Daily Dose: Johnson wins No. 300

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Randy Johnson became the 24th member of the 300-win club Thursday,
tossing six innings of one-run ball against Washington. It wasn’t
exactly vintage Big Unit, as Johnson managed only two strikeouts and
threw just 78 pitches one day after his start was delayed by rain, but
with just two hits and two walks he was plenty effective and the lone
run was unearned.

At 45 he’s the second-oldest pitcher to reach 300 wins, behind only
46-year-old Phil Niekro, and Johnson joins Warren Spahn, Steve Carlton,
Eddie Plank, Lefty Grove, and Tom Glavine as the 300-win southpaws. And
while it might not have registered with most people thanks to the name
change from Expos to Nationals, Johnson won No. 300 against the
franchise that he debuted with back in 1988.

While media members with zero sense of history misguidedly proclaim
Johnson the last 300-game winner, here are some other notes from around
baseball …

* Dontrelle Willis fared reasonably well in his first four starts
and cruised through the first two innings Thursday, but unraveled in
the third inning by hitting a batter and walking four, including the
last two with the bases loaded. His five runs tied for the most allowed
without giving up a hit during the last 55 years, joining Mark Fidrych,
Sandy Koufax, Mitch Williams, Pat Combs, and Mark Hutton.

* Andrew McCutchen had a nice MLB debut Thursday, going 2-for-4 with
a walk, a stolen base, and three runs while leading off and taking over
for Nate McLouth in center field. Gordon Beckham’s debut didn’t go
quite so well, as he was hitless in three at-bats. Beckham batted
eighth, played third base, and as Ozzie Guillen put it “had a bad day
just like everyone else” as the White Sox were shut out.

* Chien-Ming Wang’s return to the rotation was a mixed bag Thursday
afternoon, as five runs in 4.2 innings isn’t as bad as it looks against
a strong Texas lineup in a good ballpark for hitting. It certainly
wasn’t an impressive start, but he showed good velocity while inducing
eight ground-ball outs and struck out five versus just one walk.
Unfortunately for Wang, he has no time to settle in with Boston next.

* Cole Hamels’ year began with injuries and ineffectiveness, but
that now seems like a distant memory following his complete-game
shutout Thursday against the Dodgers. He needed just 97 pitches to
record 27 outs, striking out five, walking zero, and allowing five
hits. And since giving up a dozen runs through two starts, Hamels is
4-0 with a 2.84 ERA and 44/8 K/BB ratio in 44.1 innings.

* Miguel Cabrera left Thursday’s game with a hamstring injury, but
not before the Tigers oddly allowed him limp home from second base on a
Brandon Inge double after being looked at by trainers prior to the
at-bat. Cabrera somehow avoided an immediate removal despite being in
obvious pain and then could barely walk/jog the 180 feet to the plate,
at which point he was pulled in favor of Jeff Larish.

AL Quick Hits: Adam Lind went 5-for-5 with three doubles
Thursday and now has hits in a team-record eight straight at-bats …
David Ortiz said Thursday that he’s considering getting his eyes
“checked out” … James Shields threw eight innings of two-run ball
Thursday and J.P. Howell closed out his win … Scott Baker struck out 10
while dropping his ERA below 6.00 for the first time Thursday … Fausto
Carmona kept struggling Thursday, coughing up seven runs as his ERA
climbed to 7.42 … Mike Aviles’ rehab has been shut down for two weeks
as he attempts to come back from a forearm strain … John Lackey allowed
two runs over seven innings Thursday, but the bullpen cost him a win …
Jason Kubel smacked a pair of three-run homers Thursday … Brett
Anderson tossed seven scoreless innings Thursday after posting a 6.38
ERA in May … Travis Hafner (shoulder) is due off the disabled list
Friday, but is unlikely to get everyday playing time initially.

NL Quick Hits: Garrett Atkins hadn’t homered since April 27, but
went deep twice Thursday … Chris Carpenter needed just 95 pitches for a
complete-game victory Thursday, allowing one run on three hits … Anibal
Sanchez is reportedly headed right back to the disabled list after
aggravating his shoulder injury … Brett Myers underwent hip surgery
Thursday and will likely miss the rest of the year … Kyle Lohse looks
destined for another DL stint after tweaking his forearm injury … J.J.
Putz will have his sore elbow examined Friday and might need surgery …
Wandy Rodriguez was knocked around again Thursday and has now allowed
18 runs in his last three starts … Mike Pelfrey’s streak of five
straight Quality Starts ended with nine runs Thursday … Josh Johnson
tossed 7.2 innings of two-run ball and hit a three-run homer Thursday …
Shane Victorino missed Thursday with a sore hip … Andy LaRoche left
Thursday’s game after being plunked on the knee.

The Yankees attendance and revenue is down, but it makes sense

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There’s a long article in the New York Times today noting that the Yankees attendance is down and that, based on financial figures released as part of their stadium bond disclosures, ticket and suite revenues through last season have fallen by $166 million since the end of 2009.

There is a lot of talk in the article about the exciting young team the Yankees have put together and how much they’ve won so far in the early going. And there is a lot of talk about marketing and demographics — Hal Steinbrenner talks about baseball’s “millennial problem” — but the story of the Yankees’ box office issues, such as they are, is pretty straightforward.

All teams suffer attendance and revenue decline when they play poorly. While the Yankees have not been bad for a long, long time, that’s a somewhat relative thing. They Yankees have sold themselves and sold their fans on the idea that nothing short of a championship is acceptable, so missing the playoffs for three of the past four years is bad for them. Fans don’t want to go see a bad team, be it Yankees fans, Rays fans, Royals fans or whoever.

Despite the recent lack of success, the Yankees have still, perversely, continued to price their tickets, concessions, parking and everything else as though they’re the only game in town. When demand falls and prices remain super high, fewer people are buying your product. Even if you’re the New York Yankees.

The Yankees are good this year. What’s more, they’re good in that exciting way that only young promising players bursting out onto the scene can deliver. It’s a wonderful thing for marketing and stuff, but even under the best of circumstances, ticket sales tend to lag on field success, often by as much as a year. Go back and look at World Series winning teams — especially the surprise winners — and you’ll see that it’s the year after on-field success when the real attendance bumps happen. I expect, if the Yankees continue to play well, their gate will get really nice by the end of the summer, but I suspect we’ll also see a more dramatic bump next year.

Taken all together, this is a dog-bites-man story. The Yankees are not some transcendent institution, immune from market forces. They’re just one of 30 Major League Baseball teams competing against other entertainments for a finite amount of the public’s money and attention. Nothin’ to see here.

David Price had a rocky rehab start last night

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Red Sox starter David Price has been rehabbing a left elbow injury since early March. Last night he made his latest rehab outing for Triple-A Pawtucket. It didn’t go well.

Price allowed six runs — three earned — on seven hits in three and two-thirds innings, requiring 89 pitches to do it. His velocity was good, but otherwise it was a night to forget. This was supposed to be Price’s last rehab start before returning to the Sox’ big league rotation, but one wonders if he’s ready for it.

Price didn’t talk to the media after the game, but Pawtucket’s manager said he was “upbeat” and “felt good.” For his part, John Farrell, upon hearing about the outing, said this:

“There’s no announcement at this point. We’ve got to sit with him and talk about what’s best for him, best for us as we move forward.”

The Sox could really use Price back in the rotation given their injury problems, but rushing him back if he’s not ready is certainly not ideal.

Stay tuned.