The Hedonic Value of Victories and Attending Games

This subject is something I’ve juggled for the past few months. If it sucks, I blame Carson Cistulli. Not because his Marcel of Joy series probably spawned it, but because everything that goes wrong is clearly his fault. I’d also dish some of the discredit Tommy Bennett’s way. He’s basically the sabermetric version of Jay Electronica and helped me flesh this out beyond its initial stages.

I’ve looked over the Yankees’ gamelogs for attendance numbers as well as the Rays’. The one thing that always stands out is that people go to the games against the Red Sox while nobody goes to the games against the Orioles. The Red Sox were the second best team in the division last year with the Yankees and Rays flanking them. Without doubt, they are and have been a superior team to the Orioles for a while now. Ultimately, we go to games to be entertained and experience joy, so why don’t more people go to Orioles games?

It would seem that a win is more enjoyable to experience than a defeat. I’d rather go to a Rays game where they win than one where they lose. And, I’m not sure if I went to those games against the Washington Nationals last season because subconsciously I wanted to see victories, but I suppose I could’ve been on a losing strike without really knowing it. If I asked a thousand Yankee fans which team they’d rather pay to see live, 95% would say the Red Sox and the other 5% would make vulgar comments about the folks from Boston. But is this rational?

If the goal of attending a game is to enjoy oneself, and we get the most enjoyment from attending victories, then why wouldn’t people regularly attend more games where victory is in higher likelihood? Of course, the obvious answer is that the spread of the odds of victory aren’t so extreme as to attend any game that can be marked down as a definitive win.

Does it come down to the hedonic value of a defeat over the Red Sox, one that a victory over the Orioles doesn’t carry with? Or is there something more? The Orioles tickets are likely cheaper and the seating choices likely more expansive. Fewer people are prone to attend, which means the social aspect is diminished, although there’s probably fewer [expletive] Sox fans too.

Much like I did with the 116 wins versus a world title post, I’d like to pose some discussion questions; I am hopeful none of these result in someone telling me I don’t belong on this site, but I accept full blame if it comes to that. As for those questions:

1. Say you are a Yankee fan and price is irrelevant. Would you rather buy tickets to an Oriole or Red Sox game?
2. Would you pay more money to guarantee that you are attending a victory? If yes, how much more?
3. Do you ever consider the likelihood of a victory when purchasing tickets, or do you base your decisions on availability? Or is it purely on the quality of the opponent?




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69 Responses to “The Hedonic Value of Victories and Attending Games”

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  1. Mike says:

    The answers to 1, 2 and 3:
    I look forward to the day when my team isn’t the most likely to win against part of this equation.

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    • hahahaaa. Greatest comment ever.

      Personally, I think the value depends on the person. From 2007 until the end of this year, I was on a 17 live game “win streak.” I even spent 5 straight games between Milwaukee and Wrigley in May. For me, the value of the WIN was more important because I wanted the streak to continue. I saw more Padres games than I did Cardinals games last season. Maybe that’s also because Cards tix are almost 2x as much, but I digress.

      Now that my streak is broken (thanks to Marmol and the Reds), I would honestly rather see the competition and rivalry. Id rather get into a beer-fueled “you suck” with a Cards fan at Wrigley than see the Cubs clobber the nationals, to be frank. Auto-win games are somewhat boring….

      It also depends on what TEAM you are a fan of. No one wants to goto a phillies game because they have to pretend to be phillies fans there, lest they be murdered

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      • when i say phillies game, i mean a game @ Philly

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      • don says:

        Let’s be fair, the Phillies aren’t the Eagles.

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      • I didn’t say boo santa, These are the guys who chucked batteries at JD Drew (granted, some fan did that to Jacque Jones…) and applauded when Ankiel almost broke his neck

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      • Bill Baer says:

        @David MVP Eckstein

        Ankiel “almost broke his neck” in St. Louis, not in Philadelphia, so the applause was done out of respect.

        I hate the Phillies-fans-as-savages plot line. Other teams’ fans have acted just as boorishly, if not more so. During an Oakland A’s game a few years ago, someone chucked a cherry bomb that injured a little boy. Tom Gamboa was mauled by two drunk fans in Chicago during a Royals-White Sox game.

        Sorry for the long rant, but boorish behavior isn’t inherent to being a fan of any particular team; it’s inherent to naturally being a jackass. And jackasses live all over this vast country of ours.

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      • pounded clown says:

        @ David MVP Eckstein -

        So neither non-Angels nor non-Dodgers fans should want to go to either teams’ home games because they too must pretend to be Angels fans or Dodgers fan at their respective parks “lest they be murdered”. After all, on 4-8-09 a fight at the Angels home opener killed someone only to be followed 5 days later by the 4-13-09 fatal stabbing of a Giants fan at the Dodgers home opener. There was also the 9-19-03 fatal shooting of a Giants fan in the Dodgers parking lot.

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      • Alls I’m saying is this. I’ve gone to various games in my cubs uniform. I was “infamously” on TV holding up a “vulgar” sign (which said “Both of you suck”) wearing my Soto jersey in the bleachers of a Royals-Indians game in 2008 when Grady Sizemore hit a HR to the row in front of me. Now, I pissed off a lot of fans at the game with that sign and my refusal to get rid of it because it was offensive when security asked me to (my rebuttal argument was that a sign like this is much less offensive than a grinning red indian as your mascot…), but I felt safe there.

