It’s the cost, stupid

557424_587623294610181_892653310_nBy CHRIS REWERS

While watching a game between the Cubs and Cardinals on TV last week, Cardinals announcer Dan McLaughlin and booth guest Ken Rosenthal discussed baseball’s attendance figures – they are down 6.5 percent from this point last season.

The discussion reminded me of scores that scrawled across the bottom of the screen as I watched games a couple of night earlier. One score, in particular, caught my attention: : “CIN 7, KC 0.”

“I feel sorry for the poor saps who paid to watch that game,” I thought.

The box score reported a paid crowd of 24,899 witnessed a boring game between two awful teams, with a combined record of 47-89, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City that evening. The Reds broke open a scoreless game with seven runs in the final three innings and cruised to a 7-0 victory.

It’s games like this that give interleague play a bad name. For every matchup between the Yankees and Nationals, we are treated to 10 battles of juggernauts like Reds-Royals.

Those 24,899 saps – excuse me, fans – did get to watch the greatly underappreciated Joey Votto hit, although he went 0-for-4. Adam Duvall, one of a plethora of Quadruple-A players who participated in that game, homered. Big deal. Admirers of a well-pitched game were cheated when Reds starting pitcher was removed by his manager, Jim Riggleman, in the seventh inning after just 88 pitches. The promising right-hander allowed just three hits and two walks. He was followed by an all-too-typical parade of mediocre relief pitchers who completed the shutout.

The crowd of nearly 25,000 in Kansas City was far below capacity but was way above what such a matchup was worthy of.

As happens far too often during contemporary baseball telecasts, McLaughlin and Rosenthal, seemingly oblivious to the action on the field, went off on a tangent about possible causes for the attendance decline. They surmised about the alarming strikeout rate, the defensive shifts, the length of games, how extra-inning games tend to drag on and on. There are a number of other problems with the game that should be addressed that the pair failed to mention, especially the most obvious one. Attending an MLB game is far too expensive.

For three years, just before the turn of the century, I worked the overnight shift at a downtown news bureau. The hours were grueling. In those days I lived in Wrigleyville, right around the corner from the Friendly Confines, close enough to the ballpark that I recall getting awakened one afternoon by Harry Caray’s rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

One of the few benefits of working those hours and living in that neighborhood were the ability I had to attend weekday games. Bleacher tickets for afternoon games played Monday through Thursday, I recall, cost just $10. I’d wake up on such days at 1 p.m., don a cap, put on some shoes, grab a premade sandwich out of the fridge, and run down the street to the ballpark. I’d usually be taking set in left field just as the Cubs were taking the field.

A ticket for such a game today would set me back $55. If I were a millennial, I’m certain my seat for a weekday afternoon game would be on my living room couch.

Before I was married, I attended 40-50 major league games per season. As recently as 2007, I was still going to 15-20 games every year. These days, with mouths to feed, I may make it to one, possibly two games.

I bought four tickets for a Cubs-Indians game last May that set us back $220. Add another $50 or so for food and beverages and it’s the equivalent of a car payment.

The Cubs, who entered Thursday’s action with the best record in the National League, are still packing them in. Even their new club behind home plate with season tickets that cost $56,000 apiece sold out. I am not missed at Clark and Addison.

It’s a team like the last-place White Sox who should cater to a fan like me. But even the bad teams have a payroll to meet. Even a guy like Adam Engel – at $552,000 per annum – is making a nice living playing in the majors.

Engel is not worried about making his next car payment.

Around the majors

3                            Recap | Box                                   4Game balls: New York relievers David Robertson, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman combined for 3⅓ shutout innings to close it out.

Defining moment: With the tying run on second base and two outs in the top of the ninth, Dee Gordon took a called strike one on a 100-mph Chapman fastball and then swung and missed at a pair of sliders.

Bottom line: The Yankees (50-22), who maintained a two-game lead over second-place Boston in the AL East, won for the 50th time in their first 72 games for the eighth time in franchise history. The previous seven teams to do it – in 1927, ‘28, ‘32, ‘36, ‘39, ‘53, and ‘98 – all won the World Series.

The Mariners (46-29), who were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position, lost their season-high fourth in a row and for the fifth time in seven games. They were swept in a series for the first time this year and trail first-place Houston by 3½ games in the AL West.

9                            Recap | Box                                   2Game ball: Boston starter Rick Porcello (9-3) allowed only two baserunners – a single to Logan Morrison and walk to Ryan La Marre – over seven shutout innings en route to his seventh career win at Target Field. He retired the last 16 batters he faced.

Defining moment: Xander Bogaerts smashed a two-run double off Minnesota reliever Ryan Pressly in the seventh inning to extend Boston’s lead to 4-0.

Bottom line: The Red Sox (50-26), who remained two games behind first-place New York in the AL East, has a season-high 16 hits while completing a 6-4 road trip.

The Twins (33-38) failed to sweep their first three-game series this season. Their only series sweep came in a two-game set at St. Louis on May 7-8.

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Game ball: Nolan Arenado homered for the third straight game with a two-strike, three-run shot inside the left-field foul pole off Steven Matz in the first inning and added a two-run double, also with two strikes, to right in the second.

