Cubs vs. Athletics at Phoenix Preview, Sunday 3/23, 3:05 CT

The Cubs make their last-ever visit to Phoenix Municipal Stadium Sunday afternoon.

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- In this morning's Arizona Republic, there was a long and detailed article about Cactus League attendance. Summary: the "eastern" teams in the Cactus League, primarily the Cubs and Giants, tend to draw better than the "western" teams, particularly the Reds and Indians:

The west side of the Valley has nine teams to the east side's six, but for the fourth season in a row, it will attract fewer fans. Hotel data confirms what a casual trip around the Cactus League suggests: The east side — and especially Scottsdale — is where the action is.

The East Valley and Scottsdale feature marquee teams, such as the Cubs and Giants, as well as Arizona's own Diamondbacks, to boost the area's appeal.

With the notable exception of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the west-side teams have a lower profile, often playing at fields in less-developed areas in younger suburbs.

According to Cactus League figures, East Valley and Scottsdale teams have averaged 50 percent more fans, an extra 3,000 people per game, over the past eight years.

As more development comes to the western towns and there's more to do there (one fan said of Goodyear: "I couldn't tell you what's in Goodyear, except the ballpark and the airport."), those teams might draw better, although I wonder about the Reds, who have only a few years' history in the Valley and whose residents tend to favor Florida over Arizona.

The Cubs, as you know, are likely going to shatter their own Cactus League (and all-time spring training) attendance record this year. However, what I found most interesting -- and you can see the numbers by scrolling through the photos at the top of that article -- is that the Cubs averaged 9,061 fans per game for the four years prior to this year (2010-13). That, of course, is due to several factors: the economy, weather not as great as this year's, and a bad team.

It's a cautionary tale, I think; the Cubs' amazing attendance at Cubs Park is not likely to continue at this level in future years, unless they win. The whole article is an interesting read and I recommend it.

Cubs lineup:

Bonifacio 2B, Lake LF, Valbuena 2B, Olt 3B, Kalish RF, Roberts 1B, Kottaras C, Barney SS, Coghlan DH

Opinion: you are going to see three non-roster guys today (Emilio Bonifacio, Ryan Kalish, Ryan Roberts) who have a very good chance of making the 25-man roster.

Athletics lineup:

Crisp CF, Jaso C, Lowrie SS, Moss 1B, Reddick RF, Callaspo 3B, Sogard 2B, Freiman DH, Fuld LF

The A's team facing the Cubs today is a split squad, although many of their regulars are playing in this game. We'll also see our old friend Sam Fuld.

Jason Hammel goes for the Cubs this afternoon. Also scheduled: James Russell, Wesley Wright, Alberto Cabrera, Arodys Vizcaino and Blake Parker.

Jesse Chavez gets the start for the A's. Also scheduled: Drew Pomeranz, Fernando Nieve, Andrew Werner and Dan Otero.

Today's game is on cubs.com with Mick Gillispie. It will be televised live on WGN-TV with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies, and you can also watch online if you have a MLB.TV subscription.

MLB.com Gameday

Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.

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's game, 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.

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