On Wednesday, June 23, 2010, the Colorado Rockies staged a dramatic ninth-inning comeback victory against the American League’s Boston Red Sox, a perennial powerhouse that has recently begun surging back into contention after a slow start.
The Rockies’ obscenely gifted Ubaldo Jimenez (13-1, 1.60 ERA) struggled for the first time this season, allowing 6 earned runs in only 5 and 2/3 innings, and when he gave way to the bullpen, he was on the hook for what would have been his second loss of the season.
Boston’s four-time All-Star closer, Jonathan Papelbon, had a 6–5 lead when he took the mound in the bottom of the ninth but, instead of throwing a handful of zippy little pitches that nobody hits and then going home happy, like he usually does, he blew the save. Please allow me a moment to explain how unlikely this was:
- Papelbon, despite the impression you might get from this picture (right), is actually quite good. He’s Boston’s all-time saves leader, having converted 167 of 187 save opportunities in his five-plus seasons with the team, and holds his opponents to a .200 batting average.
- Ian Stewart is batting barely over .250, and hadn’t had a single home run in his first 35 games at Coors Field.
- Clint Barmes is hitting barely over .220, which, by my precise calculations, is shitty.
- Going into Wednesday’s game, pinch-hitter Jason Giambi, the Rockies’ heavily mustachioed but recently light-hitting pinch-hitter, was batting just .194 with two home runs and 11 RBI on the year.1
Down to their last two outs against a strong opponent and a dominant closer, the Rockies pulled out a thrilling 8-to-6 win—the kind of win that has the potential to pull struggling hitters out of slumps, motivate middling teams to win streaks, and drive a ballpark full of happy hometown fans to mild or even moderate hysterics.
A normal hometown crowd, that is. Thanks in part, however, to a Colorado Rockies ticket policy that can best be described as “stupid,” half of Wednesday night’s Coors Field crowd left disappointed, because they were Red Sox fans. You see, the Colorado Rockies, in addition to pricing seats based on their proximity to the action (like every athletic club has done ever since people first started paying to watch), have separate price schedules for different types of games. Two different schedules, you ask? No, not two. Five.
Five different price schedules: Opening Day, Classic, Premium, Value, and Boston.2 Yes, that’s right, the Boston Red Sox get their own individual pricing. A seat that would cost you $50 against a mere mortal opponent would cost you $100 for the Red Sox series. Paying $40 to see the Red Sox would get you a ticket that normally costs $26; a $35 ticket to watch Boston would otherwise cost $22.
Now, this is really none of my business—if fans are willing to buy tickets at these prices, it’s a free country and I’m not going to stop them. And if the Rockies think that scalping their own customers is good business practice and a sensible way to build a fan base, that’s entirely up to them. But the team should consider that, by pricing their own fans out of those games, they’re essentially giving away their home-field advantage in one of their most nationally-visible series of the year, the kind of series where folks on the east coast are actually, at long last, paying attention to and possibly becoming fans of our little neglected mountain team.
Think about it this way. Colorado-based Red Sox fans are clearly willing to jump at the chance to watch their team play in Denver, regardless of price. On top of that, Red Sox fans from outside Colorado, if they’ve decided to make the trip to Denver just to watch baseball, won’t be dissuaded by an extra $30 or $50 apiece, because they’re already spending a few hundred just to get into town.
A local Rockies fan, on the other hand, is much more likely to look at a 100% increase in ticket prices and decide he’s better off watching two $50 games against a relevant opponent—like, say, the San Diego Padres (who have somehow convinced everyone they play that they’re good) or Los Angeles Dodgers.
This showed in Wednesday night’s game, where the crowd could politely have described as bipartisan at best.3 David Ortiz was roundly cheered despite going 0-for-5 and leaving three men on base; at several points the crowd spontaneously burst into a chorus of “Let’s Go, Red Sox”;4 and several Rockies diehards found it particularly galling when the skinny kid in front of them waved his six-foot American flag each time Boston crossed home plate, as if to suggest that each run for the Red Sox is a victory for freedom, while other teams’ scoring means the terrorists win.
I’ll admit that I took perhaps an unhealthy amount of pleasure in watching twenty thousand Boston fans slump a bit in their seats after Giambi’s game-winning home run. I don’t actually dislike Bostonians in general or Red Sox fans in particular, although I’ll admit that they can, on occasion, annoy the crap out of me. What annoys me more, though, is that the Rockies seem more interested in fleecing Bostonians and bandwagoneers for a few extra bucks than they are of enticing a home-field crowd at three of the biggest games of the year.
Come on, Rockies, keep Coors Field purple.
. . . the parts that are already purple, I mean. You can leave the green parts just the way they are.
1. Of course, when your batting average is only .194, having a pitcher who allows a .200 batting average actually serves as an advantage. I bet Papelbon didn’t think of that!
2. Rumor has it that the team is considering a sixth payment schedule, “Pirates,” in which tickets are handed out for free to whatever poor bastards actually make the slow drive into Lower Downtown to see how the Rockies stack up against AAA baseball.
3. I’m not polite, fortunately. The ballpark was stuffed to the rafters with Massholes, even though Coors Field, technically speaking, doesn't have rafters.
4. Rockies fans immediately rose to counteract the “Let’s go, Red Sox” chant with “Let’s Go, Rockies,” but they were neither plentiful nor loud enough to drown Sox fans out. The end result was a muddled and indistinct chant of “Let’s go, Romphlombgm” that went on for the better part of the game.