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The Orioles will not raise ticket prices for next season

Last year’s 25% increase was tough for fans to stomach, even with an increased Orioles payroll. This year, prices will stay the same.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles
This view will cost you the same as it did last year.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The chaos of the 2016 season ticket renewal process will not be repeated for the 2017 season. There will be no increase in ticket prices and season ticket invoices will be going out next week. The Orioles provided this information to the team’s reporters, including MASN’s Roch Kubatko, on Thursday morning.

So unless the same person who told them all that the Orioles had signed Dexter Fowler is the one telling them about ticket prices staying the same, we’re all set.

The Orioles are two months ahead of where they were for this past season. You might recall that it took until February for the Orioles to send out their season ticket invoices and announce the prices for single games. Though the team sent out invoices late, they still required payment in short order.

That, combined with the price increase and the Orioles’ underwhelming 81-81 record in 2015, surely contributed to the Orioles seeing nearly a 10% decline in per-game home attendance from 2015 to 2016.

Not that you’d know it from the commentary made by the assorted press box voices who started blaming fans for not showing up starting in August or so. The many legitimate reasons fans were staying home went under-explored, or, when discovered, given little credence.

It’ll be a different start to the story for 2017. No ticket price increase, notice going out in December, and let’s not forget that the Orioles made the playoffs, for a day at least, in the 2016 season. That means more excitement and also more people who put down deposits on 2017 plans in order to try to get 2016 postseason tickets, not that any of them ended up being needed.

Here’s another interesting tidbit from Kubatko’s article about the ticket prices which seems to confirm something I long suspected:

The Orioles are getting an earlier start on season ticket renewals compared to last offseason, when negotiations dragged with first baseman Chris Davis before the sides agreed to a seven-year, $161 million deal. Confirmation came in February that the club was raising prices on both season ticket plans and single game sales.

It didn’t exactly take a genius of an outside observer to connect the dots between last year’s chaos with season tickets and the fact that the team signed the largest free agent contract in its history late in the offseason.

Yet even if that’s what it was, one must ask: Why? There were three weeks between when the news came out about the Orioles signing Davis - January 16 was the “pending physical” day - and when they announced the price increase to season ticket holders.

Did it take three weeks to crunch those numbers? They didn’t have multiple scenarios planned out ahead of time? If not, that’s poor planning. Well, that revelation won’t be a shock to anyone who has had regular dealings with the Orioles ticket office. There did not seem to be a lot of satisfied season plan holders this past season.

It’s worth noting that the Orioles also had a fair bit of activity even after the season ticket invoices went out. That happened on February 9. The signings of Yovani Gallardo and Pedro Alvarez, and the almost-signing of Dexter Fowler, happened two weeks or more after the 2016 price increase was announced.

The news that they won’t increase ticket prices next year provides another idea as to their thinking on spending this offseason. Which is to say that it seems to confirm the suspicion that they largely won’t do much of it.

The Orioles payroll jumped by about $30 million from 2015 to 2016. That payroll jump is what led to the increase in the ticket prices. Without signing anyone at all, the Orioles are currently estimated at a payroll of about $153 million - that is, $5 million more than last season.

If they already know on December 1 that ticket prices aren’t going up, that’s a big sign that payroll isn’t going up by much either. Of course, the Orioles are always capable of surprising us.

You never know how a baseball team might shake out some change from the couch cushions, or what kind of ill-advised salary dump trade they might feel compelled to make. Over the course of 2016, they shed money by releasing Miguel Gonzalez, and by dumping Brian Matusz’s modest salary, along with a draft pick, on the Braves. Those were frustrating moves.

Barring such a surprise, there really doesn’t seem to be much room to address both the holes in right field and at catcher in any meaningful way. Maybe there’s not even budget room to address one of the way, which is why even bargain bin signs like Jon Jay and Matt Joyce have been snapped up with nary a hint of pursuit by the Orioles.

That’s for the rest of the offseason to figure out. At least fans know that whatever the team does or doesn’t do, ticket prices will stay where they were.