Two points of spring training optimism, one point of spring training pessimism

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — Three other random observations from spring training this fine afternoon, all of which are very spring training-y kinds of thoughts.

1. This is Clayton Kershaw. He’s a bad, bad man:

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But that bad, bad man also hung a curveball to Nick Hundley who deposited it over the fence, Matt Adams-style. I tweeted a joke about him being in postseason form after it happened and some people got genuinely irked. Some other people did the Twitter equivalent of nodding their heads. Combine that with this dumb article from Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday about how the Dodgers’ postseason failure last year was due to some character deficit or something, and you see the makings of the Post-Hoc Narrative Industrial Complex. Baseball just happens, man. Sometimes curveballs get hung.

2. There were two scouts here in the Cambelback press box a couple of hours ago, talking about a pitcher. The pitcher looked good. Sharp. They were impressed by his ticked-up velocity. They think he has a chance to really be special this year. The pitcher’s name: Barry Zito. Indeed, they each prefaced their compliments about the guy with things like “I know it’s Zito,” or “I know it’s just a couple of games in,” but their excitement was real.

In the past I’d chalk all of this up to spring enthusiasm and stuff, but man, Scott Kazmir happened, so I’ll believe anything anymore.

3. Down the road from here in Goodyear, the Cubs are playing the Indians. A few minutes ago Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant hit back-to-back-to-back homers off of Trevor Bauer.

I know there was already a ton of optimism about the Cubs heading into this season, but it’s probably off the charts in Cubs Country this afternoon.

I’ll be at Cubs camp in Mesa tomorrow to see how nuts it really is.

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.