The highs and plights of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds, respectively, have long mirrored one another. Twin titles for each during the 1970s, superstar emergence alongside great success in the early 1990s, and the duality of riverside stadiums during those heydays built as concrete circles housing concrete astroturf.
Even their recent histories have been intertwined. Early-aughts misery paired with a resurgence in the last decade, with MVPs and division titles from each serving to drum up the fanbase for another generation. The Pirates slid quickly into irrelevance, and the Reds took one extra look over their shoulder before doing the same, their 3-22 start to this season slamming the door shut on any idea that the recent blip of team spending would keep them out of the same doldrums of the post-2013 era.
These two clubs will play each other for the first time in 2022 later tonight, with Great American Ball Park serving as the stage. They’ll play each other 8 times over the next 10 days, in fact. Given just how morbid the existence of the Reds is at the moment thanks to their dismal record and Phil Castellini assuming we’re all just zombie meat, and given that there are thunderstorms predicted for the Cincinnati area all day, wondering just how many folks will turn out to see Connor Overton take on his old club has been on my mind more than it otherwise should be.
The 10-14 Pirates have struggled to put butts in their own stadium so far. At an average of 12,256 fans per game, their lovely stadium ranks third from the bottom ahead of just Oakland and Tampa so far this season. That lags behind the Reds average of 19,488 so far, though that Reds number is inflated drastically by the over 43,000 they hosted for their *Opening Day and the fact that with only 8 home games played so far there’s still a bit of novelty to going out to the park baked in. (The Pirates, meanwhile, have played 12 home games so far.)
Road Pirating has brought out fans to their opponent parks in decent fashion so far, but even there the numbers might only tell a part of the story. St. Louis packed in over 40,000 fans for each of their 3-game series hosting Pittsburgh this year, but that covered both Opening Day and weekend games. Since then, the Pirates have travelled to visit the elite Milwaukee Brewers (over 20,000 per game during the series) and the always-crowded Wrigley Field, with both series doing a decent job of packing the stands.
It’s Pittsburgh’s most recent road series that more likely begins to tell us the seemingly obvious. Their Wednesday doubleheader from this week against the Detroit Tigers saw just over 15,000 fans try to fill Comerica Park, and that’s for a Detroit team that made aggressive moves this winter to add both talent and faces to their emergence from rebuilding.
The Reds, you’ll recall, didn’t exactly do that. On top of that, the faces they kept around (or couldn’t give away) mostly all reside on the injured list right now, with those who still are capable of putting on the uniform sporting a 3-22 record to date that evokes the kind of reaction when looking at it that is usually reserved for blobfish and naked mole-rats.
It’s the kind of on-field product that, in itself, should prompt each of the would-be fans in the region to ponder with much more breadth where they’ll go to enjoy their Friday evenings. The rain, too, should prompt that this particular night.
Then, there’s this guy:
The Reds averaged 9,899 fans in their most recent home series against the San Diego Padres. They lost all of those games, you’ll recall, as well as every single game they’ve played since then.
I’m guessing there won’t be more than 8,000 announced tonight, with not even half that many in the actual stands. They might even bang the game in the name of thunderstorms for that reason alone.
Where are you gonna go?