The Astros are gouging their fans

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From the Department of Things I Did Not Know:

Major League Baseball does all it can to get recession-strapped fans
through the turnstiles, a day at 29 of 30 MLB ballparks includes the
option of bringing your own sandwiches, snacks, bottled water, soft
drinks or, in some cases, all of the above. That leaves the Astros, and
their stance on the matter is stated in their A-to-Z fan guide for
Minute Maid Park.

“Visitors may not bring food or beverage items into the ballpark,” it says.

was shocked to read that the Astros are the only club that does not
allow outside food. I was even more shocked at how pathetic the Astros’
justifications for this policy truly are. Owner Drayton McClane says
that banning outside food at Astros games “has been kind of a tradition
in Houston.” Yeah, it would take someone with some real power to change
such a beloved and time-honored tradition like that. Someone like, oh,
I don’t know, THE TEAM’S OWNER.

But maybe McLane is just a big
picture guy who was caught off guard by the question. Maybe there
exists some real business justifications for such an out-of-step and
fan un-friendly policy. Let’s hear from the Astros’ President of
Business Operations, Pam Gardner:

As for the Astros, Pam
Gardner, the team’s president for business operations, said the team
has opted to provide less expensive tickets rather than following suit
with other teams regarding food and beverage rules. “Our financial
model, dating back to the Astrodome, was dependent on a number of
revenue areas, including food and beverage,” Gardner said in an e-mail.
“We elected to make our appeal to fans in the form of a $7 and $1
ticket every day. I don’t think you will find many teams offering a $1

And she’s right about that. What she leaves out, however, is that according to the most recent Team Marketing Report,
the Astros actually have the tenth highest average ticket price among
all Major League teams at $28.73 a pop (the average, pulled up by the
Yankees, is $26.64). That represents a nearly 4% increase over last
year, despite the bad economy and the lackluster roster. It’s also
worth noting that the Astros sport above average prices for soft
drinks, hot dogs, parking and programs. So sure, cherry pick those few
cheap seats you’re offering, but you’re still charging people more on
average for their tickets and higher prices for the hot dogs and Mr.
Pibb you’re peddling.

What else ya got, Ms. Gardner?

also noted that the Astros’ relationship with Aramark, which operates
concessions and/or premium food services at 13 MLB parks, including
Minute Maid, “is predicated on their exclusivity on food and beverage.”

Actually, the article is wrong about that. Aramark operates in fifteen Major League stadiums.
And they have no problem working in fourteen that allow outside food.
Sure, I’ll grant that the seemingly powerless Mr. McClane might cave to
Aramark on this point faster than the savvy Peter Angelos in Baltimore
or John Henry in Boston, but he does have the tough and decptive Ms.
Gardner working for him, so I have to assume that if they really wanted
to push back on the terms of the Aramark deal they could.

A weak
showing all-around, Houston. Quit being cheap and let your fans bring
in a bottle of water or a peanut butter sandwich for crying out loud.

UPDATE: Red Sox sign outfielder Chris Young to a two-year, $13 million deal

Chris Young Getty

UPDATE: Ken Rosenthal reports that Young will receive a two-year, $13 million contract from the Red Sox.

Monday, 1:47 PM: Veteran outfielder Chris Young thrived in a platoon role for the Yankees this past season and now he’s headed to the rival Red Sox to fill a similar role, signing a multi-year deal with Boston according to Ken Rosenthal of

Young was once an everyday center fielder for the Diamondbacks, making the All-Star team in 2010 at age 26, but for the past 3-4 years he’s gotten 300-350 plate appearances in a part-time role facing mostly left-handed pitching. He hit .252 with 14 homers and a .773 OPS for the Yankees, but prior to that failed to top a .700 OPS in 2013 or 2014.

Given the Red Sox’s outfield depth–Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Brock Holt even with Hanley Ramirez back in the infield–Young is unlikely to work his way into everyday playing time at age 32, but he should get another 300 or so plate appearances while also providing a veteran fallback option. And it’s possible his arrival clears the way for a trade.

Marlins hire Juan Nieves as pitching coach

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This is not a terribly big deal compared to the rumors of who the Marlins want to hire as their hitting coach, but it’s news all the same: Miami has hired Juan Nieves as their pitching coach.

Nieves replaces Chuck Hernandez who was let go immediately after the season ended. Under Hernandez Marlins pitchers allowed 4.19 runs a game and had an ERA of 4.02, striking out 1152 batters and walking 508 in 1,427 innings. As far as runs per game go, that was around middle of the pack in the National League, just a hair better than league average. The strikeout/walk ratio, however, was third to last in the NL.

Nieves, a former Brewers hurler who once tossed a no-hitter, was most recently the Red Sox’ pitching coach, serving from the beginning of the 2013 season until his dismissal in May of this year.

In baseball, if you lose the World Series you still get a ring

ST. LOUIS - APRIL 3:  Detail view of the St. Louis Cardinals 2006 World Series Ring at Busch Stadium on April 3, 2007 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Scott Rovak/Getty Images)

“Second place is first loser” — some jerk, probably.

The funny thing about “winning is everything” culture in sports is that it’s revered, primarily, by people with the least amount of skin in the game. Self-proclaimed “Super Fans” and talk radio hosts and guys like that. People who may claim to live and breathe sports but who, for the most part, have other things in their lives. Jobs and families and hobbies and stuff. Winning is everything for them on the weekend at, like, Buffalo Wild Wings or in their man cave.

Athletes — whose actual job is to play sports — like to win too. They’re certainly more focused and committed to winning than Joe Super Fan is, what with it being their actual lives and such. But you see far less “winning is everything” sentiment from them. In interviews they talk about how they hate to lose but, with a little bit of distance, they almost always talk about appreciating efforts in a well-played loss. They rarely talk about big losses — even championship losses — as failures or choke jobs or disgraces of one stripe or another.

All of which makes this story by Tim Rohan in the New York Times fun and interesting. It’s about championship rings for the non-championship winners. The 2014 Royals — winners of the A.L. pennant but losers of the World Series — are featured, and the story of rings for World Series losers is told. Mike Stanton, who played on a ton of pennant and World Series-winning teams with the Yankees and Braves, talks about his various rings and how, even though the Braves lost in the World Series that year, 1991 is his favorite.

Also mentioned: George Steinbrenner’s thoughts about rings for World Series losers. You will likely not be surprised about his sentiments on the matter.

Wait, what is the non-tender deadline again?

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For the next day and a half you’ll hear a lot about the non-tender deadline and/or players being tendered or not tendered a contract. Here, in case you’re unaware, is what that means.

By midnight on Wednesday teams have to decide whether to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. If they do, the team retains control over the player. Now, to be clear, the team is not simply “tendering” the player the actual contract specifying what he’ll be paid. Think of it as more of a token gesture — a placeholder contract — at that point the team and the player can negotiate salary for 2016 and, if they can’t come to an agreement over that (i.e. an agreement avoiding arbitration) they will proceed to submit proposed salaries to one another and have a salary arbitration early in the spring.

If the team non-tenders a player, however, that player immediately becomes a free agent, eligible to sign anywhere with no strings attached.

Basically, the calculus is whether or not the team thinks the player in question is worth the low end of what he might receive in arbitration. Or, put differently, if the guy isn’t worth what he made in 2015, he’s probably going to be non-tendered.

MLB Trade Rumors has a handy “Non-Tender Tracker” which lists the status of the couple hundred arbitration eligible players and whether or not they’ve been tendered a contract. We’ll, of course, make mention of notable non-tender guys as their status for 2016 becomes known over the next day or two.