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?