This morning I was minding my own business, intending to delve ever more deeply into 1960-1961 Plate Appearances for Roger Maris, when I read one of those articles that compel you to respond. Here are some excerpts, followed by my comments.
Winning Yankees Aren’t Faring Nearly as Well at the Ticket Office
By BILLY WITZ MAY 25, 2017 nytimes.com
... at Yankee Stadium ... ticket and suite revenues through last season had fallen by a staggering $166 million since the end of 2009, the year the Yankees christened the new ballpark with their last World Series title.
The financial figures, from the public filings the Yankees are required to make on their stadium bonds, represent a 42 percent loss in ticket and suite revenues over the last seven seasons. And despite the team’s compelling play this season, attendance through the first quarter of their home schedule is down from the same point last year.
The ticket and suite revenues are only a portion of the Yankees’ overall income, which also includes television and radio broadcast fees, advertising and licensing, and a portfolio of ancillary businesses...
... the entire sports industry is feeling the ground move beneath its feet as consumer behavior shifts drastically ...
“Baseball, I think, has somewhat struggled with the millennial problem,” Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ managing general partner, said in an interview before the start of the season...
... as much as Steinbrenner is preaching more responsible spending, he would not rule out again blowing past the luxury-tax threshold if the situation calls for it — as he said it did after the 2013 season, when the Yankees committed more than $450 million in a free-agent spending binge...
Even with a young, vibrant team that is playing beyond expectations, attendance has continued to fall this season... the average attendance of 34,642 represents a decline of nearly 12,000 from the new stadium’s peak...
(Randy) Levine, who is now 62, spent months after that (2015) season exploring how to better reach fans 35 and under ...
What the Yankees found out was that younger fans were more likely to buy tickets at the last moment — as they would for a play or a concert — and attend with a group of friends. They also preferred not to spend the entire game tethered to their seats. And they wanted a good deal.
"millennial problem". Yes, Hal, the millennial problem. I should introduce you to the mayor of White Plains, NY. He's also grappling with the millennial problem.
Those three moronic free agent signings after the 2013 season: Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran. They caused the subsequent good signing of Masahiro Tanaka to put the Yankees over the cap for 2014. Now the Yankees need to shed about $15 million to get under the cap for next season. They could already be under if general manager Brian Cashman had not signed Aroldis Chapman for $17 million for each of five seasons, not to mention the $13 million that Cashman is still paying per year to Chase Headley in the complete mess that Cashman made of third base in recent seasons, including Cashman's failing to trade for Josh Donaldson. $17 + $13 = $30 million. Hey, that would pay for Max Scherzer, who signed with Washington for 2015-2021 but the Yankees had no interest in Scherzer or in any significant free agent in recent seasons.
The reason that millennials attend games with friends and wander around is that they go to the ballpark because it's a social event for them. The ballgame is incidental. They could be anywhere. And it's not like a "play or concert" or movie, where they are likely to stay in their seats. They are not baseball fans and never will be, in part, because they did not play baseball as kids.
The core fans still exist but they are no bigger a percent of the general population than in previous eras. What drove up attendance in baseball and other sports in recent years was non-fans attending. Once that ceases to be cool, those non-fans will go elsewhere.
A few years ago I figured that by about 2020 sports generally, and baseball in particular, would suddenly have big problems. They are too expensive and take too much time, especially baseball.
Team owners like Hal Steinbrenner are too dumb and lazy to even realize the nature of the problem and they are too weak to take action. The pace of play problem is now acknowledged by the "new" commissioner, Rob Manfred, the A-Rod Slayer, but Manfred is too weak to do anything about it. The players take up most of the 3.5 hours of a game jerking around. Simple reforms like ordering the umpires to not grant time and enforce existing rules are ignored by the commissioner. A change that does not involve the players is beyond the imagination of league officials: prohibit coaches and managers from going on the field.
If Hal Steinbrenner wants to increase attendance and generally make his Yankee games entertaining, then he needs to have at least his Yankee players to stop jerking around. And maybe get other teams to do the same. Oh, and Hal Steinbrenner needs to get Mike Trout on the Yankees.