MVP candidate Matt Kemp likely to seek extension with Dodgers

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While speculation has Andre Ethier potentially on the way out this winter, Matt Kemp is looking to stay in Los Angeles.  Asked about a contract extension by ESPN Radio’s Beto Duran, Kemp replied that we “haven’t started talks… but I plan on being with the Dodgers the rest of my career.”

Kemp would be the obvious choice for NL MVP honors this year if he were playing for a better team, and he might win the award anyway, even with the Dodgers staggering to a .500 finish.  He’s third in the league with a .322 average, tied for second with 35 homers, first with 116 RBI, second in steals with 40 and second with a .969 OPS.  Ryan Braun is right there with him offensively, but Kemp is the more valuable defender and has played in 10 more games.

Kemp is currently in the final year of a $10.95 million contract that covered his first two arbitration seasons.  He could ask for $15 million or so in arbitration this winter, and he’ll be eligible for free agency for the first time after next season.  Just 27 (actually, he turns 27 tomorrow), he’d have every right to ask to become one of the game’s highest-paid players as part of an extension.  Should he come close to matching his 2011 numbers next year, he’d definitely top Carl Crawford’s seven-year, $142 million contract as a free agent.

The Dodgers might just want to go ahead and offer him that kind of deal now.  Kemp may not remain one of the game’s top 10 players going forward — he hit just .249/.310/.450 last year and he’ll probably need to move to an outfield corner two or three years down the line — but he’s been incredibly durable and this should be merely the first in a string of 30-homer seasons.  Also, he loves L.A. and the team could use all of the good publicity he could get.  If Either goes this winter, the Dodgers really need to make sure Kemp will be staying beyond 2012.

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.