Assessing the Yankee brand

Rosenthal: Yanks not looking to replace A-Rod
Spring Training Game Thread: Joba looks to get back on track

I just wrapped up the part of The Yankee Years that Tom Verducci and Joe Torre call the last moment of Yankee magic at the old Stadium. With one swing, the much-maligned Aaron Boone delivered a stunning end to one of the most dramatic playoff series of all time.

Since then though, the Yanks have suffered through five seasons of bad luck, on and off of the field: Jason Giambi‘s tumor, the 2004 playoff collapse, the Mitchell Report, the dismissal of Joe Torre, A-Rod‘s PED scandal, the bad PR over the season-ticket problems with the new stadium and the political scandals that have lurked around the edges of the new stadium as well. Some of these stories are driven by a media that is highly skeptical of the Yanks and their ways. Others constitute legitimately bad news.

To the end, in a must-read piece, Pete Toms, one of the authors at The Biz of Baseball, ponders the state of the Yankee brand. Is the Yanks’ brand a tarnished one? The Yanks, Toms believe, are overreaching at a time when the American people are economically weak, and the team may be out of step with its fans:

Of more importance to the Yankees than the admonishments of local politicians is the widespread anti Yankee sentiment amongst rank and file fans. 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 negative impact of the recession on the Yankees is not limited to diminished demand for expensive seats. The credit crisis increased the stadium construction borrowing costs. Bloomberg reported on how changes in the municipal bond market affected the Yankees second round of financing. “The New York Yankees sold $259 million of bonds at yields two to three percentage points higher than the baseball team’s first round of city-approved tax-exempt financing to finish its new stadium in the Bronx…”

On the field, the Yankee brand has been tarnished (rightly or wrongly) by A Rod. A Rod’s $300 million dollar contract was justifiable for the Yankees because of two reasons. 1. He would sell out tickets and luxury boxes at the new stadium during his pursuit of the HR record. AND he would do it as a “clean” player. In short, he would be the next Yankee icon. 2. The same pursuit would be of great value to YES. Again, somehow that seems a long time ago. Now the Yankees have hundreds of millions of dollars committed to an unpopular superstar who they can never portray as “good” to Bonds “evil”. Serious questions surround his long term health, particularly minus PEDs which have been credited with contributing to the extraordinary success of some superstar players at relatively advanced ages (Bonds, Clemens). Subsequent to the announcement of A Rod’s injury, some pundits are suggesting that the loss of the Yankees premier player and arguably MLB’s best player is actually a positive..

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. Long term, is what the Yankees are selling out of step with the zeitgeist? Tom Van Riper wonders, “Sure, the economic slump will only last so long, but some experts think the shock and suddenness of the global financial crisis may have shifted consumer attitudes permanently. For all but the wealthiest, the luxury sports experience could be out for a long time. That means a lot of $1,000 tickets and personal seat licenses could go unsold and unpopulated for a very long time.” That, not A-Rod, is the Yankees’ biggest problem.

The problem Toms identifies is part of the Yankee Catch-22. The team has become a brand because they won so often in the late 1990s. In order to continue winning, they started spending. In order to keep up the spending, they need more money. To get more money, they started a cable network and built a state-of-the-art stadium. To fill that stadium, they need to get prices at the right level, and they need to win.

Along the way, the team has hit a few speed bumps and larger roadblocks, but I think Toms nails it when he boils it down to winning. Non-Yankee fans may scorn and despise the Yanks, but they still turn out on the road to watch the Yankee brand play. If the team wins, if they get over this PR hump of the ticket problems — a PR problem about which most fans are antipathetic or ignorant — the brand is as strong as ever.

Those of us that put the Yanks under a microscope on a daily basis may see the last few years as part of a bad cycle for the team. However, as the stadium opens, as YES draws record ratings for Spring Training games, the Yankees and their brand are not suffering.

