21 December 2008

Brand New Turnkey

It turns out a survey firm, Turnkey, is about to publish a prohibitively expensive report suggesting the Diamondback brand is gaining local traction and may overtake the Suns brand. Quite apart from methodology and transparency concerns associated with hard to access reports, or any immediate insights regarding the Suns, this sort of finding doesnt surprise me for several reasons, but I'll get to that in a minute.

First, here's Jim McLennan's friendly little "cast" about Turnkey, trying yet again to bait sanctioned Diamondhacks back to his opportunistically pious pit:



Very interesting to note a neutral survey showing the public perception of and brand loyalty to the Diamondbacks as improving over the past year, despite the lack of a title. This would seem to run counter to the views of certain critics, shall we say.

Certain critics is a coy reference to me, as evidenced by our interminable debates on this subject. (The first commenter picks up on this seamlessly, invoking me by name). McLennan's superficial suggestion here is that the report's findings appear at odds with my longstanding contention that the current FO has mismanaged the brand.

[Sigh #5,277]

First, in terms of fan loyalty, the new FO may be slightly improving on their own franchise low water marks. This runs somewhat parallel to the attendance argument we've had so many times, before Jim angrily truncates them. They are not challenging Colangelo in any meaningful way, and detailed customer satisfaction metrics overwhelmingly confirm this (below). This reinforces what is - and has always been - my central claim: that the new FO doesnt serve fans as well as Colangelo did. On ticket prices. Fan relations. Stadium environment. Brand identity. You name it.

Second, their rather insular improvement from the 2005-2007 period to 2008 is entirely consistent with several acknowledgments I've made - indeed asserted - about recent measures I consider positive: inviting JC to throw out the NLCS ball, postgame fireworks/concerts, Redheads, easing off baseball's largest % single game price differentials, and finally lowering selected prices on reasonably attractive seats.

I've never claimed the FO is resigned to repeat the same errors year after year after year, a la Groundhog Day or the Knicks' James Dolan. On the contrary, several policy tweaks make it clear to me they're grudgingly learning from past mistakes, and as a purely intellectual matter, it's conceivable Kendrick and Moorad might ultimately surpass Colangelo in something other than profit (although as a practical observation, I consider it unlikely). Mr McLennan, however, is too eager to prop up such nuanced criticism as a crude scarecrow, where I assume everything the FO does is automatically wrong, or inherently worse than what they did yesterday.

Third, and hypocritical to a point of humor, is that for literally years now, in our countless debates on the subject, McLennan has steadfastly reduced Brand & Attendance to little more than "winning" and "a matter of time", pooh-pooing my consistent argument that "B&A" involves much more than that - including fan perceptions on pricing, the FO, indeed, the 2007 rebranding itself. Now, after all these years, as soon as Jim finds a study suggesting a weaker (ie more complex) correlation between "winning" and brand loyalty than he ever conceded (let alone openly entertained), his first inclination is to spin it as if I'm the one whose longstanding views are being compromised.

I wouldnt call Jim a "stand up" guy, but this is comical.

**********

Here's the methodology of ESPN's Fan Satisfaction Index (2003-2007 online), involving more than 80,000 respondents, across a host of satisfiers. There's a ton of empirical info here - too much really. To intelligently examine the Dbacks, I first recommend filtering out all noise from the NFL, NBA and NHL.

In 2003, the Diamondbacks ranked first in MLB, in terms of overall satisfaction.
In 2004, they ranked second, out of thirty clubs.
In 2005, they dropped to ninth.

Let's stop and digest. Is it reasonable that the 111 loss team (2004) could be second in customer satisfaction? What month of the year were these surveys administered? Does "2004" actually reflect sentiments from 2003? Possibly, although I note ESPN hasnt published 2008 results yet, suggesting maybe the stated year is in synch. In any case, feel free to assume a one year lag if you like, until that question is answered, meaning the club dropped from second to ninth on the basis of the 2004 debacle.

But in "2006", overall satisfaction plummeted to fourteenth. By "2007", satisfaction eked back up to eleventh, lower than at any time during the Colangelo era.

