There was a discussion in the Citi tickets thread about Mets sales being up 19%. Since it could involve some tricky book keeping my the masters of the craft, I thought it would be better suited here.It started with Mongoose and RJSallstars , two of the elder statesmen on the forum:
I DVR Perry Mason on ME TV. Recently I saw the episode (the only one of 271) where he lost...only to win it on appeal. And that is how I felt when you (Mongoose) took this so called surge of Mets tickets at face value. Really, tickets are up nearly 20% ??? Really??? Wait one second here.....didn't the woman who used to be in charge of Mets tickets sales launch a sexual harassment / discrimination lawsuit at the Mets. Isn't this Jeff's opening salvo? Didn't anyone else smell a rat?
Mongoose, I expected the pom-pon squad to accept this surge; I expected you to break this case !
"The Mets are claiming a massive surge in ticket sales this off-season, even as the team's payroll remains tight.
Ticket sales are up 19.26 percent over last year, according to Mets executive vice president Lou DePaoli. The numbers represent what would be an astonishing outlier for a team that's failed to add any high-priced talent this offseason or post a winning record since 2008, the two primary drivers of attendance spikes for baseball teams.
And the reported surge in ticket sales would also seem to fly in the face of a promise by the team's financially troubled owners to increase payroll when revenue rose.
Why would the team invite such trouble with its fan base, after years of misleadingly sunny projections and unfulfilled spending pledges?
It makes sense, perhaps, in the context of a lawsuit against the team by a former Mets executive who was in charge of ticket sales, who the team claims to have fired for business reasons.
The former employee, Leigh Castergine, is suing Mets C.O.O. Jeff Wilpon and the team for alleged sexual discrimination stemming from her pregnancy during her time as executive vice president of ticket sales. A nearly 20 percent increase in ticket sales during the first offseason after Castergine undermines a claim in her lawsuit that the team's slashing of payroll and public lies about ability to spend created an impossible atmosphere in which to sell tickets. After all, those conditions haven't changed.
Official attendance is counted by the team, based on tickets sold, rather than who steps through the gate. And ultimately, teams can provide giveaways to pad those numbers accordingly. So there's little to stop the Mets from claiming attendance is whatever they want, no matter how many empty seats there are at Citi Field, and why there's often audible laughter in the press box when the attendance number is announced.
But DePaoli talked about "ticket sales", not "ticket giveaways." And 19.26 percent is a very big number.
Team revenue has been trending steadily downward, thanks to annual filings the team must make in conjunction with the roughly $43 million they pay annually to service debt against Citi Field.
According to those filings, the Mets saw overall revenue drop to $119.2 million in 2013. That's well off the $180.4 million from 2009, when Citi Field opened.
The team actually saw attendance rise slightly in 2014, 0.62 percent, to 2,148,808. But the numbers are similar enough that revenue almost certainly remained at similar levels, though we'll know for sure later this year when the Mets make their 2014 filing.
If we assume that overall revenue, which includes parking, concessions, advertising, luxury suites, is moving in line with this apparent attendance jump, as it typically does for MLB teams, that would mean $23 million or so in new revenue.
And that would be a big positive, in terms of the owners' financial picture, which has been grim ever since their investments in Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme evaporated.
But despite messaging going back several years from owner Fred Wilpon on down, that payroll would only rise beyond the bottom-fifth in baseball levels once fans came back, there's been no corresponding increase in payroll this winter.
"This is, to me, a break-even business," Wilpon said back in February 2013. "I always strive to break even. I'm not looking to make any money. I strive to break even. So if [fans] don't show up, that's hard. So you have to balance it."
The team payroll on Opening Day 2014 was just over $89 million. It's at around $96.7 million at the moment for 2015, by best estimates, and the Mets are actively looking to trade Dillon Gee and his $5.3 million salary to bring it down to right around $92 million, or a stone's throw from last season.
Then again, perhaps the Mets are right to be cautious until they've banked all that new cash from the massive jump in attendance, since there's no recent analogue for such a rise in recent MLB history, even among teams that pumped a ton of new money into payroll or experienced unexpected success.
The Seattle Mariners experienced the biggest jump in attendance in 2014, going from 1,761,546 in 2013 to 2,064,334, a rise of 302,788, or a jump of 17.1 percent, by far the biggest increase.
This didn't happen in a vacuum, though. The Mariners went out and paid Robinson Cano, the best player on the free agent market, $240 million over ten years. This came a few months after extending their best pitcher, Felix Hernandez, at $175 million over seven years. Other talent, like Kendry Morales, Fernando Rodney and Austin Jackson, came in as well. And the team went out and improved from 71 wins in 2013 to 87 wins in 2014.
A 19.26 percent jump in ticket sales means the Mets are projecting 2.56 million tickets sold in 2015. That would be a jump of 413,860 tickets sold, or 37 percent higher than the best-case scenario from 2014, a team that spent hundreds of millions to improve the team roster.
An email sent by another Mets executive, which was given to Capital, cited a number of games as "of highest demand", including Opening Day, Jacob deGrom Garden Gnome Giveaway Day on May 2, the Steve Miller Band postgame day June 27, Juan Lagares Bobblehead Day on July 11, and the Heart postgame concert day on July 25. But thanks to the handy select-a-seat technology on Mets.com—an innovation, incidentally, of Castergine's—it is possible to see that tickets are still available for all these games, in massive bunches, in virtually every price range.
Perhaps those tickets will be snapped up if the Mets have a particularly good season in 2015. But really, the winning is secondary, as it drives ticket sales. Payroll is most closely correlated to a jump in demand.
According to the Mets, they've managed the feat without having to spend the money, or win yet, perhaps the kind of economic miracle that might explain why the new baseball commissioner just made Fred Wilpon chairman of MLB's Finance Committee.
But those newly energized fans are probably going to be pretty upset when they figure out that even the absurd talking point from Wilpon to cover the real reason for a massive drop in spending on the team—the diversion of team and television revenue to finance Wilpon's parent company debt—didn't come to pass even when the team asserts that fans held up their end of the bargain.
Or as Fred Wilpon put it back in February 2013, "The payroll will be commensurate with anything we've ever done because we can do it. Remember, the people have to come to the ballpark obviously. If you have a competitive team, they will. Everything that was in the past, that you guys saw the pain that we went through, is gone. It's gone."
Clearly, even if you buy the team's new math, it's not. "