Rays attendance is not about fan apathy. It's a structural thing.

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I think Bob nailed the Rays attendance hubbub pretty good last night, but I figured I’d add my thoughts.

No one is saying that it’s wonderful that the Rays drew poorly last night (or draw poorly in general), but I think the notion of blaming Rays fans for their apathy or failure to support the team is myopic.

Yes, there was a history of losing there that has been hard to overcome, but there are institutional problems that have always meant for poor attendance and always will make for poor attendance for the club.  The park sucks. It’s separated from the main population center of the Bay Area — Tampa — by a long and annoying bridge. The people that do live in St. Petersburg are not demographically ideal for baseball. Many of them are also likely transplants as well, and have loyalties to other teams.

We’ve heard all of this before, of course, so I’m a bit puzzled at the “why won’t Rays fans support their team!” comments this morning. Not so much from David Price and Evan Longoria — they’re emotional about it, I get that — but from a lot of fans on the web and on Twitter.

For example, one of my friends on the web noted that, like Florida, Philadelphia suffers from 12% unemployment right now, and they’ve sold out hundreds of games in a row.  Well, yeah. But that team has also played baseball in that town for a 127 years, the population of Philadelphia is seriously from Philly, and the park is both beautiful and accessible. It’s a gross understatement to say that those things matter, and it’s an unfair simplification of things to slam Rays fans for failing to support their team.

Buster Olney added a nice bit to this in his column this morning as well: marketing matters. He takes David Price and Evan Longoria’s comments about the attendance and pretends a bagel shop owner said the same thing. It’s understandably silly. Location matters. Marketing matters. Market matters.  In this, the Rays are fighting against the tide (and in some cases, have themselves to blame).

I think the Rays fans that do show up are great fans. But I get why many don’t show up.  It may lead to the team leaving someday. If so, hey, that’s business, and it has always been a possibility with this team. I don’t see it, however, as a reason to cast aspersions on an entire market.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.

Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery could share Cubs’ rotation spot in 2017

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 01:  Mike Montgomery #38 of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 1, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).

Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.

Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.

Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.