Today's Names to Know: David Price, Jay Bruce, Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia, Tim Hudson, Eric Hinske, Carmelo, Chip Kelly and More.
This Rays situation is fascinating: The team clinched a playoff spot last night, but the stadium was only half-full -- about 18,000 (5,000 less than the season average).
The team's stars expressed frustration with the low numbers on Monday -- David Price griped on Twitter, Evan Longoria expanded on it. The debate went national:
Were the players right to complain? Were the fans (or non-fans) at fault? Is it just as simple as "The stadium location is awful?"
Then the team hastily announced that tonight's game would feature 20,000 free tickets -- a move they wouldn't have made without the players' comments (and national attention).
I'm of two minds about the move: On the one hand, it devalues the base of paying customers by giving away tickets for free; on the other hand, it lets new fans try -- hopefully some will buy.
I am a big fan of the Rays' management, and I appreciate the interest in creating a playoff-like atmosphere to help celebrate the team's playoff positioning. This freebie just seems...forced.
Here is the reality: The Trop will be packed for home playoff games. The Rays have a very good chance of winning it all. If they do, they should see a lift in attendance next year. Should.
Reds clinch playoff spot, their first playoff appearance since 1995 after a decade of sub-.500 futility. And they did it as dramatically as possible: On a walk-off HR, by part of the team's young nucleus (Jay Bruce). They may not make it out of the NLDS, but it is going to be a fun to watch long-suffering Reds fans get into it (and Aroldis Chapman).
Was last night it for the Padres? Obviously, things could change in the final few games of the season -- particularly since San Diego plays San Francisco head-to-head to finish the season -- but the Padres lost to the Cubs, while the Giants won (extending their NL West lead to 2) and the Braves took a 1-game lead for the Wild Card, winning behind Tim Hudson's start on short rest, which -- most relevantly -- sets him up to be able to pitch on Sunday in the season-finale (and would-be playoff-clincher) on full rest.
King Felix for AL Cy: Yet another quality start -- his 30th of the season (1st time a pitcher has had 30 QS since Big Unit in '02) -- and a win (his 13th) to nudge him over .500 (for Cy voters who care about those sorts of things). And he wants to pitch in the season finale on Sunday.
(CC is keeping it close: He won his 21st, while the Yankees clinch a playoff spot: It's not like Sabathia is a slouch. In a pre-Greinke-Cy Era, CC would be a Cy lock. But there has been a seismic shift in the sophistication of normally traditional voters; Felix has had the better year.)
MLB Awards Week: Evan Longoria is my pick for AL MVP, leading the AL in WAR while leading the Rays to what could/should be the best record in the league. (Tomorrow: NL Cy.)
Carmelo Watch: Apparently, the deal with the Nets fell apart. It is unlikely that the Nuggets will get a package as compelling -- certainly from a team in a city where Melo might sign an extension to go along with the trade. The alternative is that he leaves next summer as a free agent -- probably to the Knicks -- and the Nuggets will get nothing in return.
CFB: Oregon gives a 6-year extension to Chip Kelly, who has more than earned it. Oregon should be an elite program for the foreseeable future. (Now watch them go out and lose at home to Stanford this weekend.)
Economics: What happened at Cal -- dropping 5 varsity sports, including baseball -- is foreshadowing of what is going to happen at public universities across the country.