As they open a three-game series against the Pirates on Monday evening at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals are down in home attendance so far in 2024.

The franchise currently ranks sixth in the majors with an average of 37,076 fans per game at Busch. That accounts for tickets sold, but the number of no shows appears to be up, with fans opting to stay away from the ballpark instead of using their purchased tickets.

Let’s begin with some background.

First, it’s hardly an embarrassment to rank sixth among 30 MLB teams in home attendance. Not counting the pandemic-impacted seasons of 2020 and 2021, the Cardinals were ranked second or third overall majors in average home-park attendance from 2013 through 2018.

Second, this has happened before. The 2011 and 2012 Cardinals each ranked sixth in home attendance despite winning the World Series in 2011. That 2011 championship team didn’t get hot until late in the season, so that may explain the drop in crowd size from 2010. But the 2012 Cardinals were coming off a World Series triumph the season before.

And while the average home attendance went up by roughly 2,000 per game in 2012, the Cards had a really good team that advanced to the NLCS. But they still drew fewer fans per home game than the Phillies, Yankees, Rangers, Giants and Dodgers. The drop in business was likely impacted by the free-agent departure of Albert Pujols and the retirement of manager Tony La Russa after the 2011 campaign.

From 2006 through 2010, the Cardinals ranked fourth in average home-crowd size in five consecutive seasons. And that stretch included the 2006 World Series championship and the immediate aftermath. But by Cardinals’ standards, the 2007 and 2008 teams weren’t very good. That said, attendance dropped in 2009 even though the ‘09 Cardinals were much better than the teams in ‘07 and ‘08.

If it stays in the same range through the end of the schedule, the Cardinals’ average crowd at Busch Stadium would be the lowest since the ballpark opened in 2006. Excluding the Covid-related seasons, the only other time the Cardinals averaged fewer than 40,000 fans came in 2011. The surprising world champions averaged 38,196 for regular-season home games.

OK, what about 2024? Cardinal fans are disappointed, disillusioned, disgusted, depressed or otherwise intolerant of failure and/or mediocrity.


1. Losing has reduced the enthusiasm. A loyal fan base that has routinely supported the franchise with annual home attendance of 3 million or more in a full season is obviously turned off by the sharp decline of success. This franchise has won just a single postseason round since defeating the Dodgers in the 2014 NLDS and is 1-9 in its last 10 playoff games. Since the start of the 2023 season the Cardinals have a .451 winning percentage that ranks 13th in the National League and 24th overall. The fans historically have done their part to pump in revenue to help fund a consistent level of success, but the franchise hasn’t done its share. Measured against established standards, the competitive product has deteriorated.

2. Ownership isn’t fully committed to winning. This applies to payroll spending, and the perception is shared by many in the fan base. Between 2018 and 2021, the Cardinals ranked no worse than 10th in MLB in 26-man payroll and were at least 11th in the 40-man competitive-balance tax payroll. But since 2022, the Cardinals have ranked no higher than 13th in the 26-man or 40-man payrolls. I personally think the Cardinals are spending enough money to be a lot better than they are. The bigger problems are the startling decline of pitcher development, the faulty roster construction and too many instances of misspending.

3. John Mozeliak fatigue. The president of baseball operations had a highly successful run but the organizational performance has leveled off (and then some) in recent years. In Mozeliak’s first eight seasons as the head of the baseball department the Cardinals ranked second in the majors with 32 postseason victories. But in Mozeliak’s last eight seasons the Cardinals won only four postseason games. The failure to draft and develop pitching internally has severely undermined the franchise, and the nonstop whirling of the outfield carousel is a running joke. Spending mistakes have been costly in more ways than one, and Mozeliak has fired two of the three managers he hired since La Russa’s retirement.

4. Terribly poor messaging. This has a lot to do with Mozeliak. But it isn’t just about Mozeliak. Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. and team president Bill DeWitt III are responsible for this as well. Rather than discuss the state of the team in a way that gives fans a reason to have a more favorable outlook, the ownership-management team frequently makes a bad situation worse by saying things that leaves fans even more infuriated. Mozeliak comes across as smug. The tone-deaf Cardinals need a public-relations specialist.

5. Nothing personal, but so far this is a pretty boring team that’s low on charisma. This doesn’t apply to all of the players and or specific parts of the roster. The bullpen is good, and the fans generally seem to like the starting-pitching additions made last winter. (But those additions didn’t go far enough.) Rookie shortstop Masyn Winn is a dynamic talent. The fans have rallied behind catcher Willson Contreras. When Nolan Gorman goes on a power-hitting spree, it’s exciting to watch. But it’s not an exciting team. It doesn’t help that the highly anticipated young hitting star, Jordan Walker, collapsed offensively early in his second season and was demoted to Triple A Memphis where he has one home run in 134 at-bats.

