Baseball's cheaper without the hot dogs (etc.)

Some years ago, I had great seats for a game at Wrigley Field, fourth row behind the plate, and was amazed at how little the ticket cost: $28 ... which actually was probably a lot for 2001, but still seemed like a good deal then and especially now.

When you think about expensive tickets, you just don't think about teams in Chicago. Or at least I don't. Nevertheless, this season the Cubs rank first and the White Sox fourth (a distant fourth behind the Cubs, Red Sox and Yankees). From Chicago Breaking Sports:

The Cubs have the highest average ticket price in baseball, according to an analysis by Team Marketing Report, and also had the second-highest ticket increase in 2010.

The average ticket price at Wrigley Field is $52.56, according to TMR, barely edging out Boston ($52.32) and the New York Yankees ($51.83). The White Sox rank fourth at $38.65. The average major-league ticket price is $26.79.

The Cubs also had a 10.1 percent increase over 2009, which trailed only a 45 percent increase by the Minnesota Twins, who are moving into a new ballpark, Target Field.

The average increase in major-league ticket prices over 2009 was 1.7 percent. The Cubs added 12 games in their highest-priced tier, going from 14 to 26 games in "platinum" games.

The Cubs also rank second to Boston in Fan Cost index -- the price of taking a family of four to a game. The FCI for the Cubs is $329.74, an 8.2 percent increase. Boston's FCI is $334.71, a 2.6 percent increase.

All of that stuff about tickets is fine. You can slice and dice the numbers, but the general take seems about right. What's not fine is that ridiculous "Fan Cost Index" -- $334.71 to take your kids to Fenway??? -- which we're pummeled with every year. From TMR's website:

TMR's exclusive Fan Cost Index (TM) survey, now in its sixteenth year, tracks the cost of attendance for a family of four.

The FCI includes:

* Two adult average price tickets

* Two child average price tickets

* Four small soft drinks

* Two small beers

* Four hot dogs

* Two programs

* Parking

* Two adult-size caps.

Hey, here's an idea ... Don't buy the freaking soft drinks and beers and hot dogs and programs and adult-size caps.

But cash-strapped parents don't need my advice. They're already not buying those things.

I've never been able to figure out the point of this thing. Team Marketing Report isn't in the business of saving money for the fans. According to their Web site, they're "devoted exclusively to reporting innovative and successful ideas to increase revenues for sports marketers of all levels."

When you're figuring what it costs a family of four to attend a baseball game, the only thing that matters is how much the tickets cost. And even there, you've obviously got a wide range (though there's not generally a special price for children).

Wrigley Field tickets are expensive. We get it. But on the 2nd of April, the Diamondbacks are in town and you can purchase four tickets in the upper deck (infield) for $82.36. Go ahead. Try to find a better deal in major professional sports. And eat lunch before you come to the ballpark.