Dave Roberts won’t punish Manny Machado for not running out grounder

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The Dodgers and Brewers were locked in a scoreless tie in the top of the fourth inning in Game 2 of the NLCS on Saturday. Manny Machado came to the plate with the bases empty and two outs, working the count to 3-0 against Wade Miley. Machado then grounded a 3-0 change-up into the hole between third base and shortstop. Fans watching at home saw Arcia take his time, crow hop, and fire to first base. Then it became obvious why he took his time: Machado wasn’t running hard.

Machado, unsurprisingly, was pilloried for the infraction. Manager Dave Roberts, however, doesn’t see any reason to punish his star player while his team attempts to get back to the World Series, MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick and Todd Zolecki report. Roberts said, “I know that he’s doing a lot of things to help us win games. I don’t feel a need to have to address it. Some guys do that and take it, ‘I’m going to run so hard because I’m so mad.’ He’s guilty of going the other way. I don’t think it’s a disrespect to his teammates.” Roberts added, “There’s no perfect player. A guy that posts every inning is hard to come by these days. For me, the net, it’s not even close.”

In part thanks to Machado, who walked and scored his team’s second run in the seventh inning, the Dodgers went on to win 4-3 over the Brewers in Game 2. Machado had two hits — a solo home run and a two-run single — in Game 1 and has overall posted a .909 OPS in six games this postseason.

Hustling is a huge issue for old school players and fans, but Roberts is showing that the newer school doesn’t value hustling nearly as highly. And for good reason — almost all of the time, hustling won’t make a difference. To use a poker term, hustling on every play is negative EV (expected value). Sure, one percent of the time Machado runs hard, he puts pressure on the defender who misplays the ball and/or makes a poor throw. Sometimes the variables align just right — batted ball speed and placement, for instance — and he beats the throw without any defensive misplay. For the other 99 percent of the time, however, hustling has no impact and risks Machado suffering an injury like a pulled hamstring, a torn ACL, or a ruptured Achilles tendon.

We don’t know exactly what Machado’s thought process was, but he might have also been considering the fact that he’s an upcoming free agent once the postseason is over. If he tweaks his hammy running out a routine grounder, he could cost himself millions of dollars. It’s easy for us to budget money we’ll never have and say, “You already have millions, what’s $20 million more?” but if I had the realization that a torn ACL or Achilles could shave millions of dollars off of my next contract, I’d jog real slow to first base, too. Even in the playoffs.

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.