Sorry, Houston fans: Wade, Justice share same brain

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Each time I start to wonder why I still have the Houston Chronicle’s Richard Justice on my RSS reader, he produces a gem like this:

Here’s my five-minute analysis of the $4.5-million signing of Pedro Feliz. I haven’t spoken to GM Ed Wade. In other words, I’m thinking for myself. Run for your lives!
I believe Chris Johnson will still be given every opportunity to win the third-base position this spring. Remember that he was so highly regarded last spring that the Astros figured he’d spend a few weeks at Round Rock, then become the everyday third baseman.

Actually, I do remember the terribly misguided belief that Johnson was nearly ready to take over at third base. Then he went on to hit a thoroughly unexceptional .281/.323/.461 with 13 homers in 384 at-bats in the PCL.
And one of the very important things to remember here is that Johnson’s bat is the strongest part of his game. He lacks range at third base, and he offers nothing on the basepaths.
But one can still be sane and believe Johnson is a legitimate prospect. The insanity is that Justice thinks the cash-strapped Astros just spent $4.5 million on a backup third baseman when they’re faced with a rotation that’s set to include Bud Norris, Felipe Paulno and Brian Moehler.
Sadly, the Astros are probably out of cash now and they still have two-fifths of a rotation, one above average infielder and questionable bullpen depth. It’s going to be an awfully long year for fans. Frankly, they might as well root for 100 losses, since 90 might not be enough to cost Wade his job.

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.