And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Yankees 14, Red Sox 5: It started off with lots of laughs for the Red Sox, but then the Yankees leapt out to a 7-0 lead by the top of the third and never looked back. Yangervis Solarte drove in four, Jacoby Ellsbury three, and Mark Teixeira hit his first homer of the year. More importantly: on the heels of losing Ivan Nova to Tommy John surgery and Michael Pineda to a suspension, CC Sabathia put up his second strong start in a row, allowing two runs over six innings with eight strikeouts.

Athletics 10, Astros 1: Just clown shoes from the Astros. Five errors and a nine-run loss is bad as it is, but then tossing on some gratuitous unwritten rule enforcement — from an incident in a totally different game, in a totally different series — is just ridiculous. You know, my original defense of Jed Lowrie bunting with a big lead in that first game was “hey, the A’s should stop trying only when the Astros say they’ve stopped trying.” But really, I don’t think that’s applicable anymore because the Astros are acting like they’re not even playing baseball these days.

Reds 2, Pirates 1: Tony Cingrani allowed one run on six hits in six inning while striking out seven. Cincinnati has won seven of nine and have reached .500 after a slow start.

Indians 5, Royals 1: The Royals make Corey Kluber look like Sandy Koufax (CG 4, H 0 ER, 11K, 0 BB). According to the AP, Kluber is the first Indians pitcher to throw a complete game while recording 11 strikeouts, no walks or earned runs since Len Barker’s perfect game in 1981. Kinda cool.

Mets 4, Cardinals 1: Nice outing for Bartolo Colon, who gave up only one run on four hits over seven. And an odd sight:  Daisuke Matsuzaka as a closer. He saved his first game since playing in Japan back in 2000. I don’t know this experiment will work — Dice-K is pretty much the opposite of what you want from a closer — but it’s kinda fun to see. Well, to the extent you can ever describe watching Matsuzaka “fun.”

Tigers 7, White Sox 4: Miguel Cabrera had two hits and drove in three, showing that his bat is waking up after hitting the snooze bar several times since the season began. Wait, are there snooze bars anymore? I’m sorta picturing an analog clock radio here when I suspect all you kids use your iPhones and stuff as an alarm clock. My unfamiliarity with this is not a function of me being old, though. It’s a function of me not sleeping that much.

Diamondbacks 5, Cubs 2: Mike Bolsinger snagged his first major league win, allowing one unearned run on four hits in six and two-thirds. He even hit an RBI single to [all together now] help his own cause.

Twins 9, Rays 7: Minnesota takes three of four in St. Pete. Aaron Hicks hit a three-run homer, Kurt Suzuki drove in three and Sam Fuld drove in two. 

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk‘s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $60,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Friday evening MLB games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $8,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on FridayHere’s the FanDuel link.

Padres 4, Nationals 3: A costly win for the Padres as they lost both Chase Headley and Seth Smith to injuries, but a win all the same. Xavier Nady hit an RBI single in the top of the 12th to put the Pads ahead. The Nats blew a ton of opportunities, going 0 for 16 with runners in scoring position and leaving 14 men on base.

Orioles 11, Blue Jays 4: Ten runs Wednesday night, 11 last night. I think it’s safe to say the O’s can hit the ball and/or the Jays staff has issues. Chris Davis drove in three. Nelson Cruz had two hits and drove in two. He’s had RBI in seven straight games. 

Phillies 7, Dodgers 3: Four runs in the ninth for the Phillies to turn a tie game into a laugher. Carlos Ruiz had the big hit, with a tiebreaking two-run double. Brian Wilson gave up all four of those runs on three hits and a walk. His ERA now stands at 15.75.

There is little correlation between player salaries and ticket prices

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With the recent spate of contract extensions and big name free agent signings, more than a handful of fans have expressed concern that deals signed by the likes of Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Manny Machado will drive up ticket prices. Research on the subject is scarce, but both pieces of research I found — by Jon Morgan at The Baltimore Sun in 1998 and Nate Silver at Baseball Prospectus in 2003 — found very little correlation between the two variables.

In Morgan’s article, he cited Allen Sanderson, an economist from the University of Chicago who said, “They are either independent of each other or the causality is reversed.” Causality, in layman’s terms, is one variable explaining the other. If the data showed a high degree of correlation, we could determine that, for example, an increase in player salaries does also result in an increase in ticket prices. But that wasn’t found.

Silver compared year-to-year changes in average ticket price and total player payroll from 2002 to ’03 and found essentially no correlation as well. The reason for this is manyfold, starting with the basic observation that the equation for an owner to set team prices is dependent many more factors than just his player payroll. Things like the team’s current competitiveness and general popularity, the presence of impactful marketable players, the area in which the team resides, and the general place on the expendable income ladder most of the city’s residents stand can all impact the price, arguably much more than player salaries.

As Rob Arthur noted in his column for Baseball Prospectus today, it is also important to consider that Major League Baseball’s business model has changed substantially. Teams used to be much more reliant on fans going through the turnstiles, which results in concession and merchandise sales, as well as other ticket sales. However, with revenue sharing and the league’s lucrative broadcasting deals with the likes of ESPN, Fox and Turner Sports, a team needn’t sell out most of its home games to turn a profit. MLB’s spin-off of MLB Advanced Media, BAMTech, has also proved bountiful. Nearly three years ago, The Walt Disney Company acquired a one-third stake in BAMTech at the cost of $1 billion. Disney then bought a majority stake at another $1.58 billion in 2017. A large portion of that $2.58 billion was distributed among the league’s 30 owners, a windfall that could easily put an otherwise struggling team into the green. (The players, by the way, don’t get a cut of this directly.)

Some teams are raking in money outside of baseball. As Craig noted last month, Liberty Media — which owns the Braves — is aiming to make money through real estate, specifically office buildings surrounding SunTrust Park. The Braves saw a 14.5 percent increase in revenue from 2017 to ’18, yet player payroll has actually gone down slightly. The Braves opened last season with a $118 million payroll. According to Cot’s Contracts, the 25-man roster is currently at $114 million coming off of a 90-win, first-place campaign in 2018. The only notable free agent signing the Braves made was third baseman Josh Donaldson on a one-year, $23 million deal.

The Braves could have increased fan interest significantly by signing Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. The club could still sign flame-throwing closer Craig Kimbrel, a former Brave, or Dallas Keuchel, the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner. Both are as yet unsigned free agents and the club chooses every day not to pursue them. The Braves have built a competitive roster, but acutely on the (relative) cheap. They don’t need to motivate fans to come out to the ballpark with so much money coming in from so many other places.

Harper, Machado, and Trout won’t be driving up the cost for fans to see them play. If their teams have success, more fans will come to the ballpark in which case simple supply and demand will dictate ownership to increase prices. If one takes issue with that, one’s problem lies with ownership or the general phenomenon of talented, popular players making their teams better and more interesting. The issue isn’t with the handful of $300-400 million contracts having been signed recently.