In the minds of many fans, the Seattle Mariners' off-season is already off to a controversial start with the disclosure that the club has raised ticket prices in many sections without giving season ticket holders, their most loyal constituency, a courtesy heads-up about the fresh gouge. The price hikes come on the heels of a third consecutive last-place AL West finish and with no promise or even hint that things will improve in 2013.
The Mariners, who played to just 1.6 million fans in 2012, have turned eight former Safeco Field seating areas into four new ones they now call "Main Level," "Terrance Club Level," "View Level" and "Bleachers."
Without bothering to get into the details of "dynamic pricing structuring," the hikes affect many seats in all four sections. The increases also affect all ticket plans: full-season, half-season, weekend, business and 16-game packages. The biggest hikes are in Safeco's most popular areas, obviously those closest to the field or home plate.
According to the Mariners, a last-place team in seven of the past nine seasons, they have imposed across-the-board ticket price increases just twice in the past 11 years and not since 2008. Of course, if the Mariners waited to raise ticket prices after fielding a winning team, they'd never be able to raise them.
The fact that the Mariners failed to provide advance notice of the price hikes seems to have rankled many customers more than the hikes themselves (see Art Thiel: 3 Epic Failures In Public Accountability). The Mariners denied they were evasive. Doesn't matter anyway.
Bottom line is, the Mariners are going to jack ticket prices for an inferior product. They are asking a dwindling fan base to trust that the franchise is finally on the right track -- and pay more until the team is successful. Given their history, the Mariners' assumption of success is not only large, it's GINORMOUS.
In fact, in an e-mail to season ticket holders, manager Eric Wedge says, "Our plan may take a little longer, but when we become one of the best teams in baseball, we plan to stay at that level. By that I mean when we head to spring training each year, everyone — fans, players, opponents — will feel the Seattle Mariners are a legitimate pennant contender."
What a rare feeling it would be actually believe in the Mariners' ability to win a pennant. Unfortunately for Mariners fans, that's a feeling they have never known to open a season. So, as Thiel pointed out, it comes down to a question of trust, begging this question: