February 14, 2006

The Business of Baseball

I'd promised this rant to Nate for a while, as it's been stewing in my head for a considerable amount of time. Since I'm struggling to get the wording right so that it doesn't come off like I'm a rich prick who doesn't care about fans, it took a little while. As you read this understand that I'm not rich, and I am a fan. But I'm also a businessman, and that is where I take my perspective.

I'm generally annoyed by the Natosphere's take on season tickets. Every time I read "I threw away my invoice for my 20 game package" it just makes my blood boil. The three main reasons given are these:

1. "The cost increase of a $1 a game is robbery"

2. "The cost increase of a $1 a game for the same/substandard product"

3. "The Nats are going to suck, so I don't want to give the team any money".

Let me start my rant here -- I paid for my 81-game package, and my seats are on the lower deck. Thus, my cost increase was measured in thousands of dollars, not hundreds. Since I own my own company, I buy the tickets for my customers and staff, and use a few with the Triple Play crew. So while it's something the company does
budget for, it's still smarts to pay a big jump. I don't have a whole lot of sympathy for those who are complaining.

Objection One: “"The cost increase of a $1 a game is robbery"

Price increases are the nature of the beast -- this is just what happens. Everyone likes to forget that baseball is, ultimately, a business. If you think anyone in MLB is doing this just for the love of the game, you're nuts -- and naive. Do you pay the same for gas that you did last year? How about food? Is your house worth the same as it was last year? Get over yourselves -- you're going to pay more every single year from now until the day you die for everything, including baseball tickets. If you want to feel better,
remember that I shelled out more than you did anyway. Feel good about that.

Objection Two: "The cost increase of a $1 a game for the same/substandard product"

Now, let's look at the product angle. Ultimately, the Nats on the field aren't the same team any year. I think every one is right in that this year, it's going to be worse than last. And this leads to Bowden -- I agree that the guy has made some really, really weird moves. However, unlike every other GM in the game, he has two things that completely change the game for him. The first -- NO OWNER TO INCREASE HIS BUDGET. Blame whoever you want, but ultimately, the guy is stuck with the budget he has, and no wiggle room at all. Second, he feels unable to make any long-term moves due to the fact that he has no long-term guarantees from the team.

Bowden, could, in fact, screw everyone who comes after him by signing multi-year deals. As GM, he has that right. He has, however, chosen to only take deals that don't restrict whoever gets the job next. This is actually a very honorable thing to do, as he's not restricting his successor. It does mean that for now he's treading water, but that's really the best he can do.

So, in keeping options open for the future, and not sticking new owners or GMs with deals they have to live with, he's limited to the kinds of deals he can make -- resulting in a lower quality team in 2006, but wide open options for business whenever the stupidity of ownership is brought under control.

Now, onto Objection Three: "The Nats are going to suck so I won't give the team any money". (Also known as the “I’ll show them” angle)

See my earlier point about baseball being a business. This theory implies that the fan, by not supplying money, is going to make a difference in the operation of the team. Let me bring you to some reality here.

Ultimately, fans are not really the business MLB/The Nationals/our new owner truly care about. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it's true. Sports make their money from corporations, who buy the much more profitable luxury boxes, sponsorships, advertising,
broadcasting, and all the other little pieces that go into a Major League team.

Additionally, the team is looking for growth. They are much more concerned about selling the 81-game packages than the 20 game ones. Besides being much more valuable in numbers, it's less work -- one purchaser rather than 3 to manage. That's 1/3 the overhead to manage it. So a price increase of $4 per game in the lower deck, to one customer shouldering the entire thing, is a much better profit margin than a price increase of $1 per game in the upper deck, spread across three customers (meaning three invoices, etc).

Let's also look at their corporate customer -- generally companies give the tickets out, both to staff, customers, etc. This 'quasi-fan', who might not go often, is likely to spend a pile of money at the ballpark, on all the little pieces, since they don't go often. Again, more profitable to the business.

Have some perspective on the business of MLB, and this all makes more sense.

This isn't to say that all owners don't care about the game. But as our friend Danny in Landover has proven, ownership is in it for the cash, not for the fans. If you want to truly feel like you're being used for your pocketbook, an overnight delivery company has their name on a stadium in Maryland you can drop your cash into.

