Saturday, February 20, 2016

Why I'm Not Making a Big Deal of the Lonn Trost/StubHub Story; Tony Phillips, 1959-2016

Back page of the New York Daily News featuring Yankees COO Lonn Trost - SNOBHUB
The big story in Yankeeland this week could have been pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training at Tampa. Or it could have been CC Sabathia saying he feels great after returning from alcohol rehab. Or it could have been Nathan Eovaldi saying he feels great after returning from injury. Or it could have been Masahiro Tanaka saying he feels great after returning from injury. (Just in case anybody out there is still stupid enough to think that the Yankees don't have the best starting rotation in New York.)

The big story in Yankeeland this week could have been any of those, all of which constitute good news.

In the words of the immortal Chicago Cub fan John Belushi, "But noooooooo!"

The big story in Yankeeland this week was Lonn Trost making an ass of himself.

This past Wednesday, the Yankee organization released an announcement saying that they will no longer accept print-at-home tickets for games at Yankee Stadium II. Their reasoning is that this will protect fans from buying counterfeit tickets.

The Yankees averaged 39,922 fans per home game in 2015. Despite making the Playoffs for the 1st time in 3 years, it was the 1st time the Yankees had dropped below a seasonal per-game average of 40,000 in 15 years.

Why did that happen? No more Derek Jeter is the obvious reason. It couldn't be because there was a better team in town, because, as the Yankees proved on the field, taking 4 out of 6 games, there wasn't.

But with attendance having dropped below the 40,000 mark, counterfeit tickets is not a problem.

Just as the NFL has the NFL Ticket Exchange for all 32 of its teams, the Yankees have a working relationship with Ticketmaster. Indeed, they've had it for many years. Before that, you might remember Ticketron. They had a store at the old Menlo Park Mall in Edison.

Anyway, Ticketmaster connects Yankee Fans who, for whatever reason, won't be going to a game with fans who want to. Ticketmaster sets a price floor, which StubHub does not. Ticketmaster will sell a ticket for not a penny below that price, whereas, on StubHub -- unlikely, but the mechanism is in place that it could happen -- a ticket to a Yankee game could cost you $1.00.

Apparently, somebody in the Yankee hierarchy is ticked off by that. Operating owner Hal Steinbrenner? His brother Hank? His sister Jennifer? His sister Jessica? Their mother Joan? The ghost of their father George, The Boss, reached through a Pinstriped Ouija board hidden in his memorial at Monument Park? Team president Randy Levine?

Most likely, it is Trost, the Yankees' chief operating officer (COO -- which, apparently, is a different job from chief executive officer, or CEO, and also a different job from team president).

On Thursday, Trost was a guest on the Boomer and Carton in the Morning show on SportsRadio 660 WFAN, hosted by former Jets quarterback Norman Julius Esiason and Craig Carton.

Boomer really, really hates it when people use his real name, but he's a Mets and Rangers fan, so I'm using it. And Carton has been dubbed "Craig Cartoon" by New York Daily News sports-media columnist Bob Raissman, and has been exposed as a misogynistic, anti-Polish, anti-Asian jackass.

In other words, being in Carton's company, Trost wasn't in the company of someone who is the same kind of bad person as he is, but he was in the company of a bad person. (Compared to them, Esiason's taste in teams, and even his 2014 comments about new parents, don't seem so bad.)

Here is what Trost said, which got so many people's hackles raised:

If they don’t like to use the Yankees Ticket Exchange, they can go to StubHub. We know that StubHub can transfer tickets on mobile. If they choose not to, that’s not our business...

The problem below market at a certain point is that if you buy a ticket in a very premium location and pay a substantial amount of money. It’s not that we don’t want that fan to sell it, but that fan is sitting there having paid a substantial amount of money for a ticket and (another) fan picks it up for a buck-and-a-half and sits there, and it’s frustrating to the purchaser of the full amount.

And, quite frankly, the fan may be someone who has never sat in a premium location. So that’s a frustration to our existing fan base.

Translation from Onepercenterese: If you're sitting on the other side of the walkway on the field level, nicknamed "The Moat," and you didn't pay the exorbitant prices that Yankee management demands, your raggedy ass don't belong there.

This statement is, to borrow a phrase from the 2000s UPN sitcom Girlfriends, classist and egregious.

It's been publicly compared to the excuse that general manager George Weiss used for why he refused to racially integrate the Yankee roster in the early 1950s. Roger Kahn covered the Brooklyn Dodgers for the New York Herald Tribune in 1952, and they faced the Yankees in that year's World Series. In his book The Boys of Summer, about his days covering the Dodgers, he wrote that, during that Series, he interviewed a man he identified only as "the third highest executive." The book was published in 1971, and Weiss was still alive (for another year), so Kahn was probably concerned about being sued for defamation, but since there were only 2 men above Weiss in the Yankee hierarchy from 1948 to 1960, co-owners Del Webb and Dan Topping, Kahn couldn't have been talking about anyone else:

The third highest executive, after three martinis, said he would never allow a black man to wear a Yankee uniform.

