The invisible hand in action: cheap seats available for Mets games

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Wanna go to a Mets game? It’s pretty darn affordable these days, reports the New York Times.  Seats directly behind home plate with a face value of $134 are going for $69. Seats in boxes between third base and home plate are going for $28, when they normally retail for $80 to $134. If merely getting into the park is what you’re after, $3 gets the job done.

People may be inclined to mock this as a function of a bad team suffering bad times, but I see a silver lining. There are families who have been priced out of baseball in the past several years. And those that haven’t been totally priced out have at least been priced back into worse seats or way up high into the nose-bleeds.  These cheap seats, however, may be result is some people going to the ballpark who may not have otherwise gone, sitting where they might not have otherwise sat, if only on a couple of occasions.

I didn’t go to a ton of baseball games when I was a kid, but I was lucky enough to go to a handful in some pretty darn good seats.  I think being close to the action like that played a big role in my becoming a baseball fan.  Ask people who suffered through lean times in Cleveland and places like that and they’ll tell you the same thing.

While it may hurt the Mets’ bottom line in the short term, a plethora of good cheap seats may very well help create some fans who may not have otherwise been created.

Evan Longoria: ‘I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base’

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.