Barclays Center: A tale of two cities

I finally made it to a Brooklyn Nets game last month. I have been a die-hard New Jersey Nets fan for several years, but I hadn’t made the trek to Brooklyn yet, largely due to becoming a father and moving to Basking Ridge, N.J.

BarclaysCenter

Barclays Center

Overall, I thought Barclays Center was impressive. I have not been to Madison Square Garden since its overhaul, so I can’t compare the two buildings, but on its own merits, Barclays Center is visually stunning, and you couldn’t ask for a better location. Walter O’Malley really fucked up by moving the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, as the new Ebbets Field would have been on the same site.

Barclays Center is located in an actual neighborhood, unlike the Nets’ temporary home at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., where the area is still in the developing stages, or the Izod Center, which is in the middle of a God-forsaken swamp. The mass-transit options are plentiful, which is a good thing, because parking is not.

The overall look is modern and sleek, and the sightlines are gorgeous. The arena comes across very well both in person and on television.

However, I have one major issue with Barclays Center, which is the same issue I have with the new Yankee Stadium, MetLife Stadium, and probably pretty much every stadium or arena that opened its doors recently: The difference between the lower level and the upper level is gigantic, and Barclays Center is the most prominent example of this trend that I’ve seen so far.

All of the new facilities are following the same blueprint: Let’s cram a whole bunch of club areas and suites into the middle, and push the upper deck way up and way back. Fuck the poor and middle class!

The lower level of Barclays Center is palatial. The concourse looks like the lobby and shopping area of a Las Vegas hotel, and I’m talking about Caesar’s Palace, not Circus Circus. The concourse is well-lit and wide, with a staggering number of choices for food and beer, and a generous collection of bar tables for fans to use if they want to eat and drink prior to going to their seats.

After seeing the lower level, the upper level reminded me of the steerage section of the Titanic. The concourse was narrow and dark, and the choices were greatly reduced.

I am not a seat snob in the least. I practically lived in the upper deck of the old Yankee Stadium. I have never minded sitting higher up, as I have always been more concerned with a central location (home plate, 50-yard-line, center court).

But if someone gave me free tickets to a Brooklyn Nets game, and they were in the upper level, I would graciously decline and watch the game at home. The upper level is several feet higher and several feet further from the court, and even the best seats in the upper level pretty much suck.

My New Jersey Nets season tickets at Brendan Byrne Arena/Continental Airlines Arena/Izod Center were in the second row of the upper level, right on the center court stripe. The equivalent seats at Barclays Center were like sitting in the very top rows of the old arena. To be blunt, the seats absolutely sucked, and those were the best in the upper level.

And this is the reason why, although I am still a die-hard Nets fan, and I still follow the team religiously and watch as many games as I can, the odds of my attending more than one or two games per season are slim to none. It’s not worth going to a game unless you sit in the lower level, and the ticket prices in the lower level are beyond prohibitive.

I was fortunate enough to win my company’s tickets in a drawing. Without trying to sound like I’m spitting on a gift, the seats were decent, but certainly nowhere near the best in the house. They were about 20 rows up, which is great, but they were also behind the baseline, which isn’t bad when play is happening at the near basket, but makes it very difficult to follow action on the other end of the court. The face value of those tickets: $190 apiece. Seriously? There’s no way those tickets are worth $190 apiece. And if that’s what it takes to sit somewhere decent in Barclays Center, thank God for my 50-inch flat-screen TV.

Another football coaches’ silly season has come and gone

The January silly season of football coaches switching jobs, both college and National Football League, has pretty much wrapped up, give or take the occasional Rob Ryan, and it left me with the same question that goes through my head every year. Which means less: Coaches who swear their loyalty up and down at end-of-season press conferences, only to switch jobs later that week; or coaches’ signatures on contracts in the first place?

“This is the greatest job in the world, and I am not speaking to any other teams.”

I don’t know what makes me shake my head more: A coach signing a five-year deal, and then heading for “greener pastures” after one season; or a coach who practically cuts open his veins to show that he bleeds school colors or team colors, despite the fact that he pretty much has the keys to his next office in hand.

Becoming a head football coach at any level is a long and difficult career choice, with the odds stacked against advancing far enough to reach the pinnacle of the profession. I am by no means attempting to gloss over the long hours and hard work involved. But for those who work hard enough and are fortunate enough to advance, is there a better work situation in any other profession?

Once a head coach signs his name on a contract, the only actions that can derail him from either receiving every cent agreed upon or leaving for a better job are illegal activities, either by NCAA, NFL, or actual legal standards. If you do a lousy job and your team loses at an unacceptable rate, you still collect every dime. And if your team succeeds, the next, “better” job is only a phone call away.

However, the days of someone staying in the same job for decades, like a Tom Landry or a pre-scandal Joe Paterno, are long-gone. It’s a different era now, with coaches leaving for better jobs at the drop of a hat, or impatient NFL owners or college boosters, administrations, and athletic directors who are unwilling to allow programs to grow. As sports fans, we may not like this, but we have no choice other than to accept it.

There is one change that I firmly believe should occur, however, on both the college and professional levels. The commitment required by the sport of football, from both coaches and players, is far and away the most severe of any sport in terms of time, mental preparation, and physical preparation. When teams that have had some success during the season near the end of their journeys, the deserving or lucky ones are rewarded with bowl games in college, or playoff berths in the NFL.

I think it is absolutely inexcusable that job interviews are allowed to take place before teams’ seasons are finished, and that includes bowl games and playoff runs. As a player or fellow coach, I want to know that I am getting the full commitment and focus of everyone on the staff so my team can take advantage of the opportunity it earned. There is no way coaches who are interviewing for other positions are anywhere near 100% focused on their current duties. It’s humanly impossible.

I know my proposal is a pipe dream, and it will never happen on either level, with the pressure to beat out competitors and get the “right man for the job” in place as soon as possible, but I strongly believe coaches should be prohibited from contact with other schools or organizations until their teams’ seasons are completed.

The number of years on the contract may be irrelevant, but would it kill these guys to at least finish their jobs for the season before making their next moves?

Is it time to blow up this edition of the Dallas Cowboys? I vote no

Now that I have had about a week-and-a-half to cool off after the latest end-of-season crumble by my beloved Dallas Cowboys, I believe I can speak rationally about what the club should do going into next season, and my suggestions will not involve the types of violence that would have been included had I tried to write this last week.

To all the haters ... COWBOYS FOR LIFE!

To all the haters … COWBOYS FOR LIFE!

One of the most common thoughts I’ve heard is that the team and coaching staff need to be blown up and rebuilt. This theory has been advanced by “experts” and average fans, and by Cowboys fans and Dallas haters. It may sound like the right thing to do, but the National Football League doesn’t work that way.

Tony Romo has been an obvious target, and considering the fact that the last play he will be remembered for after this season was one of the more pathetic interceptions thrown in quite some time, targeting Romo is expected, and fair. I am pro-Romo overall, but not to the point where I’m 100% all-in and blind to the facts.

