K-Rod and the Mets settle

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Francisco Rodriguez and the Mets have settled the grievance K-Rod filed after the team tried to make his deal non-guaranteed. The settlement: his deal is still guaranteed, but he drops his challenge to the Mets placing him on the disqualified list for the end of the 2010 season. That means he basically forfeits the $3.1 million he was owed for that last month and a half or so. He’ll be back on the Mets, deal in place, for the 2011 season.

Thus concludes a really weird chapter in Mets history.  I’m certainly no fan of K-Rod’s in light of this whole incident, and if the allegations about his history with his girlfriend that have emerged in preliminary hearings related to his criminal case are true, he can drop dead as far as I’m concerned. At the same time, I think the Mets approached all of this pretty poorly.

The Mets’ get-tough-stance with K-Rod was one of financial opportunism, not disapproval of his actions.  After the incident in the clubhouse, but before it was revealed that K-Rod hurt his hand, the Mets used him in a game. If he had not been hurt, they no doubt would have continued to use him in games. The extent of the punishment they would have leveled against him was that game or two suspension he served prior to his final appearance. The idea of disqualifying him and then seeking to void his contract — or, at the very least, render it non-guaranteed — was in no way a statement regarding his actual behavior. Just the results.

Nor do I know for certain that the Mets were even viewing it as some kind of stand against that behavior. I’m not accusing them of anything. It may be the case that the team merely saw this as a situation in which they were trying to recoup losses from a player who could not perform as contracted to and the domestic violence stuff didn’t enter into it at all.  I’m just saying that I wish the Mets would have viewed it as a serious situation before they realized K-Rod was hurt — I wish they would have considered his outburst, and not just his injury worthy of punishment — and acted to suspend him then.

I would applaud any team that wanted to take a stance against domestic violence, even if doing so meant going up against the union on what may have been a lost cause. I don’t think the Mets were doing that here, and that bums me out a little.

The Yankees attendance and revenue is down, but it makes sense

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There’s a long article in the New York Times today noting that the Yankees attendance is down and that, based on financial figures released as part of their stadium bond disclosures, ticket and suite revenues through last season have fallen by $166 million since the end of 2009.

There is a lot of talk in the article about the exciting young team the Yankees have put together and how much they’ve won so far in the early going. And there is a lot of talk about marketing and demographics — Hal Steinbrenner talks about baseball’s “millennial problem” — but the story of the Yankees’ box office issues, such as they are, is pretty straightforward.

All teams suffer attendance and revenue decline when they play poorly. While the Yankees have not been bad for a long, long time, that’s a somewhat relative thing. They Yankees have sold themselves and sold their fans on the idea that nothing short of a championship is acceptable, so missing the playoffs for three of the past four years is bad for them. Fans don’t want to go see a bad team, be it Yankees fans, Rays fans, Royals fans or whoever.

Despite the recent lack of success, the Yankees have still, perversely, continued to price their tickets, concessions, parking and everything else as though they’re the only game in town. When demand falls and prices remain super high, fewer people are buying your product. Even if you’re the New York Yankees.

The Yankees are good this year. What’s more, they’re good in that exciting way that only young promising players bursting out onto the scene can deliver. It’s a wonderful thing for marketing and stuff, but even under the best of circumstances, ticket sales tend to lag on field success, often by as much as a year. Go back and look at World Series winning teams — especially the surprise winners — and you’ll see that it’s the year after on-field success when the real attendance bumps happen. I expect, if the Yankees continue to play well, their gate will get really nice by the end of the summer, but I suspect we’ll also see a more dramatic bump next year.

Taken all together, this is a dog-bites-man story. The Yankees are not some transcendent institution, immune from market forces. They’re just one of 30 Major League Baseball teams competing against other entertainments for a finite amount of the public’s money and attention. Nothin’ to see here.

David Price had a rocky rehab start last night

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Red Sox starter David Price has been rehabbing a left elbow injury since early March. Last night he made his latest rehab outing for Triple-A Pawtucket. It didn’t go well.

Price allowed six runs — three earned — on seven hits in three and two-thirds innings, requiring 89 pitches to do it. His velocity was good, but otherwise it was a night to forget. This was supposed to be Price’s last rehab start before returning to the Sox’ big league rotation, but one wonders if he’s ready for it.

Price didn’t talk to the media after the game, but Pawtucket’s manager said he was “upbeat” and “felt good.” For his part, John Farrell, upon hearing about the outing, said this:

“There’s no announcement at this point. We’ve got to sit with him and talk about what’s best for him, best for us as we move forward.”

The Sox could really use Price back in the rotation given their injury problems, but rushing him back if he’s not ready is certainly not ideal.

Stay tuned.