NEW YORK (AP) — Cincinnati catcher Tucker Barnhart could hear the difference at Great American Ball Park Eric Sogard Jersey
, one of six major league stadiums that set record lows for attendance this year.“It’s pretty hard to not notice it when you can hear the light towers buzzing,” he said.Major League Baseball’s average attendance dropped 4 percent to 28,830, its lowest since 2003 after 14 consecutive seasons topping 30,000.Baltimore’s Camden Yards, Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field, Minnesota’s Target Field, Miami’s Marlins Park and Pittsburgh’s PNC Park also drew their smallest attendance since opening as part of a ballpark boom. In a season of unusually cold and wet weather, 17 of the 30 teams experienced drops.Major League Baseball attributed the decrease primarily “connected to the historically bad weather we faced back in the spring” and noted the percentage drop decreased markedly after May 1.Total attendance fell to 69.63 million from 72.67 million last year and a high of 79.5 million in 2007. The average is down 14.4 percent from its high of 32,785 in 2007, the last year before the Great Recession. It had not been this low since 28,013 in 2003.“I think it is a concerning number, and a think a lot of factors go into it in today’s climate, particularly when fans have as many options as they have in where they’re spending their entertainment dollar,” players’ association head Tony Clark said.On-field success and attendance usually are linked.“When teams rebuild, it always has an attendance effect,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said.The NL champion Los Angeles Dodgers set a club record, Colorado drew its biggest crowds since 2001, World Series champion Houston since 2007 and the New York Yankees since 2012 — including a new Yankee Stadium record 23 sellouts.But advance sales were down for several teams that jettisoned veterans and went with youth. Under the five-year labor contract agreed to before the 2017 season, limits were placed on spending for international amateurs following restrictions that began in 2012 on amateurs who reside in the U.S. More cost certainty for controllable players may have encouraged more teams to rebuild at the same time.“If our system encourages teams to be either all in or all out, there are some things worth discussing and we look forward to having those conversations,” Clark said.The Orioles (47-115), White Sox (62-100), Marlins (63-98) and Reds (67-95) had among the poorest records, while the Twins had a losing season at 78-84.“People have a lot of decisions to make in their life about what they’re doing with their commitments and money and what have you. It’s up to us to give them something they want to embrace,” Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. “Attendance is down. It’s our fault, not theirs.”But the Pirates contended until late in the season and finished 82-79, yet fell by more than 450,000 to 1.65 million, the smallest for the franchise since 1996 at Three Rivers Stadium. Perhaps the cause was a lingering effect from trading away stars Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole the previous offseason.Cleveland fell by 120,000 even though the Indians won their third straight AL Central title.Despite a 90-72 record and third-place finish in the AL East, Tampa Bay was 29th in the major leagues at 1.15 million. The Rays and Oakland Athletics are the last two teams seeking new ballparks.“I know it’s a hassle getting to the ballpark. I get it. Even if we’d have won 100 games, who knows if it would have been different?” Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier said.In its first season under new chief executive office Derek Jeter Keon Broxton Jersey
, the Marlins drew 811,000 after trading star slugger Giancarlo Stanton to the New York Yankees, the low for a franchise that started in 1993 and the fewest home fans for any major league team since the 2004 Montreal Expos in their last season before moving to Washington, D.C. The Marlins said they changed their counting method to include only tickets sold. Still, the vast amount of empty seats is unsustainable.“That’s something we need to improve,” Jeter said. “Where we’re starting from, the only way we can go is up.”Bad weather played a factor in the falloff, especially earn in the season. The average of 26,867 through April was down 9.4 percent from 29,654 through the first full month in 2017. There were 54 postponements, the most since 1989, and 26 of them were higher-drawing weekend games. Manfred said 35 games in April had a temperature of 40 degrees or less and a quarter of the games were played in 50 degrees or under.“We got ourselves in a hole that I’ve never seen since I’ve been in baseball,” said Manfred, who first got involved in the sport as an outside counsel in 1987.Still, he knows changes in the sport and the audience have to be examined constantly.