Doc's Morning Line: Baseball is losing ground in our Republic of Cincinnati

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The Enquirer’s Bobby Nightengale writes, “The Reds, at their current average attendance, are on pace to draw 1.373 million fans in their 80 home games, which would be the lowest in Great American Ball Park history.’’

Reds attendance is lacking. This is news, even as it is obvious. It’s kinda like the radio weather person telling us it’s raining, as we sit in traffic during a thunderstorm. No spit, bubba.

Because it’s obvious doesn’t make it unimportant. If you’re the protesting sort – I mean the rare sort who actually follows through – it has to please you that some folks are actually speaking with their wallets this time. Whether it’s Reds or Bengals, this rarely happens. Idle threats rule.

If you’re the casual fan who goes to GASP to be mildly entertained, you also are pleased. I’ve seen ticket prices as low as $1 on the secondary market. Cheap seats can be had routinely for eight bucks. Take in your own water and snacks, spend $5 I think to park at the Levee in Newport and if you’re solo, MLB costs you less than $10. You could spend that on a Big Mac meal these days.

If you’re a big fan of the team, this should worry you. Low attendance isn’t always a call to action for ownership. Look at Pittsburgh. Look at Oakland. Ponder this: Baseball is losing ground in Cincinnati. It’s ground it might never get back. No one should be happy with the Reds declining fortunes. In many ways, the Reds are us.

You’re mad at Phil Castellini, and that’s fine. Don’t let your anger obscure the bigger picture. Baseball matters around here, more than in most places.

Attendance is based on so many variables, it’s not always easy to analyze. The Brewers draw better than the Reds because they’ve been more successful lately, but also because they have a roof over their heads when they need it. Fans can plan their trips to Miller Park in January and be assured of a game in July.

Clubs couldn’t predict $5 a gallon or 8 percent inflation. Both cut into the reach of teams requiring regional participation. Even if the Reds were competitive this year, they wouldn’t get as many families of four driving in from Wheeling or Ft. Wayne or Steubenville. Frills don’t make it in tough money times.

Is it possible that the sure-lures of bobbleheads and fireworks are waning? The bobble market has to wobble at some point, doesn’t it? Fireworks are like chocolate and alcohol. Moderation is good. What makes July 4th fireworks special is their July 4th-ness. At some point, if you blow stuff up after every Friday home game, blowing stuff up loses some of its appeal.

Smaller-money teams rely more on gate receipts than do their big-city brethren. Money from local TV and radio deals is vastly less in Cincinnati than it is in Los Angeles.

The cycle can be vicious. Lower attendance means less money. Less money means fewer signings and more defections, which mean more losses and fewer fans and less money and so on.

I’m not asking you to feel sympathy for The Club. Actions have consequences. I’m suggesting you look at this with wider eyes. It’s not “good’’ that people aren’t going to ballgames in Cincinnati. Not for any of us. The Reds are an institution, an asset that needs protecting. We’re better as a town when the Reds are good.

Now, then. . .

THE BEST HITTER YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF. . . unless you’ve heard of Luis Arraez. Dude’s like the last living mastodon.

Um, Doc. . .

I know. All the mastodons are dead and living in Jurassic Park. You know what I’m saying.

Arraez is hitting .345 now. That’s #2 in MLB, behind Paul Goldschmidt’s .347. Goldy is having a monster year. In his 12 seasons, he has hit .300 four times, only once since 2015. Arraez is a lifetime .320 hitter in just over 1,000 ABs.

If you’re old school, you have to love this guy, and wish for more like him. ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan writes,

Just as baseball cultivated a generation of players to hit the ball hard in the air, it should celebrate those for whom strikeouts represent embarrassment and hits -- of any variety -- embody success.

Yes. Yes!

Which begs the question: If what Arraez does is so good for the game, why aren't there more players like him?

Arraez's season shows there is room for hitters who don't obsess over exit velocity, and whose emphasis on contact defines their baseball being. But they're not going to replicate his success. There is no secret sauce to create players of his ilk. As much as he works, Arraez concedes that sometimes, hitters are simply born.

I don’t buy that completely. OGs might recall Matty Alou. Lookimup, kids. Matty was one of three ballplaying Alous, the others being Felipe and Jesus. Matty was a skinny guy trying to hit homers. The Pirates had a hitting coach named Harry Walker who in 1966. . .

1966, Doc?

. . . in 1966 taught Alou to slap instead of slug. Hit the ball where it was pitched, go the other way etc. etc. In ’65, Alou batted .231. In ’66, he hit .342 and won the batting title. In ’69, he collected an astonishing 231 hits.

It can be done.

KAEPERNICK SHOULD HAVE SAID HE WAS PRAYING. AP:

The Supreme Court on Monday sided with a former high school football coach who lost his job for offering prayers at the 50-yard line after games despite objections from the school district that students felt compelled to take part.

The Court held that the coach's prayers were a form of private speech, protected by the First Amendment.

Well.

Colin Kaepernick didn’t get fired for kneeling during the Anthem, at least not technically. But his actions effectively ended his career. The message: Expression is free only when we agree with what is being expressed.

Let hypocrisy ring.

THE KID DOWN THE HALL IS GETTING MARRIED again. The first time was last October, outside a Brooklyn establishment. It was legal and official. I sat in a folding chair and drank a beer as Kelly and his bride offered their vows. It was outstanding.

This time, it’s formal, ceremonial and celebratory. Kelly is (re)marrying the same young lady. She has Indian roots. Her parents were born there. The three-day celebration starts Friday. TML will do the heretofore unthinkable: Wear a suit three days in a row. Two American-style suits, one traditional Indian model.

The process of Wedding II has been fascinating. The garb, the traditions, the people we’ve met. The food. Indian food rocks. It all culminates this weekend. J. Thinwallet doesn’t love the expenses involved. He does love the love.

It’s a little like going to the Olympics and spending three weeks in a foreign city. You learn that people are people. They look different, they speak a different language. Their dreams are the same. What’s in their hearts is no different than what’s in ours.

So happy for Kelly and Ruby. So happy to be part of a new, extended family with members who can open my eyes to new thoughts, beliefs and possibilities.

TUNE O’ THE DAY. . . Day 2 of Desert Island Songs. Stop me if you’ve heard me say this before. This is simply the finest rock-n-roll tune ever made. Just the right amount of menace, a perfect guitar break, and Merry Clayton’s shattering wail. After listening to this, I really do believe the storm is threat-nin’ my very life today.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Reds baseball attendance shows MLB losing ground in Cincinnati