SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- Attendance is down at Cactus League games so far this year:
Snow, a full slate of rained-out games and even international baseball have disrupted the easy rhythms of spring training in Arizona. The 15-team Cactus League saw a record year in attendance in 2O12, with 1.7 million fans or 7,444 per game. This season, an average of 5,4O1 fans per game have turned out for the first 17 days of spring ball through Sunday. Turnout at the games is down by about 35 percent. The total attendance of 61O,357 though Sunday’s games was down by more than 33O,OOO fans compared with the first 17 days of last year’s season, according to a Cactus League Association attendance report.
The "snow" (it was described to me recently by a local as a "soft hail") covered the Diamondbacks' field at Talking Stick for a day or so before spring games began, and the first week was unseasonably cold. There's no doubt that the early start -- earliest ever -- and the World Baseball Classic have taken their toll on spring attendance. The Cubs are down considerably from last year; the fact that they had five spring home games by March 1 didn't help.
The Cubs have averaged 6,714 for the first 10 dates at HoHoKam. Seven dates remain, including the added date this Friday against Japan. Even if the Cubs average 10,000 for those seven dates -- and that almost certainly won't happen -- their spring average this year would be just a little over 8,000 per date, down significantly from last year's average of 9,580.
Tickets are still available for all Cubs remaining home games, although the March 23 date with the Angels is close to sold out. Spring break and great weather the next couple of weeks should help attendance all across the Cactus League.
The point of this exercise: At this stage in the Cubs' rebuild, they should think very carefully before pricing tickets for the new stadium opening next spring. They should take a lesson from Diamondbacks pricing -- Arizona's price range is $8 to $27, and they draw very well, while the White Sox and Dodgers, who price tickets as high as $45, are struggling to draw.
Other news of note this Wednesday, bad news first:
3B prospect Junior Lake has stress fracture at back of top rib on right side. Rehab 4-6 weeks.— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) March 13, 2013
Now, the good news:
Scott Baker is scheduled for Cactus League debut Sunday. On track for mid-April Cubs debut.— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) March 13, 2013
Valbuena 3B, Barney 2B, Castro SS, Soriano LF, Hairston CF, Navarro C, Soler RF, Maysonet 1B, Jackson P
Starlin Castro returns to the lineup after missing 12 days. Still almost three weeks to Opening Day; that should give him plenty of time to get ready.
The Rockies released this lineup early this morning:
Young CF, Rutledge 2B, Gonzalez LF, Tulowitzki SS, Cuddyer RF, Helton 1B, Arenado 3B, Hernandez C, De La Rosa P
However, later came this tweet:
Helton won't play today. Isn't feeling well. New lineup posted shortly— Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) March 13, 2013
At the time I wrote this post, no updated Rox lineup had been posted. I'll tweet updated lineups if/when they are available.
This afternoon, Edwin Jackson takes the mound for the Cubs against the Rockies' Jorge De La Rosa. Other Cubs pitchers scheduled today: Kyuji Fujikawa, Jensen Lewis, Carlos Marmol and Cory Wade. As he did last week, former Cub Manuel Corpas is scheduled to throw for Colorado; also on the Rox pitching list: Josh Outman, Rex Brothers and Wilton Lopez.
Today's game at Mesa will be a webcast on cubs.com with Len Kasper and Mick Gillispie. The webcast should be online and on the MLB At Bat app around 2:50 p.m. CDT.
For spring-training games, we'll have a first-pitch thread at game time and one overflow thread, 90 minutes after game time (because I know how you all like overflow threads!). For today, that will be 3 p.m. CT and 4:30 p.m. CT. These threads will not post individually onto the front page; instead, you can find links to them in the box marked "Chicago Cubs Game Threads" at the bottom of the front page. They will also appear in this StoryStream™. The pitcher box and regular-season stats will return on Opening Day.
Discuss amongst yourselves.