PRICE OF SUCCESS

Astros final embarrassment to Yankees hits New York right in the bottom line

Astros final embarrassment to Yankees hits New York right in the bottom line
They're practically giving away tickets in New York.Composite Getty Image.

There’s a sign outside Goode Company Bar-B-Q on Kirby that says, “You might give some serious thought to thanking your lucky stars you’re in Texas.”

Especially if you’re a baseball fan. Because in Houston, and begrudgingly in Arlington, baseball is still a thing in September. It's not like that in other, less fortunate places.

I’m heading to New York City next weekend for the Feast of San Gennaro celebration. That’s when they block off streets in Little Italy for one of the world’s great food events. Italian restaurants line the sidewalks with carts selling pizza, sausage and pepper sandwiches, calzones, gelato, cannolis, and zeppoles, those deep-fried Italian donut balls that make you stagger back to your hotel for a nap.

While I’m up there, I figured I’d go to a Yankees game. The Bombers are home that weekend against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Since the Yankees are averaging 41,054 fans this year, I figured my best chance of getting a good ticket was on StubHub or another secondary market site.

I’ll say.

I checked availability on StubHub, Vivid Seats, and SeatGeek. There were thousands, no exaggeration, thousands of previously purchased tickets for re-sale, as cheap as $4. Yeah, Yankees fans have given up on their team. They’re unloading their bought tickets for peanuts - pennies on the dollars. You can attend a Bronx Bombers game in once-imposing Yankee Stadium for cheaper than a medium Fluffernutter Blizzard at Dairy Queen.

Photo by Ken Hoffman.

Most of the $4, $5 and $6 Yankees tickets are in the upper deck and bleachers. But at those prices, I can get closer to the action. I wound up buying a front row ticket in the mezzanine for $24. The original price of that ticket was $138.50. Plus the fan giveaway for my game is a Yankees fleece vest. I’d be losing money if I didn’t go to the Yankees game.

I paid extra for my ticket because, it doesn’t matter what level I’m on, I love the front row. You get an unobstructed view of the field. More important, nobody can stand up in front of you. I'd rather be in the front row of the bleachers or sitting in front of my TV than somewhere in the middle of field level.

Example: a couple of years ago, I was invited to an Astros game - second row field level behind first base. Fantastic seat, I thought. I'm in. Then the guy in the front row directly in front of me decided he would stand practically the whole game. When I asked why he needed to stand despite no one in front of him, he went all David Puddy ("gotta support the team") on me and said a real fan stands and lame people sit. Thanks, Puddy buddy.

The Houston Astros happen to be at home in Minute Maid Park the same night I’ll be at Yankee Stadium. Cheapest ticket on the secondary market at Minute Maid Park - $37, nearly 10 times more expensive than the Yankees game.

My ticket at Yankee Stadium - $24. An equivalent ticket on the secondary market at Minute Maid Park - $179. Bottom line: in September secondary market Yankees tickets sell for less than face value. Secondary market Astros tickets sell for more than face value.

Of course the Yankees are yesteryear’s news playing out the schedule, while the Astros are a modern-day dynasty playing meaningful games. You get what you pay for.

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Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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