Ken Williams makes daring and dangerous move in hiring Robin Ventura

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White Sox GM Ken Williams has never been one to play it safe, and he likely just put his job on the line by hiring Robin Ventura to manage the club.

The gamble here, of course, is that Ventura has never managed at any level. The only coaching he’s done was at Arroyo Grande High on a volunteer basis. He probably would have been a lot more involved in the game after retiring in 2004, but ankle problems that eventually resulted in a complicated transplant operation limited his mobility.

Now, Ventura was certainly respected and well liked during a career that saw him go to two All-Star Games and win six Gold Gloves. He must have positively crushed the interview to get the White Sox job before Dave Martinez and others could even interview.

But if this doesn’t work out, there’s not really any chance of Williams surviving in Chicago either. And presuming that a new GM would want to hire his own manager, it’s possible the Ventura move could go down as a one-year experiment if the White Sox don’t challenge for the AL Central crown next year.

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.