2020 was supposed to be a magical year for the Texas Rangers franchise. A shiny new stadium for their loyal fans to enjoy and for new fans to discover.
Well, instead there’s been a global pandemic that has sent the world into a tizzy and it hasn’t been easy for anyone to handle. How is the Rangers business side of operations handling things? Not well, my friend. Not well at all.
The sport of baseball’s biggest reporter of the moment, ESPN’s Jeff Passan, dropped news late on Friday night (11:19 PM) that “several members” of the team’s office staff have tested positive for the coronavirus and that staffers who are more or less required to come work in the team’s new offices at the $1.2 billion Globe Life Field feel “terrified for (their) safety.” It’s important to take the time to read Passan’s full article or perhaps those from other local reporters to fully understand the context of a quote like that, but it’s really a troubling situation.
A team staffer who I have regular contact with told me in mid-May that they were working out of the team’s new office about 50% of the time. According to reports, Rangers ownership sent an email on June 15th that all employees would be required to return to the team offices on a full-time basis and exceptions for health or child care reasons would require an application.
Other interesting decisions the team has made during the yet-to-slow-down COVID-19 pandemic include hosting high school graduations at the stadium throughout the month of June and opening the stadium for public tours that require a $25 ticket to enjoy since the beginning of the month. Of course, all of this follows the Governor easing of restrictions around the state for businesses. In the weeks that have followed, cases have spiked and Greg Abbott did a bit of walking it back on Friday with shutting down bars and requiring restaurants to ease back to 50% capacity.
Breaking: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is closing bars and lowering restaurant occupancy back to 50%.
This comes as Texas faces record-high coronavirus cases across the state. https://t.co/nRdQkzCg6s
— Texas Tribune (@TexasTribune) June 26, 2020
As someone who works full-time at an office job that doesn’t seem like it will require me to return to our offices anytime soon, I feel for the Rangers staffers who are being forced to come into work on a floor with tons of other people around them to make phone calls and send emails at their desk when they could do it just as well at home. Surely there are other aspects of the job that are ideally done in person (meetings), but one of the many things this pandemic has taught us is that the average American desk job is far from difficult to do at home if the employer is willing to bend a little bit for its employees.
On top of this, the Rangers are one of the few franchises in the sport who are working with the assumption that they will be able to have fans at games if MLB’s season starts as expected on July 23rd or 24th. While they’ll only be able to operate at 50% capacity, that’s still the possibility of 20,000 fans coming into a stadium and countless other staff members required to make a game day work. Is this the best idea?
The Rangers have made it public to fans that they will be selling tickets but won’t do so until MLB releases the 60 games schedules for all teams and that isn’t expected to come until late next week. As we’re seeing each and every day, nothing a week from now is a given with this virus. As cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in Texas, perhaps the Governor will back track on allowing fans at stadiums like he did with bar and restaurant operations this week.
After opening their stadium up for employees, graduations and tours, it’s pretty clear the Rangers top decision makers are ultimately going to do whatever they’re allowed to do if it means money is coming in. 20,000 paying customers for a game? How could they turn that down?! Surely all the part time employees who work as ushers and vendors will be just fine. Same for the fans.
On top of this, the Rangers were one of the few teams who didn’t offer season ticket members refunds on their seats. According to one staffer, the team will still not be offering refunds to fans for their 2020 season tickets. Instead, they will have the option to roll their tickets over to the 2021 season with a 5% bonus value to use on concessions and merchandise. If the team does sell tickets to games in 2020, season ticket holders will still have to purchase new tickets for the 30 home games this season, but they could use the money they spent towards 2020 tickets to do so. Conceivably a fan spent $2,000 on two half season tickets. If they want to go to a couple games in 2020 and those seats altogether cost about $400, those fans wouldn’t need to pay any money now, but would owe those $400 this winter in order to have their ticket plan for 2021 paid for. It’s an imperfect process, but it isn’t totally unfair or anything.
Putting ticket sales and revenue to the side, the Rangers haven’t exactly been the face of the social justice movements that have rightfully dominated the headlines this month. They were the third-to-last team in MLB to release a public statement on the George Floyd/police brutality protests (only in front of the New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds). They continued an even longer silence as they are yet to post their own content/statement or even merely retweet something acknowledging Pride Month as we sit in the final days of the month of June. They were also the only team besides the Yankees to not host a “Pride Night” last season. I get wanting to be like the Yankees because of the 27 World Series titles, but not like this. The Rangers’ DFW sports neighbors certainly haven’t been shy about showing their support for the LGBTQ+ community.
— x-Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) June 24, 2020
Ideally, the Rangers just punt on fans in the stands in 2020 and wait to host them until things are possibly much brighter on the COVID-19 front in April 2021. Unfortunately we’re learning we can’t expect billionaires in control of companies to do the right thing most of the time. As Friday night’s news shows, money sure does talk loudly over safety.
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