Why I root for the Yankees

By “I,” I’m referring to Lisa Swan, co-editor of Subway Squawkers and my delightful guest poster for today. Lisa and I are Facebook friends (and, occasionally, combatants), and I find her takes on sports to be incredibly refreshing. Hence, I asked Lisa to write a piece on how she can root for the Yankees and their gazillions of dollars to beat the Rays (and their $5.24 budget). As always, she brought the funk …

I’m not the type of New York Yankees fan who acts as if the team’s $200+ million payroll makes absolutely no difference in their success. Of course it does, although the results from 2001-2008 showed that money doesn’t guarantee a World Series title.

But at the same time, I’m not going to apologize for the team’s front office throwing around that type of dough. Because the reason the Yankees can spend such figures is something to be proud of: the team has ownership that puts winning above everything else, backed by arguably the strongest fan base in baseball.

It’s a good feeling to know that each season, your team’s ownership is going to go all out to win it all. Not that I’ll agree with every move the Yanks make – I’m still peeved that Brian Cashman chose Nick (the Sick) Johnson over Johnny Damon, and I didn’t need to see the Javier Vazquez Experience a second time. But at least I know that the front office is trying to improve the team each season.

You’re never going to hear talk of bridge years or rebuilding seasons in the Bronx. They’re willing to spend the money, even though it kills them with luxury taxes and revenue sharing. And the fans have rewarded the team’s spending with record-breaking attendance each year.

Then there’s the Tampa Bay Rays. They may have bested the Yankees in the AL East, but they are far behind the Bronx Bombers when it comes to putting fans in the seats. The Rays are ranked 22nd in attendance, with an anemic 23,000 per game average, and they actually drew slightly less than they did last season. Of their 81 home games, the Rays only attracted 30,000+ fans 12 times (with five of those games being against the Yankees, the best road draw in baseball.)

But with an average of 46,000 fans at each game, the Yankees are first in MLB attendance, and have double Tampa’s attendance. This, even though the average price for a non-premium Yankees ticket is $51.83, while the average cost for a non-premium Tampa ticket is just $19.75.

Rays players aren’t exactly pleased over their team’s anemic crowds. David Price called it “embarrassing” and Evan Longoria complained it was “disheartening.” Both players got lambasted in the media for insulting their fans, and the team ended up giving out 20,000 free tickets as a goodwill gesture.

But I don’t think Price and Longoria had anything to apologize for. Broadway actors want to perform in front of a packed house. Ministers want to preach in front of full church pews. And athletes want to perform in a big crowd that’s cheering on their every move. What’s wrong with the Tampa Bay players wanting to have a full stadium?

And if you think the Rays’ attendance is bad now, wait until next year. Team owner Stuart Sternberg announced last month that the team would significantly cut payroll for 2011, no matter what happens in the postseason.

That would never happen with the Yankees. Their franchise tries to put the best team on the field, year after year. What could be more fan-friendly than that?

22 thoughts on “Why I root for the Yankees”

  1. Michael, I answered Jeff’s question, which is was “how [I] can root for the Yankees and their gazillions of dollars to beat the Rays (and their $5.24 budget).” I don’t see the Yankees’ big budget as a terrible thing — it shows that fans support the team, and the ownership is interested is putting a winning team on the field. Thanks for writing.

  2. I hate to harsh your buzz but you have to get by the Twins first. After 165 straight losses to the Yankees the twinkies are totally due. In Tampas defense their stadium is the only one rated lower than the metrodome was and it’s almost impossible to get to and from. I know this wasn’t the point of your post but I’m trying to kill time before the game starts in an hour.

  3. Lisa, with all due respect (I love your blog, Subway Squawkers), what could possibly be more boring than the kind of fandom you’ve described? Don’t you think there might be some kind of pleasure watching a bridge year, watching a year in which fans hope against hope that their young team will develop and win, a year in which the owners have not broken the bank to guarantee a winning team this year? Surely it’s more fun to win when winning isn’t guaranteed, when anything short of a Championship isn’t thought of as a disappointment? And how much pride should New Yorkers feel that the Yankees draw twice as many fans as the Rays in a metropolitan area ten times as large? The Yankees draw a lot, but isn’t that because, as Bob Dylan pointed out, there will always be lots of people who like “to be on the side that’s winning?” Aren’t there any reasons for being a Yankees fan that are more compelling than this?