6. The Cardinals have a below-average offense. I’m being kind in that assessment. It’s a bad offense. And the opinion is reaffirmed by the facts. Among the 15 National League teams the Cardinals are 14th in runs per game, 13th in stolen bases, 12th in extra-base hits and 11th in homers. Moreover, the Redbirds have the NL’s worst batting average (.215) with runners in scoring position. The injuries are detrimental but every team must deal with them. The Brewers are in first place by seven games after trading ace Corbin Burnes to Baltimore and losing six starting pitchers and closer Devin Williams to the Injured List. STL’s failures on offense can’t be explained away and justified. They don’t have elite hitters. Period.

7. Speaking of the annoying outfield carousel: I wanted to follow up on something I mentioned earlier. Fans are appalled by seeing the Cardinals repeatedly give up on outfielders only to see those players thrive and star for their new teams. Meanwhile, the set of 2024 St. Louis outfielders ranks last in the NL in batting average (.214), onbase percentage (.284), slugging percentage (.331), OPS (.615) and home runs (13.) The litany of personnel mistakes symbolizes the fall of a baseball empire – pardon my hyperbole – and is a constant reminder of why customers have such disdain for current management.

8. The wasting of the Goldschmidt-Arenado years: Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado have been St. Louis teammates since 2021, and this is their fourth season together. The Cardinals did make the playoffs in 2021 and 2022 but didn’t win a game, going 0-3. In the three postseason games Arenado and Goldschmidt were a combined 2 for 22 with seven strikeouts.

In 2023 the franchise had its worst record in a full season since 1990. And in 2024, both players are showing signs of decline. Goldschmidt will be 37 later this season. Arenado is 33 and aging quickly. We’ve seen their best, and it wasn’t enough to win a single postseason game. The Cardinals may get a shot at another postseason in 2024 but I can’t assume it will happen. I think it’s fair to say we expected a helluva lot more from the Goldy-Nado partnership. The front office failed to surround them with sufficient pitching talent and depth to take advantage of the 2021 and 2022 seasons that preceded the decline phase.

How can you have a roster (in 2022) that featured the NL MVP (Goldschmidt), the third-highest MVP vote getter (Arenado), an extraordinary final season by Albert Pujols and the last good year of Adam Wainwright’s career and not win a postseason game?

9. That’s another problem. The Cardinals have run out of legend-class stars. It’s difficult to get the fans fired up when you (a) have a losing team, and (b) the wildly beloved gallery of franchise baseball heroes have come and gone. Some current and future franchise Hall of Famers had their best seasons in St. Louis, arriving after DeWitt and partners purchased the club before the 1996 season. The list includes Pujols, Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Jim Edmonds, Mark McGwire, Scott Rolen, Matt Holliday, Jason Isringhausen, Matt Morris, David Freese, Dave Duncan and La Russa. Getting the opportunity to come to Busch Stadium to see the icons play is a huge aspect of the franchise tradition. But that star power has faded with the retirements of so many great pitchers and position players. And these Cardinals have nothing like the partnership of manager La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan.

10. This is hardly a scientific finding, but fans really seem to dislike manager OIi Marmol. I’m in the minority here because I think Marmol has done a good job of running a flawed roster that was put together by the front office. How many years in a row have we all said the Cards were short of starting-pitching depth? How is that the manager’s fault? Are we supposed to blame the manager for Goldschmidt and Arenado getting old or Jordan Walker’s regression? I do not dislike Marmol, but my opinion doesn’t matter. Fans just haven’t warmed up to Marmol, and much of this has to do with the strong Mozeliak connection. Mozeliak promoted Marmol to the major-league coaching staff and later elevated him to the manager’s chair to replace the abruptly deposed Mike Shildt. And after saying the team had no plans to extend Marmol’s contract extension before the 2024 season – adopting a wait-and-see approach – Mozeliak pivoted in spring training and gave his manager a two-year deal. This decision did not go over well with the fans and actually resulted in intensified criticism of Marmol.

Finally, there’s a non-baseball reason. With the Cardinals stuck in an uninspiring and unsuccessful mode at the same time there are concerns about crime and safety in downtown St. Louis, more fans are choosing to stay away, or not go to as many games, and just Cardinals baseball on TV. I live in the city. I happen to believe the area around Busch Stadium is safe when the home team is playing ball, day or night. But again, my personal view doesn’t matter. If fans have concerns, I’d be totally wrong to question their fears and criticize them for keeping a distance.

And though the economy has improved, a lot of families remain challenged financially and may not have the budget for going to major-league baseball games.

Forgive me if I overlooked any other theories about the drop in home attendance. But I think I’ve hit on most of the reasons that play into this development. As I wrap this up, please allow me to repeat something: the Cardinals still rank sixth in home attendance, so this is hardly a disaster. But there’s an obvious loss of confidence in ownership-management and the direction of the franchise, so the decrease in support is predictable.

Thanks for reading …


A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. Friday. Stream live or access the podcast on or the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

For weekly Cards talk, listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast with Will Leitch and Miklasz via or through your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on X for a direct link.

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 36 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.