Was the slight improvement in 2007 due to that season's exciting playoff run, or does this reflect 2006? What's interesting here is that significant improvement in only two component factors led to the slightly higher overall rating. Fans felt much better about the players and coaching in the 2007 data than they did in 2006. This would suggest no annual lag in the study, as one wouldnt expect dramatically higher player/coach satisfaction in 2006, when the team tied for last place. These increases seem more consistent with a mood altering 90 win season.

Some component filters are particularly informative. For example, here's what Phoenix fans feel about the club's Fan Relations 2003-2007:

2003 -2nd
2004 -3rd
2005 -10th
2006 - 13th
2007 - 14th

Here's what we think of the owners:

2003 - 2nd
2004 - 3rd
2005 - 13th
2006 - 14th
2007 - 18th



...and my favorite, affordability:


2003 - 7th
2004 - 10th
2005 - 12th
2006 - 19th
2007 - 18th

Ouch. Despite relatively low season ticket prices, and a shamelessly cynical marketing campaign that, regrettably, continues to this day, most Dback fans havent swallowed the "lowest prices in baseball" Kool - Aid.

Finally, here's what we think of the stadium experience:

2003 - 4th
2004 - 5th
2005 - 11th
2006 -17th
2007 - 22nd

I think it's fair to say some of this is due to normal and expected stadium "depreciation". New parks are built and hopscotch to the top of the ratings. But that's one helluva drop in just four years - from one of the best venues to one of the worst. Food for thought, in a separate post.

There's lots more here, perhaps most significantly the filters by each metropolitan market. Here's the various 2007 rankings just within Phoenix. It's been my contention that while Phoenix loyalties may not be deeply rooted, the town is also relatively easy to please. Explore the various years at your leisure, but I think these figures support that general contention.

Back to the latest Turnkey report. Derrick Hall had this to say:




The results of Turnkey’s brand survey among Phoenix sports fans justifies and validates our investment into our employees, fans and ballpark over the last couple of years.
Perhaps, but I wouldnt certify that conclusion without really diving into the methodology and some context of historical results. I'm more inclined to think these preliminary findings echo those at ESPN: a growing city relatively receptive to baseball (and sports generally), and a front office starting to repair damage mostly of their own making.

**********
Song of the Day - Brand New Key (Melanie)

10 comments:

Gary said...

Matt,

Do you really think everything would have still been so rosy under JC?

Matt said...

Gary,

I'm not sure I can tackle the substance of your question but let me try to address the tone. During and after 2004, the Diamondbacks were faced with significant structural challenges, regardless of who the owner was.

So, no, I dont believe everything would still be "so rosy", if by "rosy" you mean an org that maintains the highest or 2nd highest customer satisfaction ratings in all of baseball. But that is what Jerry built, and part of the legacy Earl Kendrick inherited - the one he publicly grumbles about.

In addition to the structural deficit, I think Kendrick did a miserable job maintaining fan loyalty, customer confidence and the brand, particularly between late 2004 and 2007. On the business side, evidence suggests Colangelo would've drawn more fans with lower single game prices, and by sustaining brand continuity.

On the baseball side, it's less clear, but who knows what he might've done with that farm system? I guess what annoys me is the assumption that Jerry would've squandered it and lost 100 games every year. It's possible, I suppose, but based on Colangelo's history I wouldnt bet on it.

Thanks for visiting and for voting in my groovy poll.

Jim McLennan said...

I thought I'd come across and visit 'Hacks in his den - though unlike him, I'll avoid lobbing class and race-inspired prejudice and insults around.

I see the standard 'Hacks approach is in effect here. Ignore or disparage any survey which preduces results that don't agree with your prejudices [see also TMR's independent fan cost survey which he hates with a passion, because - gasp! - it dares to paint the current owners in a good light]. Let's take a look at the "methodology" of the ESPN survey you tout instead, shall we? "Through ESPN.com, we asked fans of MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL teams to rate their clubs in these 21 categories. We gathered more than 80,000 responses."

Are you familiar with the term "self-selection"? Per Wikipedia, this is "any situation in which individuals select themselves into a group, causing a biased sample." Basically, it renders the results of this survey effectively worthless as a measure - except of the opinions of those who a) frequent ESPN, and b) are motivated enough to respond to the poll. Claiming this has any kind of accuracy, is like believing the comments on azcentral.com reliably represent the political opinions of the nation.