Rosenthal: Yanks not looking to replace A-Rod
Spring Training Game Thread: Joba looks to get back on track
  • Reggie C.

    the yankee brand on espn just took another big hit today. Max Kellerman left 1050 espn radio. Kellerman , an ardent defender of the pinstripes, and ESPN supposedly came to an mutual accord. his last show was yesterday, and i’m pissed he didnt get a chance to say goodbye.

    rumors are out there of a possible Kellerman – Mike Francesa pairing. if so… i’m listening.

    • pat

      I cant possibly imagine that. Kellerman would jump out a window the first time francesa says joba should be a reliever.

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Kellerman actually thinks Joba should be a reliever. He’s gone on and on about how he should be neither a closer nor an 8th inning guy, but a “late inning” specialist.

        Basically the only difference between them is Francesa wants Joba in the 8th, and Max wants to use Joba wherever in the 7th-8th-9th he sees fit, but both of them are B-Jobbers now.

        • Chris

          Not to defend anyone who supports Joba in the bullpen, but it is possible that a late inning reliever could provide equivalent value to a starter. The role would have to be 50-60 games and 2-3 innings per appearance. If the innings total is about 150 innings, then the higher leverage in late inning situations could outweigh the reduction in overall innings. I don’t foresee any team actually doing this because the roles of relievers have become so rigid, but it could work.

          • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            Having a reliever throw 150 innings is a recipe for disaster. Joba’s arm would fall off in a year or two.

            If it was possible, somebody would have tried it by now.

            • UWS

              Scott Proctor came close a few years ago, didn’t he? We all know how that ended.

              • Chris

                Scott proctor threw 102 innings in 83 games in 2006. The problem was not the innings, but the appearances (and lack of rest that requires).

            • Chris

              “If it was possible, somebody would have tried it by now.”

              That’s completely wrong. Just one example: batting the pitcher 8th leads to more runs than batting him 9th, yet in (almost) every NL game, the pitcher is batting 9th.

              • andrew

                That’s completely wrong. Just one example: batting the pitcher 8th leads to more runs than batting him 9th, yet in (almost) every NL game, the pitcher is batting 9th.

                No, you are completely wrong.

          • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            Oh, and 150 innings cut into 50-60 appearances at 2-3 innings at a time is still less than 200+ innings cut into 30-34 appearances at 6-7 innings at a time, so no, this mythical reliever of yours that doesn’t exist is still not as valuable (or even equivalent) to a real, live starting pitcher.

            • Chris

              You’re wrong.

              There is additional value in being able to leverage the innings. It doesn’t make up for the difference between the 70-75 innings a typical closer throws and what a starter throws, but it can make up for a smaller difference.

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                It can narrow the gap, but no, it can’t remotely close it.

                200+ lower leverage innings at the start of 30-35 games is still >>>>>>>>>>> 150 higher leverage innings near the end of 50-60 games. Moreover, having an elite starter pitch 200+ lower leverage innings at the start of 30-35 games lowers the leverage of all subsequent innings in those starts, thus reducing the need for an elite reliever to pitch higher-leverage innings later in the game.

                I’ll take 5 good starters and 7 average bullpen guys over 4 good starters, 1 average starter, 1 great reliever, and 6 average bullpen guys.

          • A.D.

            Not even some of the most abused relievers of recent memory (Proctor, Mendoza & Scott Sullivan) came that close to 150 innings. Mendoza was the closest but he’d at least have some spot starts.

            • Chris

              Rivera threw 108 inning in 1996. It’s not 150, but it’s getting closer. The key is to have longer outings – 80 appearances of 1 inning each is more taxing than 50 appearances of 2 innings each.

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                Again, I’m waiting for you to show me somebody capable of doing that.

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Ugh. When I first heard Kellerman’s show, I though he was a refreshing break from the usual anti-intellectual claptrap on the radio. But his novelty has worn off quickly.

      Basically, he’s such an irrepressible Yankee-Giant-Knick homer that he can’t possibly see anything they do as bad, and he makes ridiculous claims to boost them that he strains the bounds of credulity (like his claims all December and January long that either Eli Manning, Brandon Jacobs, or Fred Robbins?!?!? were the best players in football and should have won the league MVP. And I actually LOVE two of the three teams he likes, but his rose colored sunglasses are pathetic.

