The Nats remove some seats from their ballpark

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And now, my nominee for “ballpark configuration change that no one would have ever noticed even if they had never issued a press release about it:”

The Nationals let media members know a few minutes ago that the ballpark’s capacity this season will be 41,506. That’s down from the 41,888 fans it held at its opening, though the park had been reduced to 41,546 by last season. A Nationals spokesman said in an e-mail the decrease was “due to the removal of a few seats and an adjustment to the suite manifest.”

There was a series with the Red Sox in 2009 during which the Nats drew more than 41,506 for three games. Otherwise, they’ve never drawn more in that joint, not even when the Philly faithful invade.

I don’t know what they’re moving around that’s costing them the seats, but I’ve always thought that teams that don’t draw consistently should mess around a bit to see if there aren’t better things that can be done with the space. The Indians carved out part of their home run deck in left field last year to put a little special seating area for bloggers and social media people.  There are probably a bunch of other things that could done.

Here’s a free idea: a couch section.  Take a couple of rows that will never be used while a given team fails to draw and replace some seats with a few couches or easy chairs or something. Set up a flat screen TV nearby (these seats are probably far from the action) and institute some special service like trained monkeys bringing beers (like actual monkeys).  You and a couple of buddies would pay a couple hundred bucks for that, wouldn’t you? Multiply that out by 81 games, subtract the cost of the couches and the monkeys, and it’s like printing money.

No, I never studied marketing. Why do you ask?

Johnny Cueto expected to opt-out of his deal after the season

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Johnny Cueto signed a six-year $130 million deal with the Giants prior to the 2016 season. In his first season he went 18-5 with a 2.79 ERA and 198 strikeouts in 219.2 innings, helping lead the Giants to the playoffs. This season has been rocky for Cueto — he’s got a a 4.42 ERA in 15 starts and has battled blisters — but they’ve been far rockier for the Giants overall, as they sit in last place in the NL West and have the second worst record in baseball.

Many suspect that the Giants will either rebuild or, at the very least, restructure some in response to this nightmare year. If so, they’re likely going to be doing it with Cueto, who Jon Heyman reports is going to opt-out of his deal:

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Johnny Cueto is planning to opt out of his contract at the end of the year, but he would listen to any extension offer . . . Cueto has $84 million to go over four years. It would probably take an injury or major slump for Cueto not to opt out. But it makes sense that he will.

Heyman says the Giants are not inclined to give him an extension, so expect to see Cueto on the free agent market three days after the World Series ends, which is the deadline for him to exercise his opt-out rights.

The Dodgers are concerned about Julio Urias’ shoulder

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Things are going great for the Dodgers lately. They’ve won seven consecutive games and 13 of their last 14. They lead the National League in wins and are in first place in, arguably, the best division in baseball.

But there are a lot of moving parts on a baseball team, and even when some things are going great, other things can go not-so-great. Like this:

Urias has been diagnosed with shoulder inflammation and shut down indefinitely. An MRI last week showed no structural damage, but his shoulder is still bothering him. He has not pitched in the bigs since late May, when he allowed seven runs in less than three innings against the Miami Marlins. He was sent down after that and went 3-0 with a 3.12 ERA, six walks and 17 strikeouts in 17.1 innings pitched in three starts with Oklahoma City before being shelved.