The Astros are gouging their fans

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From the Department of Things I Did Not Know:

As
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.

I
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
ticket.”

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?

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.

Evan Gattis undergoes surgery for hernia; recovery is 4-6 weeks

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Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle shares the bad news

One of the Astros’ big bats won’t be taking hacks when the Astros hold their first full workout on Feb. 23.

Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis recently underwent surgery to repair a hernia, the Chronicle has learned, taking away most of his spring training at a minimum. The recovery is four to six weeks but fortunately for Gattis and the Astros, the injury is not considered severe.

Gattis was working hard on his overall conditioning this winter, even telling MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart in late January that he had already dropped 18 pounds. It sounds like the big slugger might have gone a bit overboard with those workouts, and now he is in real danger of missing the first couple weeks of the 2016 regular season.

Gattis batted .246/.285/.463 with 27 home runs and 88 RBI in 153 games last season for the Astros. The 29-year-old is arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career and has a hearing with the Astros scheduled for February 16 to determine his salary for 2016. He requested $3.8 million and was offered $3 million when figures were exchanged a little over three weeks ago.

Suddenly the Astros’ front office might have a new talking point for those arbitrators.

Seung-Hwan Oh finally receives his work visa, will be on time for Cardinals camp

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At last check, new Cardinals reliever Seung-Hwan Oh was still awaiting a work visa from the United States Embassy in South Korea and there was some worry that he might not be able to arrive on time to spring training in Jupiter, Florida.

But that is now officially a non-story.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Oh has recieved his work visa and is expected to report to Cardinals camp next week along with the rest of the club’s pitchers and catchers. Oh might even show up a bit earlier than the Cardinals originally asked him to, per Goold.

Oh saved 357 games in 11 seasons between Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization before inking a one-year contract with St. Louis this winter. He also registered a stellar 1.81 ERA and 772 strikeouts across 646 total innings in Asia, earning the nickname “The Final Boss.”

Oh is expected to work in a setup role this year for Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.

John Lamb had back surgery in December, will likely get off to late start in 2016

Screenshot 2016-02-09 at 6.00.13 PM
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John Lamb was part of the Reds’ return package in last July’s Johnny Cueto trade and he had a strong showing at the Triple-A level in 2015. But the young left-hander posted a 5.80 ERA in a 10-start cup of coffee with Cincinnati late last season — his first 10 appearances as a major leaguer — and now comes word from MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that Lamb will probably have to get off to a late start in 2016.

Lamb underwent surgery in December to repair a herniated disc in his back — a surgery that went unreported by the Reds until Tuesday afternoon. Reds manager Bryan Price acknowledged on MLB Network that Lamb is behind the team’s other starting pitchers and will likely open the coming season on the disabled list. The hope is that he might be ready by mid-April.

It’s a small but frustrating blow for a rebuilding Reds team that will be looking to establish some foundational pieces in 2016. Once he is recovered, Lamb will be expected to fill the Reds’ fifth rotation spot behind Raisel Iglesias, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen.

This is going to be an ugly year for Cincinnati baseball fans.

Yu Darvish will report to spring training on time, hopes to begin mound work in March

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Rangers ace Yu Darvish missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last March 17. Most starting pitchers take 13-15 months to fully recover from that procedure, and the Rangers aren’t counting on Darvish until sometime this May.

His rehab so far has gone on without issue.

Darvish offered some very positive updates Tuesday to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram …

Darvish, 29, boasts a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 83 career major league starts. He can also claim a whopping 680 strikeouts in 545 1/3 career major league innings.

Texas has him under contract for $10 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017.