Hank Blalock tells Rays he won't accept minors assignment

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Hank Blalock said today that he plans to exercise the opt-out clause in his minor-league contract with the Rays if he’s not added to the 25-man roster by tomorrow:

I don’t have any plans on playing minor-league baseball this year. At this time in my life, if there’s no major-league opportunities for me then I’ll find something else to do. I feel like the team has to make a decision with me. I love it here. I like the way I’ve been treated, I like my teammates, I like the staff. I’d like to be part of helping the Rays win the World Series. I hope they keep me. This is where I want to stay.

If he makes the team Blalock would likely platoon with Pat Burrell at designated hitter, but with outfielder Matt Joyce expected to begin the season on the disabled list Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times reports that the Rays may choose to keep the younger, more versatile Reid Brignac as their final bench player.
Blalock had 25 homers in 462 at-bats last season, but hit a career-worst .234 with a putrid .277 on-base percentage and 108/26 K/BB ratio, missed most of 2007 and 2008 with injuries, and may no longer be able to play third base regularly thanks to shoulder problems. In other words there are good reasons for why he managed only a minor-league deal, although the contract would pay $900,000 if he makes the team.

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.