Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pete Toms on the rusting of an icon

Pete Toms, a good FOTB, has an excellent analysis of the Yanks as a tarnished brand over at the Biz of Baseball. This is truly a must read. Pete does an excellent job laying out the issues facing the Yanks, how they have perhaps overreached in this current environment.

Pete deftly lays out how the once hand-in-hand NYC government has gone thru great measures to distance themselves from the Yanks. Also discussed is the obvious slow down (is it ceasing?) in sponsorship revenues as well as the uproar over ticket prices and the bumping of long time ticket holders into the outter reaches of the bowl, far from their previous seats (often at 2x the price, too). I'll cut/paste some here, but it's worth a visit to BoB:

The FA spending spree prompted some owners to publicly express their support for the implementation of a salary cap. The “Evil Empire” was expected to rule again.

But somehow, that all seems a long time ago. More recently the Yankees have encountered a series of surprises and disappointments off and on the field.

  • The recession diminished the anticipated demand for luxury suites and premium seats at the new stadium
  • The BofA sponsorship deal – anticipated to generate roughly $20 million per season – collapsed
  • The credit crisis increased stadium financing costs

During the same period, a Yankee backlash spread throughout NYC politics and the Yankee fandom, aided by a cooperative local press. And to top it off, their star player, well....Somehow, the excitement and anticipation that should accompany the opening of the new Yankee Stadium seems lacking. What should be a period of great optimism and enthusiasm has instead been replaced with cynicism and resentment.
More recently, NYC politicians are increasingly eager to be disassociated from the Yankees and are sometimes openly hostile towards them. In January, The Biz of Baseball reported on the political backlash in NYC over the second round of municipal bond financing for the new Yankee Stadium.
Instead of excitement about the new stadium and free agent signings, Yankee blogs, message boards and newspaper reports are rife with the comments of angry fans expressing their outrage over how and where their seats have been “relocated” in the new stadium.
The new Yankee Stadium was designed to capitalize on a pre recession NYC economy. Again, that seems a long time ago. The new Yankee Stadium has a much reduced seating capacity but a much bigger footprint. The bigger footprint is, in large part, to accommodate the greatly increased numbers of luxury suites and premium seating.
In the short term, winning is marketing. Much of the complaining about seat relocations, public handouts to billionaires paying millionaires and a cheating superstar, can be overlooked if the Yankees win. But as defined by Yankee fans, winning means winning it all.

And that's just it: While we Yanks fans are completely spoiled and often delusional, at the core, we're no different than any other fan...we just want to see our team win. And if the team wins again soon, we, the fans, won't care nearly as much about the other distractions (ARod's issues, seating issues, financing issues, Jeter's defense, Sabathia's waistline, etc.).

But, there's no disputing the Yanks as a brand has some rust on it. Perhaps more than we care to admit. We're not the gorilla anymore, at least in terms of on-field reputation. The Yanks still have the most money and even with the recession/depression and the outrageous long term committments*, they are still making money. However, if their on-field fortunes continue to slump along with the economy, at some point the Piper will be on hand to collect payment.

*As a side note/Posterisk, I am absolutely worried about these long term committments. It's one thing to defer compensation into future years, but it's wholly something else to overextend your resources in a desire to quench your thirst to win now. I am thrilled that CC is on the Yanks, whether his heart is truly here right now or not. I am also half-hoping that he opts out in three years as the back end of that contract could get ugly. Nine more years of ARod's contract? What if this hip issue is just the beginning of a natural decline and the aging process? Right now, Teix looks fit, young and able to be a stellar contributor on both sides of the ball, but in 7-8 years? Don't even want to consider Burnett's contribution over 5 years. I can only hope that he's matured and learned a ton under Halladay's wing the last few years.

Maybe the Yanks have become a giant Ponzi scheme of their own. Bigger and bigger contracts and longer and longer committments, all funded by a scheme of a shiny new ballpark with all the bells and whistles. But if the team slumps and that leads to attendance slumps, could we see some major changes due to solvency issues?

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