Money dominates season's first half

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NEW YORK -- Baseball heads toward the All-Star break with most teams still in contention for a playoff spot and more fans deciding it's just not worth the money to watch in person.

ECONOMY

AVERAGE ATTENDANCE: Down 6.4 percent through Thursday, even with many teams offering discounts to battle the recession.

NEW YANKEE STADIUM: Front-row seats empty at up to $2,625 each. Only sellout in first 42 games was opener. Across town at the new Citi Field (tickets top out at $495), the Mets sold out five of their first 42 home games.

FANS SAY: An Associated Press-Knowledge Networks pole released this week found 63 percent say the cost of a game is baseball's biggest problem.

MLB SAYS: "I would think we've been very pleased with the reaction of our fans, very pleased with the reactions of our sponsors," MLB chief operating officer Bob DuPuy said.

PLAYERS SAY: "I know the cost of building these megastadiums that we have right now, with all kinds of different forms of entertainment -- steakhouses within the stadiums, museums within the stadiums," Los Angeles Angels outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. said. "... With the economy the way it is in general, you're seeing people priced out of certain forms of entertainment."

COST OF ATTENDANCE DROP: The Chicago White Sox average attendance is down nearly 9 percent. They might not be able to make a trade that adds significant payroll.

OWNERSHIP UNKNOWS: MLB also has been dealing with the pending sale of the Chicago Cubs and loans to the parent company of the Texas Rangers.

OFF THE FIELD

DRUGS: Alex Rodriguez's February admission that he used steroids from 2001-03 and Manny Ramirez's 50-game suspension for use of a banned female fertility drug sparked outrage among commentators, but fans -- at least, Yankees and Dodgers fans -- seemed to have little trouble moving on.

ON THE FIELD

MILESTONES: Randy Johnson -- 300 wins; Mariano Rivera -- 500 saves.

PERFORMANCES: Kansas City's Zack Greinke is 10-5, 2.12 ERA; St. Louis' Albert Pujols leads the majors with 32 homers.

STANDINGS: Only three teams entered the first half's final weekend more than 10 games over .500: the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.

WILD CARDS: And 23 of the 30 teams entered Friday within eight games of a playoff spot. "If people are talking about wild card before midseason, it's got to be good for baseball," San Francisco closer Brian Wilson said.

CHANGES: Two managers were fired in May: Arizona replaced Bob Melvin with A.J. Hinch, and Colorado jettisoned Clint Hurdle in favor of Jim Tracy.

LOOKING AHEAD

JULY 18: Groundbreaking for the Florida Marlins' new ballpark

JULY 31: Deadline for trades without waivers

GOOD TIMES: Fox has earlier start times for weeknight October contests


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