Murphy the Billy Goat, meet the 2016 Chicago Cubs.
Few had expected the Cubs to waltz into the 2015 National League Championship Series unscathed, brushing off the divisional foe St. Louis Cardinals in just four games. Even fewer had expected them to make a complete 180 in the Championship Series against the New York Mets and fall victim to a four-game sweep, thus ending the Back to the Future-predicted run to their first title in 107 years.
But like Doc Brown says in the not-so-well-received final installment of the popular trilogy, "Your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one."
The Cubbies took that advice this past December. They opened up the wallet and signed coveted free agent and defending World Series champion Ben Zobrist, which in-turn attracted the attention of outfielder Jason Heyward. With both players inking lucrative deals, Dexter Fowler also decided to hop back on what is arguably the best roster in Major League Baseball this season.
The Cubs weren’t the only team to get their feet wet and make a splash this winter, either. Enter the Arizona Diamondbacks, whose landmark signing of Zack Greinke, mammoth trade for Shelby Miller and addition of Jean Segura certifies them as the win-now posterchildren of 2016.
As expected, the signings of such big names are generating plenty of hype in both Chicago and Phoenix. With Heyward’s winning mentality and Greinke’s reputation as one of the most dominant pitchers in the game, it’s unsurprising that such high demand for tickets to see both teams at home this season already exists on the secondary market.
According to TicketIQ, the average resale price for 2016 Cubs tickets over 81 games at Wrigley Field is $152.83. That marks a 78.5% increase over last year’s average of $85.64. Perhaps more significant is the jump since 2011, when TicketIQ began recording secondary market data. That year the Cubs posted a $76.83 average – making this year’s average nearly double that of five seasons ago.
When it comes to season-long ticket demand, the Cubs have company in the Diamondbacks. While not nearly as expensive as the Cubs, Diamondbacks tickets at Chase Field in 2016 have spiked on average. As it stands now, the average price for Diamondbacks tickets at home this season is $72.72, a 65.3% jump from last season’s average of $44.
Perhaps a more accurate judgement of fan excitement can be found on Opening Day, where both the Cubs and Diamondbacks are posting massive resale prices. The average price for Cubs Opening Day tickets on April 11 against the Cincinnati Reds is now $220.45, 44.3% over season average, and the cheapest ticket is listed for $90. Those price points easily make 2016 Opening Day the most expensive Opening Day at Wrigley Field since at least 2011.
The Diamondbacks will host the Colorado Rockies in their home opener at Chase Field on April 4. A month out, the average resale price for Diamondbacks Opening Day tickets is currently $118.22. However, fans won’t have to mortgage the house just to be in attendance. If looking to get past the gates, the cheapest ticket runs for $26.
Of course, so much is riding on both teams that every facet of their game will be scrutinized, and ticket price average will be dependent on each team’s on-field success. Should either club run away with their respective division by July, prices will likely rise on the secondary market. The same concept goes for a bumbling squad; underachieving teams will find a decline in ticket demand as the slumping ways continue.
Take the 2015 San Diego Padres, whose assemblage of not one but four All-Stars and a Rookie of the Year the previous winter was sexy but an ultimate failure. The team finished 14 games under .500 and extended the playoff drought in San Diego to nine years, proving that a bevy of stars on the same roster doesn’t necessarily dictate a postseason berth before the start of spring training.
With the additions of James Shields, Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Derek Norris and Wil Myers last offseason, the Padres experienced skyrocketing demand on the secondary market, averaging a $102.64 ticket at Petco Park in February. However, the lack of chemistry was quickly exposed and the team unraveled through the summer months. Ultimately finishing with an anemic 74-88 record, the Padres also saw ticket prices dip on resale outlets. Padres tickets owned a $53.07 average at home by the end of the season, a 48.3% tumble from the three-digit average eight months prior.
Will the Cubs and/or Diamondbacks follow the same trail? It’s certainly too early to tell, but all signs point to both clubs having a horse in the race to the playoffs come October.
And both clubs would agree: better a steed than a cursed goat.