MONEY FOR NOTHING

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

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

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.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images.

J.J. Watt, the Houston Texans all-time leader in sacks (96.0), is entering his ninth season with the franchise ahead of what will certainly be an anomaly year for the NFL. Due to the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19, there is serious doubt that the NFL will be able to play a full 16-game schedule, while others express their concern with the league's inability to play any form of football come the fall of 2020.

There are a lot of uncertainties surrounding the league this coming season, which is becoming a theme for Watt's future in Houston.

The 31-year-old defensive end has two years remaining on his six-year, $100 million contract extension he signed in September of 2014. But as he prepares to embark on another year with the Texans through Zoom meetings with his teammates, a new contract is not on Watt's priority list.

"No, I don't think that's necessary," Watt told Houston reporters on Wednesday. "I fully understand and respect the situation that I'm in at the moment, and what's happened in the past few years, so I'm not gonna sit here and demand anything. I think if I went back and asked for an extension or more money, I think that would be the wrong move. I am just going out there to prove my worth and to help this team win games."

As of now, it is unsure what the future holds for Watt's career with the Texans. Should management re-sign the three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner (2012, 2014 & 2015), the question becomes: How much is Watt worth as he enters the twilight of his career? It's the subject that will be the driving force when discussing Watt's future with the team, and the segment that sparked a trade rumor of his departure to the Chicago Bears.

Although his on-field production remains extremely valuable, Watt has had a difficult time trying to stay healthy. Since 2016, he has missed 32 out of a possible 64 games due to an abundance of injuries. In 2019, Watt missed half of the season after suffering a torn pectoral during the Texans' 27-24 victory over the then-Oakland Raiders.

"My goal for every season is to do whatever possible to help this team win, and number one, that means staying healthy," he said. "You have to be on the field in order to help the team win, and then it is to play at the peak physical level I am capable of. It is just making sure I am in the best possible shape to perform that way."

Contract and injuries aside, the five-time Pro-Bowler is excited about his opportunity to play under new defensive coordinator, Anthony Weaver. During his introductory press conference two weeks ago, Weaver said Watt will remain the focal point for the Texans' defense in 2020, but acknowledged getting the future Hall of Famer through 16 games remains a hurdle.

After four seasons serving as Houston's defensive line coach, the Texans promoted Weaver to defensive coordinator in January to replace Romeo Crennel.

"I love [Anthony] Weaver... I think that he has a great mixture of knowledge of the game, experience, but also personality to be able to handle the players in the room," Watt said. "To be able to inject some fun and excitement into meetings, practice and everything, all while bringing the knowledge necessary to run a good defense."

Under the guidance of a new defensive coordinator, Weaver may be just the coach to help Watt rekindle the potential that made him an All-Pro defensive end. Regardless of the uncertainties surrounding his future at the conclusion of his contract, Watt is hoping he will have the opportunity to finish his career where it started — in Houston.

"That is a goal of mine, and this city [Houston] has been incredible to me since I got here," Watt said. "I don't know what's going to happen in the future, but I certainly hope that's the case."

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome