Hunter Pence signs with the Giants

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UPDATE: Jon Heyman reports that the deal between Pence and the Giants is done.

10:55 AM: I am not a scoop guy by any stretch of the imagination. My habit of never leaving my house and my existential dread of talking on the phone with people prevents that from ever really being my gig. I’ll leave that to the Jeff Passans and Ken Rosenthals of the world.

Still, I’ve gotten a couple of scoops over the years. A random contract extension here. A random signing there. If you hang around baseball and baseball people long enough stuff falls into your lap.

Some of that stuff is more random than other stuff, of course. Like, one of my more notable scoops was when the Braves signed A.J. Pierzynski. Know how I learned about that one? Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was in line at a Honeybaked Ham Company, picking up his Christmas ham, and was talking about it too loudly on the phone. A reader’s dad was behind him in line, told the reader and the reader and sent me a message about it. Viva journalism.

We have another one of those today. [Super serious voice]: NBC SPORTS HAS LEARNED that free agent outfielder Hunter Pence is in agreement with the Giants on a contract. He’s on his way up to San Francisco as we speak to take a physical. Pence, NBC SPORTS HAS LEARNED, turned down offers from the Padres and Astros to sign with the Giants.

Most journalists will never tell you their sources, but I’ll let you in on mine: some random guy in the airport in San Diego, where a few minutes ago he overheard Pence, who was getting ready to board a flight to San Francisco, talking about all of this quite loudly on his cell phone. I’m not gonna say that’s Woodward and Bernstein stuff, but I feel like it’s pretty solid as far as these things go. If it’s not I promise to write a 2,000-word essay about how getting it right is better than passing along hilarious crap from dudes who talk too loud on their cell phones in public spaces. I won’t believe that necessarily, but I’ll write it.

Anyway: Pence hit a surprising .297/.358/.552 in about a half season’s worth of work for the Rangers last year, and even made the American League All-Star team, but had his season cut short with back issues. It’s hard to expect a repeat of that or even a full season from him given that he has managed to play in more than 110 games just once dating back to 2015, but the Giants are in rebuilding mode, he’s well-liked from all of his years in the Bay Area, and this is no doubt going to be a low-leverage signing for the club.

Anyway: keep your voices down, folks. You never know who might be listening. I got spies everywhere, apparently.

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.