“All live entertainment is challenging because of changing habits,” Manfred said. September has arrived and there are now just four weeks remaining in the 2018 MLB regular season.There are 15 teams still clinging to some form of contention鈥攕even in the American League and eight in the National League.The AL West, NL East, NL Central and NL West are all still up for grabs with division leads of five games or less, and the NL West, in particular, is shaping up to be an all-out war with three teams separated by just one game.For now, just remember these rankings are fluid. Teams rise and fall based on where they were ranked the previous week. If a team keeps winning, it will keep climbing鈥攊t's as simple as that.Here's where all 30 teams stand:Updated Rankings1 Boston Red Sox (94-44)2 New York Yankees (86-51)3 Houston Astros (84-53)14 Chicago Cubs (81-55)15 Oakland Athletics (82-56)26 St. Louis Cardinals (76-61)7 Atlanta Braves (76-60)8 Tampa Bay Rays (73-63)29 Cleveland Indians (77-59)110 Colorado Rockies (74-62)111 Los Angeles Dodgers (75-62)312 Milwaukee Brewers (77-61)113 Seattle Mariners (76-61)214 Arizona Diamondbacks (74-63)215 Philadelphia Phillies (72-64)16 San Francisco Giants (68-70)17 Washington Nationals (68-69)18 Los Angeles Angels (66-71)119 Pittsburgh Pirates (66-71)120 Toronto Blue Jays (62-74)21 New York Mets (61-75)22 Texas Rangers (60-77)123 Minnesota Twins (63-73)124 Chicago White Sox (55-82)25 Cincinnati Reds (59-78)26 San Diego Padres (54-85)127 Miami Marlins (54-83)128 Kansas City Royals (45-91)129 Detroit Tigers (55-82)130 Baltimore Orioles (40-97) Teams That ImpressedBlake SnellJulie Jacobson/Associated PressIt's getting harder and harder to ignore what theTampa Bay Raysare doing.While they still have just a 0.4 percent chance of reaching the postseason, according to FanGraphs, there's not a hotter team in baseball right now.With a series win against the Cleveland Indians over the weekend, the Rays have now gone 10-2 in their last 12 games, posting a plus-27 run differential during that span.Ace Blake Snell just finished a brilliant August that saw him go 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA, 0.65 WHIP and a .131 opponents' batting average in five starts. The 25-year-old is now 17-5 with a 2.02 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 177 strikeouts in 151.2 innings, and with Chris Sale on the shelf, he's become the AL Cy Young front-runner.TheChicago Cubsalso kept things rolling last week with series wins over the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies, as well as a victory over the Atlanta Braves in a makeup game.That makes 10 straight series that the Cubs have at least split, with their last series loss coming against the rival St. Louis Cardinals at the end of July. That consistency has helped the North Siders maintain a five-game lead in the NL Central standings.TheLos Angeles Dodgers(5-1) andMilwaukee Brewers(4-2) also won both of their series last week http://www.brewersfanproshop.com/authentic-zach-davies-jersey
, as the Dodgers moved back into first place in the NL West, and the Brewers would play host to the NL Wild Card Game if the season ended today.TheChicago White Sox(4-3) andSan Diego Padres(4-2) both did well in the role of spoiler last week, turning in series wins over the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners, respectively.And all the way at the bottom of the rankings, theKansas City Royalswent 5-0 with sweeps of the Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles.Teams That DisappointedThearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesThree contenders saw their playoff chances take a hit last week: theSeattle Mariners(2-4),Arizona Diamondbacks(2-5)andPhiladelphia Phillies(2-4).Here's a look at how their odds shifted in the past week, via FanGraphs:SEA: 14.9 percent to 6.8 percentARI:54.2 percent to 31.7 percentPHI:44.7 percent to 34.7 percentThose are fairly precipitous shifts for all three teams in the timeframe of just a week, and that goes to show how detrimental one bad week can be when you're trying to chase down a wild-card spot.The Mariners (12-16, -40 RD) and Phillies (13-14, -19 RD) both suffered through rough months in August and might be cooked unless they can turn things around quickly. On the other hand, the Diamondbacks (14-12, +19 RD) played well last month and are hoping this is just a temporary bump in the road.ThePittsburgh Pirates(2-4),Minnesota Twins(2-4) andMiami Marlins(1-4) were the only other teams to lose both of their series last week.MVPs of the WeekHitter:Christian Yelich, Milwaukee BrewersStats:12-for-27, 1 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 7 R, 2 SBIt took the Milwaukee Brewers three of their top prospects to acquire Christian Yelich from the Miami Marlins during the offseason, but he's been well worth that acquisition cost.The 26-year-old is hitting .316/.381/.559 with a career-high 27 home runs, 