The Orioles this season had their "lowest attendance" since opening Camden Yards in '92, hindered by a "miserable season of weather" and a franchise-record 115 games lost, according to Jon Meoli of the BALTIMORE SUN. The Orioles attendance mark of 1,564,192 did come over 78 home dates as "opposed to the traditional 81," as several rainouts "resulted in three split doubleheaders that helped depress the total attendance." The only sellout of the season "came with a crowd of 45,469 on Opening Day on March 29" against the Twins. The gross attendance was the Orioles’ lowest since 1,466,426 watched the '78 team at Memorial Stadium. The "per-game average of 20,054 was the lowest" since 19,792 in '82 (BALTIMORE SUN, 10/1). In Baltimore, Eduardo Encina notes yesterday marked "not only the end of the worst season in Orioles history, but potentially the end of an era," as the contracts of both manager Buck Showalter and CF Adam Jones are up. The atmosphere at Camden Yards was "one of mixed sorrow and celebration, a final opportunity to embrace a pair of key figures who helped bring winning baseball back to Baltimore in brighter days" (BALTIMORE SUN, 10/1). Also in Baltimore, Peter Schmuck wrote the Orioles after the '17 season "began to unravel" as the "reality of the looming free-agent exodus and resultant rebuild began to cast a shadow over the clubhouse" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 9/30).
BIG CHANGES AHEAD? In DC, Thom Loverro writes under the header, "MLB Needs An Orioles Franchise That Works." The direction the Orioles ultimately go "may not be decided by the Angelos family." With Chair & CEO Peter Angelos battling health issues, his two sons John and Lou have been running the team, but MLB officials "don’t see that duo as the future of this franchise moving forward." So the Orioles could "be put up for sale" sometime in the "near future." Baseball "doesn’t like business partners that take them to court -- it just isn’t done -- and they have clearly punished" the Orioles for "refusing to initially go along with the panel decision awarding new fees to the Nationals" in a dispute over revenues from MASN. The Orioles have "failed to get consideration in their bid to host another All-Star Game (they last hosted in 1993), their schedules have been burdensome and MLB bosses would like nothing better to have the franchise in other hands." The franchise is "perhaps at its lowest level." And they will "get no help from baseball climbing out of this grave that the Angelos ownership has dug for itself" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/1).
The Steelers last night drew a crowd of 62,030 to Heinz Field (capacity of 68,400) for their "SNF" game against the Ravens, their first primetime game of the season, this coming after President Art Rooney II in August said that he feels night games are a "drag on the team’s draw at the gate," according to Adam Bittner of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. A five-year sampling of Steelers attendance figures "seems to confirm" Rooney's suspicions. The Steelers from '13-17 "drew an average of just 59,938 fans for prime-time kickoffs at Heinz Field," which was "by far their worst performance in any of the NFL’s three primary broadcast windows." There seems to be a "pretty hard cap on interest in late matchups," as none of the 11 night games since '13 "managed to draw a crowd at or above Heinz Field’s current capacity of 68,400, or even its former capacity of 65,500." The "most popular kickoff time" for Steelers fans is 4:25pm ET. Games in that slot "attracted the five largest crowds in the five-year sampling, as well as a robust average of 65,754." Games at 1:00pm also "performed fairly well despite a few late-season matchups irrelevant to the playoff race dragging their numbers down." Their average of 61,715 "still beats the average for night games pretty handily." The Steelers "calculate attendance by tickets scanned rather than sold" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 9/29).