        I wouldn’t dare ever do such a thing at Philly.

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      • I meant to say “I’ve gone to various games in my cubs uniform and been a hell raiser”

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      • pounded clown says:

        @ David MVP Eckstein
        I know alot of Philly fans who cop to alot of our trepasses even though they didn’t participate in them….although some are sensitive about the Santa Snowball incident and feel that it’s been “misrepresented”. See http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/eagles/2003-11-27-santa-snowballs_x.htm
        This particular one always makes me smile in that devil’s apprentice type of way. However, the applauding of Michael Irving career ending injury makes me cringe. I’d even advise you not to hold up a sign if you come to see the Cubs at CBP. Then again I’ve seen this guy at several games who wears a ’93 Blue Jays jersey and we were not even playing the Jays. (This season with Halladay here more Jays jerserys wouldn’t suprise me). Even more crazy was the first time I saw the guy was Game 2 of the ’08 NLDS against the Brewers. For someone looking to start something and that he wore it on several occasions and wasn’t in a full body cast, might be an indication that you could hold up a Cubs sign at a CBP…eh..then again I still wouldn’t test the waters esp. after the Victorino beer incident at Wrigley. People ragging on the Philly fanbase is nothing new to us (I expect it) but with stuff like “lest they be murdered”… well let’s say it’s not the first time I responded to a similiar comment by listing the unfortunate events in LA and Anaheim. Let’s be thankful that despite the recent violence at ball parks, nothing compares to the the trail of tears soccer hooliganism has left in it’s wake the world over. If interested check this out:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Football_hooliganism
        After reading this, I thought, good thing MLS is still in its infancy.

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      • don says:

        There’s a huge difference between going to away games to root for your team and going to away games for the express purpose of being obnoxious. The former isn’t going to get you into any more trouble in Philadelphia than it will anywhere else.. The latter can get you in trouble anywhere. Of course, if you’re going just to be a ‘hell raiser’, I’d just as soon you stay home (but don’t throw beer at our players).

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  2. notdissertating says:

    There is a simple explanation for your proposed paradox. The joy (for Yankee fans) of watching the Yankees beat the Red Sox is infinitely greater than the joy of seeing them beat Baltimore. Sure, the pain of losing is similarly magnified versus the BoSox, but Yankee fans (and sports fans more generally) are risk loving people! So even if the expected joy is about the same in both cases, the risk loving fan will choose the game with the higher variance in payouts (loosely speaking).

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    • Ryan says:

      “but Yankees fans are risk loving people!”

      Really?

      Last I checked, rooting for a team with a 196 million payroll that’s gone to the playoffs 14 out of the last 15 years isn’t exactly a risky endeavor.

      Yankees fans are the definition of bandwagon fans, they’ve just managed to sustain their success for long enough that’s it’s slightly masked.

      http://bases.nbcsports.com/2009/10/are-yankees-fans-the-best-in-the-world.html.php
      http://www.baseball-almanac.com/teams/yankatte.shtml

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      • Swami says:

        “Yankees fans are the definition of bandwagon fans, they’ve just managed to sustain their success for long enough that’s it’s slightly masked.”

        This just in: Sports fans like to watch winners.

        I mean, no fucking shit there will be bandwagon Yankee fans, just about every team that does well has them. It’s not fair to the people who watch every game, pour over every stat, and live and die by how the Yankees play to group them in with the (by my observations) vocal minority of bandwagon fans. If you’ve ever been to Yankee Stadium, you’d find that the majority of fans outside of that one little ring of super-expensive seating are among the most knowledgeable in baseball.

        They’re certainly better than the Pink-hat Red Sox fans, that’s for sure. (Who in turn are better than Dodgers fans, who show up for innings 3-7)

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      • JonnyBS says:

        You should see some of the Red Sox fans. Most don’t even know the rules of the game.

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  3. Eric says:

    1. Red Sox game, if I was a Yankee fan, beating the Red Sox would mean a lot more than beating the O’s, standings wise and rivalry wise.
    2. No, there is no such thing as a guaranteed win.
    3. I just love seeing games period, so it doesn’t matter who the White Sox face. I’d be almost as happy going to a White Sox/Royals as I would be going to a White Sox/Cubs game

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  4. Dan Novick says:

    1. Red Sox

    2. No. What’s the fun, if you what’s gonna happen?

    3. Never consider the likelihood of victory. If anything, I’d rather watch a really good visiting team for two reasons. First, it’s likely to be a closer game (assuming the home team is good as well). Second, better teams are usually composed of better players. Baseball is more enjoyable to watch when good players are playing it.

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  5. Dan says:

    1. Red Sox

    2. No, I wouldn’t want to know the game would be a victory, there would be no suspense.

    3. I do indirectly. I would be more likely to go to a Felix game than another pitcher. On the other hand I also would be more likely to go to a game with a star pitcher pitching for the other team. (Zack Greinke vs Kyle Davies for instance).

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  6. Pete says:

    I am a Yankees fan so these are easy.

    1. Red Sox…..but if you asked me this in 1996, the Orioles.
    2. No. I have been to 4 Yankee games, and their record is 1-3 when I went. I had fun at all 4 games.
    3. Based on availability and price. For example, Yankees are playing the Astros and the Mets at home 2 Sundays in June, and I think I’d rather see them vs. the Astros based on ticket price.

