Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Witnessing A Win

Over at FanGraphs, Rays fan R.J. Anderson asks an interesting question (or rather, a couple of them):
I’ve looked over the Yankees’ gamelogs for attendance numbers as well as the Rays’. The one thing that always stands out is that people go to the games against the Red Sox while nobody goes to the games against the Orioles. The Red Sox were the second best team in the division last year with the Yankees and Rays flanking them. Without doubt, they are and have been a superior team to the Orioles for a while now. Ultimately, we go to games to be entertained and experience joy, so why don’t more people go to Orioles games?

It would seem that a win is more enjoyable to experience than a defeat. I’d rather go to a Rays game where they win than one where they lose. And, I’m not sure if I went to those games against the Washington Nationals last season because subconsciously I wanted to see victories, but I suppose I could’ve been on a losing strike without really knowing it. If I asked a thousand Yankee fans which team they’d rather pay to see live, 95% would say the Red Sox and the other 5% would make vulgar comments about the folks from Boston. But is this rational?
I'm not sure what sort of a Yankee fan would make vulgar comments about the fine population of Boston, but I would personally find that both distasteful and offensive.

Anyhow, If you grant that attending any win is more enjoyable than attending any loss then, no, it's not rational in an economic decision making sense. The tickets to Red Sox games are much more expensive on the secondary market and the probability of witnessing a win is decidedly lower than if you go to a game against the Orioles.

Anderson supposes it might come down to the "hedonic value" of a win over the Red Sox. A win feels much better against the Sawx but I think we must also assume that a loss feels worse. And people are largely loss averse - meaning they would prefer to avoid losses even if the alternative involves the possibility of reaping gains. Prospect theory, which the concept of loss aversion comes from, contends that this is because losing something hurts more than winning the equivalent.

So why are people not loss averse when it comes to attending sporting events? Certainly a loss in playoff game is going to hurt more to witness than a regular season defeat, but the demand for the postseason is still sky-high.

I think the perceived importance of the game is a major influence on the desirability of attending and during the regular season, the opponent has the most direct impact on that importance. At any point in the season, games against the Red Sox feel like they have playoff implications for the Rays or Yanks. They might not matter at the time, but there is the notion that they may be significant in the future. The history behind any rivalry adds to the feeling of significance as well. These factors generally culminate with an energized crowd and a charged atmosphere and that's ultimately what attracts people to games against good teams.

I personally don't think it's worth the extra money to see the Red Sox when they are in town. I'm content to go to a game regardless of who it's against - I just like sitting outside, drinking a few beers and watching the game unfold. I don't worry too much about individual wins and losses - not much more than when I'm watching at home on the couch. It's always better to see your team win, but the outcome of the came usually isn't enough to taint the experience. But not everyone is like that.

The costs of going to baseball games extend beyond the money for the tickets, concessions, tolls, parking or public transportation. Fans give up precious hours of their life as well and in exchange for those, many would like to see a game that seems significant.

At the end of the post, Anderson asks, "Would you pay more money to guarantee that you are attending a victory?". I don't think so, I can't sit through a game I recorded on the DVR if I know who won. I'd rather just pay the regular price and see what happens.

Yanks Settle With Gaudin, Logan

The Yankees settled two potential arbitration cases yesterday, agreeing to terms with pitchers Chad Gaudin and Boone Logan.

Gaudin was acquired from San Diego for cash on August 6th last season. He went 2-0 with a 3.43 ERA in 11 appearances, 6 starts, for the Yankees, and worked one inning of mop up duty against the Angels in the ALCS. He has an outside shot at the fifth starter spot in Spring Training, but realistically is battling Sergio Mitre for the long man role. Gaudin also has experience in short relief, and has fared well historically against right handed batters. Gaudin settled for $2.95M, a raise over last year's $2M salary. His deal also includes innings based incentive clauses.

Logan was acquired from the Braves in the Javier Vazquez trade, the second time in as many season's that he's been included in trade with Vazquez. Logan is a candidate to make the club as a second lefty out of the bullpen, and given Joe Girardi's love of matching up, Logan will likely head north with the team, despite mediocre numbers over the course of his career. Logan settled for $590K, after making $475K last year.

By settling with Gaudin and Logan, the Yankees have no pending arbitration cases.

Hairston Signs With Padres

Good morning Fackers. Yet another left field/bench option came off the board yesterday, as Jerry Hairston joined his brother Scott in San Diego by signing a one year $2.125M deal with the Padres. According to Buster Olney, the Yankees never even made Hairston an offer, despite reports last week that the club was in "serious talks" with him.

Acquired at the trade deadline last year, Hairston was a useful player for the Yankees, capable of playing each infield and outfield position. Losing Hairston certainly isn't going to ruin the 2010 season. The Yankees have four young utility infielder options on their 40 man roster in Ramiro Pena, Kevin Russo, Reegie Corona, and Eduardo Nunez. And even if the slim chance of Johnny Damon returning doesn't pan out, there are several viable left field platoon options on the free agent market in Reed Johnson, Xavier Nady, and Rocco Baldelli.

What doesn't exist on the free agent market is a supersub utility player with the defensive versatility of Hairston. Such a player isn't a must have for the Yankees, but given their roster construction, it is a nice luxury to have.

The Yankees figure to have a four man bench next season. One spot will be earmarked for Francisco Cervelli as the back up catcher. For better or worse, a second spot has to be reserved for Rule 5 pick Jamie Hoffmann, who currently profiles as the fourth outfielder. A third spot will go to a utility infielder, likely one of the four above with Pena and Russo appearing to be the leading candidates at present. That leaves just one spot, which will likely be filled by another outfielder, most likely a right handed platoon partner for Brett Gardner and/or Curtis Granderson.

However, assuming the Yankees elect to keep Hoffmann and sign another outfielder for that fourth bench spot, they are left with a single utility infielder on the roster. Given the quality of the Yankees' starting infield, this isn't a major concern. But, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are two of the three most valuable position players on the team - if not the two most valuable. They will be 34 and 35, respectively, on Opening Day. While both should be in the line up daily, having a second infielder on the bench gives the Yankees the option of resting both, rather than choosing to rest just one, in blowout games, on turf, day games after night games, etc. It's not a situation that should arise often, but it does arise on occasion, as evidenced by Jose Molina's cameo at third base last year.

Both Russo and Pena have minimal outfield experience, but I can't imagine the Yankees carrying one of them as a second infielder in that fourth bench spot because they feel either could also serve as realistic outfield option.

As we saw last season, the bench changes over the course of the year. Hairston and Eric Hinske were the two main contributors off the bench last season and both were mid-season pick ups. Whatever team leaves Tampa in early April assuredly won't be the same that finishes up in October. But for the time being the Yankees have lost a solid, versatile bench option in Jerry Hairston. Best of luck to him in San Diego.