Mets attendence is down, but it's not as bad as it looks

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Thumbnail image for citi field.jpgThe New York Times has an article up today about baseball’s decline in attendance, and it singles the Mets out as the biggest decliners since last year:

After 22 home games, attendance at Citi Field is down 6,852 fans a game,
the largest decline by number in Major League Baseball. That translates
to an average of 31,892 fans at games this season compared with 38,744
last season. The Mets are also 11th in average attendance in the major leagues,
down from seventh last year.

Dave Howard, the Mets’ executive vice president for business
operations, blamed the early-season decline on bad weather in April, the
team’s disappointing play in recent years and the economic downturn.
(The weather in April was warmer and drier than normal in the New York
area.)

I like that last parenthetical because, yeah, blaming the weather is kind of bogus. It’s been bad the last week or so, but April was actually way lower on rainouts across baseball than most years tend to be. Still, this article is overstating the problem, at least with respect to the Mets.

This biggest problem is that the article appears to be comparing last year’s full-season average to April and May of this year.  The 2010 Mets have yet to play with school out, with mid-summer promotions or with marquee opponents such as the Yankees or Phillies in town.  I’m not saying all of those things are going to even up attendance to last year’s average, but it’s going to close the gap a bit.

Moreover, while the article does talk about the novelty of new stadiums wearing off quicker than it used to, such a phenomenon is now the norm, not the exception, so singling out the Mets on this score seems rather unfair.  The Mets had a nice run-up in attendance at Shea between 2006 and 2008, but really, their average draw for the previous decade or so was between 20,000 and 34,000 in a park that brought in way less revenue per person than the current one does.

I’m not saying that things are fabulous on the attendance front. I’m simply saying that it’s easy to overstate the problem. Even if all you care about is head count, the team is not in uncharted waters here, but from a
business perspective, they’re doing just fine.  The fact is that last year’s Mets team didn’t do a ton to inspire big gate in the early going this year. It happens.

If they play well as the season goes on, things will tick up.  If they don’t, it won’t.  It’s the oldest story in the business of sports.

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.