So here's the business of this. I'm putting my money into the Nats, and I think you should too.

First off, there is the basic premise that before we didn't have baseball at all, and I'd rather have it than not. Thus, the cash machine must be paid. But more importantly, there is the business.

What we really want from the Nats is quality product. The way to get that is to make the situation viable for the owner -- and frankly, an owner that is making money is a good thing for us, and an owner who isn't is a bad thing. Whatever new ownership we get is going to have shelled out an inordinate amount of money for the team. In order for our new ownership to pay that off, the basics of revenue need to be in place. And frankly, the ownership is going to be stuck with whatever mess they are handed. (I'll point out that for all of you Bowden critics, his moves have one overriding principle -- no long term mess). The owner needs that machine to start returning money on his investment, and the part we control is the part that is fueled by attendance. Remember, the stadium debacle in the DC Council is all related to money. Everything in this ultimately boils down to dollars.

I commented earlier that the smaller ticket plans are not a core part of MLB’s business. That's true, but no business is ever going to turn down the revenue. More money in the coffers is a good thing for the business, and ultimately, good for the success of baseball in
Washington.

So swallow hard, renew your tickets and do your small part for better baseball in D.C.

41 comments:

Chris Needham said...

If you're trying to engender sympathy for having to pay more than us for your tickets, you're probably not going to get it with this audience. We get it. You pay more than us, so we're not worthy of whining. Great.

Not only is your business subsidizing your ticket (an advantage that us peons don't have), but I'm pretty sure that you're deducting the costs of those tickets as a business expense, further bringing down their true cost to you, again, another option that none of us have.

You have some good arguments in there, but the tone of the piece and the 'just suck it up and be a man like me' attitude is really grating.

Dave said...

Chris - As I said in the post, it's tough to not come off like a prick when saying this. I could have omitted the facts about how I pay for my tickets, and while it would strengthen my arguement, it would also be disingenuous.

I think Nats fans need to take a good hard look at the reality of the situation. You're right -- it is grating. But don't blame me, blame baseball. These are the priorities of MLB (and business), and I'm just laying them out for you. The collective Natosphere doesn't like to look at this end of it, but it's the driving force behind decisions. I'm the messenger since I don't think anyone out there is looking at this angle, and I believe very strongly that it's the most important element of decision making in baseball.

I will also admit that this is much more fun when Nate and I do it over beers, but alas, that's not possible here. If I see you at the stadium, I'm happy to do it in person, since tone is so much easier in person.

Nate said...

Dave is right about one thing. The collective Natosphere has not been shy about harping on Bowden, Tavares, et al for the glaring lack of long-term planning surrounding this franchise. But the fanbase has been equally shortsighted. The money we spend today is an investment in better baseball tomorrow. To be sure it's an investment that is rerouted, skimmed off and generally as valuable as Enron stock right now, but a long haul mentality has been lacking.

P.S. No beer for Needham until Soriano plays the outfield. ;-)

Basil said...

Dave, I think you might be reading general economic arguments into what might be more personal testamonials or, yes, diatribes. It seems like there's lots of valid reasons not to renew, from one's own perspective, other than principled bemoaning of inevitable price increases or a substandard product. I can't speculate what those may be for each person, but I do infer that many people signed up last year because 1) they're baseball fans and 2) there was something special and exciting about an inaugural season---and, aside from the not-as-exciting angle for a second season, people seem fed-up by uncertainty and the fuss attached to it. That's just the impression I get, though I could be wrong.

At any rate, back in October, I did do a post similar in nature to yours in a way on variable pricing.

[x] This not-a-blog-pimp disclaimer is a sign that this is a disingenuous blog pimp.

Dave said...

Couple of add ons based on the conversation.

Nate's right discussing the Natosphere -- and this is core to my arguement. The Natosphere is really hard on Bowden, Tavares, etc, about the lack of long term planning -- but don't ever acknowledge that they really aren't in a position to do long term planning. Bowden is trying not to make a long term mess for the new owners, so long term moves are counter to what he's doing. He (and in my mind, correctly) feels that he can't make long term moves since it's not right for the new ownership.