"We don't want that sort of crowd," he said. "It would offend boxholders from Westchester to have to sit with (N-word)s." 

In other words, this executive (probably Weiss) thought that having black players would bring in black fans. As if the average black baseball fan in 1952 could afford to sit in the field boxes next to a stockbroker from New Rochelle or an advertising "Mad Man" from Westport. Poverty prevented large numbers of black fans from packing seats near the dugout at Yankee Stadium to cheer on Elston Howard, Hector Lopez and Al Downing from 1955 to 1964 for the same reason there weren't so many doing it for Jackie Robinson at Ebbets Field in 1947. Those fans might get down by the dugout to try to get autographs from Jackie, and later Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe and Joe Black, but when the game began, they sat in the bleachers. The cheap seats. The high cost of tickets (for that era) was the reason the bleachers in baseball parks and the second balconies in sports arenas were sometimes referred to as "(N-word) Heaven."

The weird part is, Weiss only got it half-right: It wasn't the rich guys coming in from Westchester and Connecticut who would have objected. It was the white ethnics from Queens and Lawn Giland and Jersey, particularly the Italians from Essex, Hudson and Bergen Counties in North Jersey, who ended up giving black Yankees a hard time, including poor Horace Clarke, whose greatest crime was to be black and Caribbean (Virgin Islands) and arrive just as the Dynasty had collapsed.

George Weiss was classist and egregious 64 years ago. Lonn Trost is being classist and egregious now. At least Trost hasn't yet been caught being racist.

*

Many Yankee Fans, including those with blogs, are having a fit over the Trost/StubHub hissyfit.

I'm not.

Granted, I don't like it. But I'm not making a big deal out of it.

Why not?

For 2 very important reasons.

The 1st is that we already knew this shit. We knew that Trost and Levine, the guys who were essentially responsible for the building and the operation of The House That George Built, were classist and egregious. We knew it from the moment we first heard about The Moat. And it wasn't as though people trying to sneak down and get into the field boxes at the old Stadium weren't chased away by ushers suddenly thinking they were Joe Friday or Andy Sipowicz. (They sure weren't nice cops like Barney Miller.)

Hearing Lonn Trost get classist and egregious over fans who didn't pay exorbitant sums sitting with those who did is like hearing Donald Trump express his monumental ego: It's old news. It's like hearing that Queen Elizabeth likes to wear hats, or that the Mets choked when it counted, or that Don Mattingly's team failed to win the Pennant.

"Dog Bites Man" is not news. "Man Bites Dog," the Mets actually win the World Series, a team with Mattingly in uniform actually wins the Pennant, Queen Elizabeth stops wearing hats, Trump acts humble, Trost says, "Come on down!" like he's the announcer on The Price Is Right? Those stories would be news!

The 2nd reason that I'm not making a federal case out of this is that my blog is about sports, not business. Lonn Trost being classist and egregious doesn't have thing one to do with how the Yankees will play in the 2016 season.

It's not that I'm insensitive to Yankee Fans' concerns about being treated like peasants from a guy whose sole qualification for having his current job is that the now-dead former owner liked him and said owner's sons still do.

But what should we, as Yankee Fans, be concerned with? How about this:

* Whether CC Sabathia will be back to his old self.
* Whether Luis Severino will continue his development as the best young pitcher in New York.
* Whether they, the other starting pitchers, and everyday players like Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira will be injury-free. (Especially now that we know that Teix' heir apparent at 1st base, Greg Bird, is already out for the season with an injury.
* Whether manager Joe Girardi will have finally figured out that how a pitcher is actually doing is more important than what his damned binder says.
* What the other teams in the American League will do.

Compared to those things, Lonn Trost's reaction to Yankee Fans buying tickets on StubHub is of minimal importance, and should be treated as such.

Let's focus on the games.

*

Tony Phillips died the other day, from a heart attack at age 56. His heart was probably weakened by cocaine use. He was arrested for possession as recently as 1997, although as far as I can tell he was clean from then on.

He could play just about any position, but was used mostly at 2nd base. He began his career with the Oakland Athletics in 1982, and remained with them through their 1989 World Championship. In 1993, fans voted him the 2nd baseman on the all-time (or, at least, in the Oakland era) A's team.

He was with the Detroit Tigers for 5 years, then with the California Angels when they choked away the 1995 AL West title and lost a Playoff for it to the Seattle Mariners. He was with the Chicago White Sox in 1997 when, despite being only 3 1/2 games behind Seattle at the trading deadline, ownership traded away several players, including Phillips, that seemed to give up on the season, leading to the "Chicago White Flags" tag. His coke bust came a few days later, in Anaheim. He never reached the postseason again, played for the Mets in 1998, and closed his career back in Oakland in 1999.