      He’s become unlistenable to me now. The thought of pairing Kellerman with Francesa scares me, that may be the worst radio show ever.

      Brian Kenny >>>>>>>> Max

      • Steve S

        Really? worse than Steve Somers? It couldn’t be.

        • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          Touché.

          But imagine TWO Steve Somerses, arguing with each other at the top of their lungs.

          (shudders)

          • Steve S

            It’s a formidable scent… It stings the nostrils. In a good way.

            • http://img228.imageshack.us/img228/9273/immagineus7.jpg Mike Pop

              60% of the time, it works every time.

              • jsbrendog

                that…that doesnt make any sense

      • http://img228.imageshack.us/img228/9273/immagineus7.jpg Mike Pop

        Brian Kenny is my guy. From Poughkeepsie, just like me!

      • http://liberalmusings.wordpress.com Pablo Zevallos

        I don’t always agree with him, but I like him. But he can’t seem to stick anywhere!

    • Grace

      Anybody interested in winning autographed footballs by two football legends: Herschel Walker and Tim Brown? Check out http://www.theolist.com/ and all you have to do is sign up to win.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=15305165&ref=profile Doug

        I wouldn’t mind having a football autographed by Herschel Walker, Herschel Walker, Herschel Walker, Herschel Walker, Herschel Walker, and Herschel Walker.

        • http://img228.imageshack.us/img228/9273/immagineus7.jpg Mike Pop

          I love Herschel Walker.

  • http://evilempire20.com/ Ryan S.

    I think I remember last season hearing Kay speaking about how the Yanks were the first or second team ever to sell 4 million+ tickets 4 years in a row … something like that. I’d say that’s a clear indicator of how well the brand is doing.

  • CountryClub

    First, the brand isnt tarnished. Second, as soon as this mess is straightened out with the economy (might take a couple of years), people will again spend money that they dont have and banks will again lend money that they shouldnt lend. In one form or another, the cycle will repeat itself until the next recession hits in 2025.

    • AndrewYF

      2025? Try 2013.

      • A.D.

        You can’t have another recession without the first ending.

  • WhizzoTheWize

    The economy is only going to get worse.

    People with either flock to the Yankee brand as a slice of glamor in dismal times (a la Hollywood in the ’30s), or vilify the Yankees as the empitomy of out-of-control money burning.

    Winning will help, but not absolve.

    Everything is seen through the lens of the economy now.

    • http://img228.imageshack.us/img228/9273/immagineus7.jpg Mike Pop

      Is Whizzo worried?

      • WhizzoTheWize

        very.

  • Steve S

    I think the Yankees have overreached relying on a Wall Street customer base that could be extinct within the next couple of years, considering their prices and the treatment of some existing fans.

    HOWEVER, I think this outrage is a little ridiculous by the fans. I remember vividly back in 1988-1995 (and beyond) that there were a lot of empty seats in that stadium and it was easily one of the most affordable experiences considering how much the Knicks were AND still are charging for the garden. The bottom line is if they cant sell these tickets then the prices will drop, its basic. And as a Yankee fan its not your god given right to go to Yankee games. I know that sounds rough but going to the game is a luxury. Sometimes in life weren’t not entitled to those luxuries.

    I already bought a couple of tickets from a friend who gets a season ticket package but cant go to all the games. And Im paying $50 bucks a ticket, thats a pretty good deal for going to what looks like its going to be an amazing place…with a very good team on the field.

  • Ban Bud

    The *Yankees* are overreaching? Last year the Yanks had around $100 million confiscated by the league; are the Yankees supposed to sit there and take it, or were they supposed to go out and try to find new sources of revenue?

    I know those other owners who get those millions like to think of it as “free” money, but of course it wasn’t free for the Yankees.

  • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    To paraphrase Billy Ray Valentine, the Yankees are going long on pork-belly futures.