In addition, while 'Hacks professes ignorance, ["Does "2004" actually reflect sentiments from 2003?"], the results of the 2007 survey were published in March, so it's obvious that, at the very best, they reflect the preceding season. Dependng on when their survey was conducted, its entirely possible the 2005 results were based on opinions taken in the middle of the 2004 season, and may not even reflect the 111 losses racked up by Jerry's Kids that year. I think it's amusing that 'Hacks prefers to tout an unscientific survey, carried out at least two full baseball seasons ago, rather than a more recent, almost certainly more accurate one. But that's pretty much what I've come to expect.

Colangelo basically got out of the cab and walked away from the train-wreck he'd caused. 111 losses. A quarter-billion dollars in deferred salaries. 680,000 in attendance lost between 2002 and 2004 alone. That is the "legacy" of Colangelo, of which 'Hacks is apparently so proud. Sure, Jerry gave the town a World Series - but 'Hacks wants us to know that winning is apparently irrelevant, when compared to the results of the ESPN Fan Survey...

You don't correct this kind of near-terminal issues by waving a magic wand: to quote Ken Kendrick, "You can't turn a battleship around overnight. You just can't do it." 'Hacks refuses to acknowledge this, to accept that the dismal attendance low of 2005 was the direct result of Jerry's legacy, or that the team has experienced sustained growth in attendance over the three seasons since, something never seen under the previous owners.

The damage done by Colangelo, particularly in his final years, to the team, the brand and the franchise left the Diamondbacks on life-support, but things are now going in the right direction. Have there been mis-steps? Sure. But to extend the medical metaphor, the patient is out of intensive care and improving in health, as well as adopting a lifestyle which won't kill him.

Matt said...

I thought I'd come across and visit 'Hacks in his den - though unlike him, I'll avoid lobbing class and race-inspired prejudice and insults around.

Thank you for voluntarily setting a good example, for a change :-). The irony here is that on your site - the terrified and opportunistically pious one - silly, mainstream references to Neiman Marcus and bad Scottish dentistry are obliviously conflated as "class insults" on par with genuinely invidious, big-lipped Black Samboism. Coming from a moderator fond of "humorous" juxtapositions of Jackie Robinson and slaves being whipped, I'm hardly surprised. You'll never find that level of class disrespect here (although I admit, my 'misadventures of Ping' series, purposely not linked here for the good of humanity, comes close).

I see the standard 'Hacks approach is in effect here. Ignore or disparage any survey which preduces results that don't agree with your prejudices...

Did I "ignore" the Turnkey survey? No, I wrote about it.

Did I "disparage" it? Actually, I suggested the preliminary findings sound consistent with those of the historical ESPN studies, which I clearly think are useful. You equate my wanting to see the methodology of an unpublished study as "disparagement", while prematurely touting a study you'll probably never even see as "more accurate" than the one we already have? Priceless.

...see also TMR's independent fan cost survey which he hates with a passion, because - gasp! - it dares to paint the current owners in a good light

No. What I hate with a passion is the willful misinterpretation of the study by propagandists like Derrick Hall, and at this point, You. We've been over this way too many times for you to not understand that the TMR captures season ticket prices only, or that the Diamondbacks have intentionally misled the public with this valid, but hopelessly narrow, information. At first, I gave you the benefit of the doubt, but at this point, as a writer of some local online influence and background, you're entirely complicit in this deception and have squandered any credibility on the matter.

I'm also aware of the "self-selection" bias in the ESPN polls, but your eager conclusion that it renders the surveys of 80,000 respondents "worthless" exposes your myopic agenda. Has it ever occured to you that theses biases occur across the board, to some degree, in every market? Of course it has.

Do you have evidence that the 2004 ESPN data was from March? If true, that's important info, and I'd like to see it. Similarly, do you agree with my analysis of the 2007 data being (justifiably) skewed by favorable opinions on 2007 players and coaches, or do you still assert that data is from 2006? I ask, because you're dismissing the entire study as "two years old or older" and it seems to me this could be 2007 data.

