You know those promotions where a local business says it will give X to its customers if local team X performs specific task X? Because local business X is the unofficial/official X business of team X! They’re team X’s biggest supporters! Like, Philadelphia 76ers give away cheeseburgers if they score 100 points (which, usually, the joke’s on you cuz their offense stinks at plays at a slow pace!). But, usually, businesses are aware of what they are doing and will be careful. For example, I was in Atlanta recently. A local business decided to do a giveaway every time the Braves win. But, the giveaway is simply a mildly discounted oil change, and they announce said discounted oil change as you are filing out. Probably three people all year will take them up on it, and said oil change company will probably neither benefit nor be hurt, because said oil company appears to be pretty dumb.
This recent giveaway, though, may actually be hurting a team’s local business, because the team has been so good at performing a specific, difficult task. A Cincinnati chain, LaRosa’s, decided to give away free pizza to ticketholders, anytime the Cincinnati Reds strike out 11 or more batters. Striking out 11 people is hard, they must’ve thought! It happened just 13 times last year, at home. This year, though, it’s happened six times in just 15 home games, already costing LaRosa’s $100,000. As New Yorkers know, you can by 100,000 mediocre slices of pizza for that price in the City of Pizza. The Reds also already built a five-game streak of 10+ strikeouts for the first time in modern franchise history.
The Reds promote the strikeouts deal on their scoreboard. There’s often a buzzing in the stands as the team’s pitchers near double digits, and cheers erupt when they hit 11. Fans have seven days to redeem tickets, getting an eight-inch pizza with any four toppings, a pie that sells for $6.79…
They decided last year on the strikeouts deal, after calculations showed they could expect 11 to 13 free-pizza games a year. But with high-strikeout starters such as Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Homer Bailey combined with hard-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman, the Reds are nearly halfway to last year’s total with more than five months left.
This year, they’re on pace for 32, which would cost lots of dollars and pizzas. LaRosa’s says it’s been their most successful promotion ever, though, and we realize that although they’ve given away more than expected, this by no means says it has been unsuccessful. It probably has been. Still, imagining a bunch of Bill Papa John Jameses crunching pizzametrics like Pizza Dollars per Strikeout Ratio Added for each pitcher, is a truly priceless image, especially picturing them scrambling to find where they went wrong.