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Since when were “counterfeit tickets” a problem at Yankee Stadium?

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The Yankees have had a long battle with StubHub, the team’s former secondary market reseller. They were mad that StubHub was selling tickets below the cost of the Yankees’ box office, thereby — in the Yankees’ view — undermining box office ticket sales as people waited for cheaper seats to come onto the secondary market.

Shorter version: the Yankees didn’t like that StubHub was doing what it had contracted with the team to do.

Now, I can’t recall any time when the Yankees, faced with this clear market issue brought on by its own ticket prices, actually considered dropping its own prices to lure customers, but that’s neither here nor there. We can’t expect for-profit businesses to understand and adhere to the rules of supply and demand. In such things lie madness!

Anyway, over the winter the Yankees cut ties with StubHub and started a new resale partnership with Ticketmaster, called the Yankees Ticket Exchange. It has price floors and things that the Yankees feel will help them out financially. Good for them.

Except yesterday, in officially announcing the Exchange, Hal Steinbrenner said this:

Hal Steinbrenner, the team’s managing general partner, said the new marketplace would use exclusive bar-code technology to guarantee that tickets were authentic. Steinbrenner also said the new exchange would dovetail with the online accounts that season-ticket holders use.

“It is unfortunate that unscrupulous resellers utilize deceptive practices and tactics and employ unofficial Web sites, all of which give rise to counterfeit tickets,” Steinbrenner said in a statement.

I spent a decent time on the Google machine this morning and I can’t find any reports of “counterfeit tickets” being an issue at Yankee Stadium. I can find lots of team complaints about StubHub. I can find lots of fan complaints about the Yankees’ ticket prices being too damn high. But while I’m sure someone, somewhere, has been taken in by a scammer printing up fake tickets, I can’t find one example of a significant counterfeit Yankees ticket operation. Certainly not one attributable to loose security protocols connected with the Yankees’ deal with StubHub.

All of which makes this sound a lot like politicians who go on about “voter fraud.” It sounds scary and if it’s really happening in any significant way it truly is a bad thing. But in reality it’s not anything approaching a significant problem and the fearmongering about it is a cover for efforts to change election rules in a way that they believe will benefit them.

Same with the Yankees. They’re clearly doing something that is designed to make them more money and which will serve to anger fans who used to like to go to StubHub for el cheapo tickets. Rather than just leave it at that, however, Hal throws up the counterfeit ticket bogeyman to make it seem like what the Yankees are doing is more noble and fan-friendly than it really is.

You’re trying to make more money, Hal. It’s OK that you are. It’s your business. But just admit it, OK? Don’t treat your fans like idiots.

Marlins acquire starter Dan Straily from the Reds

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 3: Dan Straily #58 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch during the first inning of the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park on September 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
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The Miami Marlins have acquired starting pitcher Dan Straily from the Cincinnati Reds. In exchange, the Reds will receive right-handed pitching prospects Luis Castillo and Austin Brice and outfield prospect Isaiah White.

For the Marlins, they get a solid starter who logged 191.1 innings of 113 ERA+ ball last year. Straily has moved around a lot in his five big league seasons — the Marlins will be his fifth club in six years — but it was something of a breakout year for him in Cincinnati. The only troubling thing: he tied for the league lead in homers allowed. Of course, pitching half of his games in Great American Ballpark didn’t help that, and Miami will be a better place for him.

Castillo is 24. He split last season between high-A and Double-A — far more of it in A-ball — posting a 2.26 ERA over 24 starts. Austin Brice is also 24. He pitched 15 games in relief for the Marlins last year at the big league level with poor results. He seemed to blossom at Triple-A, however, after the Marlins shifted him to the pen. White was a third round pick in the 2015 draft. He played low-A ball as a minor leaguer last year, hitting .214/.306/.301.

A mixed bag of young talent for the Reds, but stockpiling kids and seeing what shakes out is what a team like the Reds should be doing at the moment. For the Marlins: a solid mid-to-back end starter who may just be coming into his own.

Have Hall of Fame Voters actually made the PED thing More complicated?

Sammy Sosa
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The story coming out of this year’s Hall of Fame balloting is that the BBWAA voters are finally easing their antipathy toward players with performance enhancing drug associations.

Jeff Bagwell — the subject of unconfirmed PED rumors — made the Hall! Pudge Rodriguez, who was named in Jose Canseco’s book and who had a . . . curious physical transformation around the time PED testing came online, made it on the first ballot! Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, whose PED use was well-documented, saw their vote totals advance above the 50% mark, making their future elections look more likely!

It’s an interesting development, and one I’m obviously pleased with, but I wonder if the BBWAA’s new approach to PED guys, while far more forgiving than it used to be, has actually become more complicated in practice.

I ask this because I look way, way down the ballot and I still see Sammy Sosa scraping by with around 8% of the vote. I ask this because I still see Gary Sheffield at 13%. I ask this because when Mark McGwire was on the Today’s Game ballot in December, no one really stumped for him at all. I ask this because, even though Bagwell and Mike Piazza got in eventually, they still had to go through a lot of hazing first and I suspect, if they hit the ballot for the first time again tomorrow, the same arguments and delay would occur with respect to their cases.

In light of that, what I suspect has happened has not been a wholesale surrender of the anti-PED voters. Rather, I think it has been a transformation. One in which a moral test — did he use PEDs or not? — has been discarded as a threshold question and a scientific/physiological test — would he have been great even without the PEDs? — has replaced it. In essence, voters are becoming “PED discounters” in the aggregate. Making calculations as to whether a guy was, in their mind, a creation of PEDs or not.

Such an approach explains these new voting patterns as well as those in recent years.

  • Ivan Rodriguez may have been called out by Canseco and may have noticeably shrunk over an offseason, but his calling card was his defense behind the plate and voters, I suspect, have told themselves that such a thing is not PED-aided.
  • Bonds and Clemens may have been PED users, but each of them was undeniably talented and, if you discount for the PED use, hey, they’re still all-time greats.
  • Sammy Sosa’s case rests disproportionately on homers and, as everyone knows, PEDs = instant dingers, so no, he’s not gonna cut it.

And so on.

As I said, I’m glad that the strict moral test — did he use or not? — is losing its hold on Hall voters. But I do not think the “did PEDs make him who he was test?” is a good approach either. Baseball writers are in no better a position to assess the physiological and performance enhancements caused by pharmaceuticals than they are to be judges of character and morality. Given the identities of players confirmed to be PED users, the old eye test implicit in these cases is famously faulty (Neifi Perez, anyone?). The idea that PEDs only affect home run totals — and not, say, the ability for a player to take the abuse of the catcher position for 21 seasons — is crude and ignorant.

I suppose it’s naive to expect voters to completely disregard PEDs in their assessment of players. It’s a bell that cannot be unrung. But while we may, thankfully, be moving away from a moral test with respect to drugs, it’s been displaced by a scientific test that is no more reasonable in practice.