OK, it is possible to overhype Mariano Rivera

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OK, I lied. It is possible to overstate the Mariano Rivera love. Here’s Kevin Kernan of the New York Post, filling out his Top Five Yankees of All Time ballot.  Note that he’s also filling out his column inches by needlessly including nicknames and descriptors of the most famous baseball players in history as if we didn’t know who they were, but that’s more of a print media criticism than a baseball analysis one.

Anyway, you may be surprised to see who he thinks Mariano Rivera is better than:

You have to start with Babe Ruth; forever he will be No. 1. The Iron Horse Lou Gehrig, who called himself the “luckiest man on the face of the Earth,” is next. No. 3 is Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio. Then comes Derek Jeter, Mr. 3,000. Rounding out the Fantastic Five is the incomparable Mariano Rivera …It hurts deeply for a kid who grew up a Mickey Mantle fan to move The Mick out of the top five, but this is the new Yankees reality. Time marches on, and Mantle, for all his greatness, does not make my final-five cut. If he had stayed healthy, it would have been a different story. Go cry to Billy Crystal.

Look, Rivera may be better at his job than most other ballplayers have been better at their jobs, but let’s be clear about something: Mariano Rivera’s job was nowhere near as important to the wins and losses of the Yankees as Mickey Mantle’s was.  You don’t need to go into advanced metrics to see this, and if you dispute it you simply don’t know what it takes to win baseball games.

If you’re not interested in the wins and losses and are looking for more of a zeitgeist thing — who meant more; who was greater in that oh-gee-whiz kind of way — well, you still have to go with Mantle. I mean, c’mon! He was the single most important Yankee to the entire Baby Boom’s worth of Yankees fans and has continued to be well past his retirement and death.  Rivera has been one of a couple of key guys in the narrative for the past 15 years or so.

This is just an exercise in “that thing that just happened is the best thing that ever happened.”  It’s also a reminder that you can overhype even the greatest stuff ever.

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.