Basil, I actually had read your post on variable pricing. I agreed with you. :) I tend to agree with you that much of the moaning is based on personal testimonials. You actually make my point a little in your comment -- if they are baseball fans, they need to understand the reality of the business to know what game we're really playing here. It would be great if it was just the on-field piece, but if you want that you go down to the local park, pick up a ball and play for fun. MLB plays for dollars.

Nice cross site pimping. I agree with you on variable pricing -- it may not be something we like, but it's gonna happen, because this is a business.

Chris Needham said...

The money we spend today is an investment in better baseball tomorrow.

It's not though. The money we put in isn't going to a better tomorrow, it's going to line the pockets of someone who has no vested interest in the future successes of this team.

There are few rational economic reasons for most people to renew tickets. (I DID renew, but I'm pretty irrational).

Tickets are (and will be) plentiful to come by as the season drags on. Why invest in a ticket plan when you can just walk up for 99% of the games? Why invest in a ticket plan when you don't have to worry about getting tickets to the first game in Nats' history?

I'll certainly agree with you that MLB doesn't have to look out for individual ticket buyers, and that they're viewed as revenue sources more than anything. I'm not so idealistic as to not realize that. But the idea that we should suck it up and deal with that, even if there's no rational economic reason to do it doesn't make sense to me.

Just out of curiosity.... if tickets for the new stadium weren't going to be assigned on a priority basis and say a random drawing of all interested parties when the new stadium opens, would you still renew? Even if you still would, do you think most people would? What about if it were possible to get lower deck seats on a regular basis?

Chris Needham said...

The Natosphere is really hard on Bowden, Tavares, etc, about the lack of long term planning -- but don't ever acknowledge that they really aren't in a position to do long term planning. Bowden is trying not to make a long term mess for the new owners, so long term moves are counter to what he's doing.

That's certainly true to an extent. But Bowden notably made a long-term offer to AJ Burnett, for example. While it's true that he doesn't want to saddle the franchise (nor would MLB allow him), it's a bit innaccurate to say that he doesn't have a budget, and because there aren't real owners that we can't criticize him because he's doing the best we can. Not to turn this into a discussion on player evaluation, but the franchise would likely have more wins (and accordingly more excitement/fans/revenue) if they had kept Wilkerson, and used the extra money for a pitcher such as Jeff Weaver. Your argument here is a bit too much like giving him a free pass. I don't recall anyone in the Natosphere whining that he didn't sign BJ Ryan. We're (and making generalizations about a group of people is typically a stretch) a sensible lot, and we usually do take these sorts of things under considerations. I don't think anyone was asking for a FA bonanza or long term deals.

Yuda said...

Wow, this post may be the dumbest thing I've read all year -- and I've read some pretty dumb things this year.

You're, basically, suggesting that I should treat MLB as a charity. I prefer to use my charitable giving on, you know, *real* charities.

Beyond that, you've completely missed the reasons that most people that I know have chosen not to renew:

1. MLB is refusing to name an owner despite no good reason to hold back.

2. Jim Bowden is, despite your arguments, doing long-term damage to the future of this club: we'd have had Wilkerson for two seasons, and for less money than we're spending on Soriano for one. He signed Marbert Fickerson for multiple years, in a completely senseless move. He's lost too many young pitchers to waivers. He's traded what few prospects we have for mediocre, aging and injury-prone players.

You claim to be a businessman, and yet you don't understand that abusing your customers, raising prices and reducing the quality fo the product all at once is not a recipe for success. My suspicion is that you're not a very good one.

At any rate, this team will get my money when the team is sold and Jim Bowden is fired. Some jackass on a blog telling me how to spend my money certainly isn't going to affect my decision.

Basil said...

if they are baseball fans, they need to understand the reality of the business to know what game we're really playing here

But, unless Tavares pulls an Oakland A's and cuts off access to the top deck in the OF, people who don't renew do play the game effectively, or at least potentially so: as Chris notes, they can just walk-up or pay days in advance for tickets when they want and how they want.

