The worst thing about the Baltimore Orioles’ record this year might not be their embarrassing abundance of losses against wins.

It’s the number of fans at the ballpark disguised as empty seats.

The Orioles now rank 23rd in attendance among all Major League Baseball teams. In their first 42 home games, they’ve drawn 874,218 living souls – at least, according to “official” count.

In other words, they’re on a mathematical pace to draw maybe 1,750,000 people this year – except that, as the season goes on, and it’s clearer that they’ve given up on producing a winner this year, and they’ve become less relevant to any pennant race, and the kids go back to school, and Manny Machado (and maybe others) are traded away, attendance is likely to slip even further south.

This is from a ballclub that used to draw nearly 4 million people a year to Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

In all fairness …

It hasn’t helped that in baseball’s modern economic setup, they simply can’t afford to keep a player like Machado.

In all fairness …

It hasn’t helped to lose all those Washington fans who used to flock to Baltimore before the creation of the Nationals baseball team.

In all fairness …

There are still some would-be fans clinging to the anxiety caused by the Freddie Gray disturbances in April of 2015 who have unfortunately vowed not to come back downtown again.

So there are elements here that are beyond blaming the ballclub itself.

But all of this is what makes their won-loss record merely the second-worst thing about the current season.

The worst is the general fallout to downtown. Partly, it’s the economic impact. And partly, it’s the terrific energy on summer evenings that once flowed from Oriole Park to all the nearby restaurants, bars, sidewalk cafes and neighborhoods.

Memorial Stadium

Memorial Stadium (Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

When the Orioles pulled up stakes at Memorial Stadium nearly 27 years ago, a lot of us felt the loss of tradition, of history, of sweet memories when the Orioles were among the classiest and most victorious teams in all of baseball.

But Memorial Stadium was located in a residential neighborhood – Waverly — that wasn’t financially dependent on sports (although the area definitely benefited from a feel-good vibe from the O’s and the Colts.)

But Oriole Park at Camden Yards has been part of an overall rebirth of the west side of downtown, which in addition to commercial places has also helped bring once-dormant old neighborhoods back to life.

It’s part of the draw for out-of-town visitors who can take in that great stretch from the ballpark and nearby theaters, eating places and the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum, east toward Harborplace and Harbor East and Little Italy and Fells Point.

They’re all part of the same piece. And when such a big piece as the Orioles falls apart, there’s more at stake than the playing of games.

A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books. His most recent, “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age,” published by the Johns Hopkins University Press, is now in paperback.