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  7. JayCee says:

    I’m aware of no evidence whatsoever that the demand for tickets is (partially) correlated anything but positively with the caliber of the opponent, and thus with the probability of a loss. When people go out they want to be part of an event and feel the “buzz,” and this means the better opponents.

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  8. Whartonite says:

    1. Red Sox, any day of the week.

    2. No. What’s the purpose of seeing a game you know you’ll win? Just to see how it happens, instead of what happens? Not as special.

    3. It’s mostly availability and quality of opponent.

    I think the problem with your assumptions is that we don’t just derive joy from seeing our team win. I mean, of course that makes it better, but I could do that at home. As someone who goes to only a few games a year (but watches almost all of the others on TV), I’d say what you hope for in a game you see in person is the chance for something amazing to happen so you can remember it in detail and say, “I was there for that.” For example, that Yankees game that went on 14 or 15 innings with no score before A-Rod hit a walk-off homer. Of course, there’s a chance that could happen against the Orioles too, but in games with rivalries or games against better teams, where the win would be more thrilling, it seems more worth it to go. It would seem that upside is what attracts most fans. I know that’s what does it for me.

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  9. The A Team says:

    You make a basic assumption that I’m not sure is true. People go to games to enjoy them, but it’s hazardous to assume that people derive the most enjoyment out of winning. If this were true, then people’s behaviors are incredibly irrational. Everyone has their own preferences, I know my own preferences are to see an interesting game. While I don’t presume that my preferences are representative, I would like to point out that the data seems to scream that having a higher chance to win is not the way to experience the greatest satisfaction from a game. Otherwise people would go Nats games and skip Red Sox games.

    As saberists, we’re prone to thinking in terms of wins and losses. From our analytics infancy, it’s hammered into us that wins = revenue. That relationship isn’t true though. Wins are merely correlated with revenue. The missing link that we overlook all too often is that wins and revenue are generated by Having A Good Team. People go to watch good teams and one of the outcomes of fielding a good team is that they win ballgames. It’s hard to just look at a team and quantify how good/bad that team is. Wins provide a useful proxy to gauge how good a team is because they are caused by the quality of the team.

    I would guess that people go to see the Red Sox because they are a Good Team.

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  10. Phillies Red says:

    Seems to me you’ve forgotten to consider an important variable: the quality of the game. Given that the sox are good, it’s more likely you’ll see a good game when the yanks and sox square off, while you’re likely to get a dud when the yankees whoop up on the orioles (even if quality games aren’t more likely between good teams than between lopsided teams, I’m willing to guess that most fans maintain this tacit assumption). So perhaps fans value the quality of the game more than greater chances of victory.

    “Quality of the game” is undoubtedly some abstract, subjective, indefinable characteristic. But I’m guessing that we can name a bunch of elements that go into it: familiarity with opponent and opponent’s players, pitching match ups, perceived importance to the standings/season, potential portents for postseason match ups or play, crowd enthusiasm and engagement, and the feeling that other people – not just your fan base – are paying attention.

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  11. Mark says:

    Pardon me if I’m missing the point here, but isn’t the spike in attendance for Red Sox games at least partially (if not completely) attributable to Red Sox fans going to the games, rather than a greater turnout of locals?

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    • Laura says:

      That was my first thought as well. NY is fairly close to Red Sox territory.

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    • Steve says:

      Yes. This.

      There are thousands of Red Sox fans in Yankee Stadium when the Red Sox are in town.

      You’d also see a spike in attendance when the Yankees are in Baltimore.

      The authors makes some good points, and this isn’t 100% of the explanation, but it’s a big part of it.

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  12. Ott says:

    Huh. Maybe I just don’t understand this line of thinking. I thought it was obvious – people watch baseball games to see a game that is 1) a good contest and 2) between players they know. Maybe a rivalry; the Giants-Dodgers games I’ve been to were always intense, no matter how bad either team was.

    In answer to the questions, I would never pay more to see a game where I already knew the outcome. It’s the getting there, not the result, that matters to me. I would pay more to see exciting teams (that definition could easily change for different people) and good players.

    But I think that’s part of what makes baseball so fun – there are a million additional reasons to see a game beyond the main ones. The beauty of the game itself is worth watching, whatever the setting and whoever the players.

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  13. purpleReign says:

    I would also factor in individual players as well. I would much rather see Ubaldo Jimenez (Rockies fan here) over a player like Josh Fogg. This works for individual players on the other team as well. I remember as a teenager I would much rather go see Ken Griffey Jr hit batting practice into the third deck over some team I was less familiar with.

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  14. Incognito Yankee Fan says:

    I’ll answer question A) for ya, as it does pertain to me… I am a yankee fan living in MA (I moved up here after college), and as a birthday gift my dad gave me tickets to a red sox game.. A game not against the yankees, but he knows that I as a baseball fan, would love to see good baseball being played… Thats not to say that I wouldn’t want to see the O’s. In fact he and I went soon after Camden Yards was built, and currently I’d love to see the Brian Matusz’ and the Wieter’s of the world play, but it is true that I would rather go see the Sox, than the O’s

    as for B) and C), well B) is tougher… I don’t know how much more I would pay for a win if anything… I went to the 3rd game of the regular season at new yankee stadium… That happened to be the chien ming wang explosion game where the final score was 22-4.. Now I would have loved to have seen a competitive game, and would have loved even more to have seen the yankees win, it did not detract from the experience of live baseball for me… now I know that my family (aside from my father) aren’t true “baseball” fans, but instead are just “yankee” fans, and thus I think there experience, and answers would be different.

