By Ernie Palladino
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Mark Teixeira probably had Bud Selig’s office in a state of apoplexy Tuesday night when he talked the treason of refunds after a particularly sloppy loss.
Indeed, the folks who run one of the country’s biggest moneymaking operations outside of the gas companies and Big Pharma must have had their fingers inserted into their collars, pulling away to get that extra bit of air before they passed out. The thought of returning money under any circumstances, let alone after a giant egg any team is capable of laying, is anathema to all of the tenants of monetary profit the commissioner’s office holds sacrosanct.
Tex no doubt redeemed himself after Wednesday’s 5-3 win in which he had a homer, saying “No refunds tonight. Pay full price.” Yet his original idea wasn’t all that far afield. Imagine if it didn’t even take the Yanks and Blue Jays combining for four errors — as they did Tuesday in Toront0 — to trigger an invite to another game.
Imagine if the home office compelled teams to refund a certain percentage of clunkers each year as a good-will gesture to fans. Imagine if Teixeira’s postgame proclamation that “if you’re a fan, you should probably get your money back” was actually a mandated compensation for substandard baseball.
We know the Mets and Astros would go under because, let’s face it, there has been no paucity of on-field silliness at either Citi Field or Minute Maid Park the last few seasons. The better teams would lose little money because, well, they’re at the top of the standings for a reason. But even those grandstand frontrunners would know that the rare bomb of a game cou ld bring a free seat at another game of their choosing, a better opportunity to see their heroes play up to well-deserved expectations.
There is precedent for such a thing. Believe it or not, the Yanks offered the patrons who stuck around for a 3-0 loss to the Nationals on June 18, 2009 a reward. It wasn’t a particularly sloppy game as setbacks go, as neither team committed an error. The only mistake, actually, came inside the Yankees’ executive office suite.
For some inexplicable reason, the powers that be decided that this basically meaningless Interleague contest must be played despite a day-long downpour. Not wanting to waste the 45,143 tickets sold, management kept a crowd of 10,000 diehards waiting for five hours and 26 minutes. Joba Chamberlain finally threw the first pitch at 6:31 p.m., making it the third-longest delayed start in major-league history.
At the end of the two-hour, 59-minute contest, a PA announcement informed the crowd that every fan who had a ticket, used or not, could redeem the stub for tickets to another game or merchandise over the next year-and-a-half.
Granted, it was an embarrassing delay — not performance — that generated that act of goodwill. But it worked the same way. Every one of those rain-soaked fans — who were also allowed to move from the upper deck and bleachers to the seats of the rich and famous behind home plate — went home happy.
Even teams that draw benefit from some good publicity now and then. For a franchise like the Mets, a team in search of a few friends right now, it would represent a minor expenditure. It’s not like they’re going to be building any SRO seating at Citi Field anytime soon.
Teixeira may have spoken heresy, even treason, given today’s baseball economics. But his offhand comments Tuesday hit the mark. Sometimes, the cash-paying customer deserves a break. Since baseball has all but abandoned the single-admission, Sunday doubleheader in favor of day-night twin bills, Teixeira’s idea is the next best thing.
When two teams stink out a stadium, give the customers their money back!
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