In his introductory press conference on Friday, new Astros team president Reid Ryan made it clear that things are going to change. He wants the team to be more fan-friendly, and he said he's going to work on making it clear that the team is now putting fans first.
So here are a few suggestions that Mr. Ryan might want to take under consideration.
5. No More Dynamic Pricing
The Astros put dynamic pricing into effect for all games, all seats this season. The primary problem is that it's not really dynamic pricing -- where the market drives the price of the ticket -- but is instead more like premium pricing -- where the team charges a higher price for tickets for games against certain teams. So when the Astros said in advance that tickets would be priced higher for games against the Rangers, Yankees, Red Sox and Angels and they set the price that tickets would be priced at, the market wasn't driving the costs, the team was driving the costs.
This is a bad baseball team. If people actually want to come out to watch the Astros play baseball, then the team should be doing everything possible to make that happen instead of trying to drive fans off by charging higher prices for certain games. Does the team make money doing that? Yes. But is making money in the short term worth driving away fans?
4. Get a Deal with CSN Houston Already
Do you really want to be fan-friendly? Then get the Astros back on television. Yeah, yeah, if you have Comcast then you can watch the Astros games. But there's no reason baseball fans should have to put up with awful customer service and an awful cable product to watch a bad baseball team. Sure, Jim Crane whining to David Barron on Friday night made getting a deal possibly even harder -- admitting to the press that the network's in financial trouble and is drawing down on its credit is probably not the best way to get all of the other providers to cave in to the network's demands.
But the truth of the matter is that any deal has to be better than no deal, right? Besides, the Astros have been the only stumbling block to a deal. The Rockets and Comcast have agreed to numerous deals with the other providers only to have the Astros veto the deals. But get the team on TV, start making some money for the network, let the fans watch without having to illegally access the games or subscribe to Comcast.
3. Celebrate Real Fans
It's nice that the Astros are going into poor neighborhoods and doing things for disadvantaged youth. But why not let one of those kids throw out a first pitch every night? And you know those people who sit behind home plate but are too busy talking on their phone, or flashing themselves, or are just there to be seen? Move those people up to the suite level. It's not like they're there for the actual game.
Let the disadvantaged kids sit behind home plate every night. Take a section of people sitting in the outfield deck every night and move them behind home plate. Reward the people who actually want to watch the games. Give them good seats. Banish the politicians and the idiots and the owners' pals to the crappy seats. It's not like they'll actually know the difference, and meanwhile you'll probably make some real fans of the kids.
2. Chop Food Prices
Forget about celebrity chefs and specialty foods in the suites. If the food can't be made available to every fan in the park, then don't bother serving that food. Have dollar dog nights and dollar Coke nights -- and no, not small hot dogs and small-sized soft drinks. A person shouldn't be required to take out a bank loan to buy a bottled water or a beer.
It's bad enough the cost of merchandise, but let's make the food choices cheap and simple. Adopt the Bill Veeck approach. Worry more about choosing the best-tasting mustard to serve in the ballpark and less about what the crazy celebrity chef wants to try out on the folks in the suites. The families in the stands buying the hot dogs are the future of the team, not corporate suits sitting in the suites.
1. Get Rid of the Damn Sign
Everyone agrees that the idea behind the Community Partners is a good one. Celebrate the corporations that do good things for the community and link them to the baseball team. Make it possible for the entire world to know that everybody is a good corporate citizen. But everyone can also agree that putting that damn erector-set-looking sign up in left field was a bad way to show off that corporate citizenship involvement.
So move the damn sign. It doesn't matter where the sign goes, just put it someplace where it doesn't ruin the view of the skyline or the view of the fireworks on Friday night games.