The A-Rod Effect: Ticket Prices, TV Ratings Rise With Return of Baseball’s Most Hated Player

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Fans clamor for an autograph from Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees before a game against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago on Aug. 6, 2013

Baseball fans may detest Alex Rodriguez. But they sure do seem to want to see him play.

On Friday night, the New York Yankees host the Detroit Tigers. The game is notable not just because Alex Rodriguez is making his season debut at Yankee Stadium, but because it’s the first appearance in New York City for the aging, scandal-ridden slugger since Major League Baseball announced his 211-game suspension for allegedly using performance-enhancing drugs. A-Rod was booed loudly and jeered with chants of “Steroids! Steroids!” in Chicago on Monday, when he played his first game this season just hours after hearing about the suspension. (He’s being allowed to play while appealing the decision.)

It’s unclear what kind of welcome fans will give A-Rod the first time he steps up to the plate on Friday at Yankee Stadium. Even many Yankees fans view Rodriguez as a cheater and a villain — an embarrassment to the organization and professional sports in general. Apparently, though, A-Rod’s return to New York City has piqued the curiosity of quite a few.

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Earlier this week, the New York Post reported that ticket prices for Friday’s game at Yankee Stadium have risen on the secondary market. According to the ticket-aggregation and research site TiqIQ, average ticket prices for the game jumped from $80.14 as of July 31, up 27.8% to $102.42 around the time that news was spreading of baseball players’ suspensions. TiqIQ’s Chris Matcovich described the rise as “a moderate increase in average list price” and said, “Price should continue to gradually move up as demand builds [especially if it is supposed to be a nice day].”

Well, as of Thursday afternoon, the forecast called for thunderstorms in the Bronx on Friday night. Nonetheless, the latest data from TiqIQ indicated that only 3,300 tickets were available on the secondary market (down from 8,800 on Monday), and that while the cheapest seat cost $45, the average ticket price had soared to $397. (FYI, at last check there were also still a limited number of upper-deck seats available via, starting at $54.)

Meanwhile, the Yankees have been on a miserable run. They were swept by the last-place White Sox in Chicago this week, the team has gone 6-12 since the All-Star break, and they now sit 11 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East.

Regardless, A-Rod’s return has boosted TV ratings in a big way. In the New York City area, the YES Network boasted its highest ratings this season during Monday night’s Yankees game vs. the White Sox. Legions of fans in Chicago tuned in as well, giving the White Sox its second highest ratings of the season.

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If this all sounds backward — like some kind of perverse reward for a player who has hurt the game deeply — take solace in the Businessweek report released earlier this week, showing that the value of A-Rod memorabilia has tanked in recent days. Autographed photos of the disgraced player that once sold for $150 are now available for $40, and the price of an autographed pair of game cleats can be yours for $1,000, marked down from $3,000.