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Ohio Supreme Court says bobbleheads aren’t legally free giveaways

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Recently, the Ohio Board of Taxation ruled that the Cincinnati Reds owed $88,000 in back sales taxes on promotional items the team purchased to give away to fans. Mostly bobbleheads. The Reds appealed that to the Ohio Supreme Court and, on Wednesday, the court gave the Reds a win in what ended up being a very interesting and entertaining legal opinion, with no shortage of baseball stuff in it. You can read it here.

The law in Ohio, as in all states with a sales tax, is that if you’re buying something, you pay tax on it. The exception, as in most states, is that if you’re buying something in order to resell it (i.e. from a wholesaler, distributor or whatever) you don’t pay taxes. Ohio taxation authorities took the position that, since the Reds gave away the bobbleheads, they are the end purchaser, they don’t fall under the resale exception and they thus had to pay taxes on the bobbleheads they bought from the manufacturer. The Reds took the position that they were, technically, re-selling bobbleheads to fans, so they did not have to pay a tax. The fans do, and since ticket prices include taxes, the taxes have been paid.

Given that no money changes hands when you pick up a bobblehead on your way into the ballpark on giveaway day — heck, given that it’s quite literally a “giveaway” — you may wonder how you, as a fan, are being “re-sold” bobbleheads and how, exactly, the Reds won their argument. I could, if I felt inclined, talk about the pro-business, anti-tax nature of the current Ohio Supreme Court and wave my hand at it all being a giveaway to an Ohio company like the Reds, but you don’t want to hear me rant about that. Instead, I’ll just sum up the court’s reasoning.

The court said, based on the testimony of the Reds’ CFO, that they advertise which games will include promotional items in advance so fans purchase their tickets expecting to receive the bobblehead and that the ticket prices reflect the cost of the bobbleheads, passed on to the customer. Why don’t bobblehead day tickets cost more, then? Because, the Reds said (and the court agreed), they smooth out the costs over the course of all 81 home games. The important thing here, the court said, is that the Reds promise fans a bobblehead, the fans buy a ticket expecting to get one, they buy tickets with the cost of the bobbleheads baked in and, bam, that makes it a sale, not a giveaway.

Which also means that, contrary to what teams tell you and what you have come to expect, it’s not first-come-first-serve, on bobbleheads and you’re not out of luck if you show up late and can’t get one. From the court’s opinion:

The tickets themselves do not state or include any guarantee regarding promotional items. However, [The Reds’ CFO] testified that fans who purchase tickets to games at which promotional items are offered “[a]bsolutely” believe that they are purchasing both the promotional item and the right to view the game at the ballpark. He said that fans expect and feel entitled to receive the promotional items, and he explained that it would be a “public relations nightmare” if the Reds reneged on the commitment to distribute them . . .

. . . In the event that the Reds run out of any given promotional item, Healy testified that the Reds “will remedy it.” He acknowledged that in these instances, the Reds may not be able to provide exactly the same promotional item, but he said that the Reds would “make it right” in ways such as giving another promotional item or complimentary tickets to fans who had failed to receive the designated items.

I have showed up late on bobblehead days in the past and they’ve been out. I never realized that, on such occasions, I could complain to the Reds and get something else, including free tickets. Indeed, neither the Reds nor any other team will tell you that you can do this. I suspect they’ll only do this if you complain and complain and then only if you get to the right people.

Yet, based on this Supreme Court opinion, the Reds are OBLIGATED to do that, or else they have breached their contract to you! That must be the case because the entire ruling is based on the idea — which I still think is baloney, but never mind — that you are purchasing a bobblehead as opposed to the Reds giving it away. There’s an entire section in the opinion talking about the bobblehead being “consideration” for your purchase. Under Ohio law, as of Wednesday anyway, it’s just as much a part of your ticket as the baseball game is.

So, my friends: next time the Reds or Indians hold a bobblehead day, I suggest that you wait until the second or third inning to show up and they have run out of the bobbleheads. Then walk right up to the ticket counter and ask for a free ticket to the next game or, at the very least, some good substitute swag. If they don’t hook you up, sue them for breach of contract. If you do, you’ll have the Ohio Supreme Court on your side.

(h/t to Boteball for the heads up)

New York Yankees roster and schedule for 2020

Yankees roster and schedule
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The 2020 season is now a 60-game dash, starting on July 23 and ending, hopefully, with a full-size postseason in October. Between now and the start of the season, we’ll be giving quick capsule previews of each team, reminding you of where things stood back in Spring Training and where they stand now as we embark on what is sure to be the strangest season in baseball history. First up: The New York Yankees roster and schedule:

YANKEES ROSTER (projected) 

When the season opens on July 23-24, teams can sport rosters of up to 30 players, with a minimum of 25. Two weeks later, rosters must be reduced to 28 and then, two weeks after that, they must be reduced to 26. Teams will be permitted to add a 27th player for doubleheaders.

In light of that, there is a great degree of latitude for which specific players will break summer camp. For now, though, here are who we expect to be on the Yankees roster to begin the season:

Catchers

Gary Sánchez
Kyle Higashioka

Infielders:

Luke Voit
Mike Ford
DJ LeMahieu
Gio Urshela
Miguel Andújar
Gleyber Torres
Tyler Wade

Outfielders

Aaron Judge
Aaron Hicks
Giancarlo Stanton
Brett Gardner
Mike Tauchman

Starters

Gerrit Cole
Masahiro Tanaka
James Paxton
J.A. Happ
Jordan Montgomery
Jonathan Loaisiga

Relievers

Aroldis Chapman
Zack Britton
Adam Ottavino
Chad Green
Tommy Kahnle
Luis Cessa
Jonathan Holder
Tyler Lyons
David Hale


BREAKDOWN:

It’s weird to say this but the delay to the season due to the pandemic actually helped the Yankees a fair amount. Because of new injuries and extended rehab from older injuries, the very injured 2019 New York Yankees were poised to begin the regular season with many key players on the injured list, including Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, and James Paxton, among others. It’s not 100% clear if all of those guys will be back and at full strength when the club starts play next week, but Stanton and Paxton seem like a go right now and Judge and Hicks are ramping up.

Obviously the biggest change for 2020, though, is Gerrit Cole, the Yankees big free agent acquisition last winter. Adding arguably the game’s best starter will take a lot of pressure off of the other guys in the rotation and ease the workload of a bullpen that, however deep and talented it is, could still use a break here and there.

With health, hopefully, not the concern it was back in March or last year, we’re left with a Yankees team that (a) has one of the most loaded lineups in the game; (b) features a much-improved rotation with a clear and solid top-four; and (c) has fantastic bullpen talent and depth. Last year’s team, despite all of the injuries, won 103 games. This year’s team is considered the favorite in the American League and, by extension, in all of baseball.

YANKEES SCHEDULE:

Every team will play 60 games. Teams will be playing 40 games against their own division rivals and 20 interleague games against the corresponding geographic division from the other league. Six of the 20 interleague games will be “rivalry” games.

Yankees home stands will be July 29-Aug. 2 (Phillies, Red Sox), Aug. 11-20 (Braves, Red Sox, Rays), Aug. 28-Sept. 2 (Mets, Rays), Sept. 10-17 (Orioles, Blue Jays) and Sept. 25-27 (Marlins). Their rivalry games against the Red Sox will be July 31-Aug. 2 (Yankee Stadium), Aug. 14-17 (Yankee Stadium) and Sept. 18-20 (Fenway Park). Rivalry games against the Mets will be played Aug. 21-23 (Citi Field) and Aug. 28-30 (Yankee Stadium).

The entire Yankees roster and schedule can be seen here.