Major League Baseball president and chief operating officer Bob DuPuy was on "Squawk Box" this morning with Joe Kernen and Carl Quintanilla to talk about the upcoming season.
Here's the transcript of their conversation.
What are revenue and attendance numbers going to look like in the face of this economy?
We're guardedly optimistic. With regard to attendance, the World Baseball Classic just ended -- was up eight percent. Our Spring Training was flat, which meant people traveled to see Spring Training games. We're going to go into the the season down fewer than a million tickets. We think we're affordable family entertainment and we're going to try to promote that. Every club has value packs and is going to try and give the fans more for their money.
Is down a million (tickets) considered successful managing of this downturn?
Well, we have two new stadiums opening this year. We went on sale late in terms of individual tickets. We're starting the season a week later than we started it in other years. So yes, we hope with good pennant races and we hope with good turnaround, we'll see fans come out to the games. Baseball has been comfort food in other times, the Depression, World War II, even coming out of 9/11, and we hope that families will realize that this provides affordable family entertainment.
Here in New York, at least, we will wonder how many boxes and suites the Merrills and the Bank of Americas and the law firms will be buying.
Well, selling suites and selling sponsorship, selling tickets is hand-to-hand combat. But with the two new ballparks, which are magnificent and opening up in the city, New York fans will be a hearty bunch. We've been dealing with substandard ballparks for a long time now. These are magnificent complexes and I think fans will want to come out.
Is it bad for a corporation to buy a box — you're supporting everybody, your supporting the economy, you're supporting baseball, you're spending some money. Your employees get to go, have some beers have some dogs. Is that bad? The world is going to turn on lodging and leisure and all this stuff. It's ridiculous.
I don't think it's bad and the fact of the matter is, you still have to sell your products and get your brand out there.
Gas prices aren't where they were a year ago.You can drive down to the local ballpark and take your family. It's not cheap, but it's not heading off to Europe or something.
Well, but (we're) the cheapest major (league) entertainment. Our average ticket price is about half of any other major sport. We're less than $25. Half of the teams have tickets for $10 or less. Every team has four tickets, hot dogs, four sodas (deals) on certain nights. The commissioner will announce fan initiatives going into the season. Again, we take our responsibilities, as an official institution, seriously. The commissioner has preached that and the clubs are taking that seriously as well. We're going to respond.
Are the players salaries going to come down?
You see the free agent market this year was slower than it has been. The owners were cautious and concerned about where the economy was headed and that showed during the winter in the free agent market.
A couple years ago the league was faced with the question of contract and chose not to go there. Is that in the cards? Can you see that happening?
No. We're drawing 79 million people a year. The minor leagues (are drawing) 49 million people a year. So 120 million people coming to see baseball. We think baseball is a popular part of the social fabric. You know, we've got a (commitment on a) new stadium in Miami right now. We're down to Oakland and Tampa Bay in terms of (not having) the new ballparks. We like where we are.
If you've got A-Rod, it seems like at this point, what are you going to do? It's almost the affect of hearing about it at this point, fans are almost probably numb and deadened to the whole "S' word at this point. I don't want to be cynical, but you have a pitcher who is juiced, a batter who might have juiced. It's a fair fight at this point.
The commissioner has cleaned up the game. We had over 100 positve tests during the survey in '03. We're down to three positive tests in the last two years. Are there people out there that may be trying to cheat? Yes. But it might be put behind baseball at this point. I think the fans have turned. Last season, they weren't talking about Barry Bonds, they were talking about Ryan Howard, they were talking about Cole Hamels, talking about Ryan Braun, Ryan Zimmerman, all the young stars...And minor league testing has been going on for nine years. Our minor league stars have been tested their entire career thanks to what the commissioner has done and I think fans recognize that.
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