Watch and enjoy baseball in any way you want. It’s OK!

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Steve Kettmann — the man who just published a book about Sandy Alderson which I have on my desk at the moment and, so far so good — has an op-ed in today’s New York Times which . . . is less good.

The headline: “Don’t let statistics ruin baseball.” The complaint: that advanced statistics and analysis has crowded out some of the more nuanced and sensory experiences in the game.

The real problem isn’t in the dugout, though. It’s with the way the game is discussed off the field. I grew up on vivid reporting that teased out details from the day’s action to give us a more flavorful and insightful narrative — not just by accomplished magazine writers like Roger Angell, but by the scores of beat reporters covering the game nationwide. These days there are some great baseball beat writers, but too many — especially among the younger ones — are so awash in stats that they can’t seem to see the game beyond the numbers . . . The importance of being fully present for a game, shorn of distractions, lies not in sentimentality about the nobility of baseball . . . but in continuously deepening one’s understanding of the game.

I get what Kettmann is on about here, but I think he has presented a false choice and, in some ways a straw man. I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who is so overwhelmed with statistics and analysis that they miss or don’t enjoy the game in front of them. If anything, people who are deeply into stats usually are so because they love the game so much that they can’t get enough of it and want to understand and appreciate it in even deeper ways.

But who cares if there are people who care only about the metrics? Why does it bother folks if someone enjoys the game in a manner different than they do? I’m not sure why this upsets people so much.

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.