    Hardly anybody will remember the ticket relocation fiasco when the fireworks explode after the World Series victory 7 months from now. Only those affected, which is what, 10 odd thousand? In a legion of fans numbering into the hundreds of millions worldwide?

    I’m not saying Yankees fans don’t have legitimate gripes. Just saying, yeah, the Yanks are betting that winning cures all ills, and they’re probably right.

  • Januz

    The “Yankee Brand” has been controversial since the time Babe Ruth showed up. It started with the New York Giants and John McGraw, kicking them out of the Polo Grounds. Spread to the Great Depression, with the “Anger” about signing Joe DiMaggio. Continuing in the 50s, with Phrases like “Rooting For The Yankees Is Like Rooting For US Steel”. The “Bronx Zoo” of the 70s, and right through today, so there is nothing new here.
    The problem for a sports organization, or a popular individual is when your target market, does not care about output and results. You see this with the Cubs (Everyone loves Wrigley Field, but they expect to lose), and the Pirates (Again, everyone loves PNC Park, but they have 30 years of losing, so they are behind the Penguins in fan interest).
    The Yankees do not face this problem. Everything they do, good, bad, or indifferent, gets multiplied to the nth degree. For example: Two of the top five pitchers in baseball are Brandon Webb & Roy Halliday. They do not get as much discussion as the Joba Chamberlain starter or reliever question? There is no question, that it relates to the teams involved with the discussion: Arizona Diamondbacks and Toronto Blue Jays vs New York Yankees. Until they become really bad like the Stump Merrill teams, and they get fans staying away, they will be ok. ps: With the pitchers they have, and in the farm system, it will not happen for quite sometime.

    • A.D.

      “Rooting For The Yankees Is Like Rooting For US Steel”

      That was suppose to be a deterrent?

  • Jeremy

    How much of a role does Jeter have in promoting the Yankee brand? I think he is worth as much to the brand as every other Yankee player put together. He could be the most commercialized athlete in any sport. He appeals to the many ultra-casual fans who don’t know who CC Sabathia is.

    The Yankees remain an immensely strong brand just by keeping him around.

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      He’s the reason I bought this Ford Edge in Blazing Copper. I use the rear view mirror to shave with my Gillette Mach 5 Razor while drinking my Gatorade G2.

  • Drew

    The day A-rod is unpopular is.. well never. Love ’em or hate ’em he’s sure as hell popular. What is it.. 22 out of 30 back pages on the post in the past 30 days?

    • jsbrendog

      yeah i guess, news is news

    • A.D.

      There is a redic media fascination with covering A-Rod.

    • Jeremy

      An ebola outbreak in Tampa would get a lot of back page covers too, but it wouldn’t be popular.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        An ebola outbreak in Tampa would be second billing to ARod being spotted at a Miami bistro with Madonna.

        • Tom Zig

          The ebola outbreak would be a-rod’s fault.

      • A.D.

        Well I imagine Ebola would get the front cover, and it would be a popular story, people just wouldn’t like it.

  • Rich

    The relative decline of the Yankee brand can be seen by the fact that the odious Sox outdrew them in road attendance in 2007 and 2008.

    2007

    Yankees: 37,227
    Sox: 38,642

    2008

    Yankees: 35,192
    Sox: 38,367

    They need to win #27 this year to restore the natural baseball order.

    • KW

      I think part of the fact that skews it is that the Bosox draw much less at fenway than the yanks do in YS, so road attendance wise, you’re looking at a 20000 fan difference per game X approximately 9-10 games, which means a 180,000 difference.

      • andrew

        Even taking those numbers into account (which would probably give the Yankees the lead), The Sox numbers rose slightly while the Yankees numbers fell a decent number.