When you take the field with Romo as your quarterback, you are signing on for the good and the bad. Romo will single-handedly win games, as he did on several occasions late this season. He will also single-handedly lose games, which he proved quite adept at doing last season, when he gift-wrapped victories for the New York Jets and Detroit Lions. I still think there is more good than bad in Romo. The bad tends to be overly magnified, which is part of the job of being an NFL quarterback in general, much less the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.

For those who want to see a change at the quarterback position: I’d love to hear your suggestions. The NFL is not fantasy football. Aaron Rodgers will not be the starting quarterback for the Cowboys next season, nor will Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady (like Dallas needs yet another reason to be universally hated), Peyton Manning, and so on.

Is replacing Romo with a backup with limited NFL experience the answer? Are the Cowboys really better off with, say, Matt Flynn, who had a couple of brilliant outings for the Green Bay Packers, but couldn’t beat out Russell Wilson for the Seattle Seahawks’ starting job? Is the team better off with someone like its current backup, Kyle Orton, who has extensive starting experience, but who played himself into a backup role? Hell, maybe the Cowboys should buy into the hype and go after Tim Tebow, for he shall lead us to the promised land! I would keep Romo over any of these options, without a second thought.

As for the draft, even if the Cowboys are able to swing the type of deal they pulled off last season, in moving up to select Morris Claiborne, are any of the quarterbacks who will be available really game-changers? Scouting and projecting is nowhere near an exact science — think of it this way: JaMarcus Russell was the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, and Romo was undrafted — but I just don’t see an Andrew Luck, a Robert Griffin III, or even a Wilson in this draft.

Overall, I see no choice but to proceed with Romo, for at least one more year. I am not a believer in change for the sake of change.

Another popular target, deservedly so, is Head Coach Jason Garrett. The coach is the easiest thing to change. As the cliché says, “You can’t fire all of the players.” And while Garrett do anything anywhere near as foolish as icing his own kicker, like he did to cost the team a game against the Arizona Cardinals last season, there were times when his judgment was questionable, at best, and I had a major issue with his tendency to give up on the running game at the first sign of adversity.

One thing I will say for Garrett is that this team has never lacked effort under his leadership, as it did on numerous occasions when “led” by his predecessor, Wade Phillips. Of course, the argument can be raised that the players should be motivated by their paychecks and the desire to secure their jobs, but sadly, as is the case on most teams in most sports, it doesn’t always work that way.

But I’ll play along: If Garrett is not the head coach next season, who should it be? Will the team really improve if it replaces Garrett with an NFL retread, or a college coach? I don’t believe that’s the solution.

I would have loved to see Sean Payton come back to the Cowboys’ organization, which never should have let him go in the first place, and there was a brief window of hope when his extension with the New Orleans Saints was declared invalid by the league, but Payton is back in the Saints’ fold and off the table.

I would make an exception for Mike Holmgren, but I don’t see any scenario where Holmgren would work for Jerry Jones. Holmgren clearly wants full control of the team, and as long as the Cowboys’ owner fancies himself as a GM, coach, and God knows what else, the two personalities won’t mix. If you need proof of this, recall that another coach who demanded complete control, Bill Parcells, was force-fed Terrell Owens, who he clearly never wanted on the team. Does that sound like complete control to you?

I also thought about Lovie Smith, mainly because the atmosphere around the Cowboys comes off as too relaxed, and it would be nice to have someone come in and put a foot up people’s asses. But Smith has only been marginally more successful than Garrett, and I’m not sure the move would accomplish anything.

Much like Romo, I believe Garrett deserves one more season. If there is no improvement next year, then it’s time for a change.

What should the Cowboys address during the offseason? The absolute top priority has to be the offensive line. The club tried to remedy this issue during the last offseason, by re-signing Doug Free and adding Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau, but it failed miserably. Free has been an utter and complete disaster, and if he can be cut outright without drastic damage to the salary cap, he should. Everyone else was just plain mediocre, at best. While former No. 1 draft pick Tyron Smith is probably the most talented member of the unit, he is also a penalty machine, and the penalties tend to come at the worst times, absolutely killing momentum. I don’t have any specific names in mind, professional or college, but changes must be made.

Another thing Dallas must do, which is much easier said than done, is try to figure out just how much they can rely on some of the players that have performed well but missed time due to injuries. Sean Lee, Miles Austin, and Demarco Murray are all outstanding football players, but an outstanding football player doesn’t do his team much good when he’s on the bench in street clothes, or, as was the case with Austin this season, trying to play through (admirable) at much less than full strength. Can the Cowboys afford to base their offensive game plans around Murray and their defensive game plans around Lee, only to see the two of them go down again?

As I said, this is far easier said than done. Injuries can’t possibly be predicted, and they are part of the game of football, but it’s frustrating to constantly see the team’s most valuable players out of uniform.

This should be an interesting offseason, to say the least, but the window on this team is closing, and closing quickly. I am not on board with rebuilding now. Rebuilding in football doesn’t really exist. At least when teams try to do so in Major League Baseball, their fans can follow their prospects’ journeys through the minor leagues and retain some hope (see: Kansas City Royals). Football doesn’t work that way. However, if this team doesn’t succeed next year, it might be time for drastic moves.

One more thing before I go: If this current nucleus of Cowboys never wins a Super Bowl, I don’t blame Tony Romo, or Jason Garrett, or DeMarcus Ware, or Jason Witten, or even Wade Phillips. I will tell you who I blame: Patrick FUCKING Crayton.

Patrick Crayton, the former No. 3 wide receiver? Yes, that bum. Why? The week before the Cowboys played the New York Giants in a divisional playoff game, Crayton did nothing but run his mouth. The two teams are divisional rivals, and the Cowboys swept both regular-season meetings. Talking trash accomplishes nothing. Shut up, don’t motivate the Giants any more than they already are, and play the game.

After running his mouth all week, Crayton dropped the pass that would have put the game away for the Cowboys, who, at 13-3, had their best season by far since the Super Bowl years of the early 1990s. A perfectly thrown ball to a wide-open Crayton in the fourth quarter would have, at minimum, resulted in 40 yards, a first down, and two or three more minutes off the clock. Instead, Hands of Stone dropped the ball, the Giants took over, and the rest is history.

Would the Cowboys have won the Super Bowl that year? Not necessarily, but you never know, and, as I said, the 2007 squad was the best in recent years.

So, to the Cowboys: Stay the course, improve the O-line, and let’s give this one more run. And to Patrick Crayton, wherever you are: FUCK YOU.

Overpriced tickets, empty seats, and clueless management

The fact that sports ticket prices are completely out of hand is far from a new revelation, and my favorite club in any sport, the New York Yankees, falls among the worst offenders, possibly even occupying the top spot.

Go team go!

Empty seats, especially in the premium sections, have become the norm, no matter how big the game, or how nice the weather. And as clueless as management at some of these teams can be, they are trying to remedy the problem. But are they trying hard enough?

