Open those wallets.

Do you remember a few weeks ago Commissioner Bud Selig asked the sports’ owners and general managers to be fiscally responsible as to be sensitive to the public during these tough economic times?

As unemployment spirals and prices rise, will the public be receptive to the sport’s shopping season?

Selig wasn’t telling teams not to indulge in the free agent market, but be cognizant and feeling to a public struggling to survive. He couldn’t tell teams not to spend because, after all, that’s collusion and the Players Association already won that battle.

Then the Yankees offered $140 million to CC Sabathia and talk about signing anybody not nailed down. But, this isn’t a Yankees’ rant, as they are only the poster child for the economics of the sport.

Mediocre players – read Oliver Perez – are about to make untold millions, and over the next few weeks teams will announce ticket prices for the 2009 season. Care to guess how many of the 30 teams will lower prices?

It’s not hard.

It’s easy to be cynical of Selig’s plea because he’s always talking about keeping salaries down, but he’s not about to throw his “best interest in baseball weight” around, because baseball’s best interest, at least to the short term thinkers in the sport, is today’s bottom line.

How nice it would be for the sport to place a moratorium on ticket and concession prices for next season, perhaps cut them five percent. That would be a gift to the public who always gives to the game, in both heart and wallet.

That won’t happen, because he can’t order a team to set prices. It won’t happen because he knows the players won’t take less.

It doesn’t work that way. Players are under pressure from the Players Association to take the best deal because it helps other players.

Sabathia, for instance was offered $100 million to stay in Milwaukee, but even if he were giddy happy there, he won’t re-sign and leave $40 million on the table. It’s easy to say, “how much is enough?” But, you’re not the one leaving money on the table, and the truth is, if in the same position you’d do the same.

It’s never enough.

Baseball doesn’t know the meaning of enough as it expands overseas with the reach of a poker player leaning across the table to pull in his chips. The players will get their millions because teams can afford it, and they can afford it because you always foot the bill. Whether it be tickets, or T-shirts, or watching on TV, the public always pays.

And, does so willingly.

21 thoughts on “Open those wallets.

  1. The frightening thing is out of the four stick-and-ball sports is baseball is the cheapest to take the family to. According to teammarketing.com to take a family of four for average seats and some food and souvenirs.
    MLB: $191.92
    NBA: $281.90
    NHL: $288.23
    NFL: $396.36

    To quote the title of a book Larry Merchant wrote almost 40 years ago “Everyday you take another bite”. At least I was able to resist buying some Shea Stadium seats. For now.

  2. If you want to say Perez has been inconsistent, I’ll go with that — but he’s not mediocre. According to Baseball-Reference.com, these are the pitchers he’s most similar to at their respective ages:

    Age 21: David Clyde
    Age 22: Scott Kazmir
    Age 23: Sandy Koufax
    Age 24: Scott Olsen
    Age 25: Frank Viola
    Age 26: Mark Langston

    If you go through the comps on that website, you’ll see the most popular names are Langston, Viola and Livian Hernandez.

  3. Dan (1): Every time you buy a ticket, watch the game on TV, buy a souvenir, read the paper, or even post a blog, you are in some way voting for the economic system in sports today. Everything stems from the public’s interest. It’s why they get the prices they do. It’s why the players get the salaries they do.-JD

  4. Delcos: Congrats on becoming a revolutionary!!! The Red Sox froze ticket prices. Its not a cut, but better than nothing.
    And even tho I usually defend OP, 55-60 is mediocre. However, I’d still rather have his young healthy self here than an over the hill guy like Lowe or an almost always injured huy like Burnett or Sheets.

  5. A couple of teams are lowering prices.
    Most teams are leaving prices the same.
    And others are raising ticket prices by a $1 (serious).
    And then there’s the Yankees, and Mets. Two with two new stadiums.

    John, why do you make it sound like its a bad thing when we watch a game whether on tv or live?
    If people really want to go to a game, they’ll find a way. It’s a form of entertainment. How come nobody gets on Broadway’s back for their prices (whatever they may be)?

    The owners don’t owe anybody anything. Its a business. Should pizzerias, shoe stores, heck even places like Best Buy, Staples, and Wal-Mart, make these type of sacrifices as well? Have the oil companies given a sht about the people over the past 8 years?

    At the end of the day its not a neccessity, it is a luxury and if you can’t afford it…. then don’t go. You don’t have to go. People have their priorities and if sports is on the top of that list, then there’s something wrong there. And you can’t really knock how that person decides to spend his disposable income.

