Craig Calcaterra

Yankee Stadium

The Yankees think you’re stupid


Last week’s news about the Yankees changing their secondary market ticket policies would’ve only been a thing for a day if it wasn’t for Yankees COO Lonn Trost coming out and saying that it wasn’t appropriate for certain sorts of people — Poors? Normals? The Unwashed Masses? — to sit in premium seats. But that led to more questioning of Yankees officials, which caused Yankees president Randy Levine to wade in.

Levine didn’t really help the Yankees’ image in this respect. Indeed, it’s clear from his comments that he either thinks fans are stupid or at least hopes they are.

One of the concerns fans have about the Yankees’ ticketing policies is that their secondary market product, Yankee Ticket Exchange, imposes price floors on tickets. Meaning that a ticket holder who wants to unload a ticket cannot sell it for below a certain price, even if it’s more likely that someone would buy it for a cheaper price. It would be reasonable to think that the Yankees impose a ticket floor because, seeing as though they take 5% of each sale, it’s better that the price of the ticket is higher. One might also think that the Yankees want a floor so that the face price of their tickets does not seem so exorbitantly high compared to cheap, last minute ticket prices on Stubhub. I mean, those aren’t selling points you crow about publicly, but it’s certainly reasonable for businesspeople to be motivated by such things.

Levine chose to explain the policy in another way, however. He said that brokers who dump tickets to “unattractive games” for well below the list price are “devaluing the team’s brand.” As if the Yankees themselves are not responsible for the existence of “unattractive games” by virtue of the product on the field, the face price of the tickets, the ballpark experience or some combination of all of those things. Put differently, cheap tickets are only bad for your brand if your brand is all about portraying your product as a luxury good and making games inaccessible for people with tighter budgets. Nice brand, there, Randy.

Levine went on to say that the Yankees have the right to protect its property — meaning its ticket inventory — by putting price floors on resold tickets, “as long as it’s done in the free-market society.” This is about as rich as it gets, as what Levine fails to mention is that the only purpose of a price floor — literally, the very reason you impose one — is because you want to specifically circumvent the free market. A free market that, otherwise, would price the ticket lower than the fixed price the Yankees want.

This is not shocking, of course. If you had to choose one single factor which defines the economic history of baseball over the past 150 years it would, without question, be “owners doing everything possible to keep the free market away from the sport.” This is why they sought and obtained protection from the antitrust laws, which are designed to keep free markets healthy, fair and, above all else, free. This is why they carved up the country and TV markets into exclusive territories, insulating themselves from competition. This is why they imposed a draft, so that young players could not shop their services to the highest bidder. This is why they have imposed limits on how much draftees can receive in signing bonuses. This is why they have devised set pools of money for teams to spend on the international market. This is why they have attached strings in form of draft pick compensation to players who declare free agency, thereby limiting their marketability.

There are some competitive justifications for some of those things, but most of it is designed to keep teams from having to compete in the free market. The same goes for price floors on tickets. A free market would allow other secondary ticket sellers to compete on equal footing with the Yankees, but that doesn’t happen. A free market would allow you to get a ticket below whatever arbitrary number the Yankees want you to pay for it, but that’s increasingly rare. A free market wouldn’t result in thousands of un-resold tickets and the subsequent empty seats clearly visible on every Yankees broadcast, yet we see that all the time and we will likely see more of that this year.

Which, again, if that’s what the Yankees want to do, that’s what they’ll do. They just won’t be honest about it. They’ll tell you that they’re concerned about ticket fraud but behave in a way that shows that they’re really concerned about shoving out a competitor. They’ll tell you they’re concerned about their “brand,” but then let slip that the “brand” involves keeping undesirables away from their rich season ticket holders. They’ll tell you they care about the free market but seek they sort of protection from that market that would make a Soviet-era toilet paper concern blush with embarrassment.

Imagine how stupid Randy Levine and the Yankees think you are. Then quadruple that and you’re probably still not at their level of disdain for you or your intelligence.

