The Reds got bunt-happy last night and it cost them dearly

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If the Reds fall a game short of the Cardinals and/or Pirates — or, heaven forbid, the Diamondbacks or Nationals — they might want to look at last night’s game against the Cardinals as the reason why. It was a night the Red squandered multiple opportunities thanks to ill-advised bunts.

The first weird attempt did no harm, but it was nonetheless head-scratching. In the bottom of the 14th inning the Reds were down by a run. The leadoff hitter reaches and Dusty Baker wisely inserts Billy Hamilton into the game as a pinch runner. The entire point of Billy Hamilton’s existence on a major league roster right now is to steal bases. But rather than have him steal, Baker puts on the bunt with Zack Cozart squaring. He didn’t get the bunt down and Hamilton stole on the next pitch anyway and then scored when Cozart, swinging away, singled.  Maybe that was just a missed sign by Cozart?

The second one came right afterward, with Cozart on first. Dusty Baker had Devan Mesoraco try to bunt him over. He bunted it back to the mound and Cozart was out at second.

The third one came in bottom of the 15th. Score tied and Shin-Soo Choo singles. The heart of the order is due up: Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. Baker has Phillips — who has 100 RBI on the year which we’re all told is supposed to mean something — bunt Choo over. Votto was then retired, but did advance Choo to third. The open first base allowed Mike Matheny to issue an intentional walk to Jay Bruce. Then:

For reasons known only to God, Chris Heisey tries to bunt. Two outs, runner on third, a flamethrower on the mound and Heisey is playing suicide squeeze. Choo is a dead duck when Heisey misses and a rundown ensues. After the game Dusty Baker made it clear that Heisey was freelancing there.

It was a dumb freelance, obviously, but I’m reminded of this:

Just substitute “bunts” for “drugs.” And ask yourself why Dusty and his players seem to love to bunt so darn much.

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.