I became a Yankees season-ticket holder (half-season through 2008, full season for 2009 and 2010) in 1997, and I gave my seats up after the 2010 season (click the link for the long list of reasons why). The Yankees have managed to treat me better as a former ticket holder than when I actually had the account active.

I have received several calls over the past few months from the Yankees ticket office, gauging my interest in rejoining the fold for the 2013 season. I am actually surprised that the club is putting that much effort into cases like mine. When I go to Dunkin’ Donuts, I usually drop the coins I receive as change into the tip jar. The $4,000 or so that my season tickets cost means less to the Yankees than those coins mean to me.

I don’t even bother answering anymore because, in all fairness to the Yankees, I am in no position to commit to tickets of any sort, and many of the factors have nothing to do with the team or its pricing. We are moving, which would make attending weeknight games virtually impossible, and our family expanded, which completely changes the priorities of our budget.

But the few times I did make last-ditch attempts to keep some kind of ticket plan, the seats they were willing to offer me at a reasonable price were pure crap. I may have tried to plead my case with Mrs. 9 if I could have gotten something in the first few rows of the 400 level, in the infield, but when I was offered high rows in the outfield, my response was, “Dude, I have a 50-inch TV. Why would I sit all the way up there?”

And it’s not just the Yankees: A good friend Is part of a group that splits premium (and I do mean premium) Mets tickets, and the Mets actually lowered their prices significantly. Still, the skeptic in me wonders: If the Mets had been a playoff team in any of the three seasons since moving to Citi Field, would they have extended that offer? My gut says no.

Another good friend stopped by tables that the New York Giants and New York Jets set up at an event, and he received the big-time hard sell from both teams. When they asked,” What’s it going to take to get you in these seats?” sounding like desperate used-car salesmen, his response was, “Drop the PSL.” Naturally, they refused.

For years, the only way to get Giants season tickets was to put your name on a waiting list and wait several years (my name was on one prior to the new stadium opening, and I was told to expect a 15- to 20-year wait). I find it almost laughable that I could pick up the phone today and become a season ticket holder if I wanted to, but that would require an investment beyond my means, especially when I don’t root for the team.

For those not in the know, PSL stands for “personal seat license,” which is the biggest scam in the sports ticketing industry. A PSL basically forces fans to pay a large lump sum of money, simply for the right to shell out more money for the actual tickets.

Some PSLs offer owners the right to purchase their seats for other events (concerts, other sports), but the Giants and Jets can’t even do that. When Bruce Springsteen plays MetLife Stadium, who gets the seat: The Giants fan, or the Jets fan? Those teams’ PSL holders receive perks, such as early access to ticket sales, but is that enough?

One of the most irritating things about PSLs is that teams pitch them to fans as investment opportunities, touting how much the fans can profit if they resell the PSLs. I realize running a sports team is running a business, but being a sports fan is an entirely different story. If someone is enough of a fan of the team to consider forking over several thousand dollars per seat for PSLs, selling those rights is the furthest thing from their minds.

Back on topic: It’s obvious that teams are recognizing the fact that the prices they are trying to charge in an economy that is still scuffling are completely out of hand, leading to the large pockets of empty seats in very visible locations (field level behind home plate for baseball, field level between the 40-yard-lines for football), but are they doing enough about it? My experience Saturday, which prompted me to write this blog post, suggests otherwise.

$275? Seriously?

A friend from college was nice enough to give me two tickets to Saturday afternoon’s Yankees game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and we took 0.9 to his first-ever Yankees game. They were fun seats, especially since I usually sit upstairs: section 117a (field level, behind the Yankees dugout), row 30.

However, when I looked at the ticket price, my jaw dropped. The face value of the tickets was $275 apiece. I am not by any means trying to sound ungrateful for the tickets, and I was happy to learn that my friend received them as a gift, so he didn’t shell out that ungodly sum of money for them, but seriously?

First of all, they were technically field level seats, but they were nowhere near the field. As I said, they were in row 30, but the Legends Suite seats are in front of the field level seats, so they were really about 40 rows up.

Second, they were in the back row, and the condiments station was directly behind us. I joked about getting something spilled on me when we first got there, and somebody with an $11.50 cup of Miller Lite soon obliged.

Third, the section to our right had a handicapped seating area in place of rows 26-30. I am all for ballparks having as much handicapped access and seating as possible, and I applaud the existence of this seating area, and all of the others in the ballpark. However, because of the location of this particular handicapped seating area, I could not see anything hit down the right field line.

Charging $275 for those tickets is beyond criminal. I would have been irate if I actually paid that silly price to sit there. And despite the beautiful weather and excellent opponent, there were plenty of empty seats around us.

Also, I have no way to prove this, but if you look at StubHub, there are usually thousands of tickets available for every game. In the case of Saturday’s game, there were more than 2,400 available on the morning of the game. Yet, despite the fact that StubHub users can assign any price they wish to their tickets, there are often large groups of listings at the exact same price, all for seats in sections like 117a, and all from a handful of user names. So, either a few people are rich enough to own several-hundred field level season tickets apiece, or the Yankees are flooding the secondary market with tickets they can’t sell. You decide. I already have.

Sports teams have a choice: Either take a serious look at your pricing policies, or continue to see more and more empty seats. But despite recent economic struggles, the teams’ management remains far too arrogant, for the most part, to admit that the current structure is out of hand. It will be interesting to see if this ever changes.

162 Games of HATE: A fast-paced fantasy baseball draft with some shocking picks

My third and final fantasy baseball draft of the 2012 season was an interesting one. Candidly, I am not happy with the job I did in this draft overall, but I am ecstatic with a couple of my picks and where I was able to select them.

I have been in enough drafts of all types, so I’m not making excuses, but the majority of players in this league auto-drafted, so the pace was blistering, and I had trouble keeping up with it at times. Plus, one person’s selections in the first two rounds blew my mind more than any picks I can remember in a fantasy baseball draft for quite some time. Again, I have enough experience that I should have been able to overcome both of those factors, but quite a few of my picks were rushed. I hope they work out, but I’m not supremely confident.

162 Games of HATE, the 2012 edition:

Round 1, Albert Pujols, 1B, LAA: I know it seems unheard of to be disappointed after ending up with arguably the best player in the game over the past decade, but I had the third pick in the draft, and the two guys I would have selected ahead of Pujols went first and second: Miguel Cabrera and Matt Kemp. It’s hard to complain about Pujols, though. He’s a skilled enough player to ease my worries about his transition to the American League, and the Angels are loaded.

Round 2, Roy Halladay, SP, PHI: Are you fucking serious? Halladay lasted until the 20th pick of the draft? Holy shit! The two picks before Halladay were Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander. I would have taken Halladay over either of those guys, but I can’t really argue with either pick. The two picks I can definitely argue about, however, came from the same person: CC Sabathia with the No. 10 pick in the draft, and Johan Santana with the No. 15 pick. My jaw dropped after both of those selections. I am still shaking my head.