81 RBI, 96 runs scored and 16 stolen bases for a team in the thick of the playoff hunt.His standout performance last week was highlighted by a six-hit game against the Cincinnati Reds in a 13-12 victory on Wednesday.On his way to six hits, he became the second player this season to hit for the cycle, joining Red Sox star Mookie Betts."You'll go through stretches when you're really hot and stretches when you struggle a little bit," Yelich told reporters. "You try to key in on what you do well when you're going well and what happens when you go bad. ... It's easy to say, but it's really hard over the course of a year to do that."It was the 321st cycle in MLB history, the eighth in Brewers history and the first by a Milwaukee player since backup catcher George Kottaras accomplished the feat on Sept. 3, 2011. Pitcher:Clay Buchholz, Arizona DiamondbacksStats:2 GS, 2 ND, 12.0 IP, 9 H Brent Suter Jersey
, 1 ER, 4 BB, 7 KWhere would the Arizona Diamondbacks be without Clay Buchholz?The scrapheap pickup has gone 7-2 with a 2.05 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 15 starts this season after joining the D-backs on a minor league deal in May after he was released by the Kansas City Royals.That performance has given the Arizona rotation a big boost in the wake of losing Taijuan Walker for the season to Tommy John surgery.The 34-year-old Buchholz made just two starts for the Philadelphia Phillies last season, and he really hasn't pitched at a high level consistently since he opened the 2013 season at 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA before missing time to injury.His out-of-nowhere resurgence will make him one of the more compelling cases of the upcoming free-agent class.After throwing seven scoreless innings against the San Francisco Giants last Tuesday and then five innings of one-run ball against the Dodgers on Sunday, he'll look to keep things rolling on with his next scheduled start coming Saturday against the Atlanta Braves.Video Highlights of the WeekLongest Home Run: Michael Conforto, New York Mets (472 feet)Not only did Michael Conforto launch the longest home run of the week, but he also hit the longest home run by a Mets player since Statcast began tracking in 2015.MLB.com noted: "Conforto got all of one against the Cubs'Jon Lester鈥攃rushing a 109.8 mph, 472-foot home run way, way out to dead center at Wrigley Field. With that sweet left-handed swing, Conforto surpassed fellow Mets sluggerYoenis Cespedesfor the team's longest home run since Statcast began tracking鈥攁 mark Cespedes had set earlier in the season with a 463-foot homer on April 24."It's been an up-and-down season for the 25-year-old, who entered the season with lofty expectations after posting a 148 OPS+ with 27 home runs in 440 plate appearances last year.While he's hitting just .232/.344/.407, he does have 20 home runs, and he remains one of the most promising young players on a Mets team that is likely headed for some roster overhaul during the offseason. Best Defensive Play:Albert Almora Jr., Chicago CubsThis is not the first time Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr. has delivered the defensive play of the week, and there's a good chance it won't be the last.The 24-year-old has turned in highlight-reel plays time and again this season, and he has a strong case for winning his first career Gold Glove once it comes time to hand out awards.For statistically minded people, his6 DRS and 4.3 UZR/150paint him as an above-average defender with plus range.For those who still trust more in the eye test when it comes to defensive contributions, Almora passes that one with flying colors.The play above is the perfect example, as he shows off the excellent range and exceptional concentration needed to pull in a ball that looked like a sure double in the gap off the bat of Lucas Duda.Must-See Upcoming MatchupHouston Astros vs. Boston Red Sox (Friday-Sunday)Justin VerlanderJason O. Watson/Getty ImagesThere's a good chance we'll be watching a preview of the ALCS this weekend at Fenway Park.With the best record and baseball and a 110-win pace, the Red Sox have been perched atop our power rankings for a number weeks.They'll welcome to town the World Series champion Astros, who won a big series against the upstart Oakland Athletics last week.Both teams rank among the MLB leaders in both offensive and pitching categories:OPS: BOS (.794, first); HOU (.759, fifth)R/G: BOS (5.4, first); HOU (4.9, fourth)ERA: HOU (3.13, first); BOS (3.62, fourth)WHIP: HOU (1.09, first); BOS (1.23, eighth)That's the type of balance it takes to win a title, and both teams have their sights set on just that.The two teams split a four-game set in their only prior meeting this season at the end of May, with the Red Sox outscoring the Astros by the narrowest of margins (19-18) in that series.Expect another battle this weekend.All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.