So there's a certain middle ground available---they can still support baseball or whatnot, and I guarantee they will. But maybe not just as season ticket holders. What will be will be; I'm certainly not one to talk, living 100 miles away and all . . .

PS: Somehow I got labeled a Blogpimping Master. :-)

Dave said...

Chris:

I actually believe that the investment today is good for a better tomorrow. Investments this year in season tickets go on the P&L of this year, and I do believe that we'll have ownership this year. Thus, I believe it will end up being part of the new ownership's business, not right to MLB. They get their profits in the sale.

From purely numerical sense, yes -- you could just walk up and buy tickets. But there is something to be said about the way the sales process works, and season ticket holders are better for the franchise than walk ups, in terms of ability to market to them.

I don't mean to say that I think Bowden should get a free pass -- I'm just saying that the kind of deals he can pursue are unique across all the MLB franchises. He has a strange 'asterick' on everything he does, and thus he can't quite be compared to every other GM equally. Thus, he can't get a free pass, and he can't be equally compared to all other GMs, and I think that gets overlooked in discussions.

Dave said...

Basil:

There is a middle ground, I agree -- I try to be one to look for it. As I discussed with Nate when I was kicking this around, what bothers me as well is there is an element of 'group think' sometimes to the Natosphere, and I don't tend to share all the same opinions. I decided to take this issue from the other angle, and see what came of it.

Dave

Dave said...

Yuda:

Of course not -- you're paying for product. If you don't want baseball, don't pay for it. It's fundamentally that simple. But don't delude yourself into thinking that MLB is in it for the love of the game. You might be, but they aren't. Either buy baseball, or don't.

As for MLB holding back with no good reason -- I'm not sure how correct a statement that is. You have two crazy entities - MLB and the DC City Council. I'm not sure that MLB holding back as a bargaining position is crazy. I don't think I would do it if I was MLB, but I'm not going to sit here and say they had no reason.

I'm not sure I agree with you either about the long-term damage -- meaning, how long term. Will these moves be felt in 2, 3, or 4 years? I'm not sure.

And finally, I just won't acknowledge the attack on me personally -- you don't know me, and you have no idea.

Dave

Chris Needham said...

I can't see us getting new owners before the ASB, at the earliest. It'd be interesting to see how they do divide those in-season things.

I hope the criticism you're seeing isn't discouraging you -- I suspect it's not! :) Contrasting opinions are important, and while you think there's a lot of groupthink, I think a closer reading (which isn't always possible, I know) shows that there's a wider diversity of opinion than you'd suspect.

One of the things you'd doing though, is making a generalization and ascribing it to Nats Blogs. Essentially, what you seem to be arguing against is the 'MLB Owes Me' attitude. You're right to point out where that is wrong, especially from a (MLB's side) business aspect. But it does seem like you're also taking it too far, as if we owe MLB something. It's that owner-based sense of entitlement which I'm (and presumably) others are objecting to. It's not that we disagree that business considerations are important. It's that we disagree that we should place 'the good of the business' on our radar for reasons to make our decisions.

Yuda said...

Dave, if you don't want to be personally attacked, I'd recommend not personally attacking your readers. Just sayin'.

Dave said...

Chris:

I'm not sure -- it's hard to say when we'll get the owners. You're likely right that the ASB is when we'll see it. I think we'll have the announcement sooner, actually, with transition around ASB. I don't think it will make much difference this actual calendar year in terms of the team we see on field -- I think baseball operations will be where the changes happen.

No, the criticism isn't discouraging at all. *grin* There are lots of elements of 'fun intellectual excercise' in this.

You're absolutely right in that I'm making broad generalizations -- it makes more entertaining reading. And yes, of course I'm taking it too far. Reality is always in the middle. Particularly with online discussion like this, sometimes you want to make the statement a little bolder to make the point that there are other opinions out there.

Frankly, we don't owe MLB sh!t. There really is a base transaction -- if we want to see pro-baseball, we pay them money. It's not really more complicated than that. If they want us to buy tickets, they need to put something that we feel is entertaining. Notably, despite the chaos, they have sucked in a number of people in DC who are interested enough in just debating the details to be interested -- so from a business perspective, they ARE doing their part. You may not like it, but you're fascinated by it. "Are you entertained?" Apparently enough to watch.