  4. Doug,

    My Subway Squawkers partner, a Mets fan, thinks that the Twins could be the latest team with a new stadium to win a World Series. I wrote a piece on the theory here: http://thefastertimes.com/mlb/2010/10/06/will-minnesotas-target-field-be-on-target-for-a-world-series-title/

    As for the transportation issue, I always want to know what numbers they use when it comes to Yankee Stadium (or for that matter, Citi Field.) On the weekends, I have to leave from Staten Island three hours ahead of time to get to either ballpark. That’s typical for a lot of commuters.

    And Dana, I hear your point, but strictly speaking, I wasn’t really trying to answer the meta-question of why I became a Yankee fan, or why others become Yankee fans. My point was that I won’t apologize for my team’s payroll advantages over the Rays.

    It’s not like being a Yankee fan has been all sunshine and lollipops over the years — I had partial season tickets back in the the mid-80s, when the Mets were ruling the town. And I was at the two worst moments in Yankee recent history — Games 6 and 7 of the 2004 ALCS.

    But geez, I’ve been a Yankee fan since I was 10. I’m not going to apologize for their lust for winning, and for them spending the money to do so.

    And I didn’t have the space to address it in this article, but I wonder what is worse for baseball — the Yankees, or teams like the Pirates, where the owners make a profit every single year while they pocket money from revenue sharing, luxury tax, the MLB TV contract, etc., and spend the bare minimum on their team, trading all their good players for spare parts? Some say we need a salary cap. Let’s start with a salary floor.

  5. Lisa, I agree with you about the Pirates. And I have enormous respect for Yankees fans who have rooted for the Yankees all their lives even in the bad years. And I am willing to buy the idea that people who are loyal to the Yankees no matter what have in many cases found a way to live with the fact that the Yankees now believe that they can never be like an ordinary team that hopes and does not necessarily expect. What I had a problem with in your post was the idea that one might root for the Yankees BECAUSE they did whatever they could to win every year, never tolerating a bridge year, never tolerating a year in which they didn’t make the playoffs, and BECAUSE they managed to outdraw everyone else by winning so much. Those don’t look to me like reasons to want to root for the Yankees. But they are reasons for the rest of us to enjoy hating them.

  6. Why don’t you just say “because I am from New York and I chose to like the Yankees (either rather than or in addition to the Mets)”? The question would have been 10 times as interesting if it was answered by a Yankees fan from another state that has no real connection with the Yankees.

  7. Yankee fans love the Yankees. Most, if not all, non-Yankee fans root for the Yankees to fail gloriously in perpetuity. I belong to the latter group.

  8. The reason the Yankees can ‘spend such figures’ is because they play in the largest market in baseball.
    The Kansas City Royals have a metro population of 2 million people. Or how about them Rays, whose fans you lambaste? They play in a market with about a quarter of a million people living in their home city.
    New York City has about 8.5 million people living in the city alone.
    The reason the Yankees can outspend other teams year in and year out is because of the market that they play in. If you transplanted 8.25 million people to St. Petersburg, after 100 years of baseball, they’d have the ability to spend like the Yankees too.

  9. You’re comparing attendance in NYC (estimated metropolitan population of 19,069,796) to Tampa/St. Pete (2,747,272)?

    Really?

  10. the Rays only attracted 30,000+ fans 12 times (with five of those games being against the Yankees, the best road draw in baseball.)… Totally skewed here. Have you ever been to Tampa? Every where you turn is a guy who moved there from NY or NJ.

  11. Regarding the attendance vs. population question, look at the attendance figures for MLB:

    http://espn.go.com/mlb/attendance

    And the metropolitan statistical figures for the US:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Table_of_United_States_Metropolitan_Statistical_Areas

    Riddle me this — if it’s all about the geographic numbers,
    then why are the New York Mets, who have the same population advantage as the Yankees, and their own TV network, only ranked 12th, just behind the Milwaukee Brewers?

    Why are the St. Louis Cardinals, whose market is comparable to Tampa’s, ranked fourth? Why is Detroit, a city with an uemployment rate hovering around 30%, still averaging 30K a game?

    The Colorado Rockies, also a 90s expansion team like the Rays, have a smaller metro area (and a worse team) than Tampa, yet they’re in the top 10 in attendance. Population figures do not guarantee attendance.

  12. “Riddle me this — if it’s all about the geographic numbers,
    then why are the New York Mets, who have the same population advantage as the Yankees, and their own TV network, only ranked 12th, just behind the Milwaukee Brewers?”

