MLB-wide attendance declines for a third straight season

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MLB set attendance records in 2007, averaging 32,785 fans per game and drawing a total of 79.5 million fans. Since then attendance has dropped each season, going from 32,528 and 78.6 million in 2008 to 30,350 and 73.4 million in 2009.
And this season the totals fell again, with MLB averaging 30,141 fans per game and drawing a total of 73.1 million fans. Compared to the 2007 figures that represents a loss of 5.5 million fans in three seasons, which is a seven percent drop.
To put that in some context, consider that 20 teams drew fewer than 2.8 million fans, so a decline of 5.5 million is essentially like wiping away the attendance for any two teams outside of the Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers, Cardinals, Angels, Twins, Cubs, Red Sox, Giants, and Rockies.

Tommy La Stella talks about his refusal to report to the minors in 2016

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In late July of 2016, Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella was demoted to Triple-A. It wasn’t personal. It was a roster crunch situation and La Stella had options left so, despite the fact that he had been an effective player to that point of the season, it made sense to send him down.

La Stella didn’t take the demotion well. In fact he refused to report to Iowa and went home to New Jersey instead. It was not until August 17 that he finally reported and then only after prolonged discussions with the Cubs and the assurance that he’d be back in the majors once rosters opened up. Which he was, after spending just over a week down on the farm.

Such a move by a player would, normally speaking, make him persona non-grata. His teammates would shun him and the organization would, eventually, cut bait, with the press characterizing him as a me-first player as he walked out the door. That did not happen with La Stella, however, who remains with the Cubs two years later and, by all accounts, is a popular and important guy in the Cubs’ clubhouse, even if he’s not one of the team’s big stars.

Today Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has an in-depth story about La Stella, what went down in 2016 and how he and the Cubs have proceeded since then. The story is subscription only, but the short version is that there was a lot of understanding and empathy on the part of the Cubs organization and their players about what was going on in La Stella’s head at the time and how everyone allowed everyone else the space to work through it.

I’m happy to read this story, because all too often we only hear about such incidents as they occur, with little followup. To the extent the story is told, most of the time its completely one-sided, with the player who acts out being treated like a bad seed with little if any explanation of his side of things. And, yes, there are always two sides to the story. Sometimes even more.

Kudos to Rosenthal for telling this story. Here’s hoping the next time a player is involved in a controversy that, in the moment, makes him appear to be a bad seed or have a bad attitude, we hear more about it then too.