Dave

Chris Needham said...

And yes, of course I'm taking it too far. Reality is always in the middle. Particularly with online discussion like this, sometimes you want to make the statement a little bolder to make the point that there are other opinions out there.

Certainly.... And you get us yokels riled up. ;)

I think the Nats were projected to get ~$60 million in ticket revenue last year, and I think MASN paid around $20. They are unusually dependent on ticket revenue compared to some other teams in their market size.

Another thought.... It seems like they're coming in below their renewal estimates, which is probably mostly from partial season ticket holders and upper deck sitters. If that's the case, I wonder how much of that was because of the increase, which PR-wise wasn't going to go over well considering the off-field circus. I had guessed last year that they'd be way down this year bc a lot of people bought tickets just for the opening game. I wonder if they've done enough research to be able to break out why they're below their targets.

Dave said...

Chris:

Hey, differing opinions are more fun. Nate chooses literature, I chose to shoot something across the bow.

I will go on record, which both Watson and Nate know, in saying this statement -- I bought my season tickets because I really enjoy going to games. I just love being there. It was less a matter of 'how good is the team'. It was 'how much do I enjoy the experience'. I freely admit that it's a better move for me to make it a business investment, and per my experience with my tickets last year, it was a great marketing tool and helped my business. We did a lot with those tickets that were good for the business. But is it the best way to invest my marketing dollars? That's debatable. :) But I love going to the stadium, and since I'm the boss, I get to make decisions like that.

You're right about the structure of their revenues -- it's not quite the way it should be, and I think there is something to be said about the wackiness of the MASN deal. As I've said to Nate, any owner of the Nats is really looking at a long term investment to get this under control -- it's going to take a while for this to really turn out to be a good business, because of the high price of the team and the concessions made to Angelos to get the team in place. The revenue model is going to be odd for a while.

I think you're probably right about the renewal estimates -- but I think that the full season holders are going to come in similar to last year. My personal experience tells me there isn't much wiggle room -- I tried to move the NTP seats just a few rows up, and was shot down due to the renewal levels. That tells me that at least in the lower deck, businesses ponyed up and renewed. I wonder what the comparison is on other teams -- do you normally have a lot of churn in the partial season ticket holders and upper deck seats?

Dave

Nate said...

Yuda, given the sheer amount of time you've spent over at Baseball Toaster and BPG, I think it's disingenuous to suggest that this is one of the ten dumbest things you've read all year. You and Dave obviously disagree, which is fine, Dave and I disagree regularly, mostly about the merits of Herbie Fully-Loaded, but you can't dismiss his point with an ad hominem attack.

Fans witholding their money at this stage of the game isn't going to impact player personnel decisions, ownership decisions, the quality of the on-field product, or the on-going stadium debacle. What it will impact is the perceived economic viability of the franchise. As a fan of the game of professional baseball in DC, the micro-economic arguments do come into play.

Chris Needham said...

I've heard (and assessing things by anecdote is always dangerous!) that it was fairly easy to move around the 300s, especially from the fringes to the center.

Prime seats are always going to be in demand, and I would imagine that there's going to be little turnover in those from year to year, especially in this city where connections/prestige, etc are just as important as, well, actually getting things done. I'd suspect that you'd have a hard time getting into the equivilent of the 100s and 200s at Camden Yards, too.

Ordinarily, teams season tickets seem to fluctuate quite a bit. Pittsburgh, for example, has seen their tickets swell, just because people want a crack at All-star game tickets. Those sorts of incentives are quite powerful, and I think that the new stadium is serving as the carrot in this case, too.

As far as MASN, I imagine that Reinsdorf was especially pleased at that. Given the high price of the franchise, and the ceiling on media revenue, there's no way this franchise could be run as anything but a middle market franchise. They (Reinsdorft, Selig, Angelos, etc) didn't want another Steinbrenner here.

Basil said...

Dave and I disagree regularly, mostly about the merits of Herbie Fully-Loaded

That's the one that had teh pre-coked-up version of teh Lohan, right?

