Baseball Brings “External Malicious Attack” and Scalping

Never mind the fact that “all of California is burning.” We have real problems in Colorado: we can’t buy World Series tickets!

(Seriously, I offer my deepest sympathies to Californians who have lost property in the fires.)

Here’s the extraordinary story, as told by 9News:

The Colorado Rockies say tickets for the World Series will again be sold online starting Tuesday at noon after an attack brought down the Web site on Monday.

Rockies Spokesperson Jay Alves said on Monday night that was the victim of an “external malicious attack” that caused a system-wide outage with Paciolan.

Paciolan is Major League Baseball’s ticket vendor. The outage impacted all of its North American customers.

The Rockies suspended the sale of tickets on Monday after noon because of the system outage. …

The Rockies initially said the system went down because of the heavy traffic to the Web site. They said there were 8.5 million hits on the Rockies Web site after the tickets went on sale.

I was one of the people unable to purchase tickets at 10:00 a.m. on Monday.

But talk about some bitter fans! Sheesh! I read some of the stories in the papers and listened to some of the comments on the radio. More than a few people were outraged.

We might draw a couple lessons from this incident.

First, look at the context. The Colorado Rockies — whom a roommate of mine once mocked as the “Rookies” — are in the World Series! Even if you are forced to watch it on a big-screen TV with surround sound while sitting on a couch drinking beer and eating pizza, which, admittedly, is a sorrowful existence, it’s still pretty darn cool.

Second, be a little slower to cast blame. I assume the Rockies have good evidence about an “external malicious attack,” given that they’ve announced it to the media. So it turns out not to be the fault of the Rockies or of Paciolan. Indeed, the story could get even more interesting if legal action is pursued against the attacker.

That said, I do like the idea of an on-line lottery. The problem with physical lines is that they waste time. A lottery would be easy to enter and easy to decide, and it would give everybody a fair shake. Next time the Rockies get to the World Series, I’m sure the organization will consider such alternatives.

But isn’t it strange that a large percentage of the final ticket sales will go to scalpers? The baseball teams have created this value, yet millions of dollars will go into the pockets of ticket redistributers. Moreover, the process of redistributing tickets costs additional time, which could otherwise be spent in other work. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against scalpers, given the current system of ticketing. But why is that system set up to benefit scalpers?

If the Rockies sold tickets for what scalpers will eventually get for many of them, the Rockies would be accused of greed. So, apparently, it’s less greedy to knowingly redistribute millions of dollars to scalpers. (I assume that ticket prices are in some way regulated by Major League Baseball.) But, if the Rockies wanted to price out scalpers without seeming “greedy,” there’s another solution: they could sell tickets at market value and donate the “excess” proceeds to charity.

What about the fans who “deserve” to buy cheap tickets? The Rockies have already made tickets available to season ticket holders, so those fans are taken care of. But the Rockies could also, for example, hold a “spirit contest” to make true fans show their dedication before they’re allowed to buy less-expensive tickets. Or they could donate tickets to hard cases.

Offhand, though, I can think of no reason why baseball clubs should not simply sell tickets at their market value, and keep the proceeds. If they wanted, clubs could literally auction every single ticket, sort of like ebay (with unsold tickets available at gametime for the minimum price). But baseball involves many complex relationships between clubs, players, and fans that I do not pretend to understand.