    The answer to C) is simple… If and when I buy tickets to the game I do generally look for tougher opponents, or teams in which I am interested in seeing live… I’m not as interested in yankees vs pirates or Nationals, as I am seeing yankees vs sox, rays, etc… I would rather watch a competitive game against them that the yankees lose, than watching them beat on a pirates team with nothing to play for…

    Anyways I hope that helps

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  15. Sean says:

    When I go to games I base it on the competition of the opponent, but more so the pitching matchup. I remember in 2006 all I wanted was to see a Verlander-Liriano game (I’m a Tigers fan). I hate it when I go to games when the fifth starter is pitching for both teams, but that’s just me.

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  16. Steve Slow says:

    I think the quality of the game comes into it as well – the odds that you are going to see a close, well-played, emotion-packed game is a lot higher when facing the Red Sox versus the Orioles. Even the games that aren’t particularly close can still be emotion filled. Isn’t that really why we’re all sports fans – to have our emotions messed with? We may never say it explicitly or even consciously realize it, but there’s a reason Cubs fans stick with their team year in and year out. Even if our favorite team constantly brings us pain, it can also bring us brief moments of intense joy, and it’s those moments of intense emotion – whether joyful or painful – that we all live for as sports fans.

    Personally, having the Rays lose to the Phillies in the World Series was horribly painful, but I wouldn’t trade that pain for the world. The highs and low of that postseason were incredible and the lows simply make the high moments even more poignant.

    In other words, I’d go see the Red Sox, hands down. Bring on the emotion – I want to be sitting at the edge of my seat and jumping up at every play, even if in the end it’s painful.

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  17. CircleChange11 says:

    I think a lot of fans go to see “great players”.

    People like to see the “game’s best”. The Red Sox have a lot of good players, much more so than Baltimore.

    30 years from now I won’t be telling my grandkids that I saw the Cardinals beat the Pirates …. I’ll be telling them about the time their dad (my son) and I went to US Cellular and saw ARod (6th row, 3rd base side) and how he spiked the SS sliding into 2B when there wasn’t a play (and he hit about 572 HRs in BP, including a couple on the landing in CF, and he’s REALLY big … my son will remember his all white batting gloves).

    I’ll also be telling them about the time I saw Bonds and Pujols in the same game, and show them the picture I took (3rd row seats, 1B side) of Albert and barry standing side by side as Pujols held him on after a BB. I don;t even remember who won the game.

    Seeing the greats “in person” seems to be a common theme among fans of all generations. I can still remember seeing Ozzie and George Brett and Don Mattingly (10th row seats behind home plate at Kaufman). I can remember their images VIVIDLY, even though it was close to 20 years ago.

    My son and I will talk about the time we got great seats at Wrigley and he was able to talk to Soriano when everyone else was yelling for Fukudome, and Soriano pointed at him and have him the “Spiderman” (Rokk On) hand signal (son was wearing full Soriano gear).

    We’ll also laugh about the time in StL when we saw Aaron Miles (5’8) walking off the field in warmups with Chris Duncan (6’5) and joking that they were “Big Brother & Little Brother”. We’ll remember Derek Lee running in the OF like a gazelle with his long legs. There he was 10 feet from, the real Derek Lee, all 6’5 of him. Right there. Those images last a lifetime.

    We’ll remember Harold Baines day at USCell and getting Retro jerseys.

    I tell my son about the time I was 10yo, and Cardinals’ C Orlando Sanchez came and sat with us in the stands (seats by the bullpen) and giving us kids bazooka Joe bubble gum. My dad tells him about the time we got to talk to RP Jeff Keener, who was the son of one of my dad’s professors at Chiropractic college.

    My son will tell his kids about how we got to talk to Clay Zavada on the field, and that we “know him” … and that his mates made him wear a pink My Little Pony backpack before and after the game.

    I Still remember my first baseball game in 1981, where the Mets played at Busch and I just sat there and stared at the “god” Ellis Valentine in RF … just as my son did with Justin Upton in 2009.

    I tell my son (and show pics) of the time in 1991 when I got to pitch in Busch stadium before a cards-Mets game and Ron Darling sat in our dugout and watched (and John Franco wore a 3-piece suit and fur coat … IN JUNE!!!).

    Going to the games, for many, is about “seeing” the players.

    Other than the Zavada games I attended this year, my most vivid memory was watching Brendan Ryan play SS. This dude positions himself BEHIND the IF FLY area and charges everything hard 2 steps, catches every grounder on the 3rd hop and makes each throw with his momentum going toward 1B. I remember talking about it with my 8yo and having him just be “glued onto” Ryan for the rest of the game. Those are the things that stick in my mind.

    My personal favorite thing at the game is watching middle IF’s “deke” runners into thinking there’s a play when there is not, occasionally getting them to hold up instead of of advance and take the easy base.