I'm not even sure if you guys really need to reach the merits on that one . . .

Dave said...

Chris:

Agreed, anecdote is dangerous. :) The NTP seats are section 313, right behind home plate. (Note I'm not complaining!). We were denied on our request to move, but admittedly, we're already in the center. We're just 13 rows back, and while the views of the TVs are great and we're under cover, it makes seeing pop-ups less than ideal. But, we'll be in the same place for another year.

We're likely to see a drop in the percentages of season ticket renewals, but I actually think we'll end up seeing some good attendance numbers at the end of the season. Not much growth, but I do think we'll see it stay level. That's not bad for year two. We'll see a spike with the first year at the new stadium, and then have a new set of numbers to play with.

I think you're right -- and the business folks are setting it up to be a middle market franchise. Not necessarily a bad move, and it does make ownership plan for distance rather than quick bucks.

Chris Needham said...

You're pretty optimistic on the attendance. I'm curious to see whether the mid-season spike was a product of winning and excitement, or whether it was just the natural ebb and flow of seasonal attendance. Probably a combo of both. I'm not counting on another 10-game winning streak this year!

Dave said...

Basil:

Yup, pre-coked-up Lohan. See, I have this theory that Herbie: Fully Loaded would be highly entertaining if one was... .Fully Loaded. So I proposed getting just plastered -- like disgustingly drunk -- and watching the flick. Nate and Watson were just not up for it.

I will point out that I also made them watch Dukes of Hazzard, and we were all highly amused. We were made dumber for the experience, but we were amused.

Dave

Nate said...

Basil, Dave thinks it would be tolerable if you watched it fully-loaded, I think it would be tolerable if you watched it with the sound off. That's about the extent of the disagreement. :-)

Chris Needham said...

Maybe a fully loaded gun to take care of the TV Elvis style...

Dave said...

Yes, I actually am pretty optimistic about attendance. Based on the crowds last year, there seemed to be a lot of corporate outings. (My sense of things). Business is much better this year in DC than last, and so I think we'll see growth in this area. It's good for business, good for employee moral, etc. Despite my flame-o-gram, I'm generally the optimist at NTP. (I just can only take so much whining. :) )

Yuda said...

Nate: I disagree on two points.

1. I don't read BPG and I can't read Toaster, so, just sayin' and all.

2. Mindlessly supporting the team -- even now, in the pre-owner state -- suggests to the potential owners that the fan base is just happy to have baseball and doesn't care about the results. Down that road lies this club turning into the Cubs, and we don't want that.

Nate said...

Yuda:

1. Sure, none of us do, but we've all seen samples of their work. Much dumber than this on their smartest day.

2. I don't think anyone (other than DCN@B) is advocating mindlessly supporting the team. But if renewing your tickets is mindless support, canceling them is impotent obstructionism.

Reasonable people can disagree, but seeing as how we're not in a position to talk about good baseball versus bad baseball yet, we have to settle for baseball versus no baseball.

Carl said...

I'm not adding much new here, but I largely agree with Chris. I almost didn't renew my 20-gamer this year for reasons not outlined in the original post: last season it was much harder to unload unwanted tickets than I had expected, and I know I can get walk-up seats (and if flying solo, sneak into better seats) pretty much any time I want. When you buy tickets as a business expense, it's probably much easier to stomach not using the seats for a game or two. But for some of us, sacrificing $32 on unusable baseball tickets kind of bites.

Gifts of cash from family members for my birthday allowed me to renew after all, and I want to keep my name in the queue for seats at the new ballpark. But it was close for a while there. And what others have said about the investment/charity angle--I'd feel better about giving this team my money if I thought they were being wisely run.

A wary fan said...

So here's the business end of this. I renewed one of my two full-seasons, despite the 30% price increase.

First off, there is the basic premise that before we didn't have baseball at all. Well, actually, that's incorrect, since NoVa still doesn't have major league baseball. It does have single-A baseball. And a summer college woodbat league. And a major league team 40 miles up the road. Though I'll agree that it is a cash-sucking machine that must be fed.

