Baseball ticket sales are headed back up

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Eric Fisher of Sports Business Journal reports that, based on earlyreturns, Major League Baseball is poised to end a three-year slide in ticket sales:

Commissioner Bud Selig declined to project a specific attendance increase for the season. But after drawing 73.06 million fans in 2010, down 0.4 percent from 2009, this year’s total will likely fall somewhere between 75 million and 78 million, an increase of 3 percent to 7 percent.

Selig has established 80 million as a goal since finishing roughly 500,000 people short of the mark in a record-setting 2007, but that level appears at least another year away.

“I’m really bullish on this season. We’ve got some great empirical data coming in,” Selig said. “I want to see a nice increase this year, and I’m very hopeful, very optimistic and confident that we’re going to do it. It should be a big, big year.”

Owners who claim that they will raise payroll if and only if ticket sales increase could not be reached for comment.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.