Monday, February 29, 2016

Raccoon takes over Yankees' spring training

Wonder if he bought his tickets on StubHub! Did you see that a raccoon invaded Steinbrenner Field the other day? He got rousted, fell 40 feet, is still alive, and on the loose! It reminded me of Lonn Trost's infamous comments on Yankee tickets:

"The problem below market at a certain point is that if you buy a ticket in a very premium location and pay a substantial amount of money. It’s not that we don’t want that fan to sell it, but that fan is sitting there having paid a substantial amount of money for their ticket and [another] fan picks it up for a buck-and-a-half and sits there, and it frustrates the purchaser of the full amount." Trost said.

"And quite frankly,” he said, “the fan may be someone who has never sat in a premium location. So that’s a frustration to our existing fan base."

Check out these pictures of Rocky Raccoon going wild. Now, the obvious joke is that the raccoon is someone who has never sat in a premium location. But I'm going to zig instead of zagging, and make the joke that the raccoon is simply trying to protect his season ticket investment from the riff-raff. Ha!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Subway Squawker at the Boston Marathon? It could happen!

Here I am with members of my running club.
Happy birthday to me! I did my long run this morning with my running club (thanks to my coach for the carrot cake birthday cake slice, candles, card, and protein shake!) I had a little bit of an adventure this morning. My brakes went kaput on my car. So I ran a mile, then caught a bus, and then another bus. And while I was waiting for the third bus, two members of my running club saw me waiting and picked me up. Whew. My fellow runners sang "Happy Birthday" to me as well. Very nice!

After running a total of nine miles, I headed to Manhattan to Pampano, a modern Mexican restaurant, where Squawker Jon and I celebrated my birthday at brunch. (We did a lunch instead of dinner because we both wanted to be home in the evening to watch the Oscars! Especially since we have money at stake!)

Squawker Jon and I acting silly.
Anyhow, Jon and I were laughing, as we usually do when we get together, over this idea: He suggested that I pull a David Ortiz and say that I'm going to run the Boston Marathon, as long as Bosston sports fans give me a standing ovation. I put this joke on my Facebook page, and my Yankee fan friend Jason asked me if I could actually run the marathon. I explained that I'm too slow to qualify, but I could get in on one of those charity admissions. You have to agree to raise at least $5000 for charity. So Jason suggested that we could try to get Yankee fans to try to chip in, if I wore Yankee gear to stick it to Boston fans.

I love, love, love this idea! Of course, I first have to finish the New York City Marathon in one piece, first. I wouldn't want to commit to Boston unless I knew I could finish New York. But it would be so epic to do it. Sticking it to Boston never gets old!

But would readers chip in to fund this? What do you think?

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Who would win a Best Athlete Oscar?

I love the thrill of competing against other people -- and winning. But since I am bound to be at the back of the pack forever when it comes to athleticism, I have to do my competition in things like trivia, fantasy football, and Oscar pools. (Click here to read about the pool I set up for my running club.)

Anyhow, speaking of movies, since its Oscar weekend (as well as my birthday weekend!) the New York Daily News did a pretty good look at athletes' stellar acting performances in films.(Click here to read it.) Like Brett Favre in "There's Something About Mary," Dan Marino in "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in "Airplane."

But I thought of at least one other good performance that could be added. How about Roger Clemens as a character named Skidmark in "Kingpin"? Fun fact: this is one of my all-time favorite comedies, but I didn't understand that it was a spoof of "The Hustler" until seeing the latter last year! I know Clemens was also in "Anger Management," but his role in "Kingpin" is much better! He is so convincing, I didn't realize it was him the first few times I saw the movie. (Warning: Language not safe for work.)

What else should be added to this list? Please leave your suggestions below!

Friday, February 26, 2016

What is more self-aggrandizing in baseball? Bat flips or retirement tours?

One of the cool things about having a lot of baseball fan Facebook friends is being able to test out ideas quickly. Like my theory of baseball celebrations. I had a hunch that if you did a Venn diagram of MLB fans who disliked Jose Bautista's bat flip and the like, and who say things like "Act like you've been there before," there would be very little overlap.

Generally speaking, the types of people who dislike individual in-game celebrations such as flamboyant home run trots and closers going nuts at the end of the game say things like "Act like you've been there before." (But many of those players haven't been there before, like Joey Bats finally making the playoffs after a long career. Thus, their happiness.) and "Play the game the right way." (Although left unsaid is who gets to define what the "right way" is.) 
These comments mean: Don't show any emotion. Don't draw attention to yourself. Be as sober as a church mouse. (In case you haven't figured it out already, I am NOT in this category!  I like players being human and showing human emotions! Unless it involves celebrations against the Yankees, and then I'm totally opposed. Heh!)

Anyhow, my theory (really, a hunch at first) was that these traditionalists would be the kinds of people who would be fans of players who have had long enough careers to do retirement ceremonies. It seemed to me that somebody who would be excited over, say, Derek Jeter's retirement tour, would be the type of person who liked Jeter because he Played the Game the Right Way. On the other hand, those of us, like myself, who like the spontaneous show of emotions in the game may not like the way that these retirement tours have been so formalized and commodified. 

As I wrote in this space (and got tons of grief for) in 2014, I was sick of Jeter's retirement tour by the All-Star Break, And my disdain for it only grew as it got even more over the top over the year.

We recently had a funny discussion on Facebook about it, over the fact that Mark, the president of my running club, who also works as a background actor, was in one of the Jeter commercials. When Josh, another background actor and our club's publicity director, told me that, I asked if El Presidente was in the Gatorade "My Way" ad. Josh said that wasn't the ad, and described it this way: "There was another commercial that showed [Jeter] even more reverent if you could believe that." As soon as I heard that description, I immediately knew he was talking about the Nike "Re2pect" commerical. So if you thought those were real fans in the stands, I've got news for you: they were actors, and at least one of them -- our friend Mark -- is a Mets fan! Heh.

Anyhow, that is basically what I found on Facebook -- that people who like the one thing generally don't like the other, and vice versa. And, at any rate, very few Yankee fans want to cheer for David Ortiz in his last game at Yankee Stadium. I predict that Ortiz will face a bigger public backlash on his tour, especially if either he or the Sox are doing poorly.

The thing of it is, these retirement tours not only about worshiping a particular player, but they also can hurt team goals in a way that a bat flip never did. If Joe Girardi had been able to move Jeter down the lineup, would they have made the playoffs? Maybe so. But instead, the team was all about a season2watch, not a team2watch.

The two retirements I admire the most are Paul O'Neill's and Mike Mussina's. Savvy Yankee fans serenaded O'Neill in Game 5 of the 2001 World Series (even Red Sox fan Sully from Sully Baseball was impressed by that.) And Mussina, of course, decided it would be his last year, left it all on the field, won 20 games, and then announced his retirement.

What's the showbiz adage? Always leave them wanting more? These retirement tours do the opposite. They make you sick of the player. And they've become pretty joyless affairs over time. The last truly "wow" gift was Rob Gardenhire saving Twins' bats broken from hitting off Mariano Rivera, and having them made into a rocking chair. After that, the gifts have become boring, as have the ceremonies in each city. And I'm sure I will rolling my eyes all year at Ortiz's farewell. Oy.

Where do you stand on this issue? Tell us about it!

Oscar-inspired rides for Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes has made a spectacular entrance at Met camp every day this week in vehicles ranging from a  three-wheel Polaris Slingshot to a Lamborghini Aventador. How can he continue to top himself? With the Academy Awards coming up this weekend, here are some possibilities from this year's nominated films.

