The Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2015 — #18: Baseball recommends extended protective netting

6 Comments

We’re a few short days away from 2016 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2015. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

Back in June, Red Sox starter Wade Miley threw a pitch to Athletics third baseman Brett Lawrie. The pitch broke Lawrie’s bat and a shard flew into the stands, striking fan Tonya Carpenter in the face as she sat in the third base boxes. The fan bled profusely and shrieked in pain as she was taken off on a stretcher. She recovered, but not before a spending a week in the hospital and a stint in a rehabilitation center. And frankly, she was lucky. She could’ve been killed.

In the wake of that incident — and in the wake of multiple fans injured by foul balls and a high-profile lawsuit being filed — Major League Baseball announced in December that it would look into the matter of fan safety. Including the possibility of extending protective netting further down the baselines than it currently goes.

In December, Major League Baseball issued some recommendations — not requirements, mere recommendations — to this end. They were limited as well, “encouraging” clubs to shield the seats between the near ends of both dugouts (i.e., the ends of the dugouts located closest to home plate) and within 70 feet of home plate with protective netting or other safety materials of their choice. It should be noted that many teams already do this. And that netting fitting that recommendation would not have helped Ms. Carpenter, who was sitting further down the line. It’s hard to see these proposals as anything other than measures aimed at shielding baseball from liability over batted ball or bat-shard injuries than at directly shielding fans from injuries.

Still, baseball’s attention has been turned to the matter, even if its actions seem like half-measures. Eventually, one must assume given baseball’s penchant for incremental, rather than wholesale changes, further steps will be taken.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

mlb
Logan Riely/Getty Images
1 Comment

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.