Who needs a pep talk (or at least a good reason to bash some subpar Yankees fans)?

Yankee Stadium ALDS Game 5 crowd during the National Anthem (Photo credit: @DShulman_ESPN)

Yankee Stadium Game 5 crowd during the National Anthem (Photo by @DShulman_ESPN via Twitter)

If you’re looking for something blaming blown fan interference calls from years ago or foul poles for Orioles playoff losses to the Yankees, you might want to close your browser now. You won’t find that here.

For any of you who saw the Orioles get knocked out of the playoffs by the Yankees Friday night and who are too young to remember the last time the O’s made the postseason, I want to pass along something someone probably told me back in 1997: “There’s always next year.”

That feels great, doesn’t it? Hearing a phrase like that, after your team’s just been eliminated until April, is kind of like the punch in the gut that anyone who actually utters those words at a time like that probably deserves more than you. You can imagine how it made things not a bit easier the last decade and a half as Orioles fans watched Baltimore finish out of the race every single “next year.”

I also don’t want you to forget what my mom told me in 1983. I was 8 years old and had a ticket to Game 6 of the World Series between the Orioles and the Phillies at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. The Orioles won it in five, in Philly. I sobbed, happy they’d won but disappointed I wouldn’t get to see a game.

As part of her effort to cheer me up, my mom explained that there would be other Orioles World Series games to go to. Next October will mark the 30th anniversary of what was a great pep talk at the time from a truly fantastic mother; I would have told my kid the same thing, especially given the club’s history of success at that point. But, the total number of Orioles World Series games that have been played since that day stands at zero.

If none of this is making things better, you can at least take comfort in the fact that Yankees fans are people too and Friday night’s game meant a lot to them, so much in fact that 40,000 or so of them weren’t in the stadium for the start of the game. Maybe they were waiting until the last minute to see if they could sell their tickets to someone else—well, 20% of them at least.

Some Yankee fans will blame traffic for their home field being a ghost town for the first few innings Friday evening. If only that city had a mass transit system large and efficient enough to motivate people to leave their cars at home! Oh, the traffic! The horrible traffic—in a city with enough Yankee fans that don’t even own cars to get stuck in traffic with, that they could fill The House That Jeter Built (and then likely complained to an umpire about) multiple times over.

Another excuse is that the real Yankee fans have been priced out of the new stadium. That’s a valid concern, but were they priced out of all those tickets to Game 5 that other “fans” were dumping for around $20 on StubHub?

Some New Yorkers will also say it’s too hard to leave work a few hours early on a Friday. It’s funny how a weekend in The Hamptons is reason enough for that, yet the final game of a first round playoff series no longer is.

I say “no longer” because it’s beginning to look like some Yankees fans have become so spoiled by their team’s success that the deciding game in a first round playoff series just isn’t enough for them anymore. It’s a shame how doing well year-after-year-after-year, and watching teams filled with almost any megastar management feels like signing, will beat you down like that. Maybe being one of the final four fan bases out of 30 with a team still in the race will inspire more Yankees fans to make the ALCS games important, unlike that good-for-nothing ADLS Game 5 that Major League Baseball had the gall to schedule at 5 p.m.

The one set of Yankee fans I don’t blame for not making Game 5 attendance a priority are the people who’ve jumped on the team’s bandwagon in cities across America that are too far away for them to realistically make it to Yankee Stadium. Like that guy on the west coast who has no ties to New York whatsoever yet wears that Yankees cap because the colors are cool and roots for them as soon as he hears from a friend that they’ve made the World Series again. I don’t blame that guy or the thousands like him at all. Those guys out there are doing great work and were never following most of the games (or the fact that baseball season has started) anyway.

My favorite video so far of Jayson Werth’s Game 4 walk-off home run for the Nats

This is my favorite video so far of Jayson Werth’s NLDS Game 4 walk-off home run for the Nats. “I HIT RECORD!” is the new “GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!”

(via @recordsANDradio)

StubHub before and after Jayson Werth’s Game 4 walk-off home run

Around the time the Washington Nationals’ Jayson Werth was rounding the bases after depositing a Game 4, 9th inning, walk-off home run into the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen, I checked StubHub for tickets to Game 5, which will decide who moves on to face the San Francisco Giants in the National League Championship Series. That StubHub search showed there were 7,258 tickets available through the “fan-to-fan ticket marketplace” with Standing Room Only tickets starting at $50, as shown in the first screen capture below.

