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10/24/2007 12:23:00 PM

WS: This is a hot ticket

By Joe Lemire

One team has history -- and a $143 million payroll.

The other has a $54 million payroll -- and a Rockpile.

Both teams have momentum.

Neither has an effective ticketing system.

While the Red Sox, who play in historic but cramped Fenway, sold their sparse single-game World Series tickets through an online lottery, the Rockies chose to sell theirs through Rockies.com.

Colorado's site was bombarded by some 8.5 million hits over 90 minutes on Monday morning, all seeking to gobble up the 60,000 available tickets for Games 3, 4 and 5. In what should have been the Rockies' finest hour -- a celebration of their first-ever trip to the World Series -- they instead had to shut down the ticketing system with fewer than 500 tickets sold, wasting time for so many fans who took time off work to try their hand at getting tickets.

The Rockies attributed the meltdown to the result of an "external, malicious attack" by ticket brokers and scalpers, and they rebooted the system for noon (mountain time) yesterday. This time, the system worked -- with plenty of fans angered. The reality is that not everyone was going to get tickets, but having to try twice in vain certainly didn't help customer relations.

I logged on for an hour yesterday, five browser windows open, watching each window's timer count down from 120 to 1. Half the time, the program would restart counting at 120; the other half, it'd freeze at one. There's a disclaimer not to refresh because you'll lose your place in line, but a frozen screen didn't seem to be in the online ticketing queue either. So I strategized: leave two windows at 1, with hopes they are still in line and would get in, and refresh the other three, so that I'd at least feel better about watching the ticker move.

Neither plan worked.

The Sox face a no-win situation with so many season tickets and so few available seats, but the e-mail lottery hardly seems to work. I know plenty of Red Sox fans who try with a dozen e-mail addresses a piece, and no one has ever gotten tickets in any of their postseason lotteries.

So I guess Major League Baseball is looking really smart with its StubHub partnership right now. And don't worry, I had an e-mail from MLB.com sitting in my inbox this morning reminding me that I can still buy tickets through StubHub. Convenient, eh?

The whole matter of whether Tim Wakefield's knuckleball would work in thin air is moot: he was left off the World Series roster with his ailing shoulder. Kyle Snyder takes his place on the roster, though I'm sure most Boston fans hope he never sees the pitcher's mound -- except as a last resort over Eric Gagne.

This sets up a bizarre Game 4 pitching matchup of Jon Lester vs. Aaron Cook. Lester, who I had the pleasure of talking to this season for a magazine profile, is a great kid who overcame anaplastic large-cell lymphoma last season to return to the majors. He hasn't started a game since Sept. 26, but threw four simulated innings at Fenway yesterday, which seems to suggest he's on track for Game 4.

Lester at least has pitched in relief since then -- Colorado's Cook, the Opening Day starter, hasn't pitched at all since Aug. 10 with a strained rib cage but will get the ball.

The big question for tonight is, if the Rockies were to lose, is their magical streak over and can they rally? My money's on yes, but I still think it's Boston in seven.

Features on tonight's starters:

  • Boston's Josh Beckett is a "gunslingin', brash-talkin', tall-walkin' cowboy."

  • New Colorado ace Francis has been embraced by his native Canada.

  • Best bar special I've heard for tonight: half-price Coors Light when the Rockies are winning and half-price Sam Adams when the Sox lead.

  • The Globe's former Sox beat writer Bob Hohler revisits Boston's magical 2004. And the alumni from that team recall their chemistry.

  • Matt Holliday might just be baseball's next very rich superstar.

  • The Globe's Gordon Edes gives credit to Theo Epstein for the way he's built the team through free agency and the draft.

  • Colorado's first manager, Don Baylor, is pleased with the team's success.

  • The Denver Post fires off a 21-game salute, revisiting the Rockies' 21 wins in 22 games.

  • A staggering 15 of the 25 Rockies were raised in their minor league system.

  • Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani says he's rooting for the Red Sox.

  • Colorado impressed Boston in their three-game series in June.

  • The Massachusetts and Colorado governors made a wager of beef vs. seafood.

  • A cartoon of stereotypical Boston fans analyzing the ALCS. (Careful of language.)

  • Vail Daily News sportswriter Ian Cropp says the 2007 Sox idiots are even better than they were in 2004.
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