The NFL Panthers have "made an investment" in the area of mental health with the hire of Tish Guerin as Dir of Player Wellness, making her "one of the first in-house psychological clinicians" in the league, according to Jourdan Rodrigue of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Guerin said she wants to show the "benefit of having someone full-time on staff who the players can use as a resource," and hopes there will be "fewer issues or recurrences off the field." She noted the "hope is that anything that could have been taking them out of their head for the game (will be gone), because they’re talking to someone about it and working through it." Guerin "pitched the idea of an NFL team creating a position for an in-house clinician two years ago, to a contact at the NFLPA." Teams usually "hire out contractors with private practices, but Guerin thought having someone within the franchise would create more trust with players." She plans to "build upon programs that were already in place" under former Panthers Dir of Player Engagement Mark Carrier, but she will also "create new ones." She said that she "wants to foster an environment that’s 'open to being open,' and a culture that normalizes mental-health check-ins as routinely as player physicals." Guerin will also "work with players’ families as needed." Guerin said, "When people hear the words ‘mental health,’ they sometimes think ridiculous things. Mental health can sound very taboo. But what it is is working with someone so that you can work through all of your issues -- things that are frustrating you, bothering you. Things you’re thinking about" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/30).
CHANGING TIMES: CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported there was no "input from the ownership" before the team signed S Eric Reid last week. There was "no conversation about, 'Will you kneel, or will you stand?'" and no talk "about collusion cases." La Canfora: "It was actually refreshing to go behind the scenes and find out that it didn't take a lot of hand-wringing, it didn't take having to convince an owner, it didn't take anybody having to get on the phone with Eric Reid himself and feel him out." CBSSN's Amy Trask said, "Based on my experience in the league working with the prior owner, Jerry Richardson, I can assure that would not have been how this transpired, and I can assure you he would not have been signed." CBSSN's Adam Schein said that he asked Panthers TE Greg Olsen about the team signing Reid last week. Schein said Olsen said, "You're right. Old owner? Not the case" ("That Other Pregame Show," CBSSN, 9/30).
Comcast and Charter have been "trying since mid-summer" to sell their combined 12% stake in the Mets, but the "response has not been overwhelming," according to sources cited by Josh Kosman of the N.Y. POST. Sources said that Comcast and Charter, working through investment bank Inner Circle Sports, "hope to sign a deal before MLB's Winter Meetings, which begin Dec. 9." Their combined stake is worth about $250M. Sources said that the sale is "turning into a litmus test on the management capabilities" of Mets COO Jeff Wilpon. A source also said that the selling minority owners are "willing to consider a discount" on the Mets' $2.1B valuation and "should be happy" if they get a valuation of over $1.7B (N.Y. POST, 10/1).
GETTING THE BALL ROLLING: In N.Y., James Wagner writes the Mets "face a winter of uncertainty" with a vacant GM position after Sandy Alderson's departure. Wilpon said that the search for a new GM "would begin in earnest" this week, when the Mets will "begin asking for permission to interview other teams' executives." The Mets "certainly want to have one by at least the annual winter meeting" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/1). Wilpon said that he and Mets Senior VP/Baseball Operations & Assistant GM John Ricco will "conduct the first round of interviews" for the GM position. In N.Y., Mike Puma notes Wilpon "ruled out the possibility" that Ricco or Mets Special Assistants Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi would be "promoted to full-time GM." But Wilpon said that the triumvirate "still could lead the organization into the offseason, if a new hire isn't in place" when the MLB GM meetings begin Nov. 5 (N.Y. POST, 10/1).
HOT COMMODITY: In Boston, Nick Cafardo noted Blue Jays VP/Baseball Operations Ben Cherington has "become a legitimate candidate to run the Mets or Giants." Cherington is "ideal" for the Giants because he "combines modern analytics with scouting." It would appear the Giants job is "more in line with what Cherington wants, but geography may also play a role, as Cherington has a home in New York" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/30).
The Capitals will "raise their first Stanley Cup championship banner in franchise history before Wednesday’s season opener," and fans without tickets to the game are "invited to partake in the celebration from just outside Capital One Arena," according to Scott Allen of the WASHINGTON POST. The banner-raising ceremony and game against the Bruins will be "broadcast on the video board located on the G Street side of the arena." Wednesday’s event "ensures that there will be an audience of people rocking the red during 'NHL Live,' NBC Sports' pregame show, which will broadcast from outside Capital One Arena" starting at 6:00pm ET. As of Friday morning, the "cheapest tickets for Wednesday’s game on the secondary market started around $120" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/28).
