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Yankees, Mets attendance is down, but why?

David Brown
Big League Stew

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(AP)

With the Yankees and Mets set to meet in interleague play starting Friday night in the Bronx, it seems like a good time to ask the following Subway Series question:

Why doesn't anybody go to games in Yankee Stadium and Citi Field anymore? You look behind home plate at both stadiums, and you see, like three people there.

OK, that might be a little misleading. But the fact is, attendance around Major League Baseball is up 7 percent over a season ago, while it's down in the Big Apple, Bloomberg News reports. The Yankees draw about 2,000 fewer fans per game, and the Mets are down about 1,000. This, despite the Yankees being competitive as usual, if not dominant, and the Mets surprisingly contending in the NL East.

There's lots of guessing as to why, lots of reasons and excuses. It's the economy. It's that the new ballparks aren't new anymore. It's that the Mets had low expectations and fans have yet to buy in. It's that the Yankees take their season ticket holders for granted. It's that Yankee fans take the playoffs for granted. It's Bernie Madoff's fault. It's that StubHub, a company that facilitates the selling of tickets on the secondary market, is undercutting everyone with cheap tickets. It's that things would be different if George Steinbrenner were still alive.

There's truth in there, and probably a red herring or two, but all of it overlooks the most obvious reason why the Yankees and Mets are selling fewer tickets.

Because they cost too much.

Oh, yeah. Supply and demand. That. The Yankees and Mets charge more for tickets than they're worth. There's no better evidence — other than the missing bodies in the seats — than what's happening on the secondary market. On StubHub — a licensed partner of the Yankees — fans can buy seats for pennies on the dollar of face-value tickets. (This also is true for Red Sox games and at other ballparks around MLB.)

The New York Post writes:

The StubHub effect this year — combined with a lousy economy and a poorer on-field performance — has produced an average crowd of 40,949 through 25 games, compared with 42,491 last year.

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(AP)

The economy was even lousier last year, and worse the year before, so that's not much of an explanation. And as for a "poorer" on-field performance, well, the Yankees are a half-game out of first after their recent 10-4 spurt. So we're not talking a dramatically underachieving bunch. But the situation rightly has Yankees team president Randy Levine upset. After all, attendance is down 3.6 percent, on top of the 3 percent it dropped in 2011. He told the Post:

"We believe there are serious issues with the StubHub relationship. We are actively reviewing more fan-friendly alternatives for next year."

The Yankees have a modern stadium. They spend more on their players than any other team? What's left? The friendliest thing Levine could do is cut prices. The Yankees have the second-highest prices in the league on average, according to Fan Cost Experience. Lower the price. Lower the prices of concessions to make the tickets more valuable. Beer. Parking. Souvenirs. Regardless, if the Yankees offered an average price that was middle of the road — like, say, the Mets — and people still weren't filling the seats, the response should be no different. Lower. Your. Prices. You charge too much. And don't complain about the secondary market undercutting you when you enabled it to do so in the first place.

Teaching capitalism to so-called capitalists is fun!

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