Are we going to see a brand new Yasiel Puig this year?

Associated Press
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It’s one thing when Yasiel Puig says that he’s going to work harder, that he wants to be a good teammate and that he is a dedicated member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s another thing for him to actually walk the walk. He said it last year and probably wasn’t in the best shape of his life, missed a lot of time and undercut the sentiment. He said it before that and was often late to work and clashed with his manager and teammates. All along he has drawn criticism of his teammates and his manager which is telling. Even if some criticism of Puig, particularly from the media, has been overblown, the fact that he has been a source of friction in the Dodgers clubhouse is undeniable.

It’s possible, however, that things truly have changed this year. Not because of anything Puig is saying, but because of what other people are saying. Notably, people who have not been predisposed, historically, to speak well of Puig. Guys like Clayton Kershaw, who say that Puig is impressing them this spring and that he’s putting in his work.

That sentiment is included in this excellent column from Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. In it he talks about Puig’s better physical conditioning, his apparent engagement with teammates, which is much improved, and comments from Dave Roberts and others suggesting that Puig has made changes to the way he, as the ballplayers say, goes about his business.

Is it all worth believing? No, not yet. Ultimately what matters most is his production. The better it is the more room he has to be eccentric or aggravating. If he plays 150 games or more, is effective and if the Dodgers win, none of this matters too terribly much. Either way, Puig has talked the talk before and hasn’t always delivered.

But this is certainly worth bookmarking. We can check back in June or July to see if performance has matched promise.

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

mlb
Logan Riely/Getty Images
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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.