It took new Flyers mascot Gritty about 36 hours to "surpass every other NHL mascot in Twitter followers," according to Kevin Durso of SPORTSTALKPHILLY.com. By the end of its first week, Gritty had "over 100,000 followers on Twitter and 48,000 followers on Instagram." Big things are "supposedly in the works for the home opener" Oct. 9, where Gritty is "sure to play a big part in the fanfare." Gritty's first week has "been an eventful one, winning over the fans of Philadelphia and traveling quite a bit." Gritty made an appearance on "The Tonight Show" with Jimmy Fallon, and closed the week by "going to the Phillies game and meeting the Phanatic on Saturday" (SPORTSTALKPHILLY.com, 10/1).
WE ARE ALL GRITNESSES: HBO's John Oliver said Gritty is "clearly the most fun story of the week." Oliver said Gritty is "horrific," and every single photo of him is "appalling." Oliver: "Gritty looks like the end result of the orange McDonald's fry guy hooking up with Grimace." Oliver's show then "aired footage of Gritty repeatedly slipping and falling on the ice," which elicited a "lol" tweet from the Penguins. Gritty "responded to the Penguins tweet with, 'Sleep with one eye open tonight, bird.'" Oliver said, "They're just engaging in some inter-team banter and you've gone straight to, 'I will murder you in your sleep.'" Oliver also noted Gritty has "already done a Kim Kardashian-style photo shoot," and someone has "already got an actual tattoo of him on their body" ("Last Week Tonight With John Oliver," HBO, 9/30). THE MMQB's Albert Breer in his weekly column wrote about Gritty for its "general awesomeness." Breer: "I don't know why they needed him, or where the idea came from, but somehow it was a total home run" (SI.com, 9/30). In Philadelphia, EJ Smith wrote "SNL" also "didn't pull any punches" while talking about Gritty in its "Weekend Update" segment. Colin Jost "had some fun at the expense of the polarizing new Philadelphia figure." It is "safe to assume Gritty has developed a thick skin, at the very least" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/30). ESPN's Elle Duncan said of Gritty, "Listen, it's September and we're talking about the NHL and, in particular, the Flyers, so I feel like they won. That's all you want, for stuff like this to go viral" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/29).
In San Jose, Kerry Crowley wrote the MLB Giants have a "roster to overhaul, money to spend and big-picture questions about the future of the team to consider," but until the franchise "hires a new leader of its baseball operations department, don't expect any significant decisions to be made." Giants President & CEO Larry Baer, Exec VP/Baseball Operations Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy all "didn't want to speculate about the future because so much will soon change." Baer said that he does not expect to use a search firm to assist in replacing GM Bobby Evans. Baer said, "We may have some firm help with the logistics but I think it's going to be predominantly, a lot of years in the game in this room" (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 10/1).
DIGITAL BLUES: In St. Louis, Ben Frederickson reported the Blues have "moved to a '100 percent mobile ticketing experience,'" which will "challenge older folks who have a hard time online." The Blues "insist they want those who are having trouble to contact the team." The team plans on "having employees stationed at the doors to make the process as easy as possible." Fans can still "go the will-call route" if they "refuse to comply" with the mobile tickets. The Blues said that they are "willing to work with fans who need alternative options," and that the "earlier fans reach out to the team, the better." In an "ideal world, this eliminates ticket scams and cuts cost" for the team (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/30).
TEAM PLAYER: In Boston, Christopher Price noted the Patriots recently "held their elections for union reps," and WR Matthew Slater was "voted as primary representative," while S Devin McCourty, LS Joe Cardona and G Ted Karras were elected as alternates. For Slater, it is the "eighth consecutive year he's been involved in the union, which makes him one of the longest-tenured team reps in the league" (BOSTONSPORTSJOURNAL.com, 9/29).