May-Day! May-Day! The Yankees can't sell their pricey seats.
Not that I want to gloat about anything negative having to do with the New York Yankees...In fact, no one on the face of the earth wants to gloat less than I do about the Yankee's problems, the Dalai Lama aside. (I just checked out his website, and I was right. It's definitely a no-gloating zone.)
So, I will not spend even a New York nanosecond mentioning that the Red Sox beat the Yankees three straight last weekend. After all, the season is long, a lot can happen, and the Bronx Bombers have been known to get the better of The Olde Towne Team on occasion.
That occasion could conceivably occur early next week, when the Red Sox travel to the new Yankee Stadium for a pair.
It will be interesting to see if the prime location"Legends Suite" of the Bronx' $1.5B palais de base ball are occupied. It'll be easy enough to figure this out, even if the announcers don't mention it(which they will), as the seats are behind home plate and/or near the dugouts and thus are visible during much of the television broadcasts.
The Yankees, it seems, overreached when they priced those seats at $500-$2500 (that's if you take the season's tickets discount into consideration; a one-game purchase of the top seat sets you back $2,650).
I'm sure that the Yankees did market research before setting these prices, but I'm guessing that a lot of the cigar smoking, braces-snapping, Wall Street machers who said yes-yes during those focus groups are not doing as much swank entertainment as they were a year or so ago. Lehman, Bear Sterns, Merrill... Hey, it's hard even for companies that are still in business to justify this kind of spending, let alone those that no longer exist.
I'm sure the Yankees aren't thrilled to be taking a hit on these seats: money is money, and the Yankees bulked up their payroll this off-season. Still, these empty seats aren't likely to be causing a colossal financial problem for the fat-cattiest team in baseball: they still make huge money from their TV network, and from selling paraphernalia. Plus, they are briskly selling the "cheap seats", which, of course, aren't all that cheap. The days when you could take the family out to the old ball game for $20 (including the cost of peanuts and Crackerjacks for everyone) are long gone.
I saw a Newsday article that noted that professional sports made the decision quite a while ago to cater to the elite (often poseurs) at the expense of the passionate working-stiff fan. TV's the thing for the masses. The article cited Stanford economist Roger Noll who pointed out that, if these seats continue to go empty, the Yankees will find some way to offer group pricing that makes them more attractive. He predicted, however, that they probably wouldn't change prices outright mid-season, since that would tick off all the schnooks who actually did spring for the full price. Next year, the prices will no doubt come down - the Yankees have as much as admitted they made a pricing blunder - and:
In effect, Noll said, all the Yankees have done -- and the Mets, to a smaller degree with slightly less outrageous prices -- is give the rest of professional sports a warning "not to break the ceiling" with similarly dramatic boosts.
Well, it turns out Noll - typical economist prognosticator - wasn't quite right. On Tuesday, the Yankees announced that they were slashing prices on the luxe seats, cutting them in half. They'll be making good for those who paid the original price, offering them refunds, credits, or more seats for "free."
The market is, of course, had already spoken: StubHub, which re-sells unwanted tickets from sesaon's ticket holders, recently had $500 Legends seats going for the "reasonable" price of $225, and face value seats of $850 going for $263. (Source: AP article.) These seats, by the way, get you into an upscale restaurant. No waiting in line for a dog and a Bud for those seated in Legends.
The economic ins-and-out of seat pricing aside, there's no one who's denying that seeing those seats empty every game has been small embarrassment to Major League Baseball; a minor irritation to Yankees fans who are at the games observing those choice seats going empty - it's not as easy as it used to be in the old days to wait a couple of innings and go squat in better seats; and a major embarrassment to the Yankees - who consider their franchise to be the ne plus ultra of sports. Ne plus ultra should be selling out, not having seats go begging - if a $2,500 seat can ever be said to go begging.
The AP article also poses the question that the empty seats may have an impact on the field:
All those empty cushioned seats with teak armrests translate to less crowd noise, making Yankee Stadium a less-intimidating place to play.
Well, not that our boys intimidate easily, but here's hoping. The Red Sox roll into the new Yankee Stadium for the first time on Monday, May 4th. I'll be curious to see whether all those posh seats are filled for the occasion. Even though prices have been slashed, $1,250 is still a lot of money to pay to watch a ball game.
As for the outcome of next weeks pair o' games, I will be watching them closely, and hoping for the very Red Sox best. But, with the Dalai Lama, I will not be betting one way or the other on the results.