What we really want from the Nats is quality product. There are two ways to get this - one is by withholding participation from the worst customer service operation in professional sports. If they continue to get paid there is little incentive to improve (some would call this the Cubs scenario). Another is to blindly continue paying, hoping that the operation will improve.

Frankly, the ownership is going to be stuck with whatever mess they are handed. Would ownership prefer a full house all the time? Of course, since in that economic model prices can be increased. That same model indicates that not renewing season tickets is also an incentive to new ownership - because it gives them an opportunity to oil the machine that returns money on the investment. Everything does boil down to dollars - and I choose to withhold some of mine. If the team continues to be the worst operation in professional sports, then I'll choose to not renew my other full season next year.

The team needs to fulfill its side of the unwritten contract between seller and buyer - it has to have a product with value. Last year I was willing to overpay heavily, since the product was new (to these parts). This year that newness is gone. The product's value has declined (particularly since prices were raised). So I'm buying less. If things continue this year as they did last year, then next year I'm buying less.

Dave said...

Carl:

I do feel your pain -- I have to manage 81 games. For last year, of our 81 games, I managed to account for all but 5 games. But it is work, and I found that the best way to do it is well in advance. I'm already assigning and allocating tickets for the summer. And of that argument, I would agree completely. If the actual cost of the tickets is the barrier to entry -- (The "I can't afford it" stance) -- then it's wise not to renew.

And "wary", I do agree with you -- the product does need to have value, and it's up to each fan to decide the value. I just don't personally believe that 'withholding' has the kind of impact many fans want.

Dave

Watson said...

I think 'withholding' your support has an on field impact as well. I think most players would say they play better in front of a vocal crowd that supports them. Some of the best in game moments are the situations where the crowd comes to life and you can feel the energy in the stadium. That energy is hard to generate in a three-quarters empty stadium. It's also not going to come from the lobbyists sitting behind home plate who don't know the score.

I can't quantify how many of the 81 wins from last year were helped by an enthusistic crowd but I'm sure the crowd effect was a much bigger factor than in 2004 when they played to an empty house.

I'm not advocating that fans have a responsibility to buy season ticket packages to help cheer the team, but when fans who already made the choice to buy tickets abandon the stadium they affect the players and their fellow brethren much sooner than when they affect the front office.

Those that abandon their tickets also free up seats to be purchased by fans of the opposing team. There's nothing worse than the visiting team getting more noise than the home team.

Yuda said...

I think I figured out why this article got under my skin so much: you're telling people to spend their own money on something you didn't spend your own money on.

I'm assuming your business is not a sole proprietorship. Given that, business expenses aren't, per se, coming out of your pocket. On top of that, you're probably getting a tax writeoff for your trouble. That's not going to endear you to somebody who has to think long and hard about whether or not they can afford the investment of a few hundred bucks for upper deck tickets.

Oh, and, for the record: I didn't throw my invoice away. I put it through the paper shredder. And it felt good.

Anonymous said...

My partners and I cancelled our 40-game 4 seat package. We were upper deck, and we couldn't get additional partners to allow us to buy lower deck, or get the Nats to sell us a 40-game package for the lower deck. (Implicitly, this makes the case for a new stadium, you need a configuration that allows more good seats.) It was tough to utilize the seats for mid-week games vs. also-rans. This year, we'll buy individual seats for games we cherry-pick and re-evaluate for 2007. BTW, far as I can tell, only 81-game plan holders will get any preference for seating in the new stadium. 20- and 40-game holders will only get preference for playoff sets (ha!). We will be maintaining our level of O's ticket buying, however: 2005=0, 2006=0. I'm forecasting a similar level for 2007, as well.

Dave said...

Yuda:

I thought I would take the moment to tell you that my business is, in fact, a single member LLC (and structurally the same as a sole proprietorship), so thus business expenses are coming out of my pocket. I could walk away with greater profits, or I could spend my own money. I spent the money.

As I mentioned in the comments earlier, I could have left out my financial status and actually made my case stronger, but in the interest of full disclosure I gave all the facts.

Dave

Yuda said...

Well, there's also the slight detail where I don't see how baseball tickets are a legitimate business expense for a technology company (or, for that matter, *any* company), but I guess that's neither here nor there.

