Ex-Cub Matt Murton an early-season start in Japan

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With the NPB season about 25 games in, let’s have a look at some of the early numbers from Japan:
Central League hitters
Matt Murton – .343/.398/.525 in 99 AB
Jose Castillo – .341/.371/.538 in 91 AB
Tony Blanco – .314/.385/.581 in 105 AB
Craig Brazell – .280/.344/.573 in 82 AB
Jamie D’Antona – .245/.296/.480 in 98 AB
Alex Ramirez – .243/.369/.524 in 103 AB
Aaron Guiel – .239/.396/.568 in 88 AB
Terrmel Sledge – .226/.308/.452 in 93 AB
Kenji Johjima – .226/.255/.355 in 93 AB
I’d like to see Matt Murton playing a significant role on a major league team, but at least he’s making decent money overseas and at age 28, he’s still young enough to come back to the U.S. and succeed someday. In the meantime, he’s sixth in the Central League in average and tied for fourth with 19 runs scored in 24 games.
Pacific League hitters
Alex Cabrera – .407/.500/.802 in 81 AB
Tadahito Iguchi – .366/.508/.584 in 101 AB
Jose Ortiz – .271/.328/.533 in 107 AB
Greg LaRocca – .237/.317/.427 in 89 AB
Dee Brown – .225/.295/.396 in 111 AB
Cabrera is another who would have hit in the majors, but when he looked to return to the States after the 2007 season, he didn’t find any suitable offers. It was understandable at the time, given that he was 36 and coming off the worst of his seven seasons in Japan. He’s 38 now and still a dominant force in Japan. He leads the Pacific League with eight homers, one more than Ortiz and two in front of Takeya Nakamura. No one else in the circuit has a slugging percentage within 200 points of his .802 mark.
The pitching numbers aren’t very interesting yet, so I’ll skip the full rundown. Two lines are worth of note: Yu Darvish is 3-2 with a 2.35 ERA that ranks fourth in the Pacific League and a league-best 63 strikeouts in 46 innings and former Diamondbacks prospect Tony Barnette currently leads the Central League with a 1.73 ERA after four starts.
Barnette, 26, was 14-8 with a 5.79 ERA and a 121/62 K/BB ratio for Triple-A Reno last year.

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.