Gigahorse from 'Mad Max: Fury Road'

Ideally with Chase Utley strapped to the front.

Rover from 'The Martian'

When Cespedes comes up with a runner on base, Met fans all over the world
will be rooting for the slugger to "bring him home."

Millennium Falcon from 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' 

If one franchise can return to glory days not seen since the 1980s...

 Bear from 'The Revenant'

If Cespedes can tame a grizzly bear, taking care of the Cubs should be no problem.

Train of Thought from 'Inside Out'

When Cespedes re-signed, Met fans' emotions switched from Sadness to Joy.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

It's the new A-Rod! Again! This Arodologist looks at what was the biggest key to changing his image

A-Rod today at spring training.
I check Facebook's "On This Day" each morning to see what' I was doing on previous dates in Facebook. A year ago this week, especially today, I was writing about how the New York sports media was going nuts over Alex Rodriguez. Back then, pretty much every single question in spring training was about A-Rod, after he missed a season due to PED use.

What a difference a year makes. A-Rod is *a* story, but he's not *the* story. And when stories are about him, they are mostly positive, about how he is a beloved teammate, good player, fan favorite, talented broadcaster, and good businessman.

Case in point #1: Bob Nightengale's profile of him this week in USA Today, which might have been the most positive story ever written about Rodriguez.

Case in point #2: This headline in a New York Daily News story about how A-Rod should give some advice on handling the media: "Yankees' Alex Rodriguez can help Lonn Trost, Aroldis Chapman deal with media crises." Wait, what?

As an Arodologist who wrote about "The Redemption of A-Rod" for the Washington Post last June, even I am surprised at how complete his image has changed over the past year.

So what has made the difference? I have a number of theories as to why this has happened: He had a great season, he showed his love for the game with his excellent broadcasting, he got better advisors, he stopped saying dumb things, etc.

But here are the most important things he has going for him these days: groupthink, peer pressure, and Derek Jeter's retirement. Let me explain.

I always have said that there were a certain number of fans who loved Rodriguez no matter what, or hated him no matter what. And what really moves the needle are the ones in the middle. For a long time, it was cool to hate A-Rod. Now, that is no longer the case. The perception is that he did his time, has matured into an elder statemen, and is arguably the most important player on the team. Without him, they wouldn't have made the playoffs. Sure, there are still Yankee fans who can't stand him, but most like him now, and he has gotten the biggest cheers of anybody this spring. The groupthink and peer pressure (it's no longer cool to despise him) are finally working in his favor.

That also goes with the media. Granted, so many problems of A-Rod's were self-inflicted, but at the same time, too many people in the press made mountains out of molehills when it came to him. There seemed to be an unseemly piling on over the silliest of things. Now, most reporters have realized that he (shocker) is actually a great person to talk baseball with, and they pick his brains now for strategy. And they seem to have collectively gotten away from the snickering amongst themselves about him that they used to do. Now they're falling over themselves to write positive stories. Even this Arodologist couldn't have predicted that!

The other thing that is helping A-Rod out is Jeter's retirement. No longer do fans have to feel somehow disloyal to Jeter by liking Rodriguez. No longer do reporters try to curry favor with Jeter by slamming A-Rod. In addition, Alex had always talked to players behind the scenes and helped the younger players (fun fact: he has bought several sets of suits for each rookie since he joined the team), but now that Jeter is gone, he can be more of an open team leader and elder statesman. Now he's the veteran who contacts new players to welcome them to the team. Who'da thunk it?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Message to Randy Levine and Lonn Trost: When you're in a hole, quit digging!

I really was going to write today about something else in Yankeeland besides the team's ticket debacle. Honest. But as long as team president Randy Levine and COO Lonn Trost keep on saying and doing dopey things about it, I've got to keep Squawking about it!

The gruesome twosome have said even more ridiculous things in the last two days to extend this story into even more news cycles. This, at the very same time the team is attempting to sell individual tickets for the 2016 season. Unbelievable.

I woke up this morning to see that Levine had run his mouth about Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. because Diaz is taking the fans' -- and StubHub's -- side in this ticket issue. Diaz's spokesman, John Desio, told the New York Daily News:
“The borough president is a lifelong Yankee fan. The borough president’s favorite player was Graig Nettles. He lives and dies by the Yankees as do many people in the borough, the city and the world. This new policy on tickets combined with their COO’s elitist comments are not very fan friendly for the borough president or anyone else who loves the Yankees.” 
So how did Levine respond? In a mature, adult fashion befitting his reputation. By which I mean, he lashed out like a frat boy with anger management issues, the way he usually does. (How is this guy in a position of authority, anyway? I wouldn't trust him to run the fry station at McDonald's without spilling grease on himself when flying off the handle!)

Levine told ESPN's Darren Rovell, who first reported on Diaz' stance:
“It doesn’t surprise me given that we’ve stopped his endless funding requests. It does surprise me because the only time he showed up to Yankee Stadium was when he was on official business when he was comped. I guess there are no greater problems in the Bronx, that he needs to spend time on, than ticketing.” 
How is this comment possibly productive? It doesn't even make any sense. What, exactly, would be the "endless funding requests" a Bronx borough president would ask the Yankees for? Wouldn't it be the other way around?

And you can't complain that Diaz rarely shows up at Yankee games, and then whine that "I guess there are no greater problems in the Bronx, that he needs to spend time on, than ticketing." Well, most of us would think that enabling his constituents in the poorest borough in the city to get decently priced tickets is kind of important.

UPDATE: Shortly after writing this Squawk, I received an email from Diaz's office containing a copy of a letter the borough president sent to Levine, criticizing the policy. It's a pretty strongly worded missive! Read it here

That isn't the only time in recent days that Levine has flapped his gums. He and Trost recently talked to Bloomberg View sports columnist -- and Yankee fan -- Kavitha A. Davidson about the ticket policy. She writes about a less-discussed aspect of using mobile tickets. Fans will have to sign up at Ticketmaster, give the company personal information, and download an app in order to use the Yankees' mobile ticket feature. (I wrote about this last week, but she went to much greater detail on the new system and tried it out herself. "It seems there are still a few bugs to work out," she wrote.)

Anyhow, both Levine and Trost dismissed any concerns over the new policy. Levine insisted to the writer that third-party ticket brokers and StubHub are, Davidson writes, as "the source of much of the backlash against the new mobile system." Um, no, dude. Your team's fans are the main source of the backlash. Remember them?

In addition, according to the article, "Levine said Trost's comments were taken out of context and stressed that the Yankees' position is 'if you buy a legitimate ticket you're welcome to sit at Yankee Stadium,' whether or not you paid full price." Well, isn't that nice of them! And at any rate, we didn't take Trost's comments out of context. We took them in context. That's the problem!

Trost made let yet another elitist remark in insisting: "In today's world of millennials, I can't imagine anyone who's not smartphone savvy who wants to come to the ballpark," he said. "But when they do, they can get a hard-stock ticket." Oy. He needs to get out more.

Remember how Trost talked about Yankee fan ticket buyers who spent "a buck and a half" for premium tickets? I wrote that there was no way people were paying $1.50 a ticket for the fancy seats. But I missed an even more elitist remark that Trost was making with that. I have a friend who is a ticket broker. And he said that "a buck and a half" is a term in the business meaning $150. So Trost is looking down at fans who "only" spend $150 per Yankee ticket. For the rest of us, that sort of money for a three-hour regular season game is a splurge for a milestone birthday or something. In Trost's world, these people are the riff raff!

My friend Jason Keidel, who writes about sports for CBS New York, interviewed me this week about how a decision by the Yankees on February 15 to ban print-at-home tickets has morphed into a PR disaster for the team that is like the Energizer Bunny. It just keeps on going, and going, and going.

I talked about my part in that -- Squawking the next day about how the decision was about smashing StubHub and taking away fans' ability to buy tickets on the secondary market. Then I was interviewed for the New York Post the following day, and showed how Yankee fans were unhappy about this, at the very same time the team's spokesperson claimed that fans were thrilled over it. The very next morning, Yankees COO Lonn Trost popped up on WFAN to defend the policy, and blurted out his elitist opinion about Yankee ticket buyers.

This story has gone about as disastrously for the Yankees as anybody with a brain and common sense could have predicted. It's been raging for 10 days now, and shows no sign of abating. Are there any grownups in Yankeeland who will step in and stop this? Where is Hal Steinbrenner? What could possibly be more important for him to be doing than stopping this PR disaster? Good grief.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Should Yankee fans cheer David Ortiz in his last Yankee Stadium game?

I was on my my home when I saw about the retiring David Ortiz's "plea" in the New York Post to Yankee fans. And I couldn't wait to get home and Squawk about it, because obviously, I have something to say!

Post columnist Kevin Kernan talked to Ortiz today about what he wanted in his final game of his career at Yankee Stadium:

When Ortiz, 40, makes his final Yankee Stadium appearance on Sept. 29, this is what he wants, and it speaks volumes about Ortiz the player, the competitor, the enemy, the star. 
 “You know what I want most of all?’’ Big Papi told The Post on Tuesday at JetBlue Park. “I would love it if the fans at Yankee Stadium gave me a standing ovation.’’
Kernan writes that Yankee fans can "show class" by doing this:
Cheer for Big Papi. Chant his nickname. Send him out with class.
You know, I mostly like Kernan's writing, but this is a bit much for me.

Look, I gave Ortiz a standing ovation in my living room when, after the Boston Marathon bombing, he took the mike at Fenway and said, "This is our f*cking city." That was a great moment, and it's the one time in my life I wanted to cheer for Ortiz.  That's enough for me, thanks. Unless he's got Lou Gehrig's Disease or something, I am on record in thinking these endless farewell tours are too much. And I'm not cheering for him. I also think it's a little weird for him to ask for this.

Now, I'm not going to tell other Yankee fans that they shouldn't cheer for Ortiz. But I say not just "No," but "Hello, no." to the idea of me cheering and giving him a standing ovation and chanting "Big Papi." Good grief.

And I don't think not doing so for him makes me unclassy. (Class is overrated, anyway!)

 I also don't think  that sportswriters should tell fans what to do here. This is a personal decision every fan has the right to make. And I'm sitting on my hands, thanks!

What do you think? Will you cheer for David Ortiz?

Lisa interviewed for CBS New York piece on Yankee ticket policy

CBS New York columnist Jason Keidel has weighed in on the fallout from the Yankees' move to ban print-at-home tickets and Lonn Trost's preferences for the type of fan to sit in the often-empty fancy seats. He interviewed Lisa for his piece New Ticket Policy Widens Divide Between Yankees, Everyday Fans and she is quoted throughout on topics ranging from Trost to admitting that the Mets now have the "better team" than the Yankees!

Yankee press office tells players to be more like Russell Wilson than Cam Newton. But what about Yankee brass?

Isn't it ironic? (Cue Alanis Morrissette song!) The Yankees' PR/media team recently held their annual training sessions advising players how to act in front of the press. In the very same week that the biggest story in Yankeeland is how team COO Lonn Trost made elitist remarks that alienated most of the fan base, and then team president Randy Levine insulted fans' intelligence with his comments about StubHub. Seems like the execs need that training more than the players! Not to mention the fact that this story is still percolating among Yankee fans this week, while nobody from the front office has stepped in to clarify the remarks or apologize for Trost. Talk about bad PR!

Anyhow, Ryan Hatch of got the inside scoop on the players' training from media relations director Jason Zillo. Yankees saw videos featuring clips featuring ESPN's Britt McHenry's infamous argument trashing a tow truck employee, as well as Lawrence Taylor's media meltdown back in the day. Derek Jeter pops up on the video to advise the ballplayers that everything in their lives is fair game these days. And A-Rod (!) is actually cited as a positive example of how to handle the press, when he deflected talk of his home run numbers.

The players saw clips of Cam Newton's and Russell Wilson's respective post-Super Bowl press conferences, with the idea that Newton's behavior was bad, and Wilson's was good. But I kind of agree with Big League Stew's Mike Oz, and his take on this:
Cam's presser you know well by now: He grumbled and sulked, giving abrupt answers before walking out. It's almost like he felt emotion after losing the big game of his life. Imagine that....And Wilson's presser from a year earlier was pretty much the opposite....
It was textbook, so the Yankees are right wanting their players to be like Wilson — if you want players to say the predictable thing and not show a lot of emotion. And, let's be real about what the Newton/Wilson dichotomy is really implying these days: We want you to be safe and dull, not polarizing, not making yourself an enemy of Middle America. 
He then writes about how it applies to the Yankees:
They have one player, C.C. Sabathia, who is coming back this season after admitting he had a problem with alcohol and seeking help. He has a story that's worth telling, emotion and all. They have another player, Alex Rodriguez, whose image is as far from clean-cut as possible and has been criticized most of his career for being too robotic. Considering, his against-the-odds comeback from a year ago, he has a reason to finally open up. Is it the worst thing to let them and their teammates be real people with real emotions? 
You're right. Considering this is baseball, where you can't celebrate a home run for more than a split second or risk breaking the unwritten rules, the answer is probably, "Yes. We don't want real emotions. Just say the boring stuff that everyone wants you to say."
Oz then brings up Lonn Trost and suggests, like I just did, that he is the one who needs the media training.

I get the Yankees' point on the media training. I do. But I also get Oz's point. There's something to be said for genuine emotion. While Newton should have stayed longer at the presser so all the reporters could have gotten their questions in (they're funny that way), I cannot fault him for looking as devastated as he did. Isn't that what you want as a fan? For your team's players to care? To be as upset as you are over losing the big game?

You also want your team's front office to care. Not just about the team winning and losing. But about the fans. And Trost's and Levine's remarks have emphasized an "us vs. them" mentality instead of a "we're all Yankee fans together" attitude. I have seen so many fans online over the past few days wonder why they should even bother going to games at all any more, given the contempt the front office has for them.

It's now been five days since Trost's elitist remark. Still no apology, or statement from the team, or olive branch to the fans. Meanwhile, individual tickets have gone on sale. Way to sell the brand, Yanks!

Monday, February 22, 2016

What can we expect from Masahiro Tanaka in 2016?

You've heard the figures a gazillion times: How the Yankees have nearly $70 million of their payroll tied up in the onerous contracts of CC Sabathia ($25M), Mark Teixeira ($23.2M, and Alex Rodriguez ($21M). How the team is hamstrung because of these ridiculous contracts, and won't be able to spend until they're off the books (Tex comes off books after this year; CC has a $25M vesting option w/$5M buyout for next year, and A-Rod is off after 2017.)

Well, here's the thing: as expensive as these three players are, they were not only an integral part of the Yankees winning the 2009 World Series, but two of the three (Tex and A-Rod) combined for a 7 WAR, and were the top two reasons the Yanks made it to the playoffs at all in 2015.

The really untold story when it comes to the Yankees payroll are some of the players added within the last two years, all of whom have been disappointments. Masahiro Tanaka is owed $22M this year, and $101M total, but has not pitched like an ace, other than his first few months. Jacoby Ellsbury is owed over $100M as well, with $21M on the books for 2016. Yet he did not start the team's Wild Card game last year. Chase Headley is "only" owed $39M over the next three years, but his numbers are pretty mediocre, even for that amount. But Tanaka is the biggest expense. And arguably, the biggest disappointment.

The Bergen Record's Bob Klapisch writes today about the enigma that is Tanaka. He says that the pitcher is a "sensitive" subject for the Yanks:
The problem is the disconnect between Tanaka and the Yankees when it comes to the real-time condition of his arm. Club officials were shocked to learn an old bone spur in his elbow had grown last season, resulting in surgery in October. Tanaka never said a word about it. While no one suggests the Japanese star tried to mislead his superiors, they clearly wished they’d known he wasn’t at 100 percent as they were chasing a wild-card spot.
I was on my pal Paul Francis Sullivan's SullyBaseball's podcast last summer, and I said that I would like to see Luis Severino to start the Wild Card game, because he was a new pitcher that the rest of MLB was not yet familiar with. Given Tanaka's underwhelming performance in that game, not to mention his unknown injury, maybe they should have gone with him in the first place.

Klapisch writes:
Was Tanaka really telling the truth about being pain-free while he was being outpitched by Houston’s Dallas Keuchel in the Yankees’ 3-0 loss in the wild-card elimination game? And can he be counted on to be honest in the future? The Yankees’ answers, in order, are: Not sure. And not sure. They admit they’ve been in the dark about Tanaka’s day-to-day pain level, if only because he’s stoic by nature. “We had zero idea,” [Brian] Cashman said. “He never complained, he never came in for treatment. He went through the exit physical and didn’t say a word.”
The bone spur marks his third arm injury as a Yankee. Yikes!

So what can we expect from him this year? He's apparently not ready to commit to being ready to pitch on Opening Day. And I watch every Tanaka game wondering if this will be the game in which he fully tears his UCL and needs Tommy John surgery. He's an above-average pitcher now, but the magic is gone, and I don't know if and when it will be back. But regardless, the Yankees still owe him over $100 million. Yeesh.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Shocker: Randy Levine reveals the Yankee Ticket Exchange is a huge failure

Would you buy Yankee tickets
from this man?
Both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have interviews this weekend with New York Yankees president Randy Levine. He's doing damage control for Lonn Trost's elitist comments when the COO tried to do damage control over the team's ticket kerfuffle. This is like Yasiel Puig advising Jonathan Papelbon how to be a good teammate. Like David Ortiz telling Jose Bautista to tone down his home run celebrations. You catch my drift. 

When are the Yankees going to learn the first rule of holes? When you're in a hole, QUIT DIGGING!

Instead, Levine is out there, shovel in hand, still trying to justify the Yankees' new policy as protecting the fans against fraud. But, just as Trost's damage control went awry, so did Levine's, as he inadvertently confirmed the real reasons for the new policy -- that the team doesn't believe in the free market when it comes to showing the true value of tickets. And that the Yankees Ticket Exchange is a big fat flop.

He told Billy Witz of the Times: “We strongly believe that we have the right to maintain control over our inventory as long as the market provides ample opportunity to have choice in other ways.”

Levine told Jared Diamond of the Journal: “This is our product and our inventory. We have the ultimate right to protect the value of our inventory as long as it’s done in the free-market society.” 

He also admitted to the Journal that only fewer than 10% of the tickets sold on the resale market go through the Yankees Ticket Exchange. And the Journal's story also revealed that, according to StubHub, 40% of their Yankee ticket sales occur in the 72 hours before the event. Which this new ticket policy would not-so-coincidentally negatively affect.

Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner!

Levine is confirming what Yankee fans like myself have been saying all week. This is all about increasing the resale value of Yankees tickets, and nothing about protecting fans from alleged "fraud."

Like all too many people in Yankeeland, Levine is living in the past. He wants a monopoly on ticket sales, at the very same time he's claiming he's all about the free market. Child, please.

Fans understand economics better than Levine does. The tickets are overpriced, and the free market, as evidenced by the secondary market, is showing that. The proof is in the pudding. The one secondary ticket venue with a price floor is the Yankees Ticket Exchange. And even though they are the easiest for season ticket holders to use, with integration with the team's ticket system, and even though they are integrated into, the exchange, by Levine's own admission, has only captured under 10% of the secondary market. That is an amazingly bad number.

This is why Levine and Trost are pushing this ban on print-at-home tickets and trying to stop fans from using StubHub for these last-second ticket sales. Because three years ago, they sold team owner Hal Steinbrenner on the idea that StubHub needed to be smashed. And they had the Yankees spend the money on this rival ticket exchange, figuring fans were so stupid, they would go to it because it was the official one. 

Yet it is a colossal failure. So now, the Yankees are trying to smash StubHub in another way -- by preventing their own fans from getting good deals on tickets.  They love the free market when it comes to corporations spending big bucks for boxes, but not so much when it shows that their ticket prices are too high.

That's not all that Levine said about the ticket brouhaha. From the Times:
After Lonn Trost, the Yankees’ chief operating officer, was lambasted as elitist for suggesting in a Thursday radio interview that some fans do not belong in premium seats, the team president, Randy Levine, in an interview Saturday, said StubHub had stoked the controversy, accusing it of putting out a narrative “that’s completely fraudulent and completely false.” 
1. What did StubHub have to do with Trost insulting the Yankee fan base? (Incidentally, it's been 72 hours and counting, and the Yankees still haven't apologized for what Trost said. Shows how much the front office cares about the fans.)

2. What part of the narrative, exactly, of what the Yankees are doing by banning print-at-home tickets is “completely fraudulent and completely false”?  That the Yankees has been on a vendetta against StubHub for the last three years? That the Yankees sued to force StubHub to move their Last-Minute Ticket Center from 68 East 161st Street, across the street from the Stadium, to the Bronx Terminal Market at 651 River Avenue and 151st Street? That despite the narrative that Lonn Trost pushed, that StubHub is not the entity holding up them being able to access mobile tickets -- the Yankees are? (And Levine even admits that the Yankees are holding this up, but still blames StubHub for it.)

Individual Yankee ticket sales for 2016 start tomorrow. But the team's brass has spent the last week doing the worst PR you could imagine for selling their own product. Good grief.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

What can we learn from Liverpool soccer fans' protest of ticket prices?

Yankee fans and Red Sox fans have more in common than we want to admit -- especially with The Rivalry being so snoozeworthy these days. The latest example of this is something my Boston friend Tyler has been griping about. Tyler, who mashes for Monstah Mash, wrote about the recent uprising with Liverpool Football (Soccer) Club fans, and how team owner John Henry, who also owns the Red Sox, had to back down and apologize to that fan base.

Here's the story. The team announced that they were raising the best ticket prices to 77 pounds (approximately $112) for next year. (Gee, I think both Boston and New York fans would be jumping for joy if that were our top ticket prices!) Liverpool tried to spin the price increase as only affecting some tickets but Liverpool fans were outraged. So the fans planned an in-game protest. At least 10,000 fans walked out in the 77th minute of a game, when their team was leading, 2-0. Their team, apparently flummoxed by the fans leaving, ended up giving up two goals. That got the powers that be's attention.

All it took was this one walkout for John Henry to cry uncle, apologize to Liverpool's fans, and roll back the price increases. He wrote a letter of apology to the fan base that Lonn Trost and the Yankees could learn from.

And my Sox friend Tyler is irate. He wants to know when Boston fans get an apology:

Here’s my big issue with all of this though, where the hell is OUR apology? Where is the apology for ridiculously high ticket prices (sh*t I’d love it if our tickets capped at $112), the second mortgage I had to take out just to buy a hot dog, and not to mention the classless buffoonery we’ve seen from the three stooges in their cushy box seats since they came here? Where’s our apology for gutting Terry Francona, screwing up the Jon Lester negotiations while insulting him in the process, and ruthlessly canning Don Orsillo or putting “sexy” star power over actually good players? Honestly I’m so sick of the Sox ownership and management I just have nothing left to say. Heck, maybe we could take a cue from Liverpool fans and stage a walkout or boycott at Fenway Park because apparently nothing is getting through to these bone-headed greedy pieces of crap who pretend to care.
Remember what I said about us having a lot in common with Boston fans? See what I mean?

Lonn Trost still has yet to apologize for his offensive comments about fans.  And now Boston fans are losing StubHub; the Red Sox are starting their own ticket service, with a price floor, of course. Whatever happened to the free market?

Anyhow, I wonder what we fans can do to show our disgust. Would a walkout work? Petitions? Simply not buying tickets? It's a conundrum, to be sure. Any thoughts of what might get team owners' attention? Please leave it in the comments section below.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Lonn Trost's comments harken back to an ugly time in Yankees' history

Thursday was the Yankees' first official day of spring training, when pitchers and catchers report. This should have been a fun, exciting day for us Bombers fans who haven't seen baseball since October. But instead, Yankees COO Lonn Trost managed to make headlines that day for all the wrong reasons, as I discussed yesterday.

You've heard me say this a hundred times about the Hal Steinbrenner regime in Yankeeland. Since Prince Hal neither really has a fan's interest in the Yankees, nor any business sense short of being a member of the Lucky Sperm Club, he allows the inmates to run the asylum. And that's how you have somebody like Trost, an elitist twit who has said so many dumb things over the years, speaking for the team and stepping all over the first day of spring training. All because he was apparently ticked off over what the tabloids and bloggers like yours truly said about the team's new ticket policy. Ha!
Per Roger Kahn's 'Rickey & Robinson,'  Lonn Trost is carrying on
a grand 
premium seat tradition.

— Greg Prince (@greg_prince) February 19, 2016

Trost's quote was all over the media last night. Does Prince Hal agree with him? Is anybody in the organization going to rebuke the COO for it? The only followup I've seen from the team was in this morning's New York Daily News: "A Yankee spokesman said Trost meant no offense by the comment." That's it? Not even a quote with a person's name attached? That's unacceptable. Trost insulted the team's fan base. He needs to apologize, and/or lose his job. Enough!

There are a few more things I wanted to point out about this controversy. The first is a quote that Faith and Fear in Flushing's Greg Prince highlighted from Roger Kahn's book Rickey & Robinson. It's about why the Yankees took so long to integrate the team. It was eight long years after Jackie Robinson for the Yanks to bring up an African-American player -- Elston Howard. And part of the reason is that George Weiss feared that having black players would bring in black fans that would alienate the rich, white fans. Oy. That was an ugly part of the team's history. And Trost's awful quote, whether it is race-based or class-based or both, harkens back to that attitude.

The second was my friend Steve's point about season ticket sales. Steve, a former season ticketholder, wrote about this situation in his Was Watching Yankee blog about the idea that a season ticketholder with a premium seat would be mad if somebody sitting next to him paid less money:
It doesn’t matter to me if the Yankees charged me $90 and they charged some other guy $90 – and then that other guy went out and decided to sell his ticket for $2. That’s his problem, not mine. In fact, it’s REALLY not my problem. I had season tickets to the Yankees from 2001 through 2014. And, a big part of why I gave them up after FOURTEEN YEARS was the fact that no one wants to pay face value for a Yankees ticket anymore and I was taking a beating on games where I couldn’t attend. And, that’s probably the Yankees real problem. People like me will no longer buy their tickets because of the secondary market. That’s why they want to shut down the secondary market.
The answer? Don’t charge so much for tickets that it makes it so attractive to buy them on the secondary market at such a cheap rate. Or, put a product on the field that makes people want to see the games so bad that they would never consider selling their tickets. It’s all about supply and demand. Create the demand for the supply and the market will take care of itself.
You know, this is New York. Where people brag about getting deals and paying less for something than others. And I think what it comes down to in Yankeeland is that Yankee fans got tired of paying full price for tickets, especially when, as Steve points out, they would lose so much money on the season tickets they couldn't use. The only advantage to having any sort of season ticket plan is the ability to get playoff tickets. But when the team has had exactly one postseason game in the last three years, that doesn't really matter much anymore, now does it?

And finally, if this alleged ticket fraud that Trost keeps on harping on is such an issue, then why hasn't Ticketmaster dumped print-at-home tickets completely? Instead, they STILL offer this as an option. It says right there on their website: "It’s your tickets, your way: Print at home OR get in with your smartphone. You decide! Just remember: While you can print the same ticket you put on your phone, the first one scanned at the venue is the only one that will work." Yet Trost claimed yesterday that "multiple people" were getting into Yankee Stadium with the same ticket. Hmmmm. Sounds like he played fast and loose with the truth!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Yankees' COO Lonn Trost to the 99%: Drop dead

Yankees Chief Operating Officer Lonn Trost has an elitist excuse for why secondary ticket sales are bad, and why the team is trying to stop any other parties from doing them but themselves. Neil Best of Newsday recounted his explanation, as told to WFAN's Boomer and Carton (emphasis added):
"The problem below market at a certain point is that if you buy a ticket in a very premium location and pay a substantial amount of money. It’s not that we don’t want that fan to sell it, but that fan is sitting there having paid a substantial amount of money for a ticket and [another] fan picks it up for a buck-and-a-half and sits there, and it’s frustrating to the purchaser of the full amount."
Trost then added a comment that raised eyebrows on social media because of its seemingly elitist undertones. "And quite frankly," he said, "the fan may be someone who has never sat in a premium location. So that’s a frustration to our existing fan base."
So basically, only the 1% deserve to get to sit in the good seats in Yankee Stadium. And the 99% better know their place, because they don't belong in the premium location. And their very presence might upset those who paid full price for such seats.

Left unsaid was how these people would know that these interlopers paid less. Unless, you know, they weren't the "right" race or social class to be there. Not to mention that the idea that somebody could pay $1.50 for premium seats is ludicrous.

Whose idea in Yankeeland, exactly, was it to get Trost to defend this policy? He is about the worst spokesman for the team imaginable. He's the guy who blamed Hurricane Sandy for slow ticket sales. Who defended charging $2600 for the top seats at the new Yankee Stadium, saying "Some people can afford to fly first class and others can't." Who justified keeping kids from getting in front of the moat to see batting practice. Who called the obstructed seats in the current stadium's outfield merely "architecturally shadowed."  Who decided it was a good idea in 2013 to pick a fight with StubHub, claiming that they were "greedy," accused them, with no evidence, of counterfeit tickets and banned them from doing e-ticket sales. Then who had to back off on that plan when Yankee ticket sales plummeted.

It looks like he apparently was incensed by reports in the newspapers, and by bloggers about how the Yankees' new ticket policy would keep fans from buying last-minute tickets on StubHub. "Unfortunately, the papers, the bloggers have it wrong," he claimed, and said he presented the New York Post and the New York Daily News with the "facts." (An aside: Speaking of facts, I know for a fact, through somebody in the know, that I am one of the very bloggers he was unhappy about. I can't tell you how much that warms my heart!)

Trost also said fans could still use StubHub's "last minute pickup center that's right up from Yankee Stadium" to pick up hard copy tickets. Funny how Trost described that ticket center's location that way. Because when he first picked a fight with them, the team sued to make StubHub close their truly convenient location at 68 East 161st Street, saying it was too close to the ballpark. And StubHub had to move to a less convenient location for fans at the Bronx Terminal Market, Level 1, at 651 River Ave and 151st Street. which is almost 1/2 mile away from the stadium. All to prevent the team's own fans from using them.

He also blatantly played fast and loose with the truth about StubHub when it came to them being able to do mobile tickets."We know that StubHub can transfer tickets on mobile. If they choose not to, that's not our business." 

That is untrue. I reached out to Cameron Papp, StubHub's Communications Manager, to get clarification. Papp told me that they would not be able to do so without the Yankees' agreeing to this:
"As of now, due to this new policy, StubHub will only be able to offer the listings of hard tickets for Yankees games. If there’s enough time before the game, the seller will send their hard tickets through UPS directly to the buyer. If there’s not enough time before the game, the seller can send or drop off their tickets at our ticket office outside of the stadium ahead of time for the buyer to pick them up on game day."
Papp also gave me this official statement from StubHub:
"StubHub believes that the best customer experience is one on a free and open marketplace where fans can buy and sell tickets whenever and wherever they want. Yankees fans will still be able to purchase tickets on StubHub up until game time" if they go to the StubHub ticket office."
But the electronic method is out. Glenn Lehrmann of StubHub explained this to Neil Best:
"The only way we can transfer tickets is if the Yankees and Ticketmaster provide us with an API [application programming interface] feed that would allow us to do that,” he said. “It’s protected, and they have not granted us access, nor have they granted anyone access. If they wanted to grant us access, this is a different conversation."
* In addition, Trost claimed that people were printing out "multiple copies" of print-at-home tickets on "copy machines" and that "multiple people" were getting in. "And we don't even know how many," he said. Which is BS. Print-at-home tickets have a scannable barcode. And you can print one hundred copies of that ticket, but only the first person who had the ticket would get in. If the Stadium was somehow letting people in without correctly scanning their ticket, that's their incompetence, isn't it, not StubHub's or anybody else's.

* He also talked about Eric Schneiderman, New York's Attorney General, partially blaming him for the move to mobile. But he never mentioned that Schneiderman was looking into the team's policy of having a price floor in the Yankees Ticket Exchange; it may be ruled as anti-competitive. Gee, I wonder why.

Anyhow, it's really gut-wrenching to see such a twit represent the team I love. And to show such blatant contempt for fans like me. At a time when the Yankees face increased competition for ticket sales from the Mets, they ought to be doing their best to put fannies in the seats, not get those fannies to decide to sit at home on the couch and watch the games on TV instead. Good grief.

I am quoted in the New York Post about the Yankees' new fan-UNfriendly ticket policy

What would Judge Judy say
about the Yankees' new ticket policy?
I am in today's New York Post! Click here to read the article, and read on to see how this happened.

I was sitting at my desk in my office in the big city yesterday afternoon when my cell phone rang with "Unknown" on the Caller ID. I very cautiously answered the phone. It turns out that David K. Li of the New York Post wanted to talk to me. My very first, totally primal, reaction when he introduced himself was to think, What the heck did I do to get the Post's attention? Did I do something wacky after my 10-mile race in single-degree weather that warranted a Post story?

The reporter then explained the purpose of his call. He had seen my Squawk about the Yankees' new ticket policy, which is being spun as helping fans against fraud (even though hard-stock tickets can also be counterfeit), when it's really about increasing the Yankees' bottom line by killing the use of StubHub. In fact, the initial stories in the mainstream media spun the team's pablum about this ticket fraud non-issue. (Incidentally, I saw somebody say on Twitter yesterday afternoon: "Amazing how the Yankees are experiencing so much fraud with print at home tickets, but no other franchises are." Exactly!)

So I gave Li my spiel against the new policy: how the team likes the free market, until fans use the free market to get cheap tickets. Then all of a sudden, the team wants price floors so that the ticket prices don't go below a certain level.  I talked about how I never had a problem with free agents and even teams making money, per se, but that the flip side was that fans should be able to use that same free market to buy and sell tickets at whatever prices the market will bear. And at any rate, the Yankees already made money the first time they sold the tickets. Why did they insist on getting a cut with the second time the tickets were sold, especially when it would hurt their own fan base?

I also pointed out that it will also hurt fans' flexibility in buying tickets. No longer will they be able to go to StubHub and get a deal on the day of the game. And how the team was so shortsighted on this decision. Because not only will they not get those fans into the ballpark, but that they will not get those fans' money from them buying food, drinks, and souvenirs. We also talked about how this new policy would hurt ticket sellers, too. Most of whom are season ticket holders just looking to get some of their money back for games they can't attend.

Anyhow, Li wrote up a great story that made the Post's website last night, and that will be in Thursday's paper. The article correctly points out how much this will negatively affect the average fan. I am quoted several times in the piece, including the kicker at the end. Which, if you know anything about journalism, is a great place to be!

But the Yankees are still trying to spin this as somehow helping the fans. From the article (emphasis added):
“Mobile is the most convenient, accessible, efficient and safe way to provide tickets,” said Yankees spokeswoman Alice McGillion. “Yankees fans are extremely happy, this is what they wanted. The only unhappy people are the ticket brokers and ticket speculators.”
Listen up, Alice McGillion. If you honestly think that Yankee fans "are extremely happy" over this new policy, you need to get your head out of your you know what. As I always say, don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining!

While some Yankee fans may have welcomed the mobile option, nobody was saying to themselves, "Gee, what I really want is for the team to take away my flexbility in being able to buy a cheap ticket at the last minute." Or "Gee, I really want to help the Yankees and Ticketmaster make even more money." And, Ms. McGillion, most of the people selling tickets -- and buying tickets -- are your most dedicated, hardcore fans. How do you think this move is going to sell in your fan base?

This is one of the many things odious about the Hal Steinbrenner regime. Since he was born on third base, but thinks he hit a triple, he doesn't have a clue how bad these quotes sound from the team's PR person (!), especially when they are sandwiched next to quotes from actual fans. And because Prince Hal is so worried about looking like his father, he does the opposite of George in so many ways, including never seeming to fire anybody nor wanting accountability in anything. Then again, I guess the front office is doing his bidding in squeezing every last drop out of the fans, the way his big innovation for this winter was to have the Yankees be the only team not to sign a free agent. At least it used to be that we knew the high ticket prices were going to getting the best players. Not anymore.

And, as I wrote in the blog the other day (also, thanks to Mets Police for highlighting it in their blog), and also told the Post reporter, the Mets' Spring Training Sendoff that Squawker Jon and I attended on Monday was very disorganized. But I appreciated that they tried to do something nice for their fans. (Incidentally, Jon and I each got an emailed apology from the Mets yesterday for the logistical problems at the event -- and a voucher for two free field-level tickets for Monday-Thursday games through June of this year. Can you imagine the Yankees ever doing that?)

I have written in this blog about how the Yankees' ticket sales are declining, while the Mets are increasing. So does the Yankee organization think that screwing over their own fans is the way to arrest this trend? And it's one thing for the team to have the arrogance of doing whatever it wants when they were winning world championship after world championship, and were the top team in town. But, unfortunately, the team's front office still has that arrogance, even in a time when their crosstown rivals are actually putting a better product on -- and off -- the field. This is the time people in Yankeeland ought to be looking long and hard at innovative ways to get their fans to keep on coming to games. Not alienating them yet again.