Hacks refuses to acknowledge...accept... that the dismal attendance low of 2005 was the direct result of Jerry's legacy, or that the team has experienced sustained growth in attendance over the three seasons since...

Yawn. Another misrepresentation followed by an outright lie. I have always acknowledged the attendance increases between 2006 and 2008. How could one not? It's there in black and white. The argument has never been the increases, it's how meaningful they are given all the circumstances. You feel they're impressive, I dont, but floating the falsehood that I dont "acknowledge" the increases merely serves to distract from any substantive discussion.

As far as dismal 2005 attendance, I've said, over and over again, that the 2004 season was a showstopping, critical factor. We agree on that, so stop trying to fool people that it's somehow a point of contention. Where we differ is that I've also forwarded the notion that the new FO's policies contributed to a miserable transition and historically low attendance, after 2004. Talk about someone not "acknowledging" something. Good grief. Tens of thousands of confirmations stare you in the face, as does sub-2004 attendance itself, and all you can regurgitate is that the underlying disenchantment is either Colangelo's fault, or alternatively, that the disenchantment doesnt exist at all - apparently dependent on which side of Derrick Hall's bed you wake up on in the morning ;-)

Seriously, thanks for the visit and taking the time to express yourself. Your views, no matter how ridiculous, are always safe here. I'm not afraid of them, or of you.

Cheers

Jim McLennan said...

Did I "ignore" the Turnkey survey? No, I wrote about it.

Er...what exactly did you write about it? One sentence, that it had been published and that the D-backs brand is gaining traction. Compare and contrast the detailed analysis and promotion you give to a survey with methodology that'd get laughed out of any 1.0.1. Stats class, and which came out almost two years ago. Way to be on the cutting edge of news there! Hell, you even wrote far more sniping at me than about the Turnkey report. Yes, I think "ignoring" is entirely appropriate.

the willful misinterpretation of the study by propagandists like Derrick Hall

"The Arizona Diamondbacks, last year’s surprise winner of the AL West [sic - oops!], will have the cheapest average ticket at $15.96." That's not Hall. It's taken straight off the TMR site. We can disagree about the methodology, sure - but Hall is just reporting the results. Of course, in your eyes, doing so becomes "wilful misrepresentation." Says more about you than him, I think.

The new FO may be slightly improving on their own franchise low water marks.

What low water marks would those be? 51 wins? That was Colangelo. The 2005 attendance? Even you now admit, "the 2004 season was a showstopping, critical factor." So I'm curious what exactly you mean here. Anything objective? Or just, once again, your prejudices?

Do you agree with my analysis of the 2007 data being (justifiably) skewed by favorable opinions on 2007 players and coaches, or do you still assert that data is from 2006?

It's very obviously from the 2006 season: this lead story on the 2007 report is dated March 28. Quite how the 2007 season could impact these figures, therefore escapes me.

the new FO's policies contributed to a miserable transition and historically low attendance, after 2004.

That's like saying a surgeon contributed to a patient staying in hospital, because he removed a tumor. Changes, some of them painful, had to be made if the team was to survive. The nattering nabobs of negativity may not have liked them, but that doesn't, in any way, make them the wrong decisions.

the new FO doesnt serve fans as well as Colangelo did. On ticket prices. Fan relations. Stadium environment. Brand identity. You name it.

How many online chats did Jerry do? How many fans could name the president before Derrick Hall? Hell, even I had to look it up. As for ticket prices, I'm pretty sure if the new owners operated an unrealistic and unsustainable business model, like Colangelo, and ran up a quarter-billion dollars of debt, then they could do very well there too. Who cares about the future? Have a $1 ticket!

Matt said...

Hell, you even wrote far more sniping at me than about the Turnkey report.

The report isnt even out yet. You've been publishing bullshit for years. Give it time :-)

Yes, I think "ignoring" is entirely appropriate.

It's not "entirely appropriate", for the bloody obvious (and previously stated) reason that it's unpublished and inaccessible. This kind of blindly contentious comment is why you're so annoying, friend. Nothing personal, but you really are. How the hell am I supposed to write anything beyond a sentence or two about a report we cant even see?