  6. benny (6): It’s not a bad thing. I mention it because ratings are determined by how many watch, and the higher the rating the more the networks can charge, and hence, the more money the teams can get.-JD

  7. Actually Benny, if you’d go into most of these stores you would see they are discounting prices to get rid of stuff. When a company like Citi lays off 50,000 people but thinks its a good idea to spend 400 million on a stadium name things are totally screwed up.
    As for the fans, you’re right Benny, people can and should buy what they want. But Delcos’ knocking fans is his way. It keeps the adrenalin flowing and the comments flowing, just like how of all the mediocre free agents on the market, he picked OP to single out. He’s a shrewd dude

  8. Harry (8): Not knocking the fans, just pointing out teams get what they want because they know somebody will pay what they ask. Nobody is holding a gun to the head of the ticket buyers. They pay willingly. The pay what the market will bear. Teams charge what they do, and prices are set, based on the public’s willingness to buy. … When people stop buying, that’s when prices go down. Except, they never stop buying when it comes to sports. … Oh, and thanks for shrewd dude. I like that.-JD

  9. Harry (8), John (9)
    I leave you guys alone for a couple of days and now you’re calling each other cute names…….

    Seriously, I expect the national economy will begin to affect all sorts of events soon and I doubt very much if the Big Four Pro Sports will be spared. You’re talking about using what is loosely referred to has ‘disposable income’ and in lots of families it just isn’t there anymore.

  10. They only discount the stuff that’s discontinued. And you’re probably just noticing it more, those prices are just catching your eye but you best believe that the prices for everything else is just about the same.

    As of right now sports isn’t going to feel it. But they will, maybe within a years time. The economy is only going to get worse.

  11. Sports is feeling it. Maybe not baseball yet but The LPGA, has cancelled some 09 events because of no sponsors. GM has cut back a lot on sports advertising already. The NHL is talking about a lowering fo the salary cap because of diminishing revenues.
    Paul volker speaks to the MLB owners. what’s the impact? That is to be seen. The Yankees can’t sell all their luxury boxes. The red Sox can’t find new sponsors.
    And Benny, I think you are seluding yourself if you think only discontinued items are selling cheap. Anything that requires new credit is hard to sell.

  12. Harry (12) Golf is my game and I’ve been following the trials and travails of the LPGA – it’s tough to get sponsors even in ‘normal’ times, but now seems almost impossible, particularly with Lorena Ochoa as the Start – most Americans have never heard of her.

  13. Dan(1)

    I think you need to adjust by games played. Baseball may be cheaper per day than the others, but they take in way more because more go.

    The Mets had what one million people go through their gates? At 45 per person that’s a lot of sheckles.

  14. On OP

    I don’t know if I would call him mediocre, then again maybe he is. He is a slightly better than 500 pitcher which passes as a quality arm. However a sub 500 pitcher is certainly subpar.

    His ability to shut anyone down and implode against anyone does not make him the hotest of commodities. As I have said many times before. I think he is a number 4 on our team. And would compare him to El Sid from the 80′s.

    I want him on our team if we make the post season because he can make a difference there.

    The trick with him is to try and be patient to see what the market is and what his agent will accept, but I would hedge my bets and take a comparable pitcher early rather than wait on him and have no one.

    That probably means Lowe.

    I would stay away from Burnett or Sheets because of injuries. We do not need to strain our pen for year 4.

  15. On Prices

    I thank John for bringing this topic up again.

    He is right of course. If people do not go to the games they will have to lower the prices.

    Someone above mentioned that this is a business. Of course he is right, but it is also or at least used to be marketed as a family thing.

    You do not have any personal relationship with Macy’s or any other store. You may like them for whatever reason, but at the end of the day it is a store. You walk across the street and buy the same item and not feel guilty.

    How many times have we heard someone call John a Yankee fan as an insult because they did not like his comment on a player? Baseball and sports in general is different from a store consumer relationship. As such they owe us. Yes, I said it. A fan is someone who identifies in some way with the team. If they raise prices in the worst economic down cycle in this generation some fans will not forgive them and rightly so.

    The players should take a pay cut this year as should the owners. It won’t happen but they should. They are in a different economic position than anyone on this blog. All of them are millionaires. The players are on guaranteed contracts regardless of performance.

    If I dropped the ball like Castillo I would be fired. Pedro too. They may like him but after a few years of being injured and not able to come to work an employer would say goodbye.

    For economic self interest the owners whould all lower ticket prices say 10%. Not sure what to do about the players as they have contracts.

    Let us say Ollie gets his 15 million dollar 4 year contract and goes 3 or 4 innings a few times and gives up 5 runs. Will the fans who pay big bucks to get in ( including parking ), be entitled to tell him he sucks? Or should they be a good fan, pay their money and sit on their hands and applaud a pitiful performance?

  16. I don’t think W-L record tells us too much about a pitcher. Santana went 16-7 this year, but could have easily gone 23-5. And, on the flip side, I watched a most atrocious Steve Trachsel win 15 games a few years back.

    I’ll skip the W-L record and instead go with the composite of stats evaluated by baseball-reference.

  17. Steve Trachsel lucky season will be the poster boy forever for “proving” that W-L records are meaningless. His career rcord clearly proves his mediocrity.