    It’s about seeing the players and the game, and noticing that [1] it’s the same game we played in little league, high school, and college and yet [2] it’s completely different all at the same time.

    But, most of all it’s about seeing the stars, and regardless of age, feeling as though you’re 12yo.

    I don;t mind admitting that I spent $425 for 3 tickets to see NYY-CWS. My son and I saw ARod and Jeter and tall and scrawny Mo. Who won the game? Don’t remember, don’t care.

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  18. dorsal says:

    I attend games based on this:

    When my team is on a losing streak or a run of bad play. I like to think by making the two hour drive…and me sitting in the stands cheering can be the difference in turning the club around. If I don’t go and they lose; I feel partially responsible.

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  19. joser says:

    I buy tickets based on the pitching matchup, often the day of the game. That’s it. If the other team has a Santana or a Greinke or a Lincecum or a Randy Johnson, I’m going even though I know odds are good it will be a loss. In fact, I probably attend more losses than wins, way out of proportion to the actual winning % of my home nine. (But boy, when they do score against a great pitcher, or come back and win against the bullpen, it’s even more fun).

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Those are GREAT games (unlike the Pineiro-Petit matchup I saw this year). I did get to see Scherzer “outpitch” Grienke in 09, when Reynolds avoided the Sombrero with a big homer (2 strike count no less) to give AZ a decent lead and chase Grienke, before the Royals wheels fall off. I also remember the radar gun at the K being “juiced” as the number ’97′ came up A LOT.

      AZ BP’s started falling apart in the 3-run 0th (12-5) and Zavada was warming up as we chanted like crazy. But alas, we wore the big fuzzy moustaches for nothing, the finalout was recorded before he was brought in.

      Aaaah, the memories.

      Befor that the only good matchup I’ve seen was Tudor-Sutcliffe in the mid 80s (86 probably), as Dawson took a hat trick and snubbed my request for an autograph, although I did get Todd Worrel (ROY that year).

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  20. Jon says:

    1. As a Yankee fan, of course I would rather see them play the Red Sox. Against the Red Sox, we care greatly about the game and the outcome; against the Orioles, the stakes are lower. If only Yankee fans were permitted to attend Yankee games, the stands would still be packed for the Red Sox. It’s almost like asking a guy if he’d rather go to his own kid’s soccer game or a neighbor’s kid’s soccer game.

    2. I wouldn’t pay an extra cent to guarantee a victory, as it would defeat the purpose of the whole exercise. The point is to see an athletic contest, not a show.

    3. Most often, I attend games when chance throws tickets my way. But when I do choose, it’s based on how much I care about the game, which is usually (but not always) correlated with the quality of the opponent. During the regular season last year, I would have been much more interested in seeing the Yankees play the Red Sox than, say, the Rays, Phillies, or Dodgers. They’re all good teams, but the rivalry with the Red Sox makes the game more exciting–and probably would even if they weren’t quite as strong a team. Even though the Rays are a division rival, there’s much less passion about that rivalry than with the Red Sox (among the fans; this may be different for the ownership).

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  21. purpleReign says:

    I was looking at some of the attendance numbers and based on what I saw, I can easily answer question number 1, subjectively answering number 2, and attempt to answer number 3.

    Here is the data that I compiled from baseball-reference.com based off of the 2009 season at the new Yankee stadium which has a capacity of roughly 50,100 not including standing room. The Category “Other” refers to all others teams besides the Red Sox and O’s. All stats are from home games only, naturally.

    vs BOS vs BAL vs PHL vs NYM Other
    Average 48,036 45,425 46,721 47,989 45,918
    Weeked AVG 48,347 46,560 45,838

    1) It is easy to say without a doubt that Yankees fans would much rather buy tickets to a Red Sox game over a Baltimore game. Hell, Yankees fans want to see the Red Sox more than any other team in baseball. And I don’t think that this is due to the fact that 2,600 Red Sox fans decided to make up the difference. Unless there is some stipulation I am unaware of that would give the Red Sox the rights to a certain amount of tickets.

    2) … personally I would pay more for a guaranteed win, but I would only purchase the games where we won by less than 3 runs or more than 10. But that still would dampen the fun.

    3) To answer the question of purchase preference based on availability I chose to look at the weekend (Fri, Sat, Sun) stats compared to the entire season (including weekend). There is an 80 person difference. As you can see, effectively, the weekend only seemed to benefit the group of yankees who would like to see a game vs the orioles.

    To answer the question of quality of opponent I chose to look at the Phillies. Granted the Phillies only played 3 games at Yankee stadium in May, but they were still the defending World Champs with most of their team intact, which you think would be taken in to account if you are basing your decision on perceived quality of opponent. A few more attendees than at baltimore games, but still not significant.

    One of the few teams that did gather close to as many attendees as the Red Sox, were the NY Mets. This makes intuitive sense, cross town rivalry and fans for both teams are local, and the demand for tickets is increased because of locality. Yet the Mets numbers were still under the Red Sox.

    Let’s just face it, Yankee stadium would still sell out every Red Sox game, and a true Yankees fan would still buy a ticket even if it meant losing 173 times during the season only to win the 9 games against the Red Sox at home.

