October 2, 2008

And for 2009... we're choosing to be homeless.

As Nate alluded to in a previous post, the NTP crew has made our season ticket decision for 2009.

Like a great many other folks, we will not be renewing our ticket package.

I in particular have taken a lot of grief over the years for my pro-season ticket holder stance. (See "The Business of Baseball" and "Value of Investing in the Team") So this represents a major change in our thinking as fans and “investors”, if you will, in the team. An explanation is in order.

First and foremost, there’s just no added value in owning season tickets to the Washington Nationals. We aren’t in line for preferred seating at the new ballpark. Frankly, hanging onto our tickets from RFK didn’t get us where we wanted to go anyway, and at this point, we’re not looking to increase our investment to snag “better” seats than Section 223. At best, we’d be looking to continue our current spending, but there are better uses for our hard-earned money. The economy IS down, and justifying a big expenditure on tickets is much harder now than it was several years ago, particularly when there are other ways to get the same or better seats with less outlay.

The final straw was my experience with the Padres/Nats game on Saturday. Watson had the tickets, and was taking his family. Ticket price was $25 per ticket, and we sit in Section 223, Row L, seats 8 to 11. My wife and I decided we wanted to go, as well. So off to Stubhub I went, looking for seats. What did I find? Section 223, Row C, Seats 9 and 10... For $12 each. LESS THAN HALF what we pay for our seats farther back, and I didn’t have to reserve anything. Not a thing! Yes, it’s the Padres. But what this showed me was that I could see plenty of baseball, move around the stadium AND get better seats, for significantly less! How about buying a game in Section 104? Then one in 123? Then one up in 402? Then back to 223? Odds are we can practically pick the seats and still spend less than we’re committed to now, at least for 2009.

Now, let’s be honest. The Nats 2009 aren’t going to the playoffs. They just aren’t. The team has gotten worse — much worse — in the short we’ve been watching. I’m looking for a better season next year, but in the words of the immortal Jim Mora, “Playoffs? PLAYOFFS!?!”. So any though of purchasing tickets in hope of having first pick for the post season is folly. We’ll all be happy to be a 81-81 team again, and that ain’t getting you to the playoffs.

What’s more, apologies to Boz, but the Lerners aren’t spending any money. They aren’t paying rent! Say what you will about the stadium not being “substantially complete” , Mr. Lerner, but the city delivered a habitable, useable major league stadium, on-time and on budget. We know because we were there. You look petty — AND CHEAP — with this rent withholding nonsense. It’s bad PR, and when I’m sitting here deciding on my renewal, it doesn’t inspire me with confidence in your commitment to improving the team. Stan the Man may have the Plan, but I don’t see anything turning around fast enough to make 2009 much better than 2008. Certainly not playoff worthy, which is the prime incentive to secure a whole season’s worth of tickets to this mess.

Is the schedule worth it? Securing good seats for premium games? Next year, Opening Day and the last game of the season are both on the road. No special games there. Memorial Day — road. July 4 — home. Labor Day — no game. A 3 game home series with Boston might be a draw, but the annoying Bahstan fans factor is pretty damn high. Looking at the 2009 schedule, there isn’t much worth “securing”. No big first game in the new park. No Opening Day. No Closing Day. Can’t really say there’s anything here that I need to have.

And even if there was, the Nats aren’t even close to selling out the stadium. You can walk up and buy a seat anytime you want, and even with no planning, you can probably get better seats than you’ll get in a reasonably priced season package. If the ownership chooses to push the fans away by not even trying, well, I’m finally done rewarding them. I have every confidence that in a year or two I can line back up for season tickets and get as good or better than what I have now. With season ticket purchases dropping each and every year, the trend suggests that taking a year off won’t cost me any ground.

You need me more than I need you, Mr. Lerner. I can buy what I want anytime I want. You need me to commit to a season ticket purchase to help prop up your revenue base. Your corporate sponsorships haven’t appeared, the demand for tickets isn’t there, and you can’t sell those $400 seats. And now the economy is in the tank to boot. You may not have needed me in 2006, but you will in 2009. You’re in it for the cash too, Mr. Lerner, and I’m looking to get value. And what am I getting for my season ticket commitment? From where I sit, not much.

Thus, we’re not renewing. We’ll be at the stadium in 2009. I’m sure of that. But we’ll be there on our terms.

PS – Who am I kidding? They’ll make their money back from us on half smokes, Miller Lights and helmet sundaes. It’s not for nothing that MLB is a six and a half billion dollar business.


Chris Needham said...

What? You're not a real fan?

Wait right here! Let me get Yuda!


Dave said...

Bring it on! When putting this together, I believe my exact quote was "How long before Yuda gives me sh*t for this?"

Steven said...

Personally I never understood the appeal of season tickets in the first place. Half the fun of going to a game is the spontaneity of waking up on Saturday morning or leaving work and just saying, "hey, I'm gonna go to a ball game..."

For football, I get it. There are only 8 games and they all sell out. But baseball? Who can know whether you're going to be busy or in town or in the mood for baseball 6 months in advance? What if you're sick? What if it's raining? What if if if...

Also BTW--I don't understand why anyone would buy food at the stadium. You can bring your own, the one thing they do that isn't nickel and diming us to death.

Dave said...

I can't make my own helment sundae, and there really isn't anything like a half-smoke all the way fresh from the vendor.

But we can't do it all the time or we'd go broke..

Yuda said...

No grief from me, I'm just pleased to see you've seen the light. ;)

Dave said...

I can't say I'm entirely happy about it. This is something I want to see value in.

I'm dismayed at the handling here.

The Nationals Enquirer said...

>"I can't make my own helmet sundae"

Ah, but you're sadly mistaken -- you CAN make your own helmet sundae. That's the beauty of not being a season ticket holder for a crappy team -- you can pick and choose your games AND fill a backpack with, like, 5 helmet sundaes (and booze)...

An Briosca Mor said...

You realize of course that cheap tickets on StubHub won't be available next year as they have been in the past, since all those other STHers aren't renewing their plans either. Where do you think those cheap StubHub seats came from anyway? Unused season tickets that were held by groups, speculators and scalpers. From what I read, none of them will be renewing. Which probably doesn't bother the FO at all, because if the team starts playing well they'll be able to sell those tickets at single game or premium prices to all the formerly disgruntled fans who all of a sudden want to come to the games again.

Here's the only reason to buy season tickets: because you yourself want to go to either 20, 41 or 81 games. The season ticket lets you pay less than full price for those games, and the exchange plan lets you customize the dates you go to those games if you're only in it for 20 or 41. Anything else, and you're basically a part-time scalper/part-time fan. And unlike Boston or NY, DC is not an area where baseball ticket scalpers should ever expect to come out ahead in the end. It took four years, but finally people are beginning to realize that.

Mike Bowers said...

I am renewing, but moving from section 105 to the cheapest ($10) seats. I plan to hang out at the red porch most of the time anyway. The reson for moving to the cheaper seats was my shared frustration of being able to buy seats in section 105 for half price on stuhub most games.