Welcome to the American League and “dynamic pricing”, Astros fans

As recently posted to the Houston Press Hair Balls blog, the Astros are naming their new ticket pricing a “dynamic pricing model.” From the Houston Chronicle as quoted in the post:

Astros president George Postolos said Thursday prices for the Astros-Rangers opener on March 31 are simply a reflection of demand and the club’s increased emphasis on dynamic pricing, which will be used more often in 2013 and in all areas of the stadium for the first time. The Astros’ 2013 home-opener and AL debut is also MLB’s season-opener. Thus, the March 31 high ticket costs are an anomaly.

The problem with this scheme and its labeling is that tickets have yet to go on sale, yet dugout seats are already going for over twice the price of last year for opening day. A true dynamic pricing scheme would raise prices after the demand, not before.

So it seems to me (and John Royal, writing for the Houston Press, seems to concur) that it’s just an excuse for the Astros to raise prices when they feel like it, for whatever reason. This is not the recipe for success for a team moving to the American League after a season with 107 losses out of 162 games, behind even the Chicago Cubs who only lost 101 games out of 162. Yes, the same Chicago Cubs whose attendance is more sensitive to beer prices than whether or not the team is winning.

Maybe the Cubs can get away with raising ticket prices as long as the beer is still relatively cheap. The Astros do not have that luxury; right now the public transit options to get to Minute Maid Park are limited (unless you like walking five blocks from the Main Street rail station or dealing with bus schedules that don’t change just because there’s a baseball game). There are plenty of great bars in Houston where one can go for cheap suds. As far as I have been able to tell, Houston fans are just as happy watching the game on TV if the Astros are in a “rebuilding” phase.

And make no mistake about it, it would be a big surprise to me if the Astros finished anywhere near .500 as an American League team, after the debacle that was the 2012 season, their last as a National League team. As the late Ray Combs (game show host) might have said, it’s a damn fine way to go out of the NL. But the AL is certainly no easier: against the Yankees, Red Sox, and White Sox I would be surprised if the Astros managed better than about a .250 winning percentage over those 17 games, or less than 13 losses. If they go .500 against everyone else (I’m being generous here), that’s another 72 losses, for a total of 85. Fifteen more than that and it’s another 100-loss season.

This will be a great season… for the bars, after Astros games. My advice to the Astros front office: make a dynamic team first, then try this “dynamic pricing” thing.