No one goes there anymore… it’s too crowded

image from Perhaps the biggest story of the early part of the baseball season has not been the home runs or the pitching or anything happening on the field. For a change there hasn't really been all that much talk about MLB's drug and alcohol problems or the crazy contracts some players got from a few clubs.

And to think, Manny Ramirez and CC Sabathia didn't even have to wear a mask or play the Powerball to get all that cash. Good for them.

No, aside from the tragedy of Nick Adenhart and the deaths of Harry Kalas and Mark Fidrych, the biggest story this season has been all about the new ballparks in New York City.

As if it could be anything else.

Clearly there is the New-York-as-the-center-of-the-universe silliness at the forefront. After all, when something happens in New York it's as if it never happened anywhere else. That's the way they think – never mind that every team that was ever going to build a new ballpark had already done so, how can it be possible that Pittsburgh has a nicer ballpark than the two New York teams.

Apparently that's the case. Not only are there a cavalcade of stories out that the Mets' Bailout Ballpark and the Yankee Tribute to Avarice and Greed Stadium are, well… underwhelming, but the fans aren't turning out either.

Who builds a $1.5 billion stadium in the South Bronx anyway? The poorest Congressional district in the country has the most expensive ballpark ever built… funny how that works.

It's also kind of funny to see all those empty seats behind the dugouts in the new joint, too. The really funny part is all those smart guys running things for the Yankees didn't get that a lot of folks don't want to pay $295- to $2,625 for one baseball game. Really… what were they thinking? They still play 162 games per season, right? They're on TV and everything, too…

"I'm sure they're thinking, 'It's just April,' " Jon Greenberg, executive editor of the Team Marketing Report, told The New York Times about the lack of sellouts. "But it's lost revenue they anticipated getting. This is the worst possible time to debut a stadium."

Yeah, that's where the arrogance part enters the picture. Despite the fact that nearly every business is tightening their belts, the Yankees still had the belief that they were immune to the global economic crisis. You know, because if a family has $2,625 burning a hole in its pocket, the thing they need to spend it on is one ticket to a Tuesday night game at the new Yankee Stadium against the Kansas City Royals.

Otherwise, the reviews indicate the new ballpark is pretty nice. It might not be $1.5 billion nice, but nice nonetheless. In fact, one person who has been to the new parks says the Mets' park might be nicer, but neither is as good as Camden Yards, the park in Pittsburgh or San Francisco, which sounds a bit sacrilegious.

Heck, CBP in South Philly has its charms like two big highways filtering down to the complex as well as plenty of parking. There's even public transportation nearby. Who doesn't love the Broad Street Line?

The Yankees aren't the only New York team struggling to get people to the park. Even the NL East contending Mets are drawing just 37,740 per game, which is 89.9 percent of the capacity at the new ToxicAssets Park. There are more variables at work here, too. One is that it costs 60 percent more to buy food and other extra items not included in the price of the ticket at the Mets' new park.

But the most interesting part is that the Yankees and Mets appear to be operating like the airline industry. Here's what the Times wrote:

But the slow start in New York is striking considering how much the teams here spent to build and promote their parks. Like airlines that break even on economy tickets and rely on first-class travelers to turn a profit, the teams need to sell their most exclusive seats to help repay the hundreds of millions of dollars of tax-free bonds they issued to finance their new parks.

The unfilled seats in New York are even more glaring compared with how robust sales have been for previous stadium openings. The Baltimore Orioles sold out 67 of their 80 home dates in 1992, when Camden Yards opened. The Cleveland Indians sold out 36 games in the strike-shortened season in 1994, and were filled to capacity 455 consecutive games from 1995 to 2001.

After moving to their new park in 2001, the Houston Astros drew 3.1 million fans, 300,000 more than they ever attracted at the far larger Astrodome. The Pittsburgh Pirates, a perennial second-division team, sold 2.4 million tickets in 2001 when PNC Park opened, 700,000 more than they ever sold at Three Rivers Stadium.

The answer for the Yankees? Yeah, that's right… they're going to raise ticket prices by 4 percent.

The most interesting part about the Mets and Yanks struggling to draw fans to their pricey castles to themselves is that the early leaders in attendance are a pair of teams that have no intention on building a new ballpark…


The leaders:
1.)    Red Sox 101.6 percent of capacity

2.)    Phillies 96.9 percent

3.)    Cubs 96.3 percent

4.)    Angels 92.7 percent

Wrigley and Fenway aren't going anywhere, and CBP clearly is just digging in. Maybe the answer isn't so much as building a new ballpark as it is fielding a good team with reasonable prices?

Anyway, check out the story on how the Red Sox make do with tiny and out-dated Fenway… can't manufacture history.

Just walk away

The Los Angeles Dodgers are in a very big position for the history of Major League Baseball. Not to belittle a truly historical moment, but Frank and Jamie McCourt, the owners of the Dodgers, could become of the Rosa Parks of baseball ownership. They can strike a blow against greed and ridiculousness by simply walking away.

All they have to do is say, “No.”

How difficult is that?

If only they could quit Manny.

See, the McCourts and their general manager Ned Colletti made a brand-new offer to outfielder/savant Manny Ramirez late this week to sweeten a one-year, $25 million deal. This time the Manny and agent Scott Boras were offered a two-year contract worth $45 million. Not only that, but there were plenty of sweeteners in it, as if $45 million during the worst economy the U.S. has faced in 80 years isn’t sweet enough.

Nevertheless, the McCourts offered Manny a deal that not only would make him the second-highest paid player in history, but gave him a chance to opt out after the first season. Moreover, of Manny were to get hurt and not able to play, the $45 million is guaranteed. In other words, he could foul a pitch off his big toe in the very first game of the ’09 season and walk away with all the loot.

Yes, it’s a pretty sweet deal. It’s especially sweet when one considers that Manny already has been paid nearly $163 million during his big-league career. Not bad work if you can find it.

Continue reading this story…