He continued playing in independent leagues through 2012, and even made a comeback last season, so if he had health problems, either he wasn't aware of them, or was overlooking them.
Tony Phillips in 2014, at the 25th Anniversary
celebration of the 1989 World Champion Oakland A's.
The BW patch is in memory of Bob Welch.

He died less than 2 months after his 1989 A's teammate Dave Henderson, and less than 2 years after Bob Welch. That leaves 20 surviving members of the last A's title team, including Hall-of-Famers Rickey Henderson and Dennis Eckersley, could-be-Hall-of-Famers Dave Stewart and David Parker, and should-never-be-Hall-of-Famers Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco.

Oddly, the 3 members who have died are not among those who were accused of steroid use.

*

I haven't done a countdown for a while, so here goes:

Hours until Arsenal play again: 5, this morning (7:45 AM), home to Yorkshire club Hull City, in the 5th Round of the FA Cup. This will be the 3rd straight season that the Gunners have played the Tigers in the FA Cup, having beaten them in the Final in 2014 and in the 3rd Round in 2015.

Days until the New Jersey Devils play another local rival: 3, this Tuesday night, home to the New York Rangers (a.k.a. The Scum). The Devils do not play the New York Islanders (to whom they lost 1-0 last night) or the Philadelphia Flyers (a.k.a. The Philth) again in the regular season, but they could face one of those teams in the Playoffs.

Days until the next North London Derby: 14, on Saturday, March 5, at White Hart Lane. Just 2 weeks. Because both clubs are currently fighting for the Premier League title, something the Tottenham Scum have never done (their last real run for 1st place was in the old Football League, in 1987), this will be the biggest NLD in league play in nearly 30 years... maybe ever.

Days until the New York Red Bulls play again: 15, on Sunday, March 6, 1:30 PM, home to Toronto FC. A little over 2 weeks.

Days until the Red Bulls play a "derby": 41, on Friday, April 1, at 7:00 PM, against the New England Revolution, in Foxboro. They next play D.C. United (a.k.a. The DC Scum) on Friday night, May 13, in Washington. They next play New York City FC (a.k.a. Man City NYC and The Homeless) on Saturday afternoon, May 21, at Yankee Stadium II. They don't play the Philadelphia Union again until Sunday, July 17, in Chester.

Days until Opening Day: 44, on Tuesday, April 4. At 1:00 PM, the Yankees host the Houston Astros. Some other teams, including the Small Club in Flushing, will start play the day before, but baseball season does not truly begin until the Yankees begin regular-season play. Anyway, a little over 6 weeks.

Days until the 1st Yankees-Red Sox series of the season: 62, on Friday, April 22, taking on the baseball version of The Scum at Fenway Park. Under 9 weeks.

Days until the 2016 Copa America kicks off in the U.S.: 104, on Friday, June 3. A little over 3 months.

Days until Euro 2016 kicks off in France:111, on Friday, June 10.

Days until Arsenal play as the opponents in the 2016 Major League Soccer All-Star Game: 159, on Thursday night, July 28, at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California, home of the San Jose Earthquakes. A little over 5 months. Three days later, Arsenal will play C.D. Guadalajara, a.k.a. Chivas, one of the biggest clubs in Mexico, at the StubHub Center, home of the Los Angeles Galaxy, in Carson, California. This will be just 2 years after The Arsenal came to America to play the Red Bulls in New Jersey. I went to that one. I don't think I'll be going to either of these: Even if I could get a game ticket, paying for a plane ticket would be difficult.

Days until the 2016 Olympics begin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 167, on Friday, August 5. Under 6 months.

Days until Rutgers University plays football again: 196, on Saturday, September 3, away to the University of Washington in Seattle. Under 7 months. If that sounds familiar, it's because they also began in Seattle last season, but against Washington State, which plays all the way across the State in Pullman. (RU lost, 37-34.) That game was at CenturyLink Field, home of the Seahawks and MLS' Sounders. This one will be at UW's home of Husky Stadium.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 202, on Friday, September 9, probably away, since, while the 2016 schedule hasn't been released yet, the Big Green opened last season at home.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving game: 278, on Thursday morning, November 24, at the purple shit pit on Route 9. A little over 9 months.

Days until Alex Rodriguez' contract runs out: 619, on October 31, 2017. Or at the conclusion of the 2017 World Series, if the Yankees make it. Whichever comes last. A little over a year and a half. A little over 20 months.

Days until the 2018 World Cup kicks off in Russia: 845, on June 14, 2018. Less than 2 1/2 years. A little over 28 months.

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