Red Sox: Bill James ‘not an employee nor does he speak for the club’

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The latest word — and I suspect final word — in the Bill James Twitter controversy was just had. It came from the Boston Red Sox, for whom James works.

To remind you, James last night called players overpaid and, when it was suggested that some were underpaid, he sarcastically said “my heart bleeds for them.” He went on to say “If the players all retired tomorrow, we would replace them, the game would go on; in three years it would make no difference whatsoever . . . The players are NOT the game, any more than the beer vendors are.”

The players union issued a statement condemning James’ comments this morning. A few minutes ago the Red Sox followed suit:

That’s exactly what you would expect the Red Sox to say. Even if, as I suspect, James and the Red Sox are more aligned regarding their opinions about player value than their public positions would indicate. Like I mentioned earlier today, James’ transgression was not a case of a member of management holding a view of workers that is appalling, it’s that he said it out loud.

The players know the owners would, if they could, replace them with low-paid replacements. The owners know that, practically speaking, they cannot do that, because the product would stink and people would stop showing up. As such, they don’t say things like James says because to do so would only serve to antagonize people.

Anyway: back to a free agent market which hasn’t seen any major free agents sign yet.

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.