"The Arizona Diamondbacks... will have the cheapest average ticket at $15.96." That's not Hall. It's taken straight off the TMR site. We can disagree about the methodology, sure - but Hall is just reporting the results. Of course, in your eyes, doing so becomes "wilful misrepresentation." Says more about you than him, I think.

You're putting me on, right? No one whose built a terrific little blog like you have (believe me, I appreciate the effort and skill involved) could possibly be this oblivious. I simply dont believe it's possible, and therefore am forced to assume you're bullshitting on three or four levels here. Believe me, I'd much prefer to assume you're a dumbass, because then I could be alot nicer, but I just cant do it. I've seen you misrepresent data and other people's positions for too long to believe otherwise.

One, there's no "disagreement" about the TMR methodology, ok? It's season ticket prices only. Dont reflexively type something; read the effin' footnotes, and if it's not clear to you, read them again! Two, this is uniquely significant in terms of overall AZ pricing, because Mr Hall is the only baseball exec bragging about the fact that every seat in his stadium is twice as expensive if you buy a single premier game (as opposed to ST prices). Hint: No, this is not your cue to copy and paste boilerplate that you feel ST ticket holders should pay less per game. (For the nineteenth time, spare us, and either address the facts or kindly shut up.) Three, Hall is merely "reporting the results", my ass. He is keenly aware that the limited TMR findings position the Dbacks in considerably more favorable light than their overall pricing warrants. That's why he keeps citing it. He's personally acknowledged to me that his usage (particularly on game telecasts) of the TMR was overly broad and misleading, and pledged to rectify that. He did, very briefly, after we met, but has reverted to his old ways since - barging his way into the booth, promoting upcoming single games, and in the next breath, grinning and crowing about "the lowest prices in baseball" in a deliberately undefined manner, specifically to deceive single game buyers. Is it Fallujah? No. But it's dishonest, he knows it, and judging from the affordability scores, most Phoenicians know it too. Read the Forbes reports - there's up to a dozen teams with overall prices as low or lower than us. You think Derrick Hall, President and Information Czar, isnt aware of that?

The 2005 attendance? Even you now admit, "the 2004 season was a showstopping, critical factor." So I'm curious what exactly you mean here. Anything objective? Or just, once again, your prejudices?

Are those my choices: your objective v my prejudices? Lol. We "know" 2004's meltdown hurt 2005 attendance, as there's plenty of historical evidence suggesting a really bad record harms the following year's gate. Similarly, we "know" other things affect year to year attendance, but like the 111 losses, we dont know by how much.

There are three big differences between the 2005 attendance drop and the earlier ones you like to cite. First, is the 111 losses. Check. Second, is the ownership change and the policy / perception changes that entails. Third, and also something you're very reluctant to acknowledge, is that Colangelo's year to year drops were not only less as a % of total fans, but he lost, by definition, a different kind of fan, harder to keep in the fold.

If a given market's natural attendance equilibrium is something around 2.8M, I would submit that few things are harder than trying to consistently draw more than that, and few things easier than increasing attendance from a 2M trough, towards that equilibrium figure. Could the new regime do worse? Oh, sure. They could still be drawing 2M, but my point is their gradual gate increases are testament to little more than market equilibrium forces and the fact they've figured out how not to lose 100 games every year in what has just recently degraded into MLB's worst division. Woo hoo! Congratulations!

It's very obviously from the 2006 season: this lead story on the 2007 report is dated March 28. Quite how the 2007 season could impact these figures, therefore escapes me.

You're right! Thanks for the survey link. That's very helpful, and I admit I'm surprised about the one year lag, given my earlier digging that I wont rehash here. Doesnt change the fundamental issue, or integrity of my argument, as these guys are still nowhere near Colangelo's satisfaction numbers, but it does take an edge off some of the starkest contrasts that I was trying to draw. Happy to acknowledge that. Information is good :-)


Changes, some of them painful, had to be made if the team was to survive.

Agreed.

The nattering nabobs of negativity may not have liked them, but that doesn't, in any way, make them the wrong decisions.

