Pittsburgh Pirates v Philadelphia Phillies

Attendance at Citizens Bank Park is way down

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Between 2008-12, the Phillies were among baseball’s best when it came to filling seats on their home turf. Citizens Bank Park seats about 43,650 and officially sold out 257 consecutive games dating back to July 2009.

The Phillies missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006 last year and GM Ruben Amaro’s tepid off-season gave fans very little to get excited about, particularly when you glance a bit south on I-95 to the Washington Nationals. As a result, attendance at Citizens Bank Park is way down thus far, as the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Gelb reports:

The Phillies drew 513,147 fans for their first 14 home games in 2013. That is 117,031 fewer fans than in the first 14 games of 2012. Their average decrease of 8,359 fans per game is second-most in baseball; only the gutted Marlins are worse.

If the trend continues, it could have a serious effect on the team’s finances.

An average decrease of 8,359 fans projected to 81 home dates is a total loss of 677,079. The team’s average ticket price is $37, according to Team Marketing Report and Forbes. That could represent, on average, a $25 million loss in revenue. And that’s just in ticket revenue alone. When fewer people are in the ballpark, less money is spent on concessions and merchandise.

(Important note: Gate receipts used to be split between both participating teams but that is no longer the case, as of 2010.)

Since 2009, the Phillies have operated with one of baseball’s largest payrolls, north of $100 million. They owe $104.5 million to just six players in 2014. If attendance continues to fall, the Phillies may find it difficult to maintain a payroll in the $160 million area. With a barren Minor League system, their ability to field a competitive roster will become more difficult as well.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

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.