There is No Excitement Surrounding the Yankees
There is No Excitement Surrounding the Yankees
The Yankees are the least exciting sports team in New York.
What got me to thinking about this? The most polarizing story this season occurred yesterday when Bill Madden of the Daily News reported the possibility the Yankees could be for sale. It created a “sky is falling” reaction from the fans and team bloggers, while talk radio had something to fill the empty time. Again, not a single word about baseball.
When the financials of the team become what the fans talk about the most then we have crossed the line where sports are no longer entertainment or a diversion. The Yankees are no longer either. They are the most granular element of the game: a business transaction between fan and team.
Compare the Yankees to the other teams in town. We haven’t seen the energy on display at the Garden for the Ranger at the new Yankee Stadium since its inception. Even during the World Series run of 2009 there was a certain malaise about the team. Of course, the Rangers haven’t won in 18 years, but there is even energy to the regular season game at MSG for both them and the Knicks. That hasn’t been on display in the Bronx for a while.
The NFL is once a week and a completely different animal. Still, I saw this town rally behind the Jets and Giants the last 3 January’s in a way they use to get behind the Yankees back in the late nineties and turn of the century. It was a fun 4-5 weeks that reminded me of how every October used to be in this town.
Everybody laughs at the Mets- rightfully so for ownership’s behavior – but there is no doubt a winning Mets team will rally an energized fan base. I was covering the team when the Marlins came to town in April. A modest crowd of 20,623 was raucous enough where there was a distinct home field advantage. Citi Field is a great venue to watch a game. It’s great for kids, as well. With a continued focus on homegrown player development it will be a great home field advantage instead of a modest one. Even more remarkable is this is after the fans were beaten up with the Madoff trial and the tone deaf ownership group.
All you need to know about the energy at the new Yankee Stadium can be described by a picture of the crowd during an April Yankees-Orioles game over at NoMaas.org.
Yankees up 2-1 in the 7th. Runners on 2nd and 3rd for the Orioles with 1 out. Kuroda on the mound. Baltimore’s Chris Davis at the plate. Two strikes. Kuroda really needs the strike out. He gets it! Strike three! The crowd goes wild!
Wild indeed. They were probably cheering while waiting for the attendant to get their vehicle and fork over $50 for the privilege. That’s after spending $200 a ticket for seats and at least half that for a beer, pretzel and soggy hot dog.
So why is there a lack of energy? Is it all the winning since 1996? I don’t know if that is the case since sports fans in this town can never get enough of winning. They can never get enough of rallying around a team they connect with and love. There has to be something more at play.
First, the original Yankees team had a core of homegrown players – Jeter, Rivera, Bernie Williams, Pettitte, and Posada- they could identify with. Colorful veterans like David Cone and Paul O’Neill came onboard and contributed. You had stoic professional (see Tino Martinez, Joe Girardi), but the mix was a good combination; professional, yet fun. This group continues to see the core players retire and replaced with paycheck mercenaries that never seem to perform as advertised. You pay more for less with this group of Yankees.
The players also used to have personality. Remember the VISA commercials with George Steinbrenner joking with Derek Jeter about his late nights? David Cone doing the “El Duque”? You get canned corporate messages from the likes of Teixeira, A-Rod and Sabathia. Yankees Universe is about as colorful as it gets. Even the “fun guy,” Nick Swisher, seems rehearsed and phony with his persona. Maybe the fact that Hal Steinbrenner, unlike his father, isn’t as hands on has taken away the personality. It’s taken away the family atmosphere and replaced it with Fortune 500 one.
I hate to compare, but across town, the Mets have done a great job with their fan connection. They have alumni events, Twitter chats and encourage their players to responsibly use social media to interact. Justin Turner, Jon Rauch and Tim Byrdak have become some of the more popular players because of the fact they embrace the fans on the Twitter medium. Fans have chatted with the stars -like David Wright and Jose Reyes- in recent years. They have also invited popular blogs and writers to cover the team. It’s one of the more progressive policies in the league. Overall the Mets appear approachable as an organization. They are a distant second in terms of a Q-Rating, but these principles put them in a position to win over a generation of fans as they improve on the field.
Is the new Yankee Stadium a problem? Rob Neyer of SB Nation recently visited the Stadium and said its “perfectly serviceable, but upon my first visit this week I was actually disappointed. Disappointed with its lack of character. Disappointed with its lack of charisma. Disappointed with its lack of gravitas.”
Maybe that is harsh by Neyer, but it’s not totally inaccurate. I have been to the new Stadium multiple times since 2009. First, you can never replace the history of the original building in just three years. The Yankees won 26 of their 27 World Championships there. Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio played on that turf. The new Stadium is basically the Taj Mahal with a baseball game played in the middle. The advertisements are luxury brands aimed at young upper class professionals. Their luxury seats are built for CEO’s and Wall Street types. Every stadium has that element, but it appears the cost of even general seats has put the screws to the average fan. That’s what happens when you attempt to sustain a $200 million dollar payroll.
Baseball, like any sport, is a business. Teams just want your money – plain and simple. The difference with the Yankees is they make it so obvious it’s about taking your money. They come across as an organization that really doesn’t need you because there are ten fans behind you that we can turn to. The demand outweighs the supply (in their mind) so the customer doesn’t matter. It’s a privilege to watch this team perform.
I know tons of Yankees fans who are good and passionate people. They don’t subscribe to this corporate type of arrogance. There is, however, nothing they can do about it. Their favorite team is what it is. They wont stop rooting for them, but that doesn’t mean they will get excited about it.
It’s also why I think there was such a negative response to the Jesus Montero- Michael Pineda deal. Although it makes tons of sense from a baseball standpoint, the fans were yearning for the next homegrown star to don pinstripes. The kid pitchers are exciting, but there hasn’t been an everyday “star” since Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams came onto the scene. They wanted to give Montero every chance to succeed in pinstripes.
The Yankees are an immensely profitable organization. They continue to win in almost a businesslike fashion. What’s wrong? Perhaps that is everything that is wrong. In a lot of ways the Yanks have become like a big corporation that exists for itself. They are successful, but eventually the absence of the principles that got them to that point derails it. To big to fail, if you will.
If a broken-down A-Rod becomes the lone face of the team in four years Yankee Stadium might still be empty, like today, but not quite as profitable.
It might also make the lack of energy surrounding today’s team feel like the good old days.Mike Silva