You're in danger of taking a very specific decision, usurping Colangelo, (which we dont have raging disagreement on,btw), and generalizing it into an apologia for four years of decision-making. I'm not saying you're 100% on board - I know that. But this is still where you lose me, going from the specific coup itself, which you apparently swallow as the only conceivable franchise saver (when it was more of a discretionary "investor" saver) to what amounts to a four year honeymoon, glossing over some subsequent decisions.

How many online chats did Jerry do? How many fans could name the president before Derrick Hall? Hell, even I had to look it up.

Anecdotes are nice and I've several of my own maybe we can face off at another time, but I'm afraid the aggregate numbers dont lie. Force yourself to look at those affordability numbers, even if they're from 2006. No club in my experience has tried harder to convince people how wonderful they are via words versus action. They've done both - dont get me wrong - but all those chats you champion, they're just words, Jim. Millions of words from a corporation telling you how wonderful it is.

What the polling is saying is,

"Um, no. You're not."

I think there's a lesson there, and that's a big part of what I object to.

As for ticket prices, I'm pretty sure if the new owners operated an unrealistic and unsustainable business model, like Colangelo, and ran up a quarter-billion dollars of debt, then they could do very well there too. Who cares about the future? Have a $1 ticket!

I wish! Colangelo's deficit came from mostly the cost side - enormous start up costs and all those Bernard Gilkey and Jorge Fabregas contracts you're so fond of chronicling :-) On the revenue side, he did OK, especially considering his hands were tied on revenue sharing, etc. He lost a few bucks in 1998 on the dollar seats, but trust me, his problems had precious little to do with ticket pricing.

Thanks for visiting.

Cheers

Jim McLennan said...

How the hell am I supposed to write anything beyond a sentence or two about a report we cant even see?

Sheesh - and you call yourself a blogger? :-) I wrote an entire article based on seven words from Jeff Moorad's online chat. So it really doesn't seem a case of you not being able, more not wanting to write about the Turnkey report. Especially when you then rehash, in depth, a survey taken at least two seasons ago.

One, there's no "disagreement" about the TMR methodology, ok? It's season ticket prices only.

Sure. But you are the only person who seems to care: I haven't seen it mentioned in another reference to the survey. The creators of the report clearly don't care, beyond a mere footnote. It's also a level playing-field: it's not as if they are comparing our season-ticket prices against other teams' single-ticket rates. You make it seem as if Derrick Hall forced TMR to use that method, rather than the company independently choosing it as what they felt was the most appropriate metric. Finally, you blame Hall for promoting the company? Because, after all, I've never seen any auto companies, say, use the results of an independent survey to sell their cars...

[The last sentence is sarcasm, in case you couldn't tell]

He lost, by definition, a different kind of fan, harder to keep in the fold.

Now, this is interesting: it's the first time I've heard you bring that up. I'm not convinced there is an equilibrium level - in particular, not one we can see with any accuracy in the first dozen years of a franchise's life. Even long-established teams experience wide variations: the Yankees, for example, have seen attendance per game range from 23,360 to 53,070 in the past fifteen years. There are too many external factors that affect the number.

I do agree, 3.6 million was unsustainable, and there is a natural resistance to gains or losses outside of a certain range. How much, it's hard to say; that would be a fascinating study for someone more versed in high-level statistical analysis than I [who gave stats up after my second year in college!].

They've figured out how not to lose 100 games every year in what has just recently degraded into MLB's worst division.

True this year - not true in 2007, where the West had three of the four best records in the league and no team had a losing record against either the East or Central. Reaching the NLCS that season with a payroll ranked 26th in the majors, was a very, very impressive feat, rather than the "not losing 100 games in MLB's worst division," as you disparage it.

I think the key difference is perhaps that I don't draw a line under the Colangelo regime in quite the same way. I think the palpable disenchantment apparent in the hemorrhaging of fans continued past the actual date of the switch. It does take time to turn things around, and it wouldn't surprise me if the bottom wasn't reached until well into 2005 or even 2006. The new owners, unlike Colangelo, didn't have the benefit of a clean-slate and a honeymoon period.

It probably is also the case that new management have addressed my concerns better than yours: say, managing season-ticket prices compared to single-ticket ones. My top priority - and, it seems, theirs too - is putting out a competitive team in a sustainable way, and everything else is very much secondary. Give me that, and I could care less about the colors of the jerseys or the price of a ballpark beer.