Round 3, Matt Holliday, OF, STL: He was the best hitter left on the board. I really wanted Ian Kinsler, but he was selected with the pick right before mine. I’m a little wary of the Cardinals’ lineup without Pujols, but Holliday has been a consistent performer over the years.

Round 4, Brett Lawrie, 3B, TOR: I may have made this pick a round or two early, but third base is an awfully thin position, and I love what Lawrie did in a couple of hundred at-bats last season. Plus, the Blue Jays’ lineup is stacked and should score a ton of runs. I thought about Shin-Soo Choo here, but I crossed my fingers and hoped he would fall into the next round.

Round 5, Shin-Soo Choo, OF, CLE: Holy crap, something actually worked. I like Choo a lot, and he was definitely the best hitter left on the board. I thought about another starting pitcher, but I decided to gamble that either Matt Cain or David Price would still be on the board with my next pick.

Round 6, Dee Gordon, SS, LAD: If Gordon can get on base consistently, he will lead the Major Leagues in stolen bases. And shortstop isn’t exactly a stacked position, either. I love this pick.

Round 7, Yu Darvish, SP, TEX: This pick was a gigantic gamble, and I’m really not sure why I pulled the trigger. Part of my thinking was that I wanted another starting pitcher, and none of the known quantities was really calling out to me. If he pitches anywhere near his potential, this could turn out to be a fabulous pick. But if the queen had balls, she’d be king.

Round 8, Matt Garza, SP, CHC: There was no doubt in my mind that I was picking another starting pitcher here, just in case Yu Darvish turns out to be the next Kei Igawa. Although the Cubs are awful, Garza was the best starter left on the board.

Round 9, Jemile Weeks, 2B, OAK: It was way too early for this pick, but the pool of second baseman was drying up in a hurry. This was a dreaded potential pick: If he reaches his potential, it will work. If not, I am hosed.

Round 10, Alex Avila, C, DET: I was thrilled with this pick. Avila is one of the few serious offensive threats at catcher, and he can be a force in the Tigers’ lineup.

Round 11, Sergio Santos, RP, TOR: The run on closers was in full effect, and he was the best one left.

Round 12, Brandon League, RP, SEA: Speaking of the run on closers …

Round 13, Jason Motte, RP, STL: OK, I think I can stop worrying about saves now.

Round 14, David Ortiz, DH, BOS: I hate this guy’s guts, but this was a great value pick. The only bad thing about him from a fantasy baseball standpoint is a complete lack of flexibility, as he only fits into the utility spot. But his season last year was one of the few bright spots for the Red Sox, and if I can get 30 home runs out of a pick in round 14, that ain’t too shabby.

Round 15, Delmon Young, OF, DET: He did not have a great season last year, but I’m hoping for a bounce-back and some decent power numbers.

Round 16, Brandon McCarthy, SP, OAK: I can’t believe he was still around this late in the draft. Oakland sucks, but he is a quality starting pitcher and, with the way his ball club cleaned house during the off-season, my hunch is that he will be traded to a contender at some point.

Round 17, Sean Marshall, RP, CIN: Yes, I know, I said I was done with closers, but Marshall puts up fantastic numbers year after year as a setup guy, and I couldn’t pass him up here.

Round 18, Daniel Bard, SP, BOS: This pick was a bit of a risk, much like Boston’s decision to convert a reliever with closer stuff to a starter is a bit of a risk, but none of the “safe” picks at starting pitcher excited me in the least. Plus, if the experiment fails and Bard goes back to the bullpen, I will have some serious trade chips for teams that are short on closers.

Round 19, Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/3B, TOR: He is an excellent backup at both corner infield positions, hitting in a stellar lineup.

Round 20, Phil Hughes, SP, NYY: I try not to let spring training play a big role in my drafting, but he looked like the 2010 Hughes in spring training, so I took a shot with this pick. Hell, it’s the 20th round.

Round 21, Austin Jackson, OF, DET: Depth, speed, and the leadoff hitter in a good lineup. He needs to get on base more. If he does, I will find a way to start him.

Round 22, Aaron Hill, 2B, AZ: I would like to say that I’m hoping for a repeat of the one fantastic year Hill had with Toronto, but truthfully, this was a backup pick, barring unforeseen circumstances.

Round 23, Alcides Escobar, SS, KC: A solid, under-the-radar, backup pick.

Round 24, Ben Revere, OF, MIN: If he is ever in my starting lineup, I am in a heap of trouble. Still, his potential was worth the risk of a final round pick.

The 2012 Dropkick Ellsburys: Maybe auto-draft isn’t so bad

Jacoby Ellsbury

I had to rely on auto-draft for the second of my three fantasy baseball drafts this season. With a little one on the way, I am only playing on one softball team, and I will be missing part of the season for obvious reasons, so I elected to play softball and let the computer do the dirty work.

This league is fairly competitive, but not as much as the Section 39 Fantasy League. That being said, I have had no success, and I’ve been in this league quite a few years. These were my drafts in 2011, 2010, and 2009.

Part of the blame goes to injuries (Josh Johnson being a notable example a couple of seasons ago), part of it goes to bad luck, and, admittedly, part goes to poor drafting decisions on my part. Here is my latest attempt to climb out of the second division and into contention.

Three players are kept every season in this league, and players are only keeper-eligible for three seasons before being thrown back into the pool.

Without further ado, your 2012 Dropkick Ellsburys:

Keeper, Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, BOS: His combination of power and speed were matched by very, very few players in Major League Baseball. While it may be optimistic to expect a repeat of his 2011 power numbers, he is still an excellent all-around player, at the top of a solid lineup.

Keeper, Jered Weaver, SP, LAA: He is a top-10 starter, if not top five, and an excellent anchor for a fantasy pitching rotation. Plus, barring injuries, the Angels are stacked. Keeping Weaver was a no-brainer.

Keeper, B.J. Upton, OF, TB: Upton is by far the weakest of my keepers, and he became a keeper by default. I wanted to keep Ryan Howard, but that changed when he crumpled to the ground at the end of the National League Division Series last year. Most reports don’t have Howard coming back from his torn Achilles tendon until June, and most reports also say that he looks like he ate Greg Luzinski, so I couldn’t risk what amounts to a draft pick in the first three rounds on half a season of a possibly healthy but possibly overweight Howard. Upton is a threat for 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases, but his inconsistency is maddening.

Round 1, Hanley Ramirez, SS, MIA: If I were live-drafting, I probably would have chosen Cliff Lee here, but since I was on the softball field, I had no say in the matter. I drafted Ramirez in my other league, as well, and my reservations and hopes are the same. He is coming off his worst season, and there are rumblings that he is unhappy about moving to third base to accommodate the Marlins’ signing of Jose Reyes. But if Ramirez comes close to a typical Ramirez season, he can dominate a generally weak position.

