Happy Birthday, HardballTalk

Library of Congress

Most of you probably don’t care, but I realized it this morning and it meant a lot to me so I mention it here: today is HardballTalk’s seventh birthday. We launched on April 6, 2009.

It wasn’t called HardballTalk then. It was called Circling The Bases, as one of our oldest readers (in many ways) Old Gator likes to remind folks. I think Aaron came up with that. It was very much like when they came up with The Be Sharps on the barbershop quartet episode of the Simpsons. Sounded cute once. Sounded less cute each time. And no one could think of anything better so it stuck.

At least for a few months until ProFootballTalk moved over to NBC and it was decided that we’d all be “Talk” blogs. Which itself was weird because, as far as I know, the baseball site and other sites were started up to replicate the PFT model Mike Florio had already made so successful and which (I think) was already in the works of coming over to NBC before we started, even if we launched first. Probably should’ve just been “HardballTalk” to begin with. “ProBaseballTalk” wouldn’t have worked, I don’t think. The minor leagues, which we really don’t cover, kind of complicate that.

Anyway, a lot has changed since then. Not just the name. The big redesign from last September is still a thing we talk about (I know) but it wasn’t unprecedented. We went through three different publishing platforms in the first year of the blog and three radically different looks to the site before the last one stuck for several years. While we’ve recently had some notable personnel changes, we had a handful of other contributors to the site before the lineup was generally solidified. I think Matt Casey, one of NBC’s great producers, actually wrote the first post ever here. Maybe it was me, but I think it was Matt. Bob Harkins used to contribute here before moving on to other things. Mike Florio even posted something here once. There was some legal issue in baseball and he asked if he could weigh in with his legal expertise, presumably because he didn’t yet know that I’m a lawyer. Maybe he still doesn’t know. He doesn’t much care for baseball, I’ve gathered.

Despite all of those changes, I think the core of this place has stayed the same. Baseball commentary that is not necessarily what you’d get elsewhere. The willingness to wade into controversy and offer some counterintuitive takes (though not phonily counterintuitive). The willingness to throw a bomb when a bomb needs to be thrown and to not be afraid to say it when someone is full of crap. Even if that makes for awkward greetings in a press box and a presumably perpetual blackballing from the Baseball Writers Association of America. We’ve not stopped with any of that. Just look at this morning’s posts to see it. Oh my god, the comments. The day I stop riling you all up will be the day I quit.

People say at lot of things about NBC as an entity and, of course, all entities of a certain size make mistakes, but I’ll say this: NBC has never, ever, ever said “Craig, don’t write that” or “You need to change that.” Not a single time. Wait. One time when I posted a picture of a naked Grady Sizemore, but they were probably right about that. Otherwise there has been nothing but supreme editorial independence from them. Indeed, I’m almost embarrassed at how much freedom we are given. It’s super awkward to get involved in one of those “don’t you hate your editors” conversations media people sometimes get into. It’s one of the few times I have absolutely nothing to say. I am so spoiled in this regard that it’s a crime. Maybe someday it will be literally. Or at lease a civil offense.

Obviously, though, none of this is possible without you. If no one reads, they pull the plug and I dust off my old briefcase and go work for a living. But you all came in 2009 and started reading. And while readers come and go, on the whole, more have come than gone. Some of you are hate-readers, who just want to see what awful, liberal, P.C. police thing Bill or I are going to say next, but we love you too. Clicks are colorblind. Most of you come here, I hope anyway, because you like what we do.

You like what we do and you read our stuff and support our work and, in more ways than you see at almost any website, interact positively with us and with each other in ways that makes me happy and makes me proud. The internet is dumb for the most part. But this is our dumb little corner of the internet and you all make me happy to wake up every morning to write my usual nonsense. For seven years now and hopefully for many, many more.

Thank you,


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.