You know, I've been a Yankee fan since I was 10 years old. I will remain a Yankees fan for the rest of my life. But gee, it would be nice if some of this passion was reciprocated. Or at least if the organization didn't pee on me and my fellow Yankee fans' legs and tell us it's raining!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Lisa quoted twice in New York Post ticket story

Squawker Lisa's takedown of the Yankees' new policy of no longer accepting print-at-home tickets caught the attention of the New York Post, who interviewed her for their story on the ticket travesty. Lisa is quoted midway through the article and again at the end. Go Lisa!

Pitchers, catchers, and a new top team in town

It's finally time for pitchers and catchers, when it's so good to see baseball back that I put aside my grumbling that, as usual, ESPN ranks one New York team #2 and the other New York team #17.

Wait a minute - it's the Mets coming in at #2 while the Yankees are at #17! Play ball!

There's such a buzz around the Mets that Squawker Lisa even waited with me for two hours in 20-degree weather and snow coming down to get vouchers for Met tickets!

Thousands of people came out on a wintry day to get those tickets. And despite long lines and disorganization, people waited patiently in the cold for a chance to see the defending National League champion New York Mets.

Not to be repetitive, but I feel like writing that again: National League defending champion New York Mets!

For much of the postseason, the Mets looked like they would be content with being a small-market team that managed to make the World Series one time. Tampa Bay was the model small-market franchise for awhile, but that one World Series appearance in 2008 seems like a long time ago. Then the Mets found a way to bring Yoenis Cespedes back. Think ESPN would have had the Mets at #2 without Cespedes?

The last time the Mets were good, they choked down the stretch in 2007 and 2008 while the hated Phillies went on to five straight division titles, two pennants, and one championship.  Now it's the Mets' current main rival, the Washington Nationals, that have to deal with the "choke: label:

Will new skipper Dusty Baker let the Nationals, um, choke again in 2016?

The Mets have players like Cespedes, who took less money to come back to New York, where he finished 13th in MVP voting despite only being on the Mets for two months. While the Nationals have the player who won the MVP, Bryce Harper, they also still have the teammate who tried to choke Harper in the dugout, Jonathan Papelbon.

Optimism in February for the Mets vs. trying to get excited over signing Alejandro De Aza? Sign me up!

Yankees screw over fans -- again -- with new ticket policy

One of my favorite sayings in real life is "Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining." (I have been known to use the more profane version of this expression as well!) I stole it from Judge Judy. In case you don't know what the expression means, it is basically saying, "Don't screw me over and then act like you had nothing to do with it."

I couldn't help but think of that expression when I heard about the Yankees' new ticket policy. The team announced in a press release this week that they were finally going to accept mobile tickets. But the real story is that they're no longer accepting PDFs or printouts of online game tickets. Here is how the organization spun this news:
As the Yankees are continuously striving to implement technological advances to provide our fans with a ticketing experience that is unparalleled, convenient, safe and secure, the Yankees are excited to announce, as a complement to traditional hard stock paper tickets, the availability of mobile ticketing for the 2016 baseball season. Print-at-home paper tickets (PDFs) are being discontinued so as to further combat fraud and counterfeiting of tickets associated with print-at-home paper tickets (PDFs). In addition to traditional hard stock paper tickets, the Yankees will be offering the opportunity for fans to receive mobile tickets on a fan's Smartphone. For more information on mobile ticketing, visit
Mobile ticketing is an advance that is long past due. But the team discontinuing print-at-home paper tickets has very little to do with combatting fraud and counterfeiting and everything to do with yet another money grab. Because guess what? Hard stock paper tickets can be counterfeited as well.

The counterfeit tickets Michael Kay
had purchased for "Hamilton." Photo
courtesy of @RealMichaelKay
And how do I know this? Because I heard Yankees TV broadcaster Michael Kay tell his ESPN Radio listeners on the very same day as this ticket announcement about his disastrous Valentine's Day, in which he tried to use tickets to the very popular Broadway show Hamilton that were purchased on Craigslist, only to discover that the ducats were counterfeit. And, as you can see from the picture Kay posted on Twitter, these were traditional tickets, not PDFs of etickets!

No, the real reason the Yankees are eliminating print-at-home tickets is to put StubHub and other secondary ticket markets out of the business of selling Yankee tickets, and to move such sales to the Yankees Ticket Exchange, where the Yanks make money on every resale. (It wasn't enough that they make money on the initial sale of the tix; they have to make money on the resale as well!) And where the site has a ticket floor on prices, so that they don't get too low. (Savvy fans know that StubHub can have great deals on Yankee tickets, especially when it gets close to the day of the game, due to fans wanting to sell their tickets quickly.)

Funny how big businesses like the Yankees praise the free market -- until it can negatively affect them, and then they put in artificial measures to protect their businesses!

Incidentally, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a few weeks ago that he was looking into the Yankees Ticket Exchange, as well as the NFL's secondary ticket market program, because of that very reason -- the price floor being an anti-competitive measure. I will be curious to see what happens with that.

Anyhow, there are going to be several repercussions to the Yankees' new policy. Forget about buying tickets on StubHub on the day of a game. If you want to get tickets, you will have to go to the Yankees' own site to do so. This also means that they will gather your personal info when you sign up at for an account in order to download the tickets. 

In addition, you'd better make sure your smartphone is fully charged when you get to the ballpark, or you won't be able to use your e-ticket. And given how quickly iPhones run out of juice -- I have gone from 100% to zero power on my phone just going from Staten Island to Manhattan! -- this can be a real problem.

And finally, the team doesn't seem to be aware -- or to care -- that not everybody has a smartphone these days, for various reasons: cost, fear of technology, etc. And that they are essentially shutting those fans out from being able to buy tickets online. 

You know, given the uninspiring product the Yankees are planning on putting on the field this year, the team ought to be looking for more fan-friendly ways to get people into games, not looking for ways to shut them out. This new policy is really shortsighted, and sounds like something Randy Levine and Lonn Trost cooked up to increase the team's bottom line -- and screw over their own fanbase.

The irony is, though, that it will mean fewer people will buy Yankee tickets online at StubHub at the last minute. Which means fewer people going through the door and buying food and drinks and souvenirs. Does anybody ever think things out in Yankeeland? 

These sorts of shenanigans are why I could at least appreciate the gesture the Mets made with their Spring Training Sendoff event that Jon and I attended this week. While the day was a hot mess, I can see the team was trying to give their fans something for free to show some appreciation for their loyalty. The last time I can remember the Yankees doing something similar to show appreciation for their fans was in 2009, when they opened up the ballpark for fans to watch Game 4 of the 2009 World Series in. And that was a long time ago indeed. Oy.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

As for that supposedly groundbreaking "Sports Illustrated" swimsuit issue: Don't believe the hype!

Want to really be groundbreaking, SI? Put some
men on the cover in such provocative poses!
I don't know what's more obnoxious: having the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition shoved down my throat each year. Or now having this retrograde publication getting all this positive press for being "empowering" now because they put MMA fighter Ronda Rousey and plus-size model Ashley Graham on separate versions of the 2016 cover. "History in the making" is what the magazine touts itself as doing. Oh, please. Spare me.

The SI swimsuit issue has bugged the heck out of me since I was a kid. I grew up in a house with two brothers who were big sports fans, and I got into sports from a very early age myself. So we always had Sports Illustrated in our house. If you were a child of the 70s or 80s, and you cared about sports, you pretty much had to subscribe to SI.

