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Posts Tagged ‘Washington Nationals’

It seems the Pittsburgh Pirates cannot do anything right.  Faced with brutal ticket sales for an upcoming series against the lowly Nationals, the Bucs marketing department came up with a “You Score As The Bucs Score” campaign.  I do not know about you, but I would rather have my “scoring” tied to something other than the Pirates offense, which ranks thirteenth in that National League.  Either way, the point of the promotion was that for each run the Pirates scored in their weekend series against the Diamondbacks, fans would receive $1 off of a $24 dollar ticket to a game against the Nationals. 

While they did bust out in game one, scoring ten runs, they were shutout the next two games by Doug Davis and Max Scherzer.  This left fans with a $10 discount to a game of their choice versus the Nats.  I think this is a slap in the face to the fans.  Pittsburgh is only averaging 19,074 fans per game, which is fewer than 50% of their capacity.  I understand that their ticket sales against the Nationals are going to be brutal, but the fact is they are not going to sell out against ANYONE.  Why make the promotion available only for a game against the worst team in the league?  You are not going to lose any revenue if you offer the promotion for the series’ against Arizona or St. Louis that are coming up.  You are putting a crappy product on the field; at least let your fans see a good visiting ball team for a discounted price. 

Also, why tie the promotion to your little league offence?  You know they are not going to score many runs, and the promotion will probably just tick fans off.  Why not make it something like $5 off for every hit Freddy Sanchez gets, $4 off for each strikeout Paul Maholm gets, or get a free ticket if Matt Capps serves up a home run.  Ok, maybe the last one is not the best idea. 

The first point I am trying to make is that organizational mediocrity is contagious, and spreads from baseball operations.  Poor performance on the field leads to terrible promotional ideas like this.  If you put a winning team on the field, you do not have to worry about embarrassing yourself with promotional campaigns like this.  The second point is give your fans something they want.  No amount of a discount is going to make someone excited about watching a meaningless Pirates-Nationals contest.  Baseball is a business like anything else, and people do not buy something they do not want just because it is discounted.  Pride.  Passion.  Pittsburgh Pirates.  Maybe twenty years ago.

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Joel Hanrahan picked up a win today despite the fact that his team, the Pirates, was not even playing.  This is because his old team, the Nationals, finished an extra innings game from May 5th versus the Astros. 

In that game, Hanrahan pitched a scoreless top of the 11th inning.  The game was then suspended and to be made up at a later date.  The date was yesterday, and the Nationals won the game in the bottom of the 11th.  Since Hanrahan was the last pitcher for the Nationals, he was credited with the victory.  It was his only victory of the year, and improved his record to 1-3.

Do not expect to see this again anytime soon.  Yet another reason why baseball is such a great sport to follow.

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Last Wednesday Rob Neyer of EPSN linked to my article regarding trading draft picks in Major League Baseball.  What followed were a couple spirited arguments against the idea, which I would like to take the time to rebuttal.

The first argument was that with such a large draft board, it would be impossible for teams to track all of the players they want if teams around them were making trades.  This is true to a certain extent, and I believe it would be prudent to limit trades to the first five rounds.  First of all, GM’s have better things to do with their time than swap a couple of 40th round picks.  However, it is not too much to ask for the first five rounds, as the NHL and NFL both have trades this late in the draft.  It would help add the flair that the draft lacks while not bogging it down with tons of trades.   

Another person argued that the draft should be done away with altogether, and all amateur players should be treated as free agents like they are in South America.  I am against this 100%.  As much as the draft does have problems, it helps bring a competitive balance to the game.  If it was not for the draft, the Nationals would never in a million years have the opportunity to bring a player of Strasburg’s calibre into their franchise.  The perfect example of how the draft can turn around a franchise is the Tampa Bay Rays.  Without the draft, the Rays never would have had the opportunity to have players like Carl Crawford, Delmon Young (who they turned into Matt Garza), Evan Longoria, and David Price, who were all instrumental in last year’s success, and important parts of the team’s future.   

My final comment on the issue is economical in nature.  Giving teams the ability to trade draft picks would create a true free market, which is where assets are utilized to their full potential.  Draft picks can be considered commodities or natural resources, and teams are being forced to use them, even if they are not being used optimally.  Imagine a world where the Canadian Prairies were forced to hold onto all of their agricultural resources, or Japan was not allowed to import oil.  Does not make sense does it?  Teams are being forced to refine these natural resources into finished products before they can trade them, and this is just not the way the world operates.

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The current economic recession has proven that professional sports are not immune to swings in the economy.  Every team has their own personal attendance pattern based on the success of the team, success of other professional sports team in the city, new ballparks, and a myriad of other factors.  However, it has been a long time since we have seen essentially every team suffer a simultaneous drop in attendance.  So far this year, MLB games are averaging 29,082 fans per game, which is about 66% of capacity.  This is down from the past two seasons, which averaged 32,516 (72% capacity) and 32,770 (72% capacity) respectively.  Not only is this a 12% drop in the number of bodies in the ballpark, but an even greater decrease in revenues.  It is the premium seats and corporate boxes that are going unsold, which are a main source of revenue for major league teams. 

Two of the main offenders are the Yankees and Mets, which is especially curious considering teams that build new ballparks generally realize an increase in attendance, known as the Honeymoon period.  However, these teams gravely overestimated how much fans would be willing to pay to watch a ball game, which has led to entire empty sections.  The Yankees are down 8,500 per game, while the Mets have suffered a 4,500 decrease per game. 

While this decrease in attendance probably will not deter the free-spending New Yorkers, there is another team that is in much bigger trouble.  The Detroit Tigers have seen their attendance plummet to 28,126 from 39,538 only a year ago.  The demise of the auto manufacturer’s has hit the Detroit area very hard, and even the best team in hockey, the Red Wings, are not immune to attendance problems.  With one of the highest payrolls in baseball, I would not be surprised to see owner Mike Ilitch shed some salary this summer.  This is very unfortunate as the Tigers have come out strong this season, and are leading the AL Central by 1.5 games.

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Some other teams of note:

Washington Nationals: Down 8,300

Atlanta Braves: Down 6,800

Houston Astros: Down 5,700

Colorado Rockies: Down 5,500

However, I am not all about doom and gloom here at MLB Insights.  The World Champion Philadelphia Phillies are up 1,200 for obvious reasons.  The bandwagon is filling up in Kansas City with the Royals averaging an extra 2,400 per game, although this should regress amidst the teams eight game losing streak.  Strong performances in the Lonestar state have led to a 2,800 per game increase for the Rangers.  It would be great to see that franchise finally win a playoff series and shed the stench of the A-Rod contract.

We can only hope that the economy is on the road to recovery and fans are able to once again afford tickets to the sport they love.  If we can take one positive from this, it is that other than the Yankees, the recession helped bring free agent contracts back under control.  Only in 2008 would the guy who broke the single season saves record get $12 million per year, not a whole lot more than BJ Ryan got two years prior.

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