This could be a shock to friends back home in Lebanon, but I am giving up baseball, or at least my San Diego Padre season tickets.
The Padres themselves had little to do with it. I had great seats and not expensive ones for the half-season package, at least not for major league season tickets. My two seats for half the home games were just off of dead center from home plate. They were in the upper level, but the vista of the field and downtown San Diego was magnificent. I met some folks who had moved to nearby seats from the $100 seats area below because they felt they had a better view of the entire field of play.
I have rooted for the Padres since my first tour in San Diego in 1975. It has been a rough road. They have made it to the World Series twice, losing to the Detroit Tigers in 1984 and the Yankees in 1998. Maureen and I went to the fourth game of the Bronx sweep. It remains one of the most thrilling events of any kind I’ve attended.
The Padres also have made the National League Championship Series three other times, 1996, 2005, and 2006.
This season the Padres, with new ownership, muddled around with injuries and a horrendous losing streak in the middle of the season. They finished tied for third in the NL West with last year’s World Series champs, the San Francisco Giants.
At the end of the season, I shifted my attention to the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Oakland A’s. I was a fanatic Pirate fan from the mid-1950s until I started rooting in earnest for the Padres in 1982. Oakland’s new star is Vanderbilt’s pitcher, Sonny Gray, a rookie.
The Pirates succumbed to Saint Louis and the Athletics were dropped by the Detroit Tigers in the division playoffs.
What dawned on me as the Pirates and A’s were losing their chances to advance, was money has changed the game…in many ways.
Of the four teams remaining as of this writing, all are in the top 10 in player payroll. The highest payroll of Yankees at $228,995,945 didn’t even make the playoffs. The Dodgers bought their way into the league championship with the second highest payroll of $216,302,909. Boston was fourth in payroll with $158,967,286. Detroit was fifth with $149,046,844, and the Cardinals handed out the tenth largest amount at $116,702,085.
In order for my Padres to play consistently at a level to get them to the playoffs, the owners are going to have to dig deep, deep into their pockets and buy their way in. The same can be said for the Pirates, the Athletics, and many others among the 30 teams just simply can’t get there (One startling money statistic is the Yankee’s drug enhanced Alex Rodriguez is making more than the entire team of the Astros, $25 Million to $24 Million).
I like my Padres, I identify with many of the players. All but a few have struggled to make it to the majors. There are rookies, re-treads, and guys who have hung on for a long time. I like “small ball,” hit and run, stealing bases, bunts, good pitching, and defense. Watching multi-millionaires hit homer after homer is boring to me.
On the other side of the coin, I mentioned my seats are some of the cheap ones. This season cost me over $2,000 for tickets. We park in a decent place costing another $15 for a game. Two beers, two hot dogs, a bottle of water, and peanuts rings up another $30. That’s $75 dollars to go to one ball game. A family of four can’t go to a Padre game without forking over $100 unless they eschew eating and drinking. If the Padres had made the World Series, and I had bought my season seats, I would have had to shell out in the area of $15,000… in advance.
So next year, I’m watching my Southwest corner baseball at San Diego State or the University of San Diego. For you lucky folks back home, you have Cumberland and a pretty decent team up the road in the West End of Nashville.
Several buddies of mine, Maureen, and I are already planning for baseball in February. Vanderbilt comes to the Southwest corner to play the Long Beach State Dirtbags.
Now that’s baseball.