I'm sure many of you got today's mass-email from the Mets selling tickets, and as mentioned this morning the 15 game plans are on sale to anyone.
One reader has been trying to upgrade his tickets to a better location. Let me repeat, he....wants...to...give....the....Mets....money......
In December they told him he'd have to wait until after the deadline. That makes sense I guess. Well the deadline passed and he had to call the Mets. Shouldn't they be pouncing on this guy?
On today's call he was told the Mets have...not sure how to phrase this...basically if you didn't renew your 15er, your name is no longer linked to those seats. Again, fair and makes sense. They gave us two chances and we thumbed our noses, and now they are and should be trying to sell to others.
Lots of people have been asking my thoughts on this, so I'm blogging it.
The above describes exactly my experience with the Mets, and it's bizarre, although it's not new. I've been a season or partial plan ticket holder with the Mets for ten years, and I know that that's not as long as many other ticket holders, but the Mets have never been good at the relationship they have with the fans, so we shouldn't be surprised. Last year I had a ticket rep who I thought was excellent, and we actually met in person a few times, but she's apparently been promoted and no longer deals with my seats. In past years, the customer experience couldn't have been worse when trying to purchase tickets. So this is not new, despite the recent attention Mets Police has brought to the issue. And believe me, I know how difficult customer service is. I have more thoughts on the matter, of course...
I love Citi field. I think it's a near perfect temple to baseball, "Baseball as it Oughta Be," as we used to say. I also don't think it needs to be "Mets upped" - the Mets populate the field, so they are the natural center of attention. We had slightly obstructed views this year, but I actually think the tradeoff between proximity to the field and not being able to see one corner of the outfield is a good one. I love the food, and many of the tickets may actually be under-priced (although many of them certainly are overpriced).
Another concern I have is that few sports teams (much less the Mets) are considering the full impact of StubHub on the fans experience. Having full season tickets the last couple years, I have loved making it easier to get money back on games I can't attend, but I don't like going to games and being surrounded by Phillies fans, Yankees fans, or whoever. The majority of season ticket-holders, to my eye, are no-shows for the whole season. I don't know how this will change in the economy, but it's worth watching, esp. as the ballpark experience becomes less communal with all of the ticket tiers, club access, and so on.
We attended just under fifty baseball games this year, which is probably more often than we eat dinner at home at our kitchen table. But that's OK, because we love the food at Citi too. My TypePad userpic is a picture of Adriana and I at the game taken by our friend Tien, on our second anniversary date. I literally learned my reading, writing and arithmetic from my parents guiding me through box scores and the New York Times & Washington Post's sports section. It's heartbreaking to think that not only are the Mets driving a hard bargain for tickets (which is fair, as some sections are even sold out!) but that Mets ticket reps appear to not even be returning calls (and this goes back to December, it's not just this week).
A couple weeks ago over at the Baseball Prospectus, Colin Wyers wrote about the "Winner's Curse":
...forecasting baseball players is at best imperfect, so anyone—even a major-league team, which has both the most resources and the greatest incentive to get it right—will be wrong at least some of the time. As it turns out, when you make those mistakes in a player's favor, those are the times you're most likely to actually sign that player. It's difficult for us to quantify how exactly this impacts the market for free agents—remember, most dollar-value estimates of a baseball player's worth are based upon actual free-agent salaries. So if the market is distorted, the model won't be able to figure that out.
There are ways to figure out a player's value without looking at other free-agent salaries, typically through a marginal revenue product model, where you compute the dollar value of a win to a team and go from there. This approach is fraught with problems as well. First, we lack a lot of information about team finances that would be useful to know in such an analysis, and second, there is the problem that not all wins are created equal from a marginal revenue standpoint. As a result, you have to figure out a baseline for comparison; economist Andrew Zimbalist, for instance, in his book Baseball and Billions, figured marginal revenue products compared to the average player. But then you're left trying to figure out the MRP of an average baseball player. I don't honestly think that we're at a point where we can firmly attribute differences between an MRP model and observed salaries to an actual cause rather than a problem with model specification.
In a closed-bid auction (such as buying tickets, or signing free agents) the "winners" have to pay for something that they don't yet know the true value of, without knowing who thay are bidding against. And that thrill is part of baseball, but for the Mets to treat their fans this way has been, as I said before, bizarre. I am pretty sure that fans who want tickets (including myself) will end up getting them over the next couple months, but if the Mets went about this a little bit differently, the attitude of their biggest fans would be markedly different.
Update: Bill Simmons (nice timing!) addresses the decline of home field advantage in the NFL. If anything, I think the issues he raises affect baseball MORE than football:
It's also impossible to be a modern NFL fan at the stadium. Thanks to DirecTV, BlackBerries and fantasy, fans multitask on Sundays like CEOs. Wait, the Saints just scored; who got the TD??? There are 250 moments like that. We're constantly distracted. Once upon a time, when the Patriots were playing, that was the only game I watched. Now? I'm monitoring every other game as well as my fantasy guys and any wagers I would have placed if gambling was legal in this country. It's all-consuming. You can't do it inside a football stadium.
So it's a sacrifice in a way -- if we spend a day at a stadium we're giving up everything else we love about NFL Sundays -- but the fan/team dynamic has changed for the worse. Some die-hards still love going. Others don't love going as much, but they keep going anyway. And there's a large group in the "I like going once a year, but not eight times a year" camp. Combined with the different acoustics of the newer stadiums, road teams aren't exactly walking into a lion's den anymore.
The question remains: Instead of shelling out dough for season tickets (and in some cases a seat license as well), why not just put the money toward a killer TV and watch your team from home? Is it really better to watch a Pats game from the third deck, a million miles from the field, than it is sitting on your sofa in front of a 50-inch plasma with HD? You can even invite your friends, or rotate houses every week. Is it really that much of a dropoff?
And... one... more... Baseball Prospectus link. Here's Padres president COO Tom Garfinkel on the Mets approach to Marketing and Fan relations:
We actually cut our marketing budget this year. Instead, we’re really reaching out to the fans and trying to focus on what’s most important to them.
All the dollars we earn will be (reinvested) back into the team. There are no owner distributions or anything like that. So to the extent that we grow revenues back, money is going to be poured back into the team. Those investments will be in scouting and player development, baseball operations, and other things to help position us on the field for success in the future.
At the same time, we’ve made other investments in ticket sales and service. We feel that’s important to keep our fans happy and help grow our fan base.