MONEY FOR NOTHING

Why the Astros' current proposal for fans in 2020 doesn't add up

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For several months, there's been a lawsuit pending by some Houston Astros fans demanding that the team refund money spent on tickets during the 2017 season because the Astros were caught cheating. That ain't never going to happen. That's ancient history.

This week, that lawsuit was expanded to insisting that the Astros refund in full money spent on 2020 season tickets because, just accept it, those tickets are worthless because of the COVID-19 crisis. This part of the lawsuit makes sense.

"The Astros refuse to refund season ticket payments for the entire 2020 season in the face of the COVID-19 coronavirus … with full knowledge that the full slate of Astros 2020 home games would not be played in front of fans at Minute Maid Park," according to the complaint.

I don't have an Astros bank statement in front of me, but my friend at MLB.com says the Astros sell about 25,000 season tickets (I think that's a little high) at an average price of $70 per game (sounds about right).

I'm not an arithmetic wizard – I was absent that day, but let's Cap'n Crunch the numbers. That's $70 (ticket price) times 25,000 (tickets sold) times 81 (number of home games) equals $141 million total take from season tickets. That's a rough estimate.

The Astros current position is, they're willing to refund season tickets for 33 games, the number of games that would have been played through May 31 – if the purchaser contacts the team by May 22. So let's subtract $57,750,000 for 33 games from the Astros' total season ticket haul. That leaves them holding onto roughly $83 million to keep in the bank gaining interest, invest in projects, overpay a .270 career free agent, or whatever. If the U.S. economy comes back from the dead, as President Trump insists it will, that $83 million plowed into the stock market could become … hey, I thought there wouldn't be any math on this test. Ticket buyers also could ask for credit on next year's tickets. The Astros would love that.

This is like when Britney Spears (or a bunch of acts) announces she's performing a concert in Houston that's more than a year away, but tickets go on sale 10 a.m. this Friday. She easily could sell $1 million worth of tickets. Who's holding onto that $1 million for more than a year? That's a lot of, as Dire Straits would say, money for nothing.

This is like the Rodney Dangerfield joke, where he borrowed $200 from a loan shark, paid him $50 a month for 10 years and still owed him $10,000. United Airlines called, they're telling the Astros to lighten up on their refund policy.

The Astros are willing to pony up refunds for 33 games. There are several scenarios for the resumption of the 2020 baseball season. Not one of them has 25,000 fans, plus single-game ticket buyers, packing Minute Maid Park. Even if a limited number of fans are allowed to return to stadium – there is a far-fetched plan that would include social distancing - the Astros still should offer refunds for all tickets purchased. Some fans justifiably might feel uncomfortable attending events with large numbers of people. Or they have health issues that would make attending games unwise. Would the Astros ticket office make them produce a note from their doctor? That's insane.

Just chalk up 2020 as a ghost year, refund every ticket if the purchaser wishes, build up some good faith with fans, and start from scratch in 2021. Baseball will still be around. The fans will still be here. Life will go on.


Tennis, anyone?

I know tennis isn't the most popular sport with readers, but I was emotionally moved by Reilly Opelka's speech after winning a TV-only exhibition tournament (no fans in attendance) last week. Opelka told viewers that he was happy to win the event, and commented that it was Saturday … which meant he could hit a Chick-fil-A for dinner on his way home. It was probably the most normal thing a tennis pro has ever said in a victory speech.

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After rallying in the ninth inning in Game 1 to take the pivotal opener of this best-of-three ALWC series, the Astros were in the driver's seat to try and end the series on Wednesday with another win at Target Field. Here is a quick rundown of Game 2:

Final Score: Astros 3, Twins 1.

Series: HOU Wins 2-0.

Winning Pitcher: Cristian Javier.

Losing Pitcher: Cody Stashak.

Houston gets the first hit and first run in the fourth

Through the first three innings, neither team could get a hit off of Jose Berrios or Jose Urquidy, though the Twins did load the bases in the bottom of the first on two walks and an error, but Urquidy would strand the runners before getting 1-2-3 innings in the second and third.

Meanwhile, the Astros lineup was retired in order in three perfect innings by Berrios. That changed in the top of the fourth when Houston would get back-to-back two-out walks to set up the first hit of the game, an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker to give the Astros a 1-0 lead.

Dusty Baker makes another early call to the bullpen before Twins tie it up

Urquidy was able to keep the 1-0 lead by working around a two-out single in the bottom of the fourth, the first hit for the Twins. He returned in the fifth, allowing a leadoff single before a strikeout for the first out. Dusty Baker would pull another early hook, like Greinke the day prior, dipping into his bullpen early to end Urquidy's day at just 76 pitches in the fifth. His final line: 4.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 76 P.

Brooks Raley was who Baker called on to face the top of the Twins' lineup. He would walk his first batter, putting runners on first and second, get a strikeout for the second out, then allow an RBI-double to Nelson Cruz that almost scored a second, go-ahead run. Instead, the runner was out at home thanks to a terrific defensive play by Carlos Correa, bulleting the ball to Maldonado at home, who made a great tag to save the run and keep it tied 1-1.

Correa homers, Astros advance to ALDS

After Raley completed the fifth inning for Urquidy, Cristian Javier was the next reliever out to begin the bottom of the sixth. He would toss a 1-2-3 frame, sending the tie game to the seventh. In the top of the seventh, Carlos Correa broke the tie with a long, loud two-out solo home run to center-field, putting the Astros back in front 2-1.

Javier held on to the one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh by working around a leadoff walk, then returned for the eighth. He would get through it scoreless, despite allowing a one-out walk to Nelson Cruz, who would be pinch-ran for by the speedy Byron Buxton. After a strikeout for out number two, Javier would catch Buxton between first and second base in a rundown, getting the big final out of the inning.

Houston added insurance in the top of the ninth, getting two on base before an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, his second of the day to make it 3-1. That left things up to closer Ryan Pressly, making his first appearance of the postseason. He would notch the save, advancing the Astros to the ALDS for their fourth-straight year.

Up Next: The Astros will now have a few days off to travel to the west coast before starting their ALDS with the winner of the A's / White Sox ALWC series. Game 1 of their ALDS will be on Monday, October 5th, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, with start time TBD.

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