Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.
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MLB attendance drops 1.1%

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Bad news: Major League Baseball’s average attendance dropped 1.1 percent this season. Good news: It was still pretty healthy, amounting to the 11th most-attended year in the game’s history. Of course, baseball has only had 30 teams for 19 seasons, so modulate that however you’d like.

MLB’s 30 teams combined to draw 73,159,044 fans overall, for an average of 30,169 per game. That was down from last year’s total of 73.76 million and average of 30,517. The average was the lowest since 30,138 in 2010. The record total of 79.5 million and average of 32,785 were set in 2007.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, who have always drawn well and who play in baseball’s largest stadium, led in home attendance at 3.7 million. Second came the St. Louis Cardinals, then the Blue Jays, Giants, Cubs, Yankees and Angels, all of whom drew over 3 million fans.  Tampa Bay had the lowest home attendances at 1.29 million, and Oakland was 29th at 1.52 million. Cleveland was 28th at 1.59 million despite winning their division. The lowest in the NL was the Miami Marlins, who drew 1.71 million.

Blue Jays fans hurled more than a beer can at the Orioles

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Last night Bill wrote about how a Blue Jays fan threw a beer can at O’s outfielder Hyun Soo Kim as he attempted to catch a Melvin Upton Jr. fly ball. That wasn’t all that Jays fans in the outfield hurled last night. Bob Nightengale:

Jones confirmed he heard racial and ethnic slurs towards him and Kim, a native of South Korea. Yet, as cruel as it may be, he’s become almost numb at the slurs he hears from opposing fans.

“I’ve heard that so much playing baseball,’’ Jones said. “I don’t really care anymore. Call me what you want… I get it. That’s fine’’

Except it’s not fine, for obvious reasons. Indeed, it was just the latest in a series of obnoxious acts from fans in Rogers Centre.

The beer can last night. The multiple cans and bottles hurled on the field during Game 5 of last year’s ALDS, following a controversial call involving a toss of the ball back to a pitcher. The series of incidents involving thrown objects and drunken rowdiness in the stands for Jays games.

I fully expect Jays fans to rush to the comments to say that I am unfairly generalizing. That these were just isolated incidents. That “not all Blue Jays fans” behave this way. That fans of other teams behave poorly on occasion as well, and that fans in Toronto should not be singled out. It’s a defensiveness we’ve all seen from any fan of any team when an incident occurs.

But before you do that, understand that I fully acknowledge not all of you do this and that I am not painting with a broad brush here. But such an acknowledgement doesn’t change the fact that last night was ugly as were many other nights at Rogers Centre. One does not have to agree that “all Jays fans” do this to acknowledge the ugliness of this stuff. And one does not make themselves less of a Blue Jays fans to admit that this is absolute garbage behavior.

Clean it up, Toronto. Blue Jays: ask yourself if your alcohol policies are reasonable and if they’re being enforced. Rogers Centre security: ask yourself if you’re doing enough to punish this behavior. Blue Jays fans: ask yourself if you’re, in any way, egging on, encouraging or, at the very least, accepting such behavior of your fellow fans to go on without a word, out of some misplaced sense of fan loyalty.

This crap is unacceptable, even if it is only one person doing it. In Toronto, it’s obviously more than one.

 

Playoff Reset: The NL Wild Card Game

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The Game: San Francisco Giants @ New York Mets, NL Wild Card game
The Time: 8:00 PM EDT
The Place: Citi Field, New York
The Channel: ESPN
The Starters: Madison Bumgarner (Giants) vs. Noah Syndergaard (Mets)

The Upshot:

  • This one is all about the starting pitching. You may not much like one-and-done baseball, but Madison Bumgarner vs. Noah Syndergaard is as good as it comes.  Bumgarner needs no postseason introduction. And, it should be noted, he has had his greatest postseason moments on the road. Think about his 10K, complete game shutout of the Pirates in the 2014 Wild Card Game. Think about his performance against Kansas City in the World Series that year in which he won Games 1 and 5 and then came back on two days rest, on the road, to throw five innings in relief for the save in Game 7. There is not much pressure like Wild Card Game pressure, but Bumgarner has been there and he has done that.
  • If Bumgarner can’t go the distance, or at least most of it, Giants fans are gonna be nervous: the Giants blew nine ninth-inning leads in the second half, including five in September. The once-reliable San Francisco bullpen has been a liability for months. The Mets bullpen, meanwhile, has been much more steady, possessing the sixth-best bullpen ERA in baseball this season.
  • Syndergaard is, by default, the Mets ace. But he may have nonetheless been their best pitcher anyway, even if Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom didn’t go down to injuries. Syndergaard led the league in FIP and was the stingiest starter in the National League when it came to allowing home runs. The Mets have all sorts of injuries and concerns when it comes to playing a five or seven game series, but in one game, with Thor on the mound, they match up with anyone. And while Syndergaard may not yet be a postseason legend like Bumgarner, he came out of the bullpen to pitch a scoreless seventh inning in the decisive Game 5 of the NLDS against the Dodgers last year and won Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs and Game 3 of the World Series against the Royals. He’s got the chops to handle the pressure.
  • The offenses are a study in contrasts. The Mets hit more home runs than the Giants (218 to 130) yet the Giants scored more runs than the Mets (671 to 715). The Mets don’t strike out as much as a lot of power-dependent teams do, though, so it’s not like it’s all-or-nothing for them. The biggest concern for New York: their best power threat, Yoenis Cespedes, enters the postseason on a bit of a cold streak. The Giants’ offense is more varied and their defense is superior. But again, this whole game is going to come down to Bumgarner vs. Syndergaard. The first team to have their starter knocked out is probably gonna lose this one.
  • These teams enter the postseason on distinctly different trajectories. The Giants owned baseball’s best record at the All-Star break but stumbled badly in the second half, losing a large division lead to the Dodgers and then just barely winning the Wild Card on the final day of the season. The Mets, in contrast, were nearly six games out of the Wild Card in late August, and were under .500 as late as August 20. They caught fire after that, however, going 26-13 in the final 39 games of the season.  Late season momentum has been shown to be a poor predictor of playoff success in the past, but that’s how things ended for them.

This is a really even matchup and predictions are probably beside the point. I’ll say, however, that if you’ve made a habit of betting against Madison Bumgarner in the postseason, you’ve probably lost a lot of money.