Why the Chicago White Sox? That’s the first thought that had to race through countless fans when they heard the news of the latest Major League Baseball scandal. This time MLB didn’t do anything wrong and neither did the White Sox knowingly contribute to the issue at hand.
In an odd way, this ticket scandal offers some relief to MLB from the constant beating they have been taking over numerous issues for the past year or so. No one in positions of power with either MLB or the White Sox knew what was going on and thus MLB can sit this particular scandal out. Still, scalping White Sox tickets, really?
Two former White Sox employees were charged with using fraudulent methods to procure White Sox tickets and then using an intermediary to sell them on StubHub for close to $860,000 in profits over the past four years. The scheme hatched by Sox ticket sellers James Costello and William O’Neil was a simple one.
They used the identification codes of other White Sox employees to generate discounted and complimentary tickets that they then sold to a third man, Bruce Lee (sometimes the stories, they just write themselves). Lee turned around and sold the tickets at below market value on StubHub creating over 11,000 ticket sales during the years in question.
Included in the federal filings was the belief that Lee would receive inside information about minor league call-ups and other special events ahead of time and he would sell more tickets for these games right in the moments after the call-up or event was announced. There’s probably plenty more to the story, but the basic gist is that Costello and O’Neil used Lee to bilk the White Sox out of around a million dollars in ticket sales. Lee sold far more White Sox tickets on StubHub than the next closest broker, somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 more, and ultimately his ability to sell the tickets is what led to the discovery of all three men’s chicanery.
The scheme itself isn’t genius or anything like that. Heck, the scheme isn’t what we as fans should be focusing on. What should matter to you is that the Sox were a bad team for the past four years and were still able to generate plenty of interest on the secondary ticket market. Fans care about their team and MLB knows they care. That doesn’t mean fans can afford to pay full price for tickets, but they can still pay a cheaper price on sites like StubHub.
Every MLB team knows this and that is why the various owners know they can treat fans like dirt and they will keep coming back. The fans will continue to buy apparel when they can, go to games when they have the money, buy local cable packages or stream games as they are able, and much more. Those in power across MLB know they have the regular fans hook, line, and sinker.
MLB’s knowledge of the above is why they feel they can cater to the experience of the people in the luxury suites. They offer exactly that, a great experience meant more for business dealings and outings where those in those suites barely pay attention to the game. Ownership, and I mean every one of them, is catering to people who can pay big bucks for the luxury experience because they know the actual fans will spend on the team no matter what.
In that sense, it lines up that owners don’t care about putting the best product on the field. Why would they need to do that when they know that regular fans will still spend money and the luxury fans are going to show up as long as the luxury experience is marketed the right way?
Costello, O’Neil, and Lee’s actions serve to highlight the pickle regular fans find themselves in. Fandom is something the majority of fans take pride in, it is an essential part of their lives that they support their team. It’s easy to tell them to vote with their wallet and not support teams and an organization that is willing to exploit them. Actually getting them to take such a course of action is another matter. Even in matters where MLB seems to be on the right side of the ledger, it turns out they aren’t.
Why the White Sox? Fans are still fans—that’s why.