Round 2, Elvis Andrus, SS, TEX: This is where live-drafting comes back to bite you in the ass. I like Andrus as a player, and I love his stolen bases as a fantasy pick, but there is no way in hell I would have drafted two shortstops with my first two picks. If I can acquire enough speed elsewhere, he is definitely trade bait.

Round 3, Shin-Soo Choo, OF, CLE: Bless you! (Thank you, I’m here all week, tip your bartenders!) The Indians are a weak team, but he is a solid ballplayer and puts up solid fantasy stats. If I were live-drafting, I might have taken Matt Cain here, although I might not have, because as I said earlier, I’d probably have taken Cliff Lee in round one. When I took at the hitters drafted around this pick, I like Choo.

Round 4, Madison Bumgarner, SP, SF: Like Ramirez, I also have Bumgarner in my other league. I like him a lot and think he’s a stellar starting pitcher in a pitcher-friendly ballpark. My only fear is that the Giants’ offense will fail to score and cost him wins. It’s hard to say if I would have been thinking of a starting pitcher here if I live-drafted, but if that was my direction, he would have been my choice.

Round 5, Adam Wainwright, SP, STL: This pick is a huge risk, as Wainwright did not throw a pitch last season due to injury. But I love the value in round five if he returns to form. It’s a gamble, but it’s a gamble I would probably have taken if I were live-drafting. The two starting pitchers taken directly before him were Josh Johnson, who also has a bad recent injury history, and Yu Darvish, who is still an unknown quantity, although my hunch is that Darvish will not be a bust like some of the other pitchers who have come to MLB from Japan.

Round 6, Joe Mauer, C/1B, MIN: In what is becoming a familiar team, in the same way I would not have taken shortstops with my first two picks, there is no way I would have used back-to-back picks on players coming off huge injuries. As I said about Wainwright, if Mauer returns to anywhere near his pre-injury numbers, this pick is a steal, especially with catcher being a weak position. But two consecutive gambles are a little dicey for my blood. I probably would have drafted Rickie Weeks here.

Round 7, Nick Markakis, OF, BAL: I somehow end up with Markakis every season, and his lack of power while playing in Camden Yards, where everyone else seems to launch homer after homer, frustrates me to no end. He always ends up posting decent numbers, but the lack of power and the fact that I’ve lost with him before means there’s no way I’d have picked him here if I were live-drafting. There was a little bit of a run on closers going on, so I might have joined that run.

Round 8, Ike Davis, 1B, NYM: I really like this pick. Davis was on his way to an excellent season before getting injured last year, and the Mets moved the fences in at Citi Field. I would have taken Billy Butler or Kendrys Morales here, but both were selected before my pick. And I certainly wouldn’t have taken Morales if I already had Wainwright and Mauer, because there’s only so much injury risk one team can bear. Davis is also on my other team.

Round 9, Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/3B, TOR: I like Encarnacion, but I don’t know if I’d have picked him this early. Still, his bat showed a lot of life last season, the Blue Jays have a strong lineup, and I like the fact that he qualifies at both corner infield slots. And he is yet another member of my team in the other league.

Round 10, Chase Utley, 2B, PHI: I am a huge Utley fan, but with his recent injury history, there is no way in hell I would have picked him, especially with all of the other walking wounded on my roster. I just have to sit tight and hope he comes back healthy, but I hate this pick.

Round 11, Kenley Jansen, RP, LAD: He was the best closer left at this point, and I’d have picked him here without hesitation. He has a live arm, and I think the Dodgers will be an improved team this season.

Round 12, Sean Marshall, RP, CIN: I absolutely love this pick. I have picked up Marshall the past couple of seasons in a middle relief role due to his excellent strikeout, ERA, and WHIP numbers. If the Reds don’t let him close, they are morons, so add saves to the rest of his stats, and this is a great pick.

Round 13, Clay Buchholz, SP, BOS: I apparently missed the auto-draft setting that said, “Draft every player who was hurt last season.” What the hell? Still, as I’ve said about some of my previous picks, Buchholz was having an excellent year before getting injured last season, and if he bounces back, this is a fantastic pick at round 13. There are way too many injury gambles on this roster, though.

Round 14, Addison Reed, RP, CHW: I like this pick. I am assuming he gets the closer role for the White Sox and pitches well enough to keep it, but he has a bazooka for an arm.

Round 15, Edwin Jackson, SP, WAS: Jackson is solid, but not spectacular. I had him last season, and I have to keep my eye out for a rut, because when he gets into one, it takes him a while to pitch his way out of it. Since Brandon McCarthy was chosen with the pick before mine, I’d probably have taken Trevor Cahill here.

Round 16, R.A. Dickey, SP, NYM: I don’t love this pick, and I probably would have looked at another position here. Yes, Dickey has been solid for two seasons, but I’m wary of someone who doesn’t “get it” until he is well into his 30s. Knuckleball pitchers are ageless, but the Mets are not a good team, and their offense will likely cost him wins.

Round 17, Delmon Young, OF, DET: I’m pretty happy with this pick at round 17, but Young’s OBP is putrid. Still, he’s good for about 20 homers, and the Tigers’ lineup is stacked, so his numbers may rise.

Round 18, Chase Headley, 3B, SD: I like this pick, especially this late. It’s based on potential, but I think Headley started to turn it around last season. The one negative is that he plays in a ballpark that is very unfriendly to hitters, but hey, it’s round 18.

Round 19, Aaron Hill, 2B, AZ: With Utley on the shelf, I hope he remembers what he was doing in his outstanding season for Toronto. I’d have never taken Utley, and I’d have taken a second baseman a lot earlier than this, but it is what it is.

Round 20, Michael Brantley, OF, CLE: He is a solid last-round pick, also based on potential. If everything clicks for him, this could work out well. If not, well, he’s my last-round pick.

Overall, I’m happy with the team, but there are a few too many players coming off serious injuries. If they can all bounce back, this team will contend. If not, I will have to rely on the waiver wire and the trade market to shore up some holes.

Hoboken Nine, the 2012 edition

Ryan Braun

The Section 39 Fantasy Baseball League held its draft last weekend, and I was a participant for the fourth consecutive season. It’s a very competitive league and, while I have not finished in the money, I’ve held my own, finishing fourth, fourth, and fifth in a 12-team league.

Last season was my most disappointing, as I just couldn’t find any consistency. I vaulted into second place in August on the strength of two consecutive 100-plus-point days, driven my wins from all my starting pitchers and a bunch of wins and saves from my relievers, but I couldn’t stay with the pack.

Here are my round-by-round picks (I had the No. 8 pick out of 12), along with my reasons for choosing the players I selected.

