going on here.

Both teams will throw their ace — the Royals’ James Shields and the Tigers’ Justin Verlander — that day. But which game isn’t certain because neither side is saying who else will throw that day, or which game.

For the Royals, it’s probably Danny Duffy, who pitched only one inning for Class AAA Omaha on Monday. For the Tigers, it’s likely to be Jose Alvarez.

But nobody’s tipping their hand.

It means the Royals are in a pennant race.


Marlins right fielder Justin Ruggiano stepped to the plate for his first at-bat Wednesday lugging a zero-for-42 slump. Had he gone without a hit, Ruggiano might have reached the major-league record for at-bats without a hit — 46, shared by two.

But Ruggiano legged out an infield hit in the third, after shortstop Alcides Escobar made a diving stop and came up throwing, to end the skid.

“I saw him dive, and I thought, ‘Don’t do it,’” Ruggiano said.

Marlins in the dugout came to the top step in applause and Ruggiano had the ball safely tucked away in his luggage bag.

“I wouldn’t wish anyone in that spot, it was terrible,” Ruggiano said. “It got the point where I wasn’t even making solid contact.”

Last time

Wednesday’s 1-0 loss in 10 innings was the first Royals’ loss by that score in extras in Kansas City since April 16, 1992, against Oakland. The irony of that A’s victory: combining for the run were Jamie Quirk, who stroked a two-out single, and Willie Wilson. Royals left fielder Keith Miller misplayed Wilson’s fly for an error, allowing Quirk to score.

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