Just over 40 minutes later, there were nearly 2,000 fewer tickets available on StubHub and, as the screen capture below shows, the lowest priced Standing Room Only ticket was going for $83. With one swing of the bat, Werth has stimulated the DC economy, on StubHub and beyond.

Nats look to “Take Back the Park” from Phillies selling only to local addresses

Here’s something from the D.C. Sports Bog that might be of interest to those who like to see tickets stay out of the hands of the opposing team’s fans.

“…starting Friday morning at 8 a.m., the club will begin selling single-game tickets for just a single weekend series: May 4-6, against the Phillies. These tickets will remain on sale for a full month before the rest of single-game tickets go on sale. And they’ll be available only to buyers with a credit card tied to an address in Maryland, the District or Virginia.”

DC Sports Bog

I know of an owner of a local hockey team that tried something similar once. I wonder what he thinks about this.

Nats should leverage demand for a Teddy win to get something they need

Washington Nationals racing president Teddy Ro...

Photo by Scott Ableman via Wikipedia

It’s been almost exactly a year since I suggested the Washington Nationals should let Teddy win their Presidents Race on June 4, 2010, as a consolation prize to all the fans who’d bought tickets  to that game thinking it might be Stephen Strasburg’s major league debut. But Teddy came up short in that race, leaving me to assume the Nats front office had simply not yet discovered mikeholden.com as a source for brilliant sports marketing ideas—it’s the only logical conclusion.

There was some speculation this past weekend that Teddy might win the Presidents Race on Memorial Day. Alas, Teddy did not win that one either. He remains defeated, the only one of the four racing presidents to have not won the race since it began back in 2006.

I’ve heard more than one Nats fans say that a Teddy win is being saved until the team does something like makes the playoffs or wins the World Series. But I have to agree with Dan Steinberg of the DC Sports Bog that having Teddy win around one of those events might not be ideal.

Here’s what Steinberg wrote this past weekend:

It’s customarily been assumed by Nats fans that Teddy would win on the day of some sort of milestone: the day after the first clinched playoff berth, the day of the first home playoff game, the day of the first All-Star game at Nats Park, and so on. But if you think about it, from a marketing standpoint, that doesn’t make much sense. If Teddy wins on the day of a playoff game, it’s a note on page D7. If Teddy wins on some random day in May, it might be A1 in The Post.

Steinberg is right. Events such as a playoff berth are marketing wins all by themselves. So why not save the Teddy win for its own special random date and have it be a marketing win all by itself?

Better yet, why not use that Teddy win to get something the team really needs…more season ticket holders.

It’s no secret that the Nats could do better at the box office. And the just-completed series with Philadelphia drew attention to the fact that Phillies fans still enjoy invading Nats Park, making things miserable for the home fans…and Thomas Boswell. Even Steinberg is ready to throw journalistic standards out the window and start rooting for the Nats.

So, why not bring all of this together and create a situation in which everyone (except Philadelphia!) wins, including Teddy? Set a goal, Nats. Tell the fans that if the team reaches a season ticket holder base of xx,000, Teddy will win a race during the very next home game. This approach still leaves some element of surprise. Fans might know the team is close to its goal, but it won’t be until Teddy wins that they’ll know it’s been reached.

The Nats can break out the confetti cannons, maybe launch a few fireworks and have the xx,000 season ticket holder waiting to maul Teddy when he crosses that finish line. And immediately following that, people can go back to wondering when Teddy will win again.

So who’s with me on this? Set the goal, Nats. Make it season ticket related or use it to get something else you need (if he continues to underperform, building a package around Teddy for a proven #1 starter or a center fielder who can bat lead-off might not be a bad idea, even if that thought is tough to swallow. Or send him to Syracuse until he’s truly ready—Rizzo took his time with Strasburg and is doing the same with Bryce Harper, but Teddy got thrown right into the show). Just tell the fans what they must to do to get a Teddy win, Nats. It’s been five years. Let’s move this thing to Phase 2.

It’s not like you threw a D-Cell, Steinberg, right?

