These Houston Astros hacks are a grand slam to beat inflation
Last week, a website called The Hustle reported the 2022 MLB Fan Cost Index, revealing the typical cost for a family of four to attend a Major League Baseball game for all 30 teams. Like we need more reminders that prices are crazy high these days?
The Fan Cost Index's criterion was the total price of four tickets, two sodas, two beers and parking. The Astros finished fourth most expensive with, as the Price is Right would say, an actual retail price of $293.74. That included four tickets at $58.61 each, two sodas at $5.50, two beers at $7.50, four hot dogs at $6 and parking for $9.30.
The most expensive team for a family of four is the Boston Red Sox at $324, the cheapest is the Arizona Diamondbacks at $126. There is a problem with attending a D-Backs game at Chase Field in Phoenix, though - the seats face the field.
The Fan Cost Index's rankings got a ton of responses by media commentators. Most missed the boat: the findings were misleading and meaningless. Here’s why:
We hear warnings about visiting some cities, say Tokyo, “where hamburgers cost $50.” It’s a ridiculous statement. Answer me this - how much is a hamburger in Houston?
A few years ago, I ate the “Bistro Burger” at a restaurant called 60 Degrees Mastercrafted on Westheimer. It was made from chopped ribeye steak and topped with foie gras, onions, bordelaise, mushrooms, caviar, and shaved white truffles. It was wrapped in a 24-carat gold leaf.
The burger cost $200 (don’t worry, I expensed it). While it did come with fries, it still was obscenely overpriced and frankly awful. Caviar is disgusting on a burger, and foie gras is cruel, and you shouldn't eat it on anything. Bordelaise? I have no idea what that is.
Last week, I ate a couple of Rodeo Burgers with onion rings and bbq sauce at Burger King - $1.49 each. OK, the patty was the size of a poker chip and the o-rings were made with reconstituted onions, but no complaints.
So how much is a burger in Houston? It's really whatever you want.
I once ate a $125 hot dog at B&B Butchers on Washington Avenue. It was made with Wagyu beef and topped with truffle-infused honey, bacon and bleu cheese. I scraped off the honey and bleu cheese, and rescued the dog with spicy brown mustard. It went right on my expense report, too.
The hot dogs at Minute Maid Park are a much better deal. They taste better, too. Plus at MMP you get to watch Jose Altuve hit a leadoff homer instead of some fat cats sitting in a dark corner with their daughters.
Yeah, their “daughters.”
Let’s break down the Fan Cost Index's methodology that came up with $293.74 for a family of four to attend a game at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros are hosting the Seattle Mariners on Thursday night. That’s a pretty attractive game against the Astros chief, though ego-crushed, rivals in the American League West. The Fan Cost Index says tickets are $58.61 each. I’m sure there are tickets at that price, even higher. But I went on astros.com and found seats in Row 8 in Section 420 for $21.36 each. Yes, that’s the upper deck, but Minute Maid Park is an intimate stadium and the upper deck provides a good view of the game. Besides, who’d you rather sit near, real fans on the 400 level or those 1-percenters who show up late and leave early in the Diamond Club. Give me the nose bleeders.
You can get an even better deal on secondary market sites. I found four seats in Row 8 of Section 420 for $16 each.
I also found tickets in the second row of Sec. 313 on the Terrace Level, a really terrific place to watch an Astros game, for $33.23 each. The Terrace Level is a prime area for catching foul balls. I used to bring a baseball glove to games until friends begged me to stop.
As Dr. Rick warns at movie theaters, food is expensive at baseball stadiums. The Fan Cost Index says beer is $7.50. But Minute Maid Park has a happy hour when beer is $5.79. Also, the Astros have Dollar Dog Nights on Tuesday when franks go for a buck. The Astros allow fans to bring in food as long as they keep it reasonably sized, like sandwiches and bottles of water. Don’t try to bring in a picnic basket, charcuterie board, ice chest and hibachi grill.
The Fan Cost Index says the parking rate at Minute Maid Park is $9.30, which they cite as the lowest in the Majors. I have attended hundreds of Astros games at Minute Maid Park. I have never paid a penny to park. There is parking on the street in downtown Houston if you don’t mind walking a few (sometimes many) blocks. If you choose to use a private parking lot, that’ll run you $10 to $30. For some attractions up to $50.
Bottom line, and that’s what the Fan Cost Index was addressing, a family of four doesn’t have to pay $293 to watch the Astros punish the Mariners. Astros games are on the open market, it’s up to fans to dictate their price tag.
The real value of watching the steamrolling Astros in 2022, though … priceless.