Ultimately, as an LLC, I suspect you're paying yourself a salary. Did you reduce your salary to pay for the tickets?

(And, for the record, I don't think you have much of an argument regardless of your financial situation. If I think a company is putting out a bad product, the fact that I was formerly a satisfied customer does not, in any way, obligate me to continue buying the product)

Dave said...

Yuda:

And you are entitlted to your opinion. It simply differs from mine. The joy of owning my own business is that I don't have to justify my business expenses to you. I have all the documentation needed on how it benefits the company should the only group I have to justify it to comes asking -- the IRS.

Since that statement alone will likely not satisfy you, an example of some of the things we do with our tickets is that we service several not-for-profits, and in one case we donate tickets to their fundraising efforts, so that they can use them in a charity auction to raise money for the homeless. This strengthens the relationship between our two organizations, and we do our small part to help out the homeless in DC.

Again, you're wrong on a point. As an LLC, I can choose to take a draw, a salary, profit sharing or any other type of compensation I want, particularly since I'm a single member LLC. So, by simply saying "My profits were less", I've answered your question.

I would also agree with you that if you are no longer a satisfied customer, then don't buy tickets. However, that is not the argument against buying tickets that I oppose.

You're entitled to all of your opinions. I simply object to the 'you're stupid' argument that was used originally, and I object to making assumptions about my situation when you don't know what you're talking about. Just as I don't know you from Adam, you have no idea what you're talking about when you talk about my particular situation. I respect your right to disagree, but come at it from a position of discussion.

Yuda said...

Well, you've obviously missed my primary criticisms of your article:

1. You completely misidentified the primary reasons that people have chosen not to renew (those among the bloggers, that is).

2. Your accusations of groupthink have pretty clearly demonstrated that you didn't bother to read or understand any of the reasons that other people have for not renewing. Just because people have come to the same conclusion (in this case, not to renew), doesn't mean they got there the same way.

Ultimately, what you're saying here is "pay for this product, even though the price has gone up and the quality's gone down. If you do, they'll improve the quality in the future, really." If D.C. fans demonstrate they're willing to pay for bad baseball, then the owners have no reason to invest in a good team.

And, as a side note, as a taxpaying citizen, I'm effectively subsidizing your ticket purchase. The government has to raise funds somewhere, and every time a handout is given to a business like yours, they have to make up the difference by taxing people like me.

Dave said...

Yuda:

You really don't get economics then if you think you're subsidizing my ticket purchase.

The fact that I have a company, that creates 7 jobs, all of which are tax paying citizens, as well as supply health coverage, transportation, etc, and that we do charity to the community is a net gain for tax payers like you.

We generate more for the economy than any view of you "subsidizing" my tickets. Additionally, the government taxes the self-employed -- ME -- at twice the rate it taxes you, so take your high and mighty attitude to some other blog that cares. At this point, you don't hold a lot of weight with me.

I happily pay my taxes, employ my team, create jobs, and give to the community, but I'll be damned if someone will call any part of that work a handout.

Yuda said...

To begin with, you don't know at what rate I'm taxed. Further, claiming that the self-employed are taxed at twice the rate of everybody else is idiotically wrong. Yes, you have to pay both halves of your social security tax, but your income taxes don't change. And you get to deduct half of that social security tax anyway. (I have, at times, been self-employed, so don't even try to tell me I don't understand how the taxes work. I do.)

You'd be creating jobs regardless of the tax deduction for baseball tickets. You'd be adding to the economy regardless of whether or not you're buying tickets. The purchase of the tickets is in no way a part of your business, and therefore shouldn't be deductible. Period. You're deducting your own private entertainment expenses from your taxes. That's inexcusable.

Anyway, I notice you have no substanstive response to my actual previous comment. I'll take this as an admission by you that I'm correct.

Dave said...

Yuda, you can take it any way you want. I don't have to "win" some arguement with someone on the Internet to feel good about myself. If it makes you feel like a winner, you're distinctly welcome to it, and I declare you both completely correct and the winner.

Frankly, conversations with you are distinctly becoming a waste of time, and I choose to spend it more wisely elsewhere.

"Good day to you sir. I said Good Day."