    I would riddle you that it’s because more people in New York are Yankees fans. And Steve Phillips. He doesn’t get enough blame for everything that’s wrong with the Mets.

    And no, population doesn’t guarantee attendance, but it absolutely helps when you have 10 or 12 times the market size of another area. Then you’re big enough to create your own revenue by selling advertising during games on a television station that you created for yourself.

    Having an immediate market of 22 million accessible people absolutely creates an imbalance competitively that baseball won’t be able to (hopefully)correct until Bud Selig finally retires. And no, unpoliced revenue sharing is not the answer, before you say that.

    And the fact that the Yankees average ticket costs $51 demonstrates to me that they aren’t very fan friendly. I can’t afford to fly to New York, get a hotel room, pay for all my meals, cabs fares, etc. and then on top of that, pay $51 for a partial view seat behind a pillar in left field.

    ‘Fan friendly’ only exists in minor league baseball where I can watch Wool E. Bull dance with an umpire during the middle of the 5th and then watch some fan dizzy bat their way around the bases in an oversized sumo outfit.

  13. What motivation would a small market team like Kansas City or Pittsburgh have to spend money? If they harvest talent from within, they cant even hold onto their players because they cannot afford to pay them. The Competitive Balance Tax (Luxury Tax) isnt what Yankees fans keep saying they do. Did you know that 75% of that tax goes to Players Benefits and 25% goes to some Industry Growth Fund. None of it goes to small market teams. Most people actually dont know that.

    I dont place blame on the Yankees because they are playing within the rules of the game. Its the rules that I blame. It does not allow for a competitive balance. You might get teams like Tampa Bay and Minnesota which are managed extremely well. But honestly how many of those Tampa players with expiring contracts will be able to sign with Tampa next year? Not many for sure.

  14. So what you are telling me that you root for the Yankees because it’s so cool to be one? Awesome. At least, you are honest as stupid as it sounds.

  15. Andy,

    I still would like to hear an explanation from somebody why Milwaukee (an area with 1.5 million) was able to outdraw the Mets (an area with 19 million people), if it’s mostly about attendance. Or why St. Louis, an area with a metro area the same as Tampa, is #4 in attendance (and a non-playoff-bound team this year, while Tampa is #22.

    John,

    I hear ya, but Pittsburgh non-tendered Matt Capps, the Minnesota closer, because he wanted a $500K raise. It’s not just them getting rid of players when they’re free agents — it’s them not wanting to pay much over the first-year minimum! Would cut into their profits.

    Minnesota was able to re-sign Joe Mauer because of strong ticket sales. And they’ve sold out nearly every game this year. Tampa has done their best to put a great team on a payroll, doubling their payroll over the last three years, yet they have not seen a comparable increase in ticket sales or season ticket purchases.

    Leslie, please don’t put words in my mouth.

  16. Lisa,

    My guess would be a shitty team with shitty fans, coupled with outrageous ticket prices contributes to the Mets’ 12th-in-the-league attendance (Their cheapest ‘value’ ticket for $11 was available for ten games this season – against the Pirates, Nationals, and Marlins. Not really draws). The Brewers cheapest tickets are $8. All season long. But that’s all theoretical.

    Let’s talk about numbers.

    Now, if you want to talk about attendance, you can look at the stadium percentage of capacity and figure that out at your ESPN link:

    http://espn.go.com/mlb/attendance

    The Tampa metropolitan area has an estimated population of 2.7 million people. The Rays’ attendance this season was 1.86 million. Therefore, theoretically, 69% of the Tampa Bay population attended a Rays’ game this season.

    If you look at the population of New York City (note ‘City’ not metropolitan area) and compare that to the total attendance for the Yankees, you can see that 44% of the population theoretically attended New Yankee Stadium this season (using the metropolitan area you’re looking at around 15% attended a game).

    Compare that to the city of Milwaukee and their population of 605,000 and the Brewers attendance of 2.7 million and you’ll see that theoretically every citizen in the city of Milwaukee attended a Brewers game… 4 times.

    On average, 12 percent of New Yankee Stadium is empty every game. If you compare that to the Red Sox, not only do they sell out every game, but they’re actually over capacity.

    If the New York Yankees were the best organization for the fans in baseball, don’t you think that they would be selling more than 88% capacity, while teams like the Red Sox, Cubs, and Twins all sell a higher percentage of seats?

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