MLB Ticket Preview: Will You Pay More or Less to See Your Favorite Team This Year?

opening day
If the dawn of spring didn’t wake you from your winter slumber, maybe a bit of sticker shock will. With Opening Day just four days away, we wanted to do an MLB season preview in regards to ticket prices and trends for the year. You’ll find yourself paying big bucks for small market teams and seeing bigger contenders for perhaps less than what you imagined. Overall, the MLB saw a 29% increase in average ticket price–that’s about $20 more per seat compared with last season. Does your team fall under the new norm, or can you still score those basement prices? Find out after the jump!

MLB Teams With an Increase in Ticket Price

It comes as no surprise that the New York Yankees are the priciest pinstripes to see at the ballpark, but what is alarming is the margin in which they jumped. New York Yankees tickets are up a whopping 237% since last year, averaging a steep $267 per ticket, versus $79 last season. The leap in price unequivocally has to do with Derek Jeter’s looming retirement, as everyone and their mother wants to catch a glimpse of one of the game’s greatest shortstops before he takes his final run around the bases. The acquisition of highly touted Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka and the steal of Jacoby Ellsbury from Boston will prove to be fruitful for the Bronx Bombers bearing the loss of Robinson Cano, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte—not to mention the ticking time bomb that is NY’s injury-prone infield.

What is a shocker are the two teams that saw the next biggest escalation in ticket price: the Miami Marlins are the second most expensive team to see this season, averaging $145 a game for a 200% increase, and the Pittsburgh Pirates saw a 131% jump for an average of $89 per game. These are both teams with notoriously small markets—what is to account for this massive upsurge?

andrew-mccutchenIt’s true, the Miami Marlins have made waves in bettering themselves and are serious contenders…in reaching the coveted .500 mark, but is that enough cause to be the second most expensive team in the league? The Marlins offseason was productive and showed fans that the front office’s efforts to capsize their losing culture is real: a handful of veterans catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (from Boston), third baseman Casey McGehee and second baseman Rafael Furcal will serve as models for Miami’s evolving players. So, perhaps Giancarlo Stanton and their young pitchers (led by knockout rookie Jose Fernandez) will give them the gall to—dare we say it—compete for a wild card spot?

Pittsburgh Pirates fans are likely riding last year’s enchanted postseason run, in which they snapped a two decade-long streak of under .500, into the New Year. It’s liable their ground ball percentage  (52%) will stay up alongside their defense, spearheaded by NL MVP Andrew McCutchen (with the help of Starling Marte & Gregory Polanco’s debut), so Pirates fans do have reason to be hopeful for a playoff push despite a feebler offense.

The Boston Red Sox have the 3rd most expensive average ticket price in the majors, which is expected, as their core players are returning this year–excepting Jacoby Ellsbury who made the unforgivable move to the Yankees. Though many are fearful of the dreaded “World Series hangover” in which teams underperform a year after winning it big, their top prospects Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. should provide ample spark. Expect the hoards of Boston faithful to come out and see the defending champs in their attempt at back-to-back titles—hey, they did it from 1915-1916, it can be done again!

Rounding out the top five most expensive teams to see this year are the Detroit Tigers ($105 on average) and the—grab a hold of something—Houston Astros. Yes, tickets to watch the bottom of the AL barrel will set you back $101 on average per game. Ahh, those always-loyal Astros devotees. While their prospects are coming up and may show signs of promise in the second half of the season, the Astros posted a .674 team OPS and 4.79 ERA—neither of which showed much improvement over spring. Their biggest winter move was signing Dexter Fowler, who should improve the offense—or at least prove useful in trade negotiations. The future does look brighter for the Astros, and if the team avoids 100 losses for a fourth consecutive win, that’s a winning season for Houston no matter what anyone says.

MLB Teams With a Decrease in Ticket Price

Though only five teams in the MLB saw a decrease in average price, a few of them are certainly unexpected. The Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs are both down by a 1% margin, but more startling is the reduced demand for San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners and Washington Nationals tickets.

The dip in ticket demand for San Diego Padres tickets chiefly has to do with dwindling fan morale. The Dodgers are the NL West bullies and the Giants have won two pennants most recently; these two rivals have continually battered down the Padres’ optimism over the years, and the fans are feeling it. Of the five California teams, the Padres are clearly in the doldrums, especially seeing the Angels on the upswing. Still, though San Diego did have a lackluster 2013, with a young squad of talented pitchers, including the acquisition of Josh Johnson, the healthy returns of Casey Kelly and Joe Wieland and the ripening of Andrew Casher, things are looking much more promising.
padres-dodgers-fight

The Seattle Mariners made the biggest noise of the offseason with the addition of slugger Robinson Cano on a 10-year, $240 million deal, notwithstanding the additions of Fernando Rodney, Logan Morrison and Corey Hart. It seems like Emerald City patrons aren’t yet quite convinced of the franchises’ “win now” attitude, or the belief that Cano can carry the weight of the team on his shoulders amid a tough division. If ticket sales are to rise, the franchise needs more marketable big-name stars similar to the likes of Ken Griffey Jr and Ichiro Suzuki. Cano can’t drive sales just by his name, he’ll have to get the team wins and earn the fans’ before that happens.

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. The Washington Nationals clearly left their fans disillusioned and embittered by their lackluster showing last year. After easily becoming one of the greatest disappointments in the National League, it looks like fans are apprehensive of getting their hearts broken again. The franchise saw the most severe plunge in ticket demand league wide: Washington tickets are down 41% to a mere $44 this year. The Nats do have some of the most lethal weapons on the mound, and with the notable addition of Doug Fister, Nate McLouth and Jerry Blevins, it’s not like a pennant run is out of the question. Washington will be back this year (being heavy favorites to win the NL East) and rest assured, their flippant fans will be too.

Considering baseball fans will be paying 30 percent more on average to attend a game, perhaps the penchant for arriving late and leaving early will finally desist. Below you’ll find a table of average MLB prices this year compared with last season.

MLB Team 2013 Avg. Price 2014 Avg. Price
Arizona Diamondbacks $58.10 $62.77
Atlanta Braves $53.60 $60.90
Baltimore Orioles $63.56 $70.10
Boston Red Sox $95.84 $122.88
Chicago Cubs $101.40 $100.31
Chicago White Sox $64.22 $81.15
Cincinnati Reds $56.56 $57.01
Cleveland Indians $59.04 $71.73
Colorado Rockies $42.26 $44.04
Detroit Tigers $65.85 $105.03
Houston Astros $72.85 $100.94
Kansas City Royals $45.76 $58.97
Los Angeles Angels $53.20 $55.55
Los Angeles Dodgers $44.74 $50.80
Miami Marlins $48.31 $144.86
Milwaukee Brewers $60.92 $67.10
Minnesota Twins $66.42 $66.95
New York Mets $83.71 $88.38
New York Yankees $79.13 $266.62
Oakland Athletics $57.10 $62.55
Philadelphia Phillies $76.53 $94.37
Pittsburgh Pirates $38.78 $89.41
San Diego Padres $66.03 $63.43
San Francisco Giants $68.59 $93.82
Seattle Mariners $64.66 $60.52
St Louis Cardinals $59.11 $61.18
Tampa Bay Rays $70.03 $69.88
Texas Rangers $84.27 $86.70
Toronto Blue Jays $88.37 $89.86
Washington Nationals $73.79 $43.70

Image Credit: Jeannine Leech/Icon SMI, Twitter.com/PhilWOTG

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