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Fixing a Whole, VI Here's
2002-12-03 14:52
by Mike Carminati

Fixing a Whole, VI

Here's a follow-up from the Elephants in Oakland:

No...we'd go as far as to argue that the nickel arcade needs to be brought back. Movies should be shown for pennies and emphasis should be on making quality entertainment, not reaching a standard demographic.

Case in point: Adam Sandler's Eight Crazy Nights. Not only does he try to get people to come to a bad movie under the guise of a Jewish Holiday Special-he puts out a piece of crap and gets paid close to $15 million to do it.

Your point about our problematic reasoning is valid. But you also contradict yourself, we think, when you point out player salaries not rising and falling with ticket fluctuations. There is no correlation. So, if MLB dropped tickets prices, salaries aren't going to drop.

The player salaries issue is a discussion for another time. Needless to say, unions and agents are the key issues.

We merely pointed out the slippery slope when comparing sports. Even though MLB is higher per game in cost, we're still going to plunk down $7 for a bleecher seat to watch the A's. Even though it might be more economically poignant to go see a football game. We're also going to get there at least two hours before the game to watch batting practice.MLB needs to do a better job of selling the game and less of a job of raping those who do show up. Most of the consumers don't realize it until the way home how much they spent at the ballpark.

Most people can't give a straight answer why they don't attend MLB games. Asking a few relatives over the holidays they mostly pointed to traffic, weather and cost. Well, if cost is on the list, it's a problem for MLB, not individual teams.

We even played devil's advocate and asked how much is too much. We noted how cheaply one can get to a game these days and suddenly there was confusion on most of their faces. "You mean you can go to a game for less than a movie?"..."What about the good seats?"..."Well, why would you pay more for those seats when you don't even get a decent chance at a foul ball?"..."I'd rather know where my seat is, though, not have to fight the bums in the bleechers for one."

Traffic still seemed to be an over-riding issue with most in our research. It is. Traffic getting in and out of a game can be a nightmare and makes the four hour pleasure into a bad memory with 30 minutes of standstill traffic.

This is California, after all, public transportation is for people who have to take public transportation. No, that's the best reason they can give.

In nearby Sacramento, the River Cats (the A's AAA team) regularly sell out games and have set attendance records the last three years running. These are the same idiot fans who go to NBA Kings games and don't seem to mind paying higher ticket prices. Despite the Kings having been voted as having the best home court advantage and the best fans, they are still trying to hold Sacramento hostage for a downtown arena.

The reason? The local media are constantly pounding the area with Kings this, Kings that. Try arguing the Chris Webber case with anyone. The Sacramento Bee has ran all of three stories on the issue when ESPN.COM has run at least a half dozen in the last four weeks. The front page of the paper, not the sports section, the paper, featured an article on Mike Bibby who is still rehabbing an injury and not even playing. Even the local talk-radio idiots slam callers who have a negative view of the Kings.

It would be odd if the fans came out for a year or two and then stopped. But the River Cats were horrible last year and the fans still came out in droves for what we term: "Minor league Baseball; Major League Prices". The concession stands are more expensive in Sacramento than in Oakland and you can't bring in outside food or beverages. On a night when the temperature is 95 degrees at 5:00pm, outside vendors can make a killing selling beverages to people standing in line to get in.

So if it's cheaper to go 90 minutes East to Oakland for a better caliber game, why don't they? Marketing. The A's killed themselves by letting the local radio and tv deals for the parent club go to the minor league club. You can't get an A's game on a local radio station, you get the AM Flagship station. The A's effectively cut themselves off from a large market of ad revenue for fear of forcing too much baseball on an area. Like too much baseball has ever been a problem.

The River Cats are just under the Kings as far as media push. You don't know who the River Cats are, with whom they are affiliated or what minor league baseball is about, but you know they are in town. Half the fans at the games have no idea what's going on until the third inning. The other half are waiting for a Kings game to break out. There's not a lot of education going on, though, and that bothers us. The box scores are limited in the local press and the tv highlights are, well, they're local tv sports highlights. Hardly worth thinking about watching.

We still stand by our conviction that MLB ticket prices are too high. We get more enjoyment out of a game, though, because; we've got our traffic plan down to a science, parking across the street in the grocery store parking lot and walking to the stadium, bring in our own food and beverages and only buy a program once a month. We print our own scorecards and don't buy anything in the stores unless we get a season ticket holder to give us their 15% discount.

Eh, if it's only money, how come everybody worries about it?


And it's not just the A's. The Giants have a lot of people going to games. However, a great many of the fans sit there with cell phones glued to their heads. Many of those seat-fillers are there because it's the place to be. All the money will be gone by next season. It will be interesting to see who has the kind of money to spend on season tickets in this economy. Sort of like the San Jose Sharks a few years ago. It's fashion.

If Dusty Baker can be their manager for that long and rarely get called to the carpet for some of his decisions, you know some of the seats aren't exactly filled by fans with clues. That's not a knock against most Giants fans in general. It's a knock on all of them ;.) (It's a BayArea thing-you can't like the Giants AND the A's and you can't like the 49ers AND the Raiders, but you can like or be related to their fans).

