Baseball is dying, you guys

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God, it was such a good week here in Minneapolis. A fun All-Star Game. Big stars. Streets, seats, bars and train cars filled with excited baseball fans. The nation’s attention turned, as always, to the Midsummer Classic.

But, sadly, none of us were aware that this was actually a wake, not a celebration. Because [altogether now], baseball is dying, you guys:

Major League Baseball has never been better — at least that’s what somebody will tell you and sell you.

Except it’s untrue . . . Baseball is losing its luster. As ticket prices get higher, interest goes lower. As options on television expand, baseball’s grip on the American public gets ever more slippery.
That’s Mike Downey of CNN. But, of course, it could’ve been anyone over the past century and change, lamenting the death of The National Pastime. Let’s see if he gets the Baseball is Dying Bingo!
Seventeen of the game’s 30 teams have poorer attendance than a year ago at this time. World Series television ratings get more disappointing year after year.
Major League baseball has seen its top-10 attendance totals in its nearly century-and-a-half history over the past ten years, and attendance has been at or near record highs on per-game attendance over that time as well. That there is falloff from historic highs does not mean there is an attendance problem in Major League Baseball. Go take a gander at the kind of gate teams did in the so-called Golden Age. In 1957, the defending World Series champion Yankees drew 1.497 million fans, leading all of baseball. In 2013 the team with the worst attendance was the Tampa Bay Rays. They drew 1.510 million fans and their support is talked about as if it were a dire crisis. Perspective, please.
Household-name players — I mean popular and scandal-free ones like Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter — have come to the ends of their careers, with no clear heir-apparents.

Is there a star player of today you’d go out of your way to see?

“Hey, Felix Hernandez is in town!” “You wanna go to the ballpark tonight and see Adam Wainwright?”

Those are your All-Star starting pitchers. Would you recognize either one if you saw him coming toward you on the street?

This is just pure old-man/back-in-my-day-ism. If you can’t look around baseball and not see who the big young stars are, you’re just not paying attention. Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Miguel Cabrera, Evan Longoria, Felix Hernandez, Freddie Freeman, Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Fernandez, David Wright, Matt Harvey, Carlos Gomez, Adam Wainwright, Matt Carpenter, Arolidis Chapman, Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig, Clayton Kershaw, Buster Posey, Paul Goldschmidt, Troy Tulowitzki, Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Jose Altuve and any number of other amazing players may be somewhat hard to make out immediately if they’re wearing a suit and tie, but I feel like not at least giving one of them a nod as, perhaps, an exciting player says far more about Mr. Downey than it says about the state of baseball.

Ultimately, though, Downey’s criticism boils down to (a) World Series TV ratings; and (b) the fact that there is not another Derek Jeter waiting in the wings. We’ve talked so much about TV ratings in the past here that I won’t rehash it. As for the Jeter thing: I’m curious as to how many people thought Derek Jeter was going to be Derek Jeter back in 1994 or 1995.

Oh well. Now I’m getting angry and that could lead to me being disrespectful. But I won’t do that. This is a funeral, after all, and no one should make a scene at a funeral.

Evan Longoria: ‘I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base’

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.