Jerry Dipoto, very politely, says working with Mike Scioscia was a pain in the butt

Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto talks to reporters Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016 in Seattle during the team's annual briefing before the start of baseball spring training. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Associated Press

Jerry Dipoto left his post in Anaheim under a cloud. There were several reports that he and manager Mike Scioscia clashed on any number of issues and that owner Arte Moreno was content to take Scioscia’s side in most matters. This is not really how most baseball teams operate these days.

Ideally there is cooperation and communication between the front office and the field manager. If that can’t be achieved, the typical case is that the GM’s vision for the franchise takes precedence. With the Angels, however, Scioscia was clearly in charge. It was reported that he and his coaches routinely ignored Dipoto and his analytics department’s input. It was an untenable situation for Dipoto given that the owner didn’t have his back. So he left.

Dipoto runs the Mariners now, and he was on SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio channel today with Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette talking about his current gig and, for really the first time since he left Anaheim, his last one. His words about Scioscia were about as diplomatic as could be expected under the circumstances, but if you read between the lines it’s very, very clear that Dipoto was fed the heck up with the guy who, apparently, has the best job security in the business:

“The four years that I spent in Anaheim, and I appreciate those four years and for much of that time I had a great time.  And I got an opportunity to work with a manager who I believe is very likely to wind up in the Hall of Fame.  And I got a chance to work for an owner who never spared any expense in throwing as much money at a roster as he could, and the aggression they showed was great.  There were times where it was very difficult to do the job that I was asked to do because I was caught in between perhaps two different dynamics.  And I would say the same of them, I had some different ideas that maybe they weren’t as comfortable with.  And therefore we end up where we are four years from now.  But we did put a winning product on the field three out of the four years and one of those seasons we led the league in wins, and understood that we had flaws and warts but kept trying to adjust as the car was moving down the road to make the appropriate adjustments that would allow us to get into the win zone.”

Given that the Angels are thought to have the worse farm system in the game and are already starting out the spring with Albert Pujols — a very Scioscia/Moreno signing — injured again, the “win zone” is going to be hard for the Angels to find. I don’t think it takes too much interpretive magic to see that Dipoto knows this and offers these words as a nice form of “Welp, they are gonna stink because they didn’t listen to me. Oh well!”

Dipoto went on:

“I have a manager now in Scott Servais who I do see eye-to-eye with and we have discussed every move, we have disagreed on many ideas as we’ve gone through this offseason but in a really productive way.  And, you know, fair or unfair, that was not always the case with Mike [Scioscia].  And [with] Scott we talk about it, we cut it up on the floor, we’ll introduce it to coaches and scouts and at the end of the day I think that’s healthy.  And healthy disagreement is a good thing and sometimes in Anaheim, as you saw played out nationally multiple times over the four years, it wasn’t quite as healthy.”

Ultimately baseball wins and losses will tell the tale of who did better post-breakup, Dipoto or Scioscia, but for now this is the equivalent of a guy filling his Facebook feed with pictures of himself with his new girlfriend, happy as can be, knowing that they’re gonna get back to the ex.

Listen to the whole interview here.




Jonathan Lucroy is in The Best Shape of His Life

Jonathan Lucroy
Associated Press
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Jonathan Lucroy had a controversial offseason in which he talked about how maybe it’d be best for him to be traded since the Brewers are rebuilding and losing is a drag. It’s hard to disagree with him, but it’s not the sort of thing players can ever really say without catching a lot of grief. Lucroy caught grief.

This year Lucroy is going to just catch. And, according to this story from Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, he’s going to do it in . . . The Best Shape of His Life:

Lucroy, 29, who has been here since Monday, is in perhaps the best shape of his life after an off-season of rigorous workouts back home in Louisiana with brother David, a pitcher in the Brewers’ farm system. His main goal is to stay healthy and productive after a 2015 season marred by a broken big toe and concussion, with too many hitting slumps in between.

That is the extraordinarily rare straight-up, unadulterated, unfiltered and unironic BSOHL. They were common in the wild until a few years ago but have since become a highly endangered species. How fortunate we are, in 2016, to see one in the wild. In Maryvale of all places.

(h/t to Scott McLune for the heads up)