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MLB Tickets: What Are We Really Paying For?

Sorry, baseball fans, but ticket prices are going up. Again.

In what’s become something of an annual ritual, the average price of a Major League Baseball ticket has hit new highs this season, to a league-wide average of $27.73, according to Team Marketing Report’s 2013 Fan Cost Index (FCI), an annual survey of ticket and stadium entertainment prices. That’s up 2.7 percent versus the 2012 season.

It’s the largest jump in MLB ticket prices since 2009 and is equal to the total increases of the last three seasons combined. According to FCI, 15 teams increased prices by more than one percent, six kept prices flat, and nine teams actually cut prices. The Toronto Blue Jays led the league in increases, raising ticket prices by 29.6 percent, followed by the Los Angeles Angels at 23.4 percent, the Washington Nationals at 15.4 percent, and the Texas Rangers at 10.0 percent.

And the big spenders are still the usual suspects. The Boston Red Sox remain the priciest ticket in baseball at $53.38 on average, followed by the New York Yankees at $51.55, and the Chicago Cubs at $44.55.

According to Will Flaherty with ticket resale site, SeatGeek, early season games also demand a premium. Tickets to the San Francisco Giants’ home opener on April 5 versus the St. Louis Cardinals are currently going for $230.38 on the site, outstripping the next most expensive game by nearly $55 (Josh Hamilton’s return to Texas as a member of the L.A. Angels, at $176.40). Both the Detroit Tigers’ home opener on April 5 and the Cardinals’ home opener on April 8 are reselling at average prices of $173 and $170, respectively.

Don’t Overlook the Deals

But there are still bargains out there to be had.

The Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals and New York Mets all cut average ticket prices by more than seven percent for the 2013 season, along with the Cleveland Indians, Miami Marlins, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and Minnesota Twins which all made more modest cuts. And the average ticket to a San Diego Padres game is just $15.99 this season, once again the cheapest in baseball (the Padres charged just $15.67 on average last year), followed by the Arizona Diamondbacks at $16.89 and the Pittsburgh Pirates at $17.21.

You can even get a $4.00 beer at a Diamondbacks or Indians game, and parking is free at the Tampa Bay Rays’ Tropicana Field.

Breaking It Down

But where does all that money really go? Using financial data from the L.A. Angels of Anaheim that was leaked a few years ago, we have been able to draw some rough conclusions about where the 2002 World Series Champions spend their money these days and where their revenue goes.

Starting with that $27.73 average ticket, let’s take a look at where fan dollars are spent. (Note: Figures have been rounded off, so they do not add up to exactly $27.73.)

Major league operations: $16.64

Minor league operations: $0.83

Scouting: $1.11

Stadium operations: $1.94

Major League Baseball revenue sharing: $1.94

Major League central fund: $1.11

Sales and advertising: $1.11

Umpire program: $0.11

General, administrative costs: $1.39

Playoff expenses: $0.28

Keep in mind, however, that a lot more goes into a club’s budget than just ticket sales. Broadcast revenues, food and beverage sales, local advertising, revenue share and other sources all play a part, and the math can get complicated very quickly.

What do you think? Are MLB games getting too expensive, or are this year’s increases in line with expectations? Is team spending out of line?