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    • purpleReign says:

      Sorry for the shotty formatting on the stats

      vs BOS – vs BAL - vs PHL – vs NYM – Other

      Average – 48,036 – 45,425 – 46,721 – 47,989 – 45,918

      Weeked AVG – 48,347 – 46,560 – same – same – 45,838

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  22. Jon says:

    The question becomes much easier to answer when you use Seattle as an example. Games against division rivals are fairly well attended (because people want to see a game that matters), but we don’t have any rivalry games. When the Red Sox come to town, the stands are packed. But its only between a third and half full of mariner fans. More than half of the spectators are Red Sox fans, wearing Red Sox shirts and hats, cheering the Red Sox and booing the Mariners. It’s a phenomenon that drives me crazy. But that’s why Red Sox games are better attended than Orioles games, even though the home team is more likely to lose the Red Sox games. It’s because there are lots Red Sox fans in every city. That being said:

    1) Red Sox. The game would be more competitive and exciting.
    2) No. A victory isn’t as sweet when you know it’s coming.
    3) It’s mostly availability. I consider the quality of the opponent next. Which means I actually tend to want to go to games where the win probability for the home team is lower.

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  23. Eric R says:

    I have some retrosheet data 2000-2008 handy– I grabbed all of the Yankees home games sorted by the number of wins for the two teams combined for the year.

    Top 25% averaged 48132 per game; next 25%, 48001; next 25%, 45888; bottom 25%, 44923.

    Rays, 21021, 16696, 14991, 13004


    In this sample of data, here are average attendances for the AL East Interdivision games:

    BOS-NYA 44.5k
    BAL-NYA 43.9k
    NYA-TOR 39.2k
    BAL-BOS 36.6k
    NYA-TBA 32.9k
    BOS-TOR 31.2k
    BOS-TBA 27.9k
    TBA-TOR 27.8k
    BAL-TOR 24.0k
    BAL-TBA 20.3k

    Is it a big suprise that the seven combinations involving the Yankees or Red Sox are the top seven combos?

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    • pounded clown says:

      No, that’s why the B.Sox and Yankees should secede form MLB and form their own two team league where they can play each other for 162 games.

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  24. Blaming Tommy is always a good excuse.

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  25. NEPP says:

    I go to games I can get tickets to. Regardless, I go to see my team play, not the opponent. I’m just as happy if the Phillies are playing the Padres rather than the Braves or Mets.

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  26. SolidarityInSF says:

    As pointed out, Yankees-Red Sox is the probably the most famous rivalry in sports. Regardless of who’s on the BoSox, you’re going to go because you hate their guts and want to see them lose, especially at the hands of your Yankees. Perhaps a better question is, would you rather see a Yankees-Angels game, or a Yankees-Royals game?

    On the other side of the coin… I don’t pick my tickets, so if it’s a good team, I’ll tell myself “Ooh, that’ll be a good game.” If it’s against the Nationals, I’ll say, “Hey, good chance for a win!” It’s all about context, since above all else I want to enjoy myself.

    And if there is truly an upside, as a Giants fan, to going to a game against a bad team, I can hope that my pitcher will throw a no-hitter. (eg. Johnathon Sanchez vs. San Diego Padres). You always want to be a part of the no-hitter. Or the walk-off. Or the 13 inning nail-biter. It’s the allure of being part of something.

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  27. bikozu says:

    When I choose games, I go through this.

    1. Is Felix pitching? [4]
    2. Is Cliff Lee pitching (new for 2010) [3]
    3. Are we facing an awesome pitcher? [2]
    4. Are we facing a team with some players I love to watch? [1]

    If the sum total is at least 3, then I’ll go if I can.

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  28. paris7 says:

    Ask the question this way: in retrospect, which of last week’s football games would you most have wanted to watch, if you could only watch one?

    Obviously, there is only one that was a true “fan’s game”: the one that was exciting, that went down to the last few minutes, in which an underdog went the distance. This is why we go to games. This is why we love professional athletics. This is why we support our losing teams, and also our winning teams. Because, even if you’ve got a $100M payroll advantage over the opposing team, they’re still going to come to park ready to play. Some days it won’t work out. And we leave happy enough that our team won, that some favorite players did the job we always want them to do, etc., etc. I’ll listen to the blowouts on the radio, thank you. Now, if I only knew in advance… (… then I’d have a bookie on auto-dial).

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  29. B N says:

    1. Red Sox
    2. No, that would entirely defeat the point of watching a good game. Who wants to see the Yankees beat up on the Nationals?
    3. Do you ever consider the likelihood of a victory when purchasing tickets, or do you base your decisions on availability? Or is it purely on the quality of the opponent? All of the above:
    - I prefer likelihood of winning to be close to evenly matched. It makes for better games.
    - Availability is a big factor. 1/2 – 2/3 of the games I watch are against inferior opponents because it’s easier to get tickets.
    - I prefer a higher quality of opponent, independent of probability of winning. This is because I prefer higher quality teams in general. You get to see star players (a draw) and are more likely to see impressive performances/plays. For this reason, if I’m buying tickets close to the date I try to buy a matchup of pitching aces for each team.
    - Higher stakes are also preferred, of course, also.

    So then, my ideal matchup would be a Red Sox vs Yankees type matchup on the last day of the season which will decide playoff standings and the tickets were given to me as a gift (and are good seats).