Stats vs. Matz: Arenado is 5-for-14 with four homers 12 RBI lifetime against Matz. Since ending a career worst 0-for-19 slump on June 15, Arenado is 12-for-28 with four homers, five doubles, and 14 RBI.

Bottom line: The Rockies (37-38), won three of four in the series and completed a 6-1 record against the Mets this season. The Mets (31-41) completed a 10-game road trip with just three wins.

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Game ball: A slumping Bryce Harper, who batted first in the Washington lineup for the first time in six weeks, walked twice, contributed a sacrifice fly, and led off the bottom of the eighth with a double to start a decisive two-run rally.

Defining moment: Rookie Juan Soto ripped an opposite-field double that landed just short of the left-field fence to score Hatper from third with the go-ahead run and Trea Turner from first with an insurabce run.

Max effort: Max Scherzer (10-3), who lost each of his two previous starts, did not figure in the decision despite a solid seven-inning effort (5 H, BB, 9 SO). Scherzer served up solo home runs to Colby Rasmus and Mark Trumbo.

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Game ball: Eric Thames went 2-for-5 with a three-run triple to lead a 12-hit Milwaukee attack.

Defining moment: After Matt Carpenter homered in the top of the first off Milwaukee starter Brent Suter to give St. Louis a 1-0 advantage, a two-run double by Jesus Aguilar off Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez put Milwaukee ahead to stay..

Bottom line: The Brewers (44-30) moved a game ahead of second-place Chicago in the NL Central and opened up a 5½ game lead over the third-place Cardinals..

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Game ball: Jesse Winker hit his first career grand slam and his fourth home run of the season. Winker is 15-for-52 with three homers and 11 RBI this month.

Defining moment: The left-handed hitting Winker’s two-out slam came in the sixth inning, a towering drive to right-center, off Cubs left-hander Randy Rosario.It gave the Reds a 5-2 advantage.

Bottom line: The Cubs (42-30) dropped a game behind first-place Milwaukee in the NL Central while the Reds (29-45) won their fourth in a row. Cincinnati has gone 26-27 since its miserable 3-18 start.

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Game ball: Alex Avila, who was hitting just .108 with two hits in his previous 49 at-bats, went 2-for-4 with a walk and three RBI. His two-run homer in the third off Chad Kuhl gave Arizona an 8-0 advantage.

Defining moment: Ketel Marte capped a three-run Arizona first inning with a two-out, two-run homer.

Bottom line: The Diamondbacks (41-33) won for the seventh time in their last 11 games to move 2½ games in front of second-place Los Angeles in the NL West while the fourth-place Pirates (36-38) fell eight games behind the first-place Brewers in the NL Central.

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Game ball: Madison Bumgarner (1-2) returned to his familiar form with eight shutout innings. In earning his first victory of the season, the veteran left-hander allowed three hits and two walks while striking out eight. Bumgarner, who broke his left hand in his final spring training start, was making his fifth start since being activated from the disabled list on June 5.

Defining moment: With a runner on first and San Francisco leading 3-0, Eric Hosmer ended the top of the eighth by tapping out to Bumgarner.

Bottom line: With their third straight win, the Giants (38-38) remained four games behind the first-place Diamondbacks in the NL West. The Padres (34-43) lost their fifth in a row.

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Game ball: Luis Valbuena homered in the fifth inning and again in the seventh – his eighth career multi-home run game.

Defining moment: Kole Calhoun, who has homered in back-to-back games, connected off Toronto’s John Axford (1-1) with a man on in the fourth inning to give the Angels a 4-3 lead that they never relinquished..

Injury report: Scheduled starter Tyler Skaggs, the only the Angels’ season-opening starting rotation not currently on the disabled list, was scratched prior to Thursday’s game because of a tight right hamstring. Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez exited after just one inning because of a bruised right index finger.

Thursday’s best

Nolan Arenado, Rockies

Colorado’s third baseman homered for the third straight game with a two-strike, three-run shot inside the left-field foul pole off Steven Matz in the first inning as the Rockies beat the Mets for the third time in the four-game series.

Thursday’s worst

Carlos Martinez, Cardinals

The St. Louis right-hander allowed seven runs (5 earned) and eight hits over four lackluster innings as he fell to 0-2 with an 8.10 ERA since coming off the disabled list because of a lat injury on June 5. In those four starts, he has worked 16⅔ innings, surrendering 15 earned runs and 20 walks.

Quote of the day

“He almost threw away his shot.”
Cubs broadcaster Jim Deshaies prior to a commercial break in the sixth inning Thursday after partner Len Kasper shared his opinion that the Reds’ Billy Hamilton didn’t deserve to score a run after he crossed the plate on a Eugenio Suarez bases-loaded walk. Earlier in the inning, Hamilton froze and failed to score from second on a two-out Scooter Gennett single when he apparently didn’t know how many outs there were.

Photo of the day

Image may contain: one or more people, people playing sports and baseball

St. Louis second baseman Jedd Gyorko reacts to his throwing error during the Cardinals’ 11-3 loss at Milwaukee on Thursday night. (Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)

Stat of the day

Oakland’s scheduled game against the White Sox in Chicago on Thursday was the 36th major league game postponed because of weather this season.

Best of the Web

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