Round 1, Ryan Braun, LF, MIL: This pick was a bit of a risk after the news during the offseason that Braun had failed a drug test. His suspension was overturned, and everything I’m reading suggests that he won’t be suspended again, but there’s always the chance. And, if he really was on performance-enhancing drugs, how much did it help him during his MVP campaign last season, and how will it affect his numbers this season? Still, I thought he was a steal with the No. 8 pick in the draft, and he would have been in the top three if it weren’t for the suspension (big if, I know). I actually thought about Roy Halladay here, but I’m hesitant to take a pitcher in the first round (even one as dominant as Halladay) because if there’s an injury, they just don’t bounce back the way hitters do.

Round 2, Hanley Ramirez, SS, FLA: I was all set to grab Halladay here, but he was chosen with the pick right before mine. This pick was also a little bit of a gamble, with Ramirez coming off his worst season, and with rumblings that he is unhappy about moving to third base to accommodate the Marlins’ signing of Jose Reyes. But if Ramirez comes close to a typical Ramirez season, he can dominate a generally weak position.

Round 3, Curtis Granderson, CF, NYY: I love the combination of power, especially with 81 home games at Yankee Stadium, which is tailor-made for his swing, and speed. Yes, I am a die-hard Yankees fan, and yes, I was always a Granderson fan, going back to his days with the Tigers, but I don’t let my rooting interests get in the way of my drafting. I was ecstatic that Granderson fell to the third round.

Round 4, Hunter Pence, RF, PHI: I really wanted a third baseman here, but I was hesitant to pull the trigger on Alex Rodriguez, partially because I hate him, but mostly because he is a big risk coming off an injury. David Wright also scared me a little here, although the fact that they moved the fences in at Citi Field tempted me. But if Chase Utley and Ryan Howard can come back healthy, Pence is an excellent hitter in an excellent lineup, and he has 81 home games at homer-friendly Citizen’s Bank Park.

Round 5, Madison Bumgarner, SP, SF: Again, I seriously thought about Wright with this pick, but I was also wary of not having a pitcher yet, and I liked Bumgarner and pitcher-friendly SBC Park better than anyone else who was left. I would have drafted his teammate, Matt Cain, but he was selected just before my pick.

Round 6, Brandon Phillips, 2B, CIN: He is an excellent all-around ballplayer at a relatively weak position, and I thought he was the best value pick left on the board. I thought about another starting pitcher here, but decided that Phillips was my best option.

Round 7, Matt Garza, SP, CHC: Once again, the guy I wanted here was chosen with the pick just before mine, Jeremy Hellickson. I’m a little concerned about Garza because I think the Cubs are a weak ball club, but he’s a solid pitcher. I thought about Tommy Hanson here, but decided on Garza.

Round 8, Aramis Ramirez, 3B, MIL: I felt that there was a huge drop-off at this position after Ramirez, so I decided to grab him. The next third baseman on my list was Mark Reynolds, and I had him last season. Reynolds is an all-or-nothing, feast-or-famine player, and he is frustrating as all hell from a fantasy standpoint. I didn’t want to go through that again.

Round 9, John Axford, RP, MIL: I apparently made a subconscious decision to be a big Brewers fan this season. I don’t like drafting closers this early, but, much like my pick of Aramis Ramirez last round, I thought there was a big drop-off after Axford, so I decided to pull the trigger here.

Round 10, Sergio Santos, RP, TOR: There is usually a run on closers, but that wasn’t the case in this draft. Similar to my choice of Phillips, I just thought he was the best value left on the board, and I also believe the Blue Jays will be solid this season, which will give him ample save opportunities.

Round 11, Miguel Montero, C, AZ: As I said about closers, I also don’t like drafting catchers early, but in what seems to be a theme for me during this draft, he was by far the best catcher left on the board, with good power numbers.

Round 12, Cameron Maybin, CF, SD: I didn’t really need another outfielder here, especially with my lack of a first baseman at this point, but I love this guy’s potential. Petco is not a hitter’s park, but it is a good park for speed guys, and I can see Maybin racking up doubles and triples, and putting up good numbers in runs scored and stolen bases.

Round 13, Ike Davis, 1B, NYM: I finally got my first baseman, but once again, the person picking before me swiped the guy I wanted, Gaby Sanchez. I actually take this trend as a good sign, because she (yes, SHE) knows her shit and has won the league before, so it’s good to see that we were thinking along the same lines. I really like Davis and am not sorry I ended up with him. Now, how far did the Mets move the fences in?

Round 14, Clay Buchholz, SP, BOS: He was off to a good start last season before getting injured, and, while I am obviously counting on a bounce-back, I am very happy with this pick in round 14.

Round 15, Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/3B, TOR: Lacking a superstar at either position Encarnacion is eligible for, I thought this was a smart pick if Aramis Ramirez or Ike Davis falters or suffers an injury. Encarnacion will likely DH, which will probably help his hitting in a strong Toronto lineup.

Round 16, Brandon McCarthy, SP, OAK: I love this pick and was stunned that he was still on the board in round 16. Oakland is not a strong team at all, but he is an excellent pitcher who seems to get better every start.

Round 17, Adam Lind, 1B, TOR: This was more of a value pick than a need pick, and the strong Toronto lineup definitely influenced me.

Round 18, John Danks, SP, CHW: I was very happy to get a solid starting pitcher this late in the draft. He’s not a superstar, but he eats innings and gets the job done.

Round 19, Jason Bay, LF, NYM: I thought he was a great risk pick this late in the draft. Bay has had two miserable seasons since joining the Mets, but if he can get back to anything like what he used to be (remember those shorter fences?), this will be a great pick. And if the Mets really struggle, he could be good trade bait.

Round 20, Jonathan Broxton, RP, KC: I’m pretty confident he will win the Royals’ closer job, and he throws some serious gas. I love this pick.

Round 21, Francisco Liriano, SP, MIN: This pick was very similar to the Bay pick: Liriano has been a disappointment for a couple of years, but I thought a pick in round 21 was a worthy gamble on his potential.

Round 22, Ian Desmond, SS, WAS: I thought this was a fantastic value pick, and Desmond is a solid backup if Hanley Ramirez slumps or gets injured.

Round 23, Homer Bailey, SP, CIN: This was another pick based purely on potential, and not results, but Bailey has been a highly touted prospect for a while, and I’m hoping he delivers. If he doesn’t, it was a pick in round 23.

Round 24, Delmon Young, LF, DET: 20-plus homers from a backup outfielder made this decision for me. I hope I never have to use him at left field, because it would mean something bad happened to my first-round pick, but he’s good to have on the roster, and a potential fill-in at the utility spot if Maybin slumps or gets hurt.

Round 25, Kurt Suzuki, C, OAK: We are not allowed to cut or acquire players until after the first week of the season, so most teams draft two catchers just in case their starter gets hurt, to avoid the possibility of a zero at that position for the week. Most teams also cut their backup catcher at the first opportunity, but I may hold onto Suzuki and his decent power numbers, unless I really need the roster spot.

I feel pretty good about my draft. I’m not cocky about my team, and I don’t look at my roster and think I’ll run away with the league, or anything along those lines, but I think it’s a solid team that will keep me in contention. If I get into August with a chance, I’m happy. Let the chips fall where they may.

You won’t like me very much when the 2012 NFL season starts, and frankly, this Dallas Cowboys fan doesn’t care

Since this is the time of year for New Year’s resolutions, I thought I’d reflect on one that I made quietly, to myself, last year, which didn’t come close to turning out as planned.

I am a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan, and I have been since 1975, when I was seven years old and saw a few of their games on TV as the team was en route to a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl X.

I am very intense about the team, especially on game day. Don’t waste your breath by telling me that it’s just a game, and that the team doesn’t care about me so I shouldn’t care about them. That’s not the way I’m wired.

For three to four hours every week during the National Football League season, I am fully locked into the game, and I take losses very, very hard. It’s only a 16-game season, so the only major sport where each game is more critical is college football, where one loss can derail an entire season. And no sport has a longer, more painful offseason than football. I’m still dealing with a fresh wound on that front this week, as I will not see another meaningful Cowboys game for eight months after a brutal loss to the New York Giants this past Sunday.

I have actually calmed down quite a bit, which some may find scary. In the mid-1990s, when the Cowboys won three Super Bowls in four years, I was a total, complete asshole during games. I readily admit this. If I were at a bar rooting for a different team, I’d have wanted to kick my own ass.

But the combination of growing a little older and a little wiser (shut it!), and the fact that the Cowboys have only had one team over the past 16 years that I truly believed was a Super Bowl contender, has definitely mellowed me. I still take losses very hard, but I’ve really made an effort to cut down on trash-talking and back-and-forth with opposing fans and people who just hate the Cowboys.

So after a hideous 6-10 season last year, where the only place to go was up, I quietly decided to myself that I would not say anything derogatory about the Cowboys’ opponents, particularly on Facebook. While I made no effort whatsoever to hide the fact that I was still rooting hard for the team, I made it a point to identify teams as tough opponents, or tricky match-ups, as opposed to previous years, when, had Facebook been around, my status might have read, “Heading out to watch the Dallas Cowboys kick the ever-loving shit out of this team by about four touchdowns.”

Did it work? Did it cut down on any of the negative back-and-forth? Actually, the result was quite the opposite. Despite saying at the beginning of the season that I saw this year’s Cowboys as an 8-8 team (sadly, I was right on the mark), and despite not running my mouth (or my fingers, in the case of Facebook), I was on the receiving end of more abuse and more venom than in any previous season as a Cowboys fan. And it all came from people who I consider friends.

I admit to two exceptions to my rule. There was one week earlier in the season when the Cowboys won and every other team in the NFC East lost, so I posted something smart-assed along the lines of, “Everyone whose teams won in the NFC East, take one step forward. Not so fast, Eagles, Giants and Redskins fans!” And a friend posted a picture of the towels the Giants gave away this past Sunday, so I jokingly asked if Giants fans were waving the white flag of surrender already. I don’t consider either of those to be that inflammatory.

Yet the amount of venom directed toward my football team and myself, and the hypocrisy that accompanied it, was staggering. And texting me during a vital game that the Cowboys are losing to ask me if I’m having fun violates any sort of decency as a sports fan (although I don’t consider the person who did it to me this past Sunday to be a real sports fan, anyway, since my cats know more about football than she does).

Why do I say hypocrisy? Mainly for this reason: The same people who accuse me of being a front-runner because I root for the Cowboys also go out of their way to constantly point out that the Cowboys have just two playoff victories since winning Super Bowl XXX in January 1996. So, which is it? Make up your minds. Front-runners jump on the bandwagons of teams that are winning. How am I front-running by continuing to root for a team with two playoff wins in 16 years? Ask anyone who went to college with me what a front-runner I was during my senior year, when the Cowboys went 1-15, and I went to the Sports Page, a now-defunct sports bar near NYU, and begged them to put the Cowboys on one TV every single week.

The explanation I get involves the fact that the Cowboys were a championship team when I was growing up. This is true, and a valid point. I don’t feel like I should have to defend my choice of football teams, but I will, anyway. I grew up in a family that knew absolutely nothing about sports, nor had any interest in them. I didn’t have the dad or uncle who showed up at the house with Giants or Jets tickets and took me to games. I taught myself everything about sports. The Cowboys were on TV often back then, and I loved the way Roger Staubach played. Then, after having seen Tony Dorsett play for the University of Pittsburgh, when the Cowboys were able to swing a trade with the Seattle Seahawks and draft him, I was 100% hooked, and I still am.

I can’t tell you how many times people yell at me, “I grew up in New York (or New Jersey), and I’ve been a Giants (or Jets) fan my whole life.” Well, goody the fuck for you. What do you want: a medal, a cookie, or both? Not everyone grows up that way, and with football in particular, you always see people who root for out-of-area teams. Deal with it.

One of my favorite things I’ve been told this season — and I really wish I was making this up — is that I should convert and become a Giants fan. Really? Who the fuck do you people think you are? I was a Cowboys fan before I was friends with any of you, yet I should ditch a team I have spent more than 35 years rooting for and bleeding with because you don’t like them? Perhaps you’d like me to change religions, as well, or political affiliations? Is there anything else you don’t like about me? Please make a list, so I can change and be perfect like you. What fucking nerve.

Oh, and by the way, a lot of you shitheads really need to come up with some new material. Tony Homo just isn’t funny anymore. It may have been funny the first few times, and I did cringe when I realized what Tony Romo’s last name rhymed with, but it is old and tired, much like most of your comments and jokes this season. Abuse that is actually funny is a lot easier to take. None of the crap I read or listened to this season fell into that category. You people are just not funny. Work on that.

It got so ridiculous this season that people I haven’t talked to in months, or, in one case, more than 25 years (no exaggeration, high school) made it a point to rip into the Cowboys on my Facebook page or via text messages. Some of the venom came from people who aren’t even fans. I guarantee you a few of the people couldn’t name 10 Giants players. Yet they have nothing better to do than rip me and my team, and this is during a year when I stuck to my resolution to be as well behaved about football as possible.

Well, guess what, assholes? The season is over (for my team, anyway). And since trying to be gracious in both victory and defeat only brought more abuse my way, there’s really no point in sticking to that, is there? Next season, I am going to be my mid-1990s asshole of a Cowboys fan self. I don’t care if the team goes 2-14 or 14-2: I am running my mouth like a sewer from the opening kickoff on.

Being a Cowboys fan is part of who I am. When you became friends with me, you should have accepted that. If you can’t, and you want out, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. As I said, my loyalty to the Cowboys is older than any of my friendships. Plus, I have enough true friends who accept me for who I am, and who will always be true friends. If the fact that I’m a Cowboys fan bothers you so much, don’t be my friend. I will live, survive, and thrive just nicely without you. You probably won’t be missed.

As much as I hate to say it, giving up my Yankees season tickets was the right move

Whenever a long, emotional relationship ends in a breakup, there’s always a tendency to question whether it was the right move, and whether more should have been done to salvage the relationship.

