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Is the Phillies' sellout streak fake?

By , - Last modified: June 15, 2012 at 8:50 AM

With the Phillies in last place in their division and owning a 12-19 home record, you might expect fans to lose some excitement for making a trip to the ballpark. If you had tuned in to their television broadcasts, you would see many more empty seats, as expected.

So it came as a surprise recently when the Phils announced that they’re doing just fine in ticket sales, and in fact are just a couple of weeks away from selling out Citizens Bank Park for three straight years.

That’s an easy claim to make, because sellout streaks are a sham.

Selling out a game has nothing to do with the number of fans in the stadium. Paid attendance and attendance are two different things. All of the tickets left sitting unsold on the secondary market, representing the empty ballpark seats, have been sold by the team.

Citizens Bank Park has 43,651 seats. So, how many tickets does it take to sell out for the Phils? That’s a good question.

The team itself determines what a sellout number is for every night, and it’s a range that depends on tickets given away by the team. Even that range has changed substantially over the years. Check out this post from The Good Phight, with a great demonstration of how the numbers vary.

To date this year, the Phillies and Red Sox are the only two MLB teams to have sold out every game. The Red Sox also happen to own the longest active sellout streak in baseball. Think there’s also some fuzzy math for them too?

The Boston Globe thought so and did some investigating into how real the sellout streak was for the Red Sox. It found that even though seats were still available to be sold, the Sox were declaring sellouts. They were able to do this by giving away upwards of 800 tickets per game, selling standing room tickets, and counting them toward paid attendance. As the Globe put it, the sellout streak may be more of a “distribution streak.”

What was the response? “I can understand the confusion,’’ said Sam Kennedy, the team’s executive vice president. “But we operate by a definition that is commonly practiced throughout Major League Baseball and professional sports.’’

Remember that next time you hear about sellout streaks or see the attendance flashed on the scoreboard.

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