PHOENIX – There’s an upside to the Diamondbacks’ lack of success. Baseball fans in Arizona don’t have to take out a second or third mortgage on their homes just to get good seats at Chase Field.
With their 81st loss of the season Thursday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Diamondbacks were officially eliminated from the playoff race. This marks the 10th time in the past 11 seasons they’ve failed to make the playoffs.
Although they may not be elite when it comes to racking up runs (14th in the league), they are the most affordable team in baseball, according to Fan Cost Index, or FCI.
The index, created in 1991, reflects how much it costs for a family of four to attend a sporting event. It takes into account ticket price, refreshments, parking and a baseball cap – the purchases most commonly made at baseball games.
The Diamondbacks’ FCI this season is $152.30, up 5.6% from last season, but still more than $30 cheaper than the 29th ranked team, the Miami Marlins. The most expensive team, the Boston Red Sox, has an FCI of $385.37.
When it comes to what affects a team’s FCI, Chris Hartweg, CEO of Team Marketing Report, believes past success trumps all.
“The biggest factor is recent success, as well as newer ballparks or stadiums,” Hartweg said. “The teams that are on a roll and winning each year and (that are) selling more seats can sell their season tickets at higher prices.”
Even after the Diamondbacks won their first and only World Series in 2001, their FCI remained close to the bottom of MLB.
“In 2002, they were the sixth cheapest and in 2003 they were the fourth cheapest,” Hartweg said.
So while consistent success can increase a team’s FCI, winning just one championship seems to have almost no effect, as the Diamondbacks have never cracked the top half of the league in their history.
Athletic senior sports business writer Bill Shea thinks the biggest key to a high FCI lies in the location and market size rather than winning.
“For fans, it’s always going to be location,” Shea said. “It’s always going to be more expensive in New York, Los Angeles and certain other markets. The cost of doing business (there) is higher.”
Longtime fan Manuel Guerrero doesn’t care about market size, he wants to see his favorite team turn it around and win some games.
“I want a winner,” he said. “It’s a little disappointing, but I see the vision that this team has with all of the young guys.”
Even though the Diamondbacks are ranked among the bottom 10 teams in both ERA and runs allowed, this season has been an improvement for them, as they’ve won 46% of their games this year. That’s up from 42% and 32% in the past two seasons.
The FCI confirms the idea that location is king as each of the top five teams are in a major market, including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Boston.
This is consistent in other sports as well. In the NBA, the teams with the highest FCI play in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Boston. And this is happening despite New York, Chicago and Boston having no NBA championships in the past 12 years.
At least the Diamondbacks make up for their lack of success by being extremely cheap. Other teams, like the Boston Red Sox, are not only last in their division but are far and away the most expensive team in Baseball.
Arizona has been the cheapest baseball team for so long that the last time they ranked any higher, Ken Griffey Jr. was still in the league.
“In this year’s Fan Cost Index, it was the Diamondbacks’ 14th straight season as the least expensive team,” Shea said.
Since 2010, the Diamondbacks have had the 23rd most regular season wins. The cheapest team in the league in each of those years but never the worst team in the league translates to solid value for Arizona baseball fans. Despite the consistent losing, not every fan takes the Diamondbacks’ affordability for granted.
“I’m a family guy,” Guerrero said. “I have three kids, so it’s not lost on me that’s for sure. It’s a great deal. It feels good that they care about families.”
With Arizona’s young and developing roster, there is still optimism in the future they can be both affordable yet watchable.
“I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with the young guys playing right now,” Guerrero said. “So I’m really excited about that.”