$95? Not worth it.

My breakup with my Yankees season tickets was no exception. Ever since I made the decision in January (see link above for the reasoning behind it), I’ve had lingering doubts as to whether it was the right move, and whether I should have done more to try to keep my seats.

The Yankees are now midway through the first home stand of this young 2011 Major League Baseball season, and there is no doubt in my mind that I made the right move, although I still wish I wasn’t driven in that direction.

I posted an entry last month about how the Yankees ticket office — usually abrupt, condescending, and not the least bit flexible — has been changing its tune. Now I see why.

The number of empty seats in the field level (and not just the Legends Suite ultra-expensive seats, but throughout the 100 level) is embarrassing. And the huge pockets of empty seats in the terrace (300) level have been equally embarrassing.

My theory: People who had field-level seats in the real Yankee Stadium were priced out when the team moved across the street, and many were fortunate to grab seats in the main (200) level. The same goes for people who had seats in the tier boxes (600 level) in the old ballpark, and were able to secure the only affordable seats in the new stadium, the grandstand (400 level).

Throughout this home stand, the 100 and 300 levels have been virtually deserted, while the 200 and 400 levels, along with the bleachers, have been packed. And it will likely stay that way. On Opening Day, during the fifth inning, I counted exactly 10 people in one of the Jim Beam Club sections, behind home plate in the 300 level. Seriously?

I realize it’s only the first few games of the season, and baseball attendance throughout the league tends to heat up in tandem with the weather, but, Opening Day aside, the Yankees have enjoyed comfortable weather, along with games against two stellar, playoff-caliber opponents (the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins).

The biggest issue, in my opinion, is that a lot of the tickets are just plain overpriced. I recognize that the Yankees have the highest payroll in baseball, and that no other team has been in contention every single season since the strike-shortened 1994 campaign (you could argue that 2008 doesn’t qualify, but it’s not like the club finished 62-100). But when it comes down to it, $95 to sit in fair territory in left field on the field level is ridiculous. You are a minimum of 350 feet from home plate, and the only thing you have a good view of is Brett Gardner’s ass. I am a huge fan of Gardner as a ballplayer, but I don’t roll that way. Even if I wanted to look at his rear end, his size-nine head would likely distract me.

$55? Why bother, when I can sit in the same section for $15. Hello, StubHub!

The same goes for the terrace level. The 300 level in the new Yankee Stadium is higher and further from the field than the tier boxes at the old park, and one of the reasons why I gave up my tickets was that I felt that sitting that high and that far simply wasn’t worth $55 per seat. I would have gladly moved to the grandstand or the bleachers, but the latter are thoroughly sold out (at $12 per seat for season tickets, there’s no need to explain why), and the available seats in the former were in the top rows in the outfield. As much as I love going, I’d rather sit on my couch or in a bar than behind the foul pole, four rows from the top of the stadium.

I mentioned in my earlier blog post about giving up the seats that by basically forcing people into buying season tickets, the Yankees created a culture of “ticket brokers.” Those ticket brokers are getting their asses handed to them.

I looked up my old section (314) on StubHub for tomorrow night (Wednesday, April 6). The forecast is quite comfortable (59 degrees, no rain), and CC Sabathia, the clear ace of the staff, is pitching against the Minnesota Twins, a perennial playoff team. My old seats were in row six, and the face value was (and still is) $55. Yet, if I wasn’t going bowling that night, I could sit in row eight for $15, in my old row for $17, in row three for $17, or in row two for the princely sum of $19. Translation: The people selling these seats are taking losses of $36-$40 per ticket on $55 tickets.

A common argument whenever I bring this subject up is the opportunity to sell tickets to the “big” games at a hefty profit. Yes, that opportunity exists, but one of the main reasons why fans want season tickets in the first place is to be guaranteed seats for Boston, or the Mets, or Philadelphia, or Tampa. Being forced to sell them in order to make up for losses on other games defeats the entire purpose, and the same applies to the postseason. Guaranteed playoff tickets are one of the biggest attractions of season tickets, but some of us would actually like to go to the games, and not sit around monitoring StubHub and figuring out how much we can make.

I’d love to think that the Yankees will have an epiphany and realize that the pricing structure is completely out of whack, similar to what happened with the most expensive seats in the ballpark during the inaugural 2009 season. The thought of hooking up with an old flame again is truly appealing. But I know that sort of thinking is completely unrealistic.

The New York Yankees ticket office is now humble and flexible? Did anyone down in Hell order an ice scraper?

I got an interesting phone call yesterday from none other than the New York Yankees, regarding my cancellation of my season tickets. As I suspected, I am clearly not the only person to go in that direction. The woman I spoke with was thoroughly professional and polite, but judging by the answers to a couple of my questions and some of the concessions she was willing to make, I sensed a trace of desperation.

Section 314, Yankee Stadium

I’m not going to rehash the numerous reasons why I am no longer a season-ticket holder. For those who aren’t regular readers, click here. And while the compromises the Yankees were willing to make were definitely a step in the right direction, they didn’t make enough of a difference in my particular situation (through no fault of the ball club).

But it was almost gratifying to have an organization that has historically conducted itself with extreme arrogance toward its fan base — even in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the team was God-awful — going out of its way to sell tickets like used-car salesmen. For the record, the arrogance comment does not apply to the person who became my personal ticket representative during the migration to the new ballpark. He was always helpful, friendly, and a pleasure to deal with. Sadly, he was the exception.

One of the concessions offered by the Yankees was offering the chance to buy “full” season tickets that didn’t start until the end of April. My guess is that many season-ticket holders complained that it is easier to sell a six-week-old rotting container of potato salad than it is to sell tickets to night games in April against marginal teams in 40-degree weather.

One of my biggest issues with the stadium relocation was the fact that brand-new ticket buyers willing to purchase full-season tickets immediately jumped ahead of longtime plan-holders in the queue. I thought that was a stab in the back, and I still feel that way.

It’s coming back to bite the Yankees in the ass, though. My hunch is that I am far from the only person who was basically forced into buying a full-season plan, and then found that they couldn’t afford it, or that they got tired of acting as de facto ticket brokers on StubHub, or both. The notoriously inflexible Yankees ticket department is suddenly quite flexible.

The funny thing is, when I was a kid, my ultimate dream was to have season tickets to the Yankees. However, when I envisioned those tickets, I also envisioned myself being married, with two kids, a healthy income, and a nice house. The married part came true, and it has been nothing short of outstanding. The kids will hopefully follow soon. But going without a full-time job for nearly two-and-a-half years and blogging for about one-third of my previous salary wasn’t part of that pretty little picture, and it doesn’t help pay for tickets.

And sadly, being a full-season-ticket holder wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Of course, if I experienced a drastic change for the better in my financial situation, I’d jump at the chance to rejoin the club, but I’m not counting on that.

How the mighty have fallen.