Matt said...

Before we get to some of your more reasonable positions, let's put this TMR thing to rest :-)

But you are the only person who seems to care [about...TMR methodology...as season ticket prices only]

As far as I know, I'm the only person exposing Derrick Hall on this issue, but that seems more a reflection of a passive local press and a complex statistical issue than it does a lack of credibility on my part. Neither does it logically follow just because I'm the one uniquely articulating the problem that nobody else "cares" about the underlying issue. Fan perceptions about Dback prices (reflected in ESPN's affordability scores) are utterly divorced from Hall's erroneous claims of baseball's "lowest prices". I know Hall's broadest claims are fallacious because I've done the research. Most fans have never heard of Diamondhacks or researched the issue themselves; nevertheless, they seem to share a collective sense that Mr Hall's claims arent close to being accurate.

It's [The TMR] is also a level playing-field: it's not as if they are comparing our season-ticket prices against other teams' single-ticket rates.

As purely a measure of season ticket prices, it's a level field, but thanks to Mr Hall and others, the TMR is often misconstrued as a comparative measure of overall ticket prices, when it's nothing of the kind. It wouldnt be an issue if ballclubs marked up single games comparably (as you appear to assume), because then we could just extrapolate from the base ST prices, and feel pretty good about our estimates. But there are significant strategic differences in the way clubs markup single game tickets.

Whereas most teams have been incrementing prices slightly for single games (above ST base values), then incrementing them sharply for so called "premier", Arizona (and FLA, to a lesser extent) were unique in taking the opposite approach: very large single game increments (as high as 90%) across the 83 game schedule, and smaller "premier" game hikes. (It's a dynamic situation, and AZ is gradually easing off this approach, but that accurately defines their 2005-2007 strategy, which undoubtedly suppressed attendance - how much is harder to say, as is the net effect on revenues.)

You make it seem as if Derrick Hall forced TMR to use that method, rather than the company independently choosing it as what they felt was the most appropriate metric.

TMR didnt choose the most 'appropriate' or accurate metric; they choose the easiest one for them to measure. Ranking and weighting single game prices across MLB involves problematic variables (ie staggered pricing models unique to each ballclub, different number of premier games, postgame amenities, etc.) rendering definitive price comparison difficult. ST prices are much simpler and easier to capture, but they hardly provide a more accurate overall picture of prices than, say, the hybrid methodology used by Forbes. Does any fan honestly believe the "average" ticket at Chase was recently $13-15, as reported by TMR, or closer to $20, per Forbes?

Also, I've never remotely implied that Hall influenced TMR in any way, let alone "forced" them to do anything. I do think it's interesting, however, that an industry newsletter, whose methodology structurally under-reports actual ticket prices to most fans (across all franchises), has somehow evolved as the "go to" pricing reference for so many people in the...um...industry. Why not cite Forbes, for example, which as recently as 2007, listed a dozen teams with cheaper tickets than Arizona?

Finally, you blame Hall for promoting the company?

Not at all. I blame him for misrepresenting his company's prices, and for continually and intentionally doing so. If Derrick merely claimed MLB's lowest ST prices, this wouldnt be an issue. But he's not content with that. He comes on game broadcasts, in front of hundreds of thousands of viewers, trying to pump up walk up sales for upcoming games, and purposely misapplies TMR's rather narrow findings to that end.

To pick up on your automobile analogy, Derrick's a dealer with the best fleet prices in town (ie the prices he sells to other businesses in bulk), and uses that datapoint to mislead retail customers that he has the "lowest prices in town" for them, when in reality his prices for them are middle of the pack.

There's also a critical distinction between local purchases of cars and ball tickets in your analogy - when a car dealer says he has "the lowest prices in town", customers can, and as a matter of practice often do, compare such claims against other local dealers' prices. Same with a local grocery store claiming the best deals on meat or milk. When it comes to MLB, however, the Dbacks have no real local competition to keep them "honest", or to afford fans with convenient comparison shopping. I suppose a fan interested in Dback tickets could conceivably test Hall's bluster by accessing the other 29 club sites before making a purchase, but fans (other than me) arent inclined to do that.