  • atlas

    The Yankee brand is by no means tarnished. It has actually been strengthened. The persistent Yankee-bashing by the media, by George Mitchell, by Selig is actually beginning to show its true roots. Anti-Yankee bias is a fact of life in baseball. The effort to contain the Yankees has in fact been the dominant thrust of the entire Selig reign– revenue sharing. luxury tax, now talk of a salary cap by the whining hypocrites 200 miles north. And it goes back longer than Selig. The amateur player draft itself — now take for granted — was originally an attempt to keep New York from signing the best players. All of this is historic fact. And I sense that many non-Yankee fans have begun to see the whole folly of all the A-Rod bashing when 103 other miscreants remain unnamed. What a farce.

    But what has received very little recognition is the unconscionable bias of so much of the New York media. Does anyone doubt that Mike Lupica is a Yankee hater? Or Chris Russo? In Russo’s case the agenda is obvious. In Lupica’s, it has never been admitted, which is a serious flaw in the journalistic ethics of the Daily News, a paper that would be ten times better if it devoted just 10% of the attention it devotes to the Yankees to a far more suitable target– Wall Street. But evey one of the major papers has at least one writer with a concealed axe to grind against the Yankees. This is ture in other city in the US. Only in New York is the local team so abused– and that probably goes back to the old Yankee-Dodger rivalry.

    But all that is trivial. The Yankees are going to run away with the AL East this year. We’ll have to see how they fare beyond that– but I’m guessing the surprises are going to be on the upside from here on in. And I have a very good record “guessing.”

    • andrew

      But all that is trivial. The Yankees are going to run away with the AL East this year. We’ll have to see how they fare beyond that

      I’m willing to bet that they don’t run away with the AL East this year, pretty big money too. Especially with ARod out for a month.

  • atlas

    A Yankee team that in 2008 lost its best starting pitcher (Wang) for most of the season, its best young pitcher (Joba) when they’d drawn within 4 games of the division lead and also suffered as one of their other starters (Hughes) was out theree months and also played without its All-Star catcher all year and had month or longer injuries to three of its best other hitters still managed to finsih just 6 games behind Boston, 8 behind Tampa. Now they have not only regained three very talented pitchers, they’ve also added two of the top five or ten pitching talents in the game. They’ve fortified their line-up and defense. A team that won 89 games with all the incredible misfortune of last year should – given average luck — show it is the class of the division. And if Boston or Tampa have anything like the luck the Yanks had last year, we’ll be planning our playoff rotation before Labor Day.

    • andrew

      I don’t know if the Yankees line up will be all that much better than last year. They lost Abreu, Giambi and ARod(for the first month), while gaining Tex, Swisher and an old injury prone Matsui, and a very old question mark in Posada.

      You can also point to the Red Sox losing Ortiz, Beckett and Lowell at different times last year or the Rays losing Percival, Longoria and Crawford. Everyone had injuries last year, and while the Yankees had more than usual, to say that the Rays and Sox were pictures of perfect health isn’t accurate.

  • Thomas A. Anderson

    That’s a shame about Kellerman; I liked Max a lot. He actually brought thought-provoking analysis in spite of his comedic, over-the-top homerism for the Knicks, Yankees, and Giants.

    Me thinks he is leaving because his show was being cut back to 2 hours again to accommodate Colin Cowherd’s show being on from 12-2pm. But then again, I don’t know that for a fact or any of the particulars of the situation. But from the outside, that’s the only reason I could see him up and leaving out of nowhere.

    ———

    Yankees aren’t running away from anything or anyone in the AL East. I could see them finishing in 3rd place and still be a very, very good team. The Rays and Sox are that good.

    ———

    The Yankee Brand is strong because NY has become an economic and media juggernaut in the last decade. Their baseball operations have fallen behind their rivals in how their players were developed in the minors and they have missed on a lot of free agent signings. However, as a business, the Yankees are stronger than they have ever been.

    All of the hubbub about ticket prices is this simple: If people don’t pay the prices for the tickets, the Yankees will eventually lower the prices.

    Supply and demand. If people feel that the prices are outrageous, don’t go. It may take a year or two, but the Yankees would wise up and lower the prices. Problem is, people can’t stay away. So, why should the Yankees not charge as much as they can? They are a business, not a charity.

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