La Russa still undecided, but hints at return

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Tony La Russa remains undecided about returning as Cardinals manager next season, but hinted yesterday that he’s leaning toward coming back and added that “it won’t be long” before he makes a decision:

I think I know where things lead but I want to be sure. I want to be honest. I want it to be genuine. … You’re not a player. This isn’t free agency where you can wait until the end of the World Series to decide.

You’re a member of your organization’s staff. You’re a complementary part of the organization. I’m encouraged and feel good about the conversations I’ve had with some of the players. All that’s left is to check the fire in your gut. That shouldn’t take long.

If the 65-year-old manager returns he’ll likely bring longtime pitching coach Dave Duncan back with him, so general manager John Mozeliak is being patient:

I understand he wanted some time to take a step back. He has a process he’s going through. We understand that. We speak on a fairly regular basis, and it’s about the future. That leads me to think optimistically about where things are headed. I’m not going to put a line in the sand about this. But we did talk about this not getting too far away. Sooner is better than later. Tony knows that as well as anyone.

La Russa and the Cardinals seem sort of blindsided by their first-round playoff sweep at the hands of the Dodgers, but losing three straight games to another good team is hardly the end of the world and he’s guided St. Louis to the postseason in seven of the past 10 years. He’ll be back and the Cardinals will be strong contenders again in 2010, although Mozeliak will have a very busy offseason in the meantime.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.