Off Day in Detroit
Tuesday, April 11, 2006, 1:45 pm
I enjoyed the give and take of your posts in response to yesterday’s blog (although I also appreciate how many times your online conversation has nothing to do with my posts, per se). I enjoy it when the conversation goes in whatever direction you prefer.
At risk of continuing the debate around two arguments that really can never probably be "won," I wanted to wade in with some facts and opinions on two topics you were discussing … ticket prices and bullpen use.
First the bullpen use …
You certainly can argue that our bullpen last season overachieved or was lucky. That is a fair opinion.
It is pretty tough to argue that Ozzie did a poor job with our relief corps. The evidence is too overwhelming. The team won 99 games, plus 11 of 12 in the postseason. No matter what statistics you choose to use — wins, saves, holds, inherited runners, opposing BA, etc. — our bullpen ranked among the top three in the American League. We won the Rolaids Relief Man Team Bullpen Award for all of baseball in 2005. Finally, when ranked by a proprietary statistic created by Dan Fabian, our in-house expert, to evaluate the performance of players and bullpens according to season-long situational analysis, we again come out with one of the top three bullpens in the AL (along with Cleveland and Minnesota). Pick your metric, we did pretty well in 2005.
You can say we were lucky. You can say we overperformed. But the argument that Ozzie Guillen mismanaged the bullpen in 2005 is a tough one to make. Over the past two seasons, Ozzie has seemed to spend April defining roles for individual pitchers. This, at times, comes with some trial and error. Take last year for example. We began the season with Shingo Takatsu as our closer, switched to Dustin Hermanson until his back gave way, and then were blessed when Bobby Jenks arrived from Class AA Birmingham throwing heat. He ended the year celebrating on the mound in Houston. How many teams have won a World Series title with three different closers during the season? I would argue this was a strong accomplishment for our bullpen, Don Cooper, Art Kusyner and Ozzie Guillen last year.
I think there is an understandable tendency to focus on specific in-game situations — usually failures like Boone Logan vs. Travis Hafner — and criticize bullpen decisions. But the fact is that all bullpens fail to hold leads at times during the season. If you look at the 2005 season in its entirety, our bullpen performed extremely well. Some of this credit has to go to Ozzie Guillen.
I have mentioned before that in my experience, most "questionable" moves with the bullpen are based upon availability.
When you watch a game and say to yourself, "why isn’t Bobby Thigpen pitching now?", there is usually an issue with his availability … either over health (his arm, knee or back might be sore) or recent use (how much has he pitched recently in terms of games, consecutive games, innings and even pitches, or how much do you think you might need him over the coming days). Teams rarely advertise these issues (obviously, we don’t want the other team or manager to know our closer or specialty left-hander are not available for that game), but availability does matter … sometimes a lot.
Just my opinion. Not worth much.
And on to price of a Major League Baseball game …
Team Marketing Report just issued its annual evaluation of the cost for a family of four to go to a Major League game. Sports teams typically question the validity of some of the data, but since the report often receives coverage in the media, let’s assume — for argument’s sake — the numbers are correct.
On average, MLB ticket prices are up 5.4 %, according to the TMR report. The MLB average ticket price is $22.21. The NFL averaged $58.95 most recently, while the NBA $45.92 and NHL $41.19. MLB President Bob DuPuy says, "From the standpoint of family entertainment, baseball remains very affordable compared against comparable entertainment."
According to TMR, the average ticket price for the White Sox is $26.19, an increase of 2.5 percent from last year, while the Fan Cost Index (family of four with food, parking, etc.) is $191.26 (2.4 percent higher than last year), $70 more than the KC Royals ($120.35) and $96 less than the Red Sox ($287.84). Both figures rank ninth among baseball’s 30 teams (behind Boston, the Cubs, Yankees, Cardinals, Mets, Giants, Phillies and Astros) and fifth lowest among the eight playoff teams from 2005. Our increases from 2005 are the third-lowest among the 2005 postseason clubs (only San Diego and Atlanta were lower).
As a franchise, we try very hard to keep our games affordable for all fans. Historically, we rank among or near the middle third of all MLB teams. Because of our focus on kids and families, we have decided annually to maintain promotions like Half Price Mondays and $1 Kids Days. We also offer discounts for seniors citizens and large groups.
Several years ago (I am sure many of you remember), Kenny Williams took a lot of heat for his comments about how our team’s payroll is tied to attendance. He was truthful. But our payroll is not just tied to attendance, it also is tied to all of our other revenue streams … sponsorship sales, broadcasting, mlb.com, etc. Any profits generated by the White Sox in a given year go directly back into the team. You have seen the impact of 2005’s successes (and the projections for 2006) this offseason as our payroll has gone from the high $70 million to mid $90 million. Our revenues are not going to Jerry Reinsdorf, to the club’s investors or to anyone else not wearing pinstripes (upon review, this was a very weak attempt at a pun). Our revenues are going back into improving the team, primarily in player payroll but also in scouting and player development.
I tend to agree with you all that everything seems to be more and more expensive with each passing year (I took my kids to the movies and to the Bulls game this weekend and suffered some degree of sticker shock both nights). But it seems that way because it is true. At the White Sox, we try to follow a model of steady annual increases as opposed to big jumps in any given year, and I assure you we spend a great deal of time making sure we never alienate our future … kids and families. You are too important to us and to who we are as a franchise.
Our goal is to provide fans with options, whether it is a Scout seat behind home plate like in the photo below, a first-class suite, a bleacher seat or a spot in the upper deck on a warm Monday night. We want everyone to be able to afford to be a baseball fan, and more importantly, a White Sox fan.
Feel free to weigh in. This is a nice topic for an off day. Some fans offered their own cost-cutting recommendations, which was great. Tomorrow, we tackle the Tigers again.
By the way, the movie I went to see with my kids was Benchwarmers. I am no Ebert and Roeper, but wait for the DVD. And as for the Bulls Saturday night, ouch! Let’s hope they get one tonight.