Monday, September 27, 2010

Ticket Prices, Payroll and Bob Brenly

It seems that a week doesn’t go by where we hear pointless comments from Tom Ricketts. So…we again hear yesterday that Ricketts is non committal when asked if the Cubs will lower ticket prices going into next season.

In fact, most of what he had to say indicates that more of the “price tinkering” we saw last year will likely occur this year as they try to squeeze more revenue out of ticket sales.
What we are doing is doing a really thorough study of what we’re charging for which sections, trying to really understand the value proposition that we’re offering people. I think we’ll do that study, and we’ll come up with a ticket-pricing strategy keeping in mind tough economy. And it’s ultimately our goal to get more fans in the park.
What does this mean? To me it indicates that areas of the ballpark that have a higher number of season ticket holders (00, 100 and 400 sections) will go up in price while the areas that usually have more single game ticket sales (200, 500 and bleacher sections) will likely have no price change, or slightly lower prices. I don’t know this for sure, but that is what my gut is telling me. The last part of that statement is very important. As I have said in the past, just selling the tickets isn’t enough. No shows are a huge problem for this team. There is a lot of money that is being lost in concessions, souvenirs, and even parking (the Cubs do have a number of lots of their own that they run). Getting people into the ballpark is important. Just that means that getting people to buy the single game tickets (the people more likely to show up as well) is important.

On to payroll…Ricketts did indicated that it is likely that payroll will be reduced next season. What does that mean? Well, unless something can be done with the contracts of players like Zambrano, Ramirez, Fukudome, or Soriano, the Cubs are not going to be able to add any significant players this offseason. It also means that the Cubs are going to try to be a lot younger next season. The three C’s (Colvin, Cashner and Castro) will all likely be guaranteed spots on the rosters going into next season, but then you then start to think about who else could make the team. Coleman (another ‘C’), Barney, Diamond all have a shot next season too. Then there is right field/1st base and you have to wonder if Micah Hoffpauir (who is out of options) might actually make the team next year.

Hoffpauir is an interesting case…he isn’t exactly young and he has had a number of opportunities to make a contribution over the last 4 years. Anyway, that is a discussion for another time.

And, as FrankS mentioned in the comments the other day, Bob Brenly has withdrawn his name from consideration for the manager job. Some people can say that it was because he didn’t want to manage such a messed up team, but I really don’t think this is the case. Brenly has his best opportunity since being fired by the D-Backs to become a manager again. The writing was on the wall in Chicago…he wasn’t going to get the job. Almost everyone agrees that when the Cubs would have interviewed Bob, it was more out of respect for the man than out of serious consideration for him. Removing himself from this process will now allow him to pursue a job somewhere else…and, honestly, I think the Brewers job would be a really good fit for him. I think the Brewers made a big mistake in selecting Ken Macha over him a couple years ago. Macha is very unlikely to return to Milwaukee after this season, so they just might try to remedy their mistake and hire Brenly this time. That being said, it won’t be an open and shut type of thing. The Brewers have been very high on Bob Melvin for a long time as well.

If Milwaukee isn’t the right spot, there won’t be a shortage of other openings available. Here is the current list I have made of the likely MLB manager openings this off-season:

White Sox
Blue Jays

Two other possibilities exist as well as Dusty Baker might not return to the Reds after this season (though his choice for a new job was recently given to Don Mattingly in LA) and, as we all know, Joe Girardi might not return to the Yankees.

Other notes about that list…we don’t know what Tony LaRussa is actually thinking right now…so he might actually come back. Also, it is very possible that the Kenny Williams/Ozzie Guillen feud could be settled in some other way than Ozzie bolting the team. The “100% without a doubt” manager jobs are the Cubs, Marlins, Braves, Seattle, Arizona and Toronto.

Some final notes…I went to my final game on Saturday. I always feel a little sad going to my last game of the season. I take in a little more of what is going on around me. I notice things that I haven’t noticed all season. And, my yearly debate begins on whether or not I will re-up my tickets again next season.

Now as we come down to the last 7 games of the season, I start to reflect on what this season, in the large sense, meant and how it will affect things in the future. We’ll see all the “season summaries” and “year end awards” and all that BS, and I’ll do it to. But one thing is for sure, as interesting as last off-season was, this coming off season will likely have many more story lines.