But I also grew up seeing the sexist Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue every year as well. And it would be a slap in the face to me and every other female sports fan who read the publication. A reminder that if you were a girl who cared about sports, pretty much the only women you'd ever regularly get to see in the magazine were sexy models whose only sport was taking their clothes off. And it was also a reminder that as much as I enjoyed reading SI to keep up with sports, the magazine wasn't really meant for me and the rest of my gender.

Look, I have no problem with guys wanting to see pictures of women wearing swimsuits (or much less). My issue with it is that this is in a sports magazine that not only seems to ignore that it does have female readers, but it never objectifies men in the same way as they do women.

And it's not just the swimsuit issue when it comes to SI. Look at the provocative Serena Williams cover, with her legs spread, when she won the 2015 Sportsperson of the Year cover. I defy you to find any Sportsman of the Year cover showing men in such a sexual pose. (An aside: Yes, I know Williams obviously agreed to the cover. But that still doesn't make it right.) 

It's 2016, and the swimsuit issue seems sorely out of date. So what to do? The magazine could have stopped running the issue (not bloodly likely, given how much money they make out of it.) Or they could have gone ESPN's route, and featured men as well, the way ESPN the Magazine's Body Issue does. At least with that issue, not only are both men and women of all ages and body types treated equally, but the focus is more on muscles and what the body can do, and not just titillation. And the ESPN issue's pictures frequently have a sense of humor that is sorely missing from SI.

But instead, Sports Illustrated has tried to act like it's now some pioneer for women in having a so-called "curvy" model on the cover. (Which goes to show, yet again, why curvy is a dumb euphemism for overweight. Because being curvy has always been a job requirement for SI models!) And Rousey in a "swimsuit" made of body paint. Would they do the same to David Beckham? Tom Brady?

MJ Day, the magazine's assistant managing editor, said that these covers showed that "beauty is not cookie cutter." Except that it is, because they won't show the beauty of men in their issue. What's up with that?

Day also described Rousey as the "perfect combination of beauty, brains, brawn and humility." Huh? If you know anything about Rousey, she has about as much humility as Kanye West does. That's precisely what helps makes her an interesting fighter.

At any rate, don't believe the hype. SI's swimsuit issue is still about objectifying women by showing them in as little clothing as possible, while men are never exploited in the same way. Just because the magazine has expanded the types of women who are in the issue doesn't make it any less retrograde. Want to be really groundbreaking, SI? Put some sexy men on your swimsuit cover. Make your male readers have to squirm for a change.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Behind enemy lines: My afternoon at the Mets' spring training sendoff

Jon and Lisa,before we were completely frozen.
It wasn't enough that I nearly froze my tuchis off yesterday running in a 10-mile race in single degree temperatures. (Click here to read my race report.) Then I spent another two hours today in the cold -- and snow -- trying to get free Mets tickets. Maybe the cold destroyed my brain cells or something. What the heck was I thinking?

Let me explain. I'm kind of known for being a maven on finding ways to have fun in New York City without spending a lot of money. So when I saw that the Mets were doing a Spring Training Sendoff (the team's version of the Boston Red Sox' Truck Day) on Presidents' Day, I figured it would be a fun thing for Squawker Jon and me to do on my day off. This free event at Citi Field was advertised as offering the following, according to the email the Mets sent out about the day:
  • All fans will receive a voucher for two (2) free tickets to a select April home game 
  • Tour the Press Conference Room, Mets Clubhouse and Dugout 
  • 1969 Met Ed Kranepool will be signing autographs on the Mets Plaza starting at 12 noon 
  • Opportunity to participate in a raffle to win 3 day/2 night all expenses paid trip to Spring Training in Port St. Lucie, FL and other great autographed prizes
Jon looking very pleased
with himself.
Oh, and Mr. and Mrs. Met were going to be there for photo ops. And again, this was all going to be for free. So I figured, let's go see what's what. At the very least, we'll each get two free tickets to Mets games out of it, and since Jon and I attend several Mets games together a year, this would save us some money. So as per the Mets' request that attendees RSVP, I did so for Jon and me.
We headed to Queens separately this morning. I arrived around 11:50 a.m. for the noon event, and Jon got there a few minutes later. I was thinking that the very cold weather, with snow in the forecast, might keep people away. No such luck. The place was a madhouse. They were already out of the tote bags they were handing out *before* the event officially began!

I had heard afterwards from fellow baseball blogger Michael Ganci at the Daily Stache that the team supposedly only expected 500 people, but there were over 6,000 fans there. At least! New York 1 said over 6,500 RSVPed. And that doesn't count the fans who couldn't find a place to park, or got stuck in traffic and gave up.

Just a few of the many people at the sendoff.
Anyhow, I think the Mets' organization's heart was in the right place in wanting to do something for the fans (something my Yankees did NOT do, unless you count having a $150 event with Brian Cashman last week as a fan-friendly event!) So I don't want to trash them, especially since I was a "guest" of sorts in the Mets' house. But this Citi Field event was extremely disorganized. There were a ton of lines, and it was hard to know which line was for which thing. There was a line for the stadium tour, and one for the tickets, one for the inflatable bouncy stuff, and one for the Dunkin Donuts stand. And the lines all seemed to interconnect with each other. Then there were people gathered around the DJ stand, waiting to see if they won the raffle. It was a hot mess. Fortunately, the Mets have some pretty good-natured fans, because things could have gotten ugly. Luckily, almost everybody was well-behaved and pleasant, even when they were frustrated with the lines.

We got on the ticket line, which extended all the way to the parking lot, and waited for two solid hours. And it was COLD! Because the line moved so slowly, it felt just as cold, if not colder, than it did in the race I ran yesterday. We were shuffling like penguins by the end, because our toes were completely frozen!

While we were waiting, I briefly got off the line to see what was what at the Dunkin' Donuts stand (hey, desperate times call for desperate measures!) By that point they had run out of donuts -- thanks in no small part to fans I saw walking away with three or four donuts at once! Bad fans! (They were the exception to the rule of the decency of most fans there.) And by the time we were able to get coffee, it had been out for too long and was undrinkable, in my opinion. (Jon drank his, though.) Also, there were no visible restrooms, which was not good planning.

The DJ at the event said that the Mets were giving away t-shirts as well as ticket vouchers. But by the time we got to the head of the line, both things were gone. So team employees were taking people's email addresses and promised to send them tickets. Apparently, they were doing so on laptops, and it was only when we were finally at the head of the line that somebody thought of walking around with notepads and taking people's email addresses. Like I said, extremely disorganized.

Me thawing out at lunch.
Notice that my nose is still red.
Jon and I were about frozen solid by the time we gave a Mets' employee our email addresses. And we left the event, rather than try to get to see the tours of the ballpark. (Good thing, as it turned out, as they only let so many people in.)

My hands were so cold (even with gloves) that I had a heck of a time opening my bag afterwards to get my Metrocard out! It took me forever to feel warm. I didn't feel back to normal until we went for lunch at Urbanspace Vanderbilt -- this is a new food court near Grand Central Terminal. Freaky thing -- when we got off the 7 train, we saw that there was no power for much of Grand Central! Kind of eerie.

Now that I am cozy and warm at home, I can look back at the day as fun in its own way. Whenever Squawker Jon and I meet up, we always have lots of laughs! Good times! And hopefully, we'll get our ticket vouchers soon. We did get magnetic schedules for our trouble as well.

But I've had it with the cold. Can we end winter already? I'm done with it! Thanks.

Search This Blog