Digging into the BP vault, here’s Doug Pappas’ Q&A on MLB’s drug-testing and steroids policies (originally ran March 4, 2004).
The fifth installment of the series tours the majors’ largest division, the NL Central. Four of the six clubs in the division have moved into new ballparks since 2000, yet the one that’s virtually sold out for the season is the one that plays in a 90-year-old park built for the Federal League. The Reds, Brewers and Pirates are Exhibits A, B and C for the proposition that a new ballpark doesn’t ensure on-field success.
Once again, I shopped the clubs’ Web sites on MLB.com to see which seats a fan could hope to buy two or three weeks in advance, and how much a typical fan, or a typical family could expect to pay. That didn’t work for the Cubs, who were sold out three months in advance, but everywhere else, typical fans are likely to pay less than Team Marketing Report’s Fan Cost Index suggests they would.
Average ticket price: $26.08 (3rd in majors). 2003 attendance: 46.9% of capacity (24th in majors).
All season: “We’re Finally Out Of The Vet.” No discounts, but plenty of reasons to celebrate.
In the third installment of this series, I review the ticket options for fans in MLB’s smallest but most geographically dispersed division, the AL West.
If you’ve read the first two installments (Part I, Part II), you know the drill. To simulate the average fan’s experience, I pick a mid-week game, then shop for tickets on MLB.com a few weeks in advance. (I made an exception for Anaheim, choosing their next available mid-week series–since their next two mid-week visitors are the Yankees and Red Sox, I thought the earlier date would still be more representative.)
First I shop for my imaginary family of four, whose ideal combination of price and view is usually behind the plate and towards the front of the upper deck. Then I pretend that my imaginary family just won the lottery, shopping instead for the best available block of four seats (as determined by MLB’s ticket computer) anywhere in the ballpark. The seats available for the family of four serve as a rough proxy for the club’s season-ticket and advance sales. Then I play Stranger Visiting Town, looking for a single seat. My expense-account alter ego shops for the best seat available through MLB.com, while his starving-student counterpart heads right for the cheapest seats in the park.
Next, I scan the club Web sites for promotions that could reduce the cost of my hypothetical fans’ attendance, as well as unusual promotions and giveaway items. Finally, I write a snappy summary and prepare to start the process all over again with another division.
This is the second installment of my six-part survey of how much fans can actually expect to pay for tickets to major league games. I choose a mid-week game, then shop for tickets on MLB.com a few weeks in advance. First I look for a block of casual fan seats: ideally, four behind the plate and towards the front of the upper deck. These are usually, but not always, cheaper than the average price ticket used by Team Marketing Report to calculate the Fan Cost Index.
Then I repeat the process three more times. Twice I look for the best available seats, as determined by the MLB.com ticket computer–once for a family of four and once for a single fan. The seats available for the family of four serve as a rough proxy for the club’s season-ticket and advance sales, while the best single-seat option shows where a fan who doesn’t care about the cost can sit without paying scalpers’ prices. Finally, I look for the cheapest seats to find the lowest a fan using MLB.com could pay to get into the ballpark.
To complete the survey, I check the club Web sites for promotions that could reduce the cost of my hypothetical fan’s attendance, scan the club’s promotional schedule for unusual events, and put it all together in the form below…
Last week I identified some of the problems with the “Fan Cost Index” developed by Team Marketing Report. One of the biggest issues, TMR’s use of average ticket prices to calculate how much a typical family of four could expect to pay to see a game, has to be addressed on a team-by-team basis. This is the first of six articles that will do so. I’m starting with the AL East. My hypothetical customers decide a few weeks in advance which game they plan to attend, then shop for tickets on MLB.com. To keep the methodology constant, I’m ignoring any special knowledge I may have about a particular stadium’s seats, seating and ticketing policies, and relying entirely on what I can find on MLB.com.
Each year just before Opening Day, Team Marketing Report (TMR) releases the “Fan Cost Index” (FCI). According to TMR, the FCI “tracks the cost of attendance for a family of four.” This year, TMR says this hypothetical family’s day at the ballpark would cost an average of $155.52. The price would range from $108.83 in Montreal to $263.09 in Boston.
If this sounds high, you’re right. TMR defines the FCI to include two average-priced adult tickets and two average-priced children’s tickets–but also two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four regular hot dogs, two programs, two of the least expensive adult-sized adjustable caps, and parking for one car. In short, while it might reflect how much a family that decides on the spur of the moment to go to their one game of the season might spend, it far overstates the cost for most fans, who can easily eat before the game, sit in the cheap seats and skip the souvenir caps.
After the 1991 season, Commissioner Fay Vincent used his annual State of the Game address to declare: “The present salary situation is out of hand and small-market franchises cannot compete in this environment.” This in a year when the Minnesota Twins won the World Series, the Pittsburgh Pirates won their second of three consecutive NL East titles, and the Yankees finished 20 games under .500! In fact, of the four division winners, only Pittsburgh had even the third-highest payroll in its division. Toronto and Minnesota ranked fourth, while Atlanta ranked fifth.
As the owners and players jockeyed toward another mid-season labor showdown, the owner of one of MLB’s least efficient teams sought to set the record straight. Bud Selig announced: “The fact is, there are staggering cash operating losses in major league baseball today. …The enormous cost increase in player salaries is, by far, the biggest reason baseball has dire economic problems. Any charge other than that is clearly and totally unsubstantiated by the economic facts as they exist today.” MLB figures released after the season put the total of those “staggering cash operating losses” at less than 1% of revenue. In fact, player salaries had doubled since 1981. So had MLB’s revenue, as cable TV became an increasingly important source of income. Owners who reinvested their rights fees in payroll helped create a $300,000 gap between the major league minimum and the average salary. As the Braves and Pirates demonstrated, badly-run franchises could now waste more money than ever before.
In the wake of Commissioner Selig’s latest declaration that the 36-year-old Oakland Coliseum “cannot produce enough revenue for [the Athletics] to be competitive,” more attention should be paid to another perennial contender in a similar plight. If recent trends continue, the New York Yankees will soon need a new ballpark to remain competitive.