Pirates owner’s newspapers face advertiser boycott over Andrew McCutchen trade

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Pittsburgh Pirates owner Bob Nutting is a newspaper mogul. His baseball decisions are now impacting his day job, it seems. From the Post-Gazette, which Nutting does not own:

Weirton Medical Center, based in West Virginia, announced Thursday that it is pulling advertising from three publications owned by Ogden Newspapers over “the failure of the Pirates to craft a deal to keep Andrew McCutchen a Pirate.” Nutting is Ogden’s CEO.

The boycott is apparently temporary, but it’s not without teeth. According to the article, the Medical Center advertises in three of Nutting’s papers across two states and that they run full-page Sunday ads along with extra advertising during the week. They are characterized as one of the largest advertisers in Nutting’s papers in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. Such full-page ads are pretty dang lucrative for local papers.

The spokesperson for the Medical Center talks about the boycott in terms of community values and wants to remind Nutting and the Pirates that the club and the decisions it makes is important to the community. The financial hit will remind him of that, I’m sure, and the impulse to him him thusly is admirable and understandable. Unfortunately, it will not make a difference in how the Pirates are run because it does not reflect the reality of modern baseball teams and the way in which baseball owners view their property.

There is a lot of talk from team owners about sports teams being community assets and quasi-public institutions when the team owner needs something. Say, a new ballpark or a tax abatement or parking and traffic allowances and free security for their entertainment venue in the form of police patrols and the like. They also use the whole community spirit thing when they want to leverage the public as a marketing tool. Think of parades and rallies and things in which the sports team is cast as part of the fabric of the community in order to drive ticket and merchandise sales.

When it comes to the revenues, expenses and profits of the team, however, owners demonstrate just how private and closely-held their businesses are. That extends to player acquisitions and trades. It would never occur to Bob Nutting that failing to maintain the Pirates’ recent winning track record and then trading Andrew McCutchen was a thing about which the public was entitled to input. The public’s anger at him may cross his mind, but believe me, neither he nor any other sports owner believes that the public has an actual say in such matters. It’d be just as logical to them for the public to suggest that they can tell him which entree to order the next time he sits down to eat at Altius.

All of which is to say that, however understandable and noble the intentions behind the advertiser boycott, Bob Nutting does not care and will not make decisions about his baseball team with such concerns in mind. It’s his meal. he’ll order whatever he wants. Even if you’re the one paying for it.

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.