One thing you hear a lot from frustrated Cubs fans is that management often refuses to do the smart thing because “hey, they know Wrigley will sell out no matter what happens, man.” I’m not sure that was ever really true, but it’s certainly not true now:
Does it seem like the Cubs are promoting “good tickets still available” this season more than in recent memory? There would be good reason. Attendance is down sharply at Wrigley Field.
After 36 home dates last season, the Cubs had drawn 21 crowds over 40,000. This year they have 11. Last year they had one crowd under 38,000 compared to 11 this season.
I don’t know if “sharply” is the right word to use, nor do I know if “crowds under 38,000” is the best way to measure such a thing. Yes, attendance is down somewhat: the Cubs are drawing 38,475 a game this year compared to 39,611 last season. While you have to note that we still have the summer months to get through which should up the averages a bit, attendance will likely be down a bit this year, though not dramatically lower.
But let’s not freak out about it either. Here’s some greater context: attendance last year was down from the 40,000+ a game the team drew in 2007 and 2008. In the several years before that, however, the team had only a couple of years in their history in which they drew as well as they’re drawing right now. Indeed, if the season ended today, 2010 would be the seventh best year attendance-wise (per game) in the 95 years or so they’ve been in Wrigley Field.
So yeah, they’re down. But that’s from historic peaks, so let’s not get carried away, OK?
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.