The lot of a New York Mets fan is to seize defeat from the jaws of victory, even in seasons where the team isn't engaging in historically momentous collapses. So today, on the occasion of the Amazins' return home from an epic road trip with a once unthinkable nine-and-a-half-game lead on the Nationals and a magic number of 11, Mets Twitter has been a veritable wasteland of sad:
Whoa. Just got a rejection for the opportunity to purchase postseason Mets tickets. That hurts. Flashbacks to college applications. Ouch.— Laura Irene (@laurabelle44) September 14, 2015
So everyone is getting rejected for Mets playoffs? The atmosphere is gonna suck with Citi Field filled with nothing but corporate suits— James Gracie (@MidnightBashem) September 14, 2015
(Disclosure: I was one of those shut out of NLDS tickets, going in with three friends and family members to chalk up a golden sombrero.)
In part, this is just the cold hard truth of being a fan of a team in a big market: there are an awful lot of you, and only so many tickets to go around. When Billy Joel sells out Madison Square Garden, he just adds more dates, but so far MLB has resisted expanding the NLDS to a nine-game series just so everyone in New York can get a shot at seats.
However, in the nine years since Carlos Beltran took strike three, a lot of things have changed for the Mets—and not just their entire roster aside from team captain David Wright. Some of these changes are likely making the postseason ticket crunch a fair bit more painful than it was the last time the Mets tasted October:
• In 2006, the Mets still played at Shea Stadium, which—as was the custom in the 1960s, when it was built—could hold a hefty 57,333 fans. Citi Field, born 2009, falls more than 15,000 fans shy of that mark, though it does offer an additional 3,000 standing-room-only slots. The organization settled on this design decision for a couple of reasons:
That's worked out pretty well for regular season games—Citi feels, if not exactly intimate, at least not cavernous, and the Mets have mostly been bad enough for there still to be plenty of discounts. Now that it's the postseason, however, that's an extra 20 to 30,000 fans per round who'll be stuck watching at home.
• The Mets ticket sales department, being no dummies, have taken the team's abrupt relevance as an opportunity to try to entice fans into putting down deposits on season plans for next year, with guaranteed 2015 postseason tickets as the carrot. In fact, they're still doing so, helpfully telling fans who lost out in today's NLDS ticket lottery that they can buy their way out of failure:
I called the Mets press office to ask whether, as this implies, the team is holding back tickets to entice a few more desperate fans to plunk down $250 deposits. Their emailed response ducked the question entirely, so take that as you will. If another couple thousand tickets suddenly become available in a week or two, we'll have our answer.
• In 2006, the secondary ticket market barely existed as such. (StubHub was founded in 2000, but if I remember correctly the only way to get tickets delivered then was still to pay for FedEx shipping and then watch your mailbox.) Someone who needed only two seats to a game wouldn't buy four tickets unless he really wanted to stand outside the stadium beforehand muttering, "Box seats, box seats." Now, with online ticket transfers commonplace, big games like the MLB postseason take those with special access to tickets—Mets season ticket holders, for example, who can purchase not only their regular seats for the postseason but extra tickets as well — and turn them into authorized scalpers.
None of this is exactly scandalous—holding back tickets to frighten fans into coughing up for season ticket deposits is probably the most questionable, but even that is arguably just supply-and-demand hardball. It's also nothing new: researchers have found that sports tickets in general have been going more and more to the well-heeled for a while now. Maybe it's time for Occupy Ticketmaster?