How can you have a “must-win” game in April?

Associated Press
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Still sort of wondering about that Mets game yesterday. They won, which is cool. But the circumstances of the win and the stuff surrounding it all is a head-scratcher.

After the game, Mets manager Terry Collins said “Huge win! That’s one we had to have!” And then added “We couldn’t sacrifice another game. Had to win this game to get ourselves going again.” Which I would normally take as sarcasm — a reaction to panicking members of the media, who we mentioned earlier in the week — but in this case he was apparently serious.

Serious by his acts in the game, for one thing. He used reliever Jim Henderson in the seventh inning in a day game after a night game in which he threw 34 pitches on his reconstructed shoulder. Henderson’s velocity was off and he got into trouble, but other relievers got him out of it. Then he used Jeurys Familia who, in addition to being sick this week, has been used a lot. And he went with him for a five-out save. Those words were not sarcasm, then. He really considered the Marlins on April 13 to be a must-win game.

Which, OK, he’s the manager of a pennant-winning team, he can approach a game any way he wants to. But what is vexing here is that, apparently, he considered this a must-win game not because of what he saw in the situation, but because of what he heard from that same, often hysterical New York media. Here’s Collins:

“The perception is that there’s no energy here, which is completely not true. That we’re not prepared, we’re overconfident or we’re not taking things seriously. I heard that last night, and it made me sick to my stomach that people actually think that this team that accomplished what they did last year would have any semblance of that type of makeup. So I said: ‘You know what? We got to win this game today. We got to show people we mean business here.’ And that’s why I did what I did with Jeurys today.”

I’m not sure how to read that in any way other than “the media said we look bad, so I showed them.” He turned a getaway day game against the Marlins into a “must-win” and pushed the redline on a couple of relievers to do it. Which is an absolutely remarkable thing to do simply to shut the media up. A thing, I think, that can only really happen in New York.

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.