Nationals’ Matt Williams selected as NL Manager of the Year

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Rookie skipper Matt Williams, who led the Nationals to a first-place finish in the NL East, got 18 of the 30 first-place votes to claim NL Manager of the Year honors in balloting released Tuesday.

Williams topped Pittsburgh’s Clint Hurdle (eight first-place votes) and San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy (three first-place votes) for the award. He was named on 25 of the 30 ballots, compared to 24 for Hurdle and just 12 for Bochy. Marlins manager Mike Redmond got the other first-place vote, that coming from a Miami writer (Luis E. Rangel).

Voting, of course, took place for Williams made a mess of the NLDS in a loss to the Giants. The Nationals improved from 86-76 in their final year under Davey Johnson to 96-66 with Williams at the helm. Still, expectations were plenty high going in, with most predicting the Nationals would win the NL East. Williams is likely being credited for his handling of the clubhouse, in particular his benching of Bryce Harper for not running out a groundout in April. He did a fine job of handling the closer switch in September when Rafael Soriano fell apart.

Still, it’s hard to believe any of the writers who voted for Williams would currently say anyone except Bochy is the NL’s best manager. His Giants won their third World Series in five years last month, doing so with less frontline talent than the Nationals possessed. Voting was done before the postseason, but it’s bizarre that 60 percent of the voters couldn’t find room for him on their ballots.

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.