Instead we largely rely on conventional wisdom and the authority of local leaders like Hall to get a sense about comparative prices. That is what's so infuriating about this, Jim. Hall would get raked over the coals if he floated this approach in any one of a number of markets, but he knows he can glibly skate by with malarky because of the passive press corps he takes to lunch every Thursday. Why do you think he offered to take me to lunch, my gracious good company?!?!

Unlike locals buying a car, or meat from a grocer, folks buying Dback tix - in what amounts to a local vacuum - are more in a position to "trust" Mr Hall on the subject of comparative prices - and regrettably, he's abused it. More accurately, Derrick is the point man for a corporate policy that abuses that trust.

I do agree, 3.6 million was unsustainable, and there is a natural resistance to gains or losses outside of a certain range. How much, it's hard to say...There are too many external factors that affect the number

Well stated and fair. No sense rehashing the external factors. I'll just shut up and agree :-)

Reaching the NLCS [ in 2007] with a payroll ranked 26th in the majors, was a very, very impressive feat, rather than the "not losing 100 games in MLB's worst division," as you disparage it.

The 2007 NLCS run was many things: unexpected, fun, historically lucky or "random", but I'm not sure what's the bigger hyperbole here: my "congratulating" the team for failing to lose 100 games every year, or your characterization of the NLCS run as "very, very impressive". A cursory look at run differential on top of schedule strength makes it easy to argue that this "very, very impressive" club was one of the ten weakest teams in baseball. Not a huge embarrassment given the low payroll, perhaps, but assuming the 2007 NLW was suddenly "strong" strikes me as superficial for several reasons.

First, just because the NLC collapsed that year doesnt mean the West was suddenly better, relative to the other four divisions. They were still very weak relative to the AL. Second, it's hardly coincidence that three smaller market teams (COL, AZ, SD) in the same division all rose up simultaneously with an 89-90 win season. - were they all suddenly good teams, or merely filling an historic power vacuum in the NL, exacerbated by the collapse of the Dodgers and Giants? Third, with all due respect to year to year variability, how good do you honestly think COL,SD and AZ were in 2007, given their collective 2008 performance, and the fact the 2005 NLW was the weakest division since the advent of divisional play forty years earlier? I'm not saying Arizona deserves no credit for reaching the NLCS; I'm saying they were one of the worst teams ever to do so.

I think the palpable disenchantment apparent in the hemorrhaging of fans continued past the actual date of the switch.

I agree. We appear to differ mostly on whether the new FO is to be held responsible for any of it.

It does take time to turn things around...

Meh. It takes time if you're not very good at what you do. Other franchises "turn things around" faster than this front office has. To be fair, some do it with money, but others dont even need that. These guys inherited a dynamite farm, and in 4 yrs have yet to produce a team anywhere near MLB average (in terms of run adjusted RPI). I agree they're methodically going in the right direction, however.

The new owners, unlike Colangelo, didn't have the benefit of a clean-slate and a honeymoon period.

Attendance-wise, Colangelo clearly benefited from the franchise novelty, but instead of bemoaning Kendrick's lack of "clean slate" or "honeymoon" I'd encourage you to investigate why he didnt have those things. It's not like subsequent owners are categorically denied those perks. I would argue Kendrick, to a large extent, squandered them.

It probably is also the case that new management have addressed my concerns better than yours: say, managing season-ticket prices compared to single-ticket ones.

Sounds reasonable.

My top priority - and, it seems, theirs too - is putting out a competitive team in a sustainable way, and everything else is very much secondary.

I would say their top priority is ensuring (as opposed to maximizing) fiscal profit, and to the extent that fielding a competitive team ensures that, doing that too.

Give me that, and I could care less about the colors of the jerseys or the price of a ballpark beer.

Fair enough :-)

Blogger said...

There is shocking news in the sports betting industry.

It's been said that every bettor needs to look at this,

Watch this now or stop betting on sports...

Sports Cash System - Robotic Sports Betting Software.

Blogger said...

+$3,624 profit last week...

Subscribe For 5 Star verified winning bets on MLB, NHL, NBA & NFL + Anti-Vegas Smart Money Signals!!!