The Giants attendance is up, but you still hear the same arguments; "It's a hassle getting to the park, I don't want to be caught in the weather and it costs too much."

After a few seasons and when Barry Bonds stops being Barry Bonds the attendance will start to sag. See: Jacobs Field/Cleveland Indians 1990's. The Giants farm system is not in good shape, though, they have some above decent arms looming in the shadows.

Dumb arguments and cop-outs all around. Traffic is a problem here, but it's not that bad, especially when you can ride your bike to Pac Bell Park. The weather? It's CALIFORNIA. If it dips below 60 degrees at night people start to bundle up by wearing pants. It does cost a lot, but it depends on you value as a fan. If you don't understand baseball, $30-$40 for two people to go watch a game is a lot of money. But if you belly up to watch the game after 90 minutes of research, i.e. reading the paper $30-$40 is a great way to spend the day.

Mi respuesta esta aqui:

Interesting points. I live in New Jersey where the minor-league teams take a backseat to their high-profile major-league counterparts, and their prices are set accordingly. Being a lowly Phillies fan, it's unfathomable to me that the in Bay area, with two excellent teams, fans would choice to patronize a minor-league team. It's also amazing that a team that no one is aware of outside the Bay Area can hold the interest of such a large fan base. I can remember in the mid-'90s when Sacramento was still in the independent Western League. Now they are drawing about half the fans the A's draw. The fans had come to see the A's when they put together a great team in the late '80s/early '90s (even though they barely broke one million during their dynastic early '70s run). They stopped coming when the A's lost, but that's to a certain degree to be expected. But why not come now?

I think you're right that there is some sort of perception issue involved. The brand of baseball is superior in the majors, and the A's are one of the better major-league teams. The River Cats are a sub-.500 Triple-A team. You do get better seats at minor-league games, but better seats to inferior ball is still inferior in my book. it seems from your straw poll that fans have misconceptions and misgivings about attending an A's game. It's unfortunate.

Apparently these misconceptions, excuses, or whatever you want to call them started to crop up after the '94-'95 strike. I understand that there is plenty of traffic after a ballgame, perhaps parking is costly, perhaps the concessions cost more than at minor-league games (at least outside of the Bay Area), but weren't those things always the case? It seems that major-league baseball lost some of its cache after the strike. I remember fans rushing the field frequently after the player came back. In a 1996 World Series game that I attended, fans ran on the field on a few occasions and this was on the hallowed ground insode Yankees Stadium. Maybe those sorts of incidents have lessened (the Gamboa incident notwithstanding), but there still remains a general hostility toward the sport at least at the major-league level. Excuses not to attend or watch games (too slow, takes too long, too expensive, greedy players, greedy owners, greedy beer vendors, etc.) are now given expression. Oddly, fans do not seem to mind funding MLB's minor-league brothers though. They seem to think that it's outside of the majors

As for me, I would prefer to take my daughter to a minor-league game because you get more entertainment for your dollar. It's quantity over quality. Kids don't really care about the game. There are more activities between innings, and cheaper souvenir and concession prices mean that I can indulge her more. We went to a game recently and she got he face painted, some sand art, and met the team mascot, all for free. I've said it before, the minors put Bill Veeck to shame. Though I am a purist at heart, I think the majors can learn a lesson or two from the minors (as long as the shenanigans don't interfere with my enjoyment of the game).

They have to make the experience enjoyable for the average fan. First, they have to change people's perception and at least give MLB a try. That's a PR war. They can't erase the past and expunge the strike, but they can point baseball in the right direction. The first step is to rid the sport of the specter of Bud Selig. He won the labor war with the players. Great, give him his gold watch, roast him on Comedy Central, and let him fade into the proverbial sunset. His image is bad for the sport and it is well past being rehabilitated. Baseball did it before. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn marshalled up the owners to try and rid the sport of free agency once and for all in 1981, causing the mid-season strike. Kuhn was eventually replaced by master showman Peter Ueberroth. Kuhn was allowed to at least finish his term. But Fay Vincent after having the temerity to suggest realignment in the NL-what St. Louis and Chicago aren't eastern teams?-was summarily released (or at least forced to resign) even though his plan was obviated within a year due to the current three-division alignment.

Baseball needs to promote its players, its rivalries, its traditions. It needs to lose its recent history (the strike, labor struggles, and stories of high salaries). They are not going to lower prices, so they need to give fans more of a reason to come to the ballpark and swimming pools in the outfield aint it.

By the way, did I say that if MLB dropped tickets prices, salaries were going to drop? I don't remember saying that, but if I did it was wrong. Tickets are a source of revenue and they do have some bearing on the funds that a team has available for such amenities as payroll, but if ticket prices dropped, it would only be to maximize attendance, and thereby the attendant revenues. However, if attendance dropped and couldn't be stimulated by marketing or creative pricing, then revenues would be affected and then salaries would also be affected. Does that make sense?

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