    In my opinion, if you schedule your games just to be able to see wins- you’re missing the point. The value is in the contest itself. Your emotions build up from the process of the game, and then the best payoff comes from a win. But if you instead see a 10 inning heartbreaker you can often still feel like you saw an amazing game. And I’d take either over watching the Yankees blow out the Nats 10-1.

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  30. dustin says:

    The most enjoyable games for me are the ones where the athletes all play to the best of their abilities, regardless of the outcome. Isn’t that why we all watch baseball? To see athletes at the top of their games, doing the things no mere mortal could do?

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  31. ineedanap says:

    Yeah, people don’t go to see baseball games to see thier team win. Do they want their team to win? Of course. But they go because they want to see an entertaining baseball game played by its best players. That’s why Mudhen games don’t sell out. That’s why people leave Yankee Stadium when they are up on the Red Sox 21-3 in the 5th inning. You don’t really get the feeling of enjoyment when Felix Pie is standing on second because Yuni Betancourt air mailed his throw into the stands.

    As for the questions:
    1. Say you are a Yankee fan and price is irrelevant. Would you rather buy tickets to an Oriole or Red Sox game?

    Red Sox. Better competition, bigger names. Plus, they are “our” rivals.

    2. Would you pay more money to guarantee that you are attending a victory? If yes, how much more?

    Personally, no. Whats the point of watching if you already know the outcome. Its like DVR’ing a game while you are at work and then hearing the score in the car on the way home. Each event loses a lot of its meaning if you know the outcome of the game-especially in baseball.

    3. Do you ever consider the likelihood of a victory when purchasing tickets, or do you base your decisions on availability? Or is it purely on the quality of the opponent?

    Not really. (Am I still a Yankees fan?) If I were a Royals fan, I may consider it. I think if I were a fan of a losing team I would want to see a game where there is a decent chance of my team winning.

    Regardless of team, I guess the quality of the opponent is the most important for me. But, I like baseball and don’t think any of the above conditions would prevent me from seeing a game (except availbility, of course). I’d see my team play any other team any day.

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  32. Will says:

    The answer to these questions depends on the kind of fan attending. A casual fan will probably have fun regardless of the outcome, so a better opponent has a catchet. Therefore, if the game is deemed more of an event, the ticket becomes more desireable. A diehard fan, however, goes to the game to see their team win. Anything less and the experience is not enjoyable.

    As a diehard Yankee fan, my answers are:

    1) All things being equal, I’d rather see the Red Sox (because they are the Yankees main competitor for the division, not because they are the Red Sox), but not really by much. I go to quite a few games, so my biggest concern is convenience over opponent. As long as the Yankees are on the field, I am excited to be there.

    2) No, but I would pay more to give the Yankees the ability to pay more to make winning more likely (but short of a guarantee, which would remove the dynamic of competition).

    3) Yes, I do consider the chances of a win, but again, I go to a lot of games, so that consideration is really just anticipation about whether I will have a happy night or a miserable subway ride home. If it came down to attending two games, one more winnable than the other, I would go to both, assuming I had the availabilty to do so.

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  33. gorillagogo says:

    One thing that’s overlooked in this discussion is that the likelihood of winning against a lousy team might not be all that much greater than the likelihood of beating a good team. Last place teams beat first place teams all the time in baseball, much more often than in other sports.

    If the chances that the Yankees beat the Orioles are only, say, 60-40, it’s not really going to impact a person’s decision as much as seeing a hated rival like the Red Sox, even if the Yankees only have a 50-50 chance to win.

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  34. Telnar says:

    1) Red Sox. I like seeing the game played well. While I much prefer a blowout where the Yankees win to one where they lose, blowouts are often not particularly good baseball (with bench players coming in as soon as the outcome is no longer in doubt). I also am more engaged with games that have an extra impact on the pennant race, and a game against the Red Sox matters twice as much as a game against the Orioles in most years.
    2) No. Part of what I’m paying for is to be around the intensity of the crowd during a suspenseful game. A guaranteed win wouldn’t provide that. I would pay more over time if (unbeknownst to me) some superbeing was manipulating games I went to so that they were all exciting Yankee wins. I could easily see myself paying 2-3 times as much over time if every game I went to just happened to be more dramatic than average with a positive ending.
    3) Only indirectly. If the team is not in pennant contention in a particular year (and therefore less likely to win against good competition), I’d probably go to fewer games as a result because one source of interest in the game is reduced. If they were so bad that they wouldn’t typically play good baseball on a given day (not a problem in the recent past), then I would go far less.

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  35. margin1522 says:

    I think it’s pretty obvious why Yankees fans would want to see a Red Sox game, as opposed to just any talented baseball team. It’s because we define ourselves by our enemies.

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  36. Rob in CT says:

    The answers, to me, are obvious:

    1) Red Sox (or any other good team over any bad team). They’re a worthy opponent. If the Red Sox sucked, beating them wouldn’t be nearly as fun.

    2) No. The whole point of sports is that the outcome is in doubt.

    3) I hardly ever attend games, and haven’t been to one in years. The games I’ve attended have been mostly Red Sox vs. Yankees. If I recall correctly I also saw Sox v. Tigers once up at Fenway, which was a crazy Sox blowout win. I think Nomar hit to HRs in the first inning. It was fun, aside from it being 95 degrees w/o a cloud in the sky (and us in the bleachers). I was fine with the Sox winning (they weren’t really a threat that year… 2000? 2001? I can’t remember) so I got to root a bit for the home team.