Washington Post writer Dan Steinberg says that seeing all the Phillies fans invade Nats park today made him “want to be a Nats fan.” He then notes he’s “supposed to be neutral and all that.”

Sure, it’s generally the rule that a journalist should not show they are rooting for one team or another in their work. But, I kind of feel like Philly’s major paper has maybe given Steinberg a little room to maneuver here… “Philadelphia Inquirer Encourages Fans To Throw Batteries At Boston’s J.D. Drew“.

Jayson Werth, Cliff Lee and the Nats free agent marketing dollars

Washington Nationals cap logo

Image via Wikipedia

A few years ago, when I was playing more music than I am right now, I was sitting on the patio of an Austin, Texas hotel with some friends during South By Southwest.

In the lot next door to this hotel, there was a large billboard. I started thinking that if I bought that billboard the next year, I could reach a ton of influential music people at the conference in one fell swoop.

I decided it didn’t make good financial sense for me as a musician who made most of his money waiting tables and juggling freelance jobs, and I let go of the idea.

Before this week’s Major League Baseball Winter Meetings had even officially begun, the Washington Nationals signed 31-year-old former Philadelphia Phillie outfielder Jayson Werth to a seven year deal worth $126 million.

One rival general manager told writer Ken Rosenthal, upon hearing about the seven year contract issued to Werth, “Absolutely bat—- crazy.” Boston Globe writer Pete Abraham said on Twitter, “The degree to which baseball execs are incredulous and mocking of the Werth deal can’t be understated.”

When it comes to the baseball that the Nationals will get from Werth, it’s hard to argue that they didn’t overpay, particularly when you consider he’ll be 38 by the time the contract ends and that he’s only put up noteworthy numbers for three seasons, while also playing in a Philadelphia line-up that provided him much protection. He’s good, but they spent a lot to get him to D.C.

But in addition to paying for some baseball with this move, the Nats figuratively bought that big billboard over top the conference. They went into the winter meetings with a big megaphone and told the baseball world they are serious and ready to spend what it takes to be noticed, sign big-name players and be thought of as a contender. There’s a good chunk of marketing within this deal along with the baseball.

Take what the Nationals will pay Werth and subtract from that what you feel he would have signed for with a team that would not need to overpay him. In addition to this money being what it took to get Werth to sign with Washington rather than with a big name, recently competitive franchise, that difference can also be thought of as a marketing expense or ‘free agent marketing dollars’—the cost of getting other players to pay attention and consider the Nats. This deal was part advertising and PR directed at the rest of the league’s players.

If the Nats can lure a couple more big names via free agency or trade this year or next, and then capture an NL East crown or two in the next few years as a result, those marketing dollars will have likely been worthwhile.

Granted, the team very well may have to overpay the next couple of free agents too. So let’s say they overpay them and Werth each by $3 to $5 million per season. Is it worth that extra $9 to $15 million per season over the going rate for those three players, plus the money you may now potentially have to overpay Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and others, to be a contender? Maybe it isn’t worth it (or affordable) for every team. But it could be when you have a net worth of $3 billion and are one of the richest owners in baseball, as Nats’ owner Ted Lerner is.

And then once you’ve established yourself as a team that will do one of the things that attracts players—paying them substantial sums of money—you might start doing one of the other things that attracts them—winning. And suddenly the extra tens of millions spent each season look well worth it.

So, I say, go after Cliff Lee hard. Pay him whatever it takes to get him to D.C. Give him the extra year or however many extra million it will take for him to sign here over New York, Texas or elsewhere. Baseball people are calling the Nats crazy right now in part because they have disrupted things, because this isn’t how it’s supposed to go. And I love it.

D.C. is a power city and a major media market. That, combined with the deep pockets of its owner, should put the Nats right up there close to the Yankees and Red Sox of the world when it comes to being able to lure the biggest free agents.

If you’ve got the money, Mr. Lerner—go all in! Get Lee and stop there for now if you’d like. Then re-evaluate at the trade deadline or next off-season and pick up some additional pieces.

But don’t stop part way, with one foot of the team in a grow-your-prospects plan and the other foot with just a toe in a spend-like-the-Yankees model. The only way the Werth deal will look really crazy is if you stop with this one big signing and let all the “Hey everybody, look at the Nats! Sign with us!” money that you just spent go to waste.