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  37. Derek R-C says:

    A couple of notes. I agree with everything you said. I feel that as we get “Addicted” to watching our team win, we need a better fix. There for we want to watch an exciting game where we win.

    Also, I don’t think the Red Sox are a good example for this. I agree with what you are saying but you forgot the effects of “Red Sox Nation”. As a Red Sox fan that lives in VT, it is very hard to get tickets at Fenway Park (smallest stadium in MLB). It is much easier to get tickets when they play in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, ETC.

    Other then the NY Yankees games, Red Sox fans almost out number the other team fans. I am not trying to be an egotistical member of Red Sox Nation, I believe this is the case as of late though. Until the other teams start fielding better teams and the bandwagon Red Sox fans jump ship, this is going to be the case.

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  38. Chris says:

    This is pretty simple. I go for the highest upside. Seeing a game a team is ‘supposed to win’ means that anything less than a win is super disappointing and a win is expected. Seeing your team play the best, even if there is a lower probability of leaving with a win, allows for a much higher euphoria when they do win.

    This is why mediocre college basketball teams that host the #1 team in the country get the best attendance – because the win means a rush of the court and great excitement.

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  39. excatcher says:

    As an Orioles fan, I can’t even consider a theoretical notion that I would be a Yankees fan.

    I think the reason that fans of good teams avoid games against bad teams is the risk that their team will lose, which is a serious downer. I got to see the O’s shred the Y’s in Yankee Stadium (with Mussina on the mound, even), and there were some pretty bummed out people there. And it was a pretty packed house, but a lot of that had to do with it being the last year in the stadium.

    In general, people want to see a competitive contest against a worthy opponent.

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  40. Clint says:

    This really isn’t hard. People usually would rather see a competitive game than a blowout. Also, the Yankees/Red Sox matchup is a bad example to use, because a Yankees/Sox series is much more likely to be hyped up by sports media than Yankees/Orioles, giving the public an extra push to attend the games.

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  41. Eric says:

    1) Rivalry games and high level competition are more exciting than non-rivalry and non-competitive. The possible outcomes from the rivalry game (win against a rival, lose against a rival) seem to be better than the possible outcomes from the non-competitive game (win when you were supposed to, suffer an embarrassing loss). It can probably be assumed that losing to a rival or to a bad team are about equal, but the joy of beating a rival (or good) team is much better than seeing what was supposed to happen anyway.

    2) No, the same reason I can’t bring myself to watch Tivo’d sports. If you know what’s going to happen, why not watch when it happens.

    3) As an out of state fan, I try to go to games when my teams come in to town. I’ll go to any other game assuming I can get cheap tickets and have someone to go with.

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  42. Steve says:

    None of the above: It’s because of the national fan bases. I’m a Nats fan and we broke our attendance record 3 consecutive days against the red sox. 80% of the fans were Sox fans. Cubs games routinely have more blue in the stands than Nats’ red.

    Also I went to a Toronto interleague game to see Roy Halladay pitch, as did my friends, so that goes for something

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  43. Stacey says:

    Can’t we just leave Baltimore alone for one stinking minute?

    I cannot pretend to be a Yankee fan for even one moment so let me say this: I prefer to go to games where I will have more fun. Fun isn’t always tied in with winning, although that certainly helps. Full stadiums are more fun, therefore I’m more likely to go to a game where I already know there will be more people there, whether it’s because a good team is in town or because I know people like to go to fireworks night.

    CAVEAT: Sitting in your home park when it’s full of people is not fun when 25K people are chanting Let’s Go Red Sox, and as such I stay home on those nights.

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  44. RonDom says:

    If I was a Yankee fan, I would probably want to see an Orioles-Yankees game more because I would still probably like the Orioles just as much as I do then, and now.

    For the second part, I would never pay more for a victory (unless said victory was a playoff game). Since paying for a desired outcome leaves a bad taste.

    For the third part I have always based my decisions on days played AND availability. I love to travel the country and see every baseball stadium (major leagues only thus far) and have had the pleasure (and sometimes displeasure *cough* Tropicana *cough* Oakland-Alameda) to enjoy 14 stadiums so far. To me it matters about scheduling and availability and not rivalry. I love the White Sox and Dodgers, I’ve been to a Dodgers-Angels game (at the “Big A”) and didn’t care too much about the rivalry (with a bigger social environment comes less space, and more fans heckling). I can’t speak for the White Sox-Cubs games but I doubt anything would change. The Orioles had plenty of availibilty when I went to Baltimore and I have to say that that was the most pleasureable experience I have ever had at a baseball game. Tropicana……. has….. a ray tank……… really.

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  45. Matt says:

    I want to see the Yankees win but I want to see them win a good game!

    The Oriels are bad at baseball; beating them doesn’t bring the same pleasure as beating the Sox.

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  46. Cesar says:

    I forgot to mention this when I read this post the first time. There’s been papers written about this, I personally wrote one in order to graduate from college, the determinants of assistance to sport events, my sample was soccer games for the colombian league, but one interesting determinant was, regardless of overall record, the opponents’ latest results. It was a very fun excersize and I regret not publishing my paper.

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