Originally Published: April 4, 2018 6 a.m.
The Yankees are back and whether you’re a Yankees fan or not, their resurgence is good for baseball. As recently as two years ago the team was arguably irrelevant, finishing the season with a middling record (for them) of 84-78 and bereft of star power. Home attendance was the lowest it had been in almost two decades.
Yankee haters rejoiced.
Little did they know their exuberance would be short-lived.
Catcher Gary Sanchez joined the big club for the last two months of the 2016 season and swatted 20 home runs in only 53 games. Right fielder Aaron Judge began the 2017 season with the big club and finished as the American League Rookie of the Year, surpassing Mark McGwire’s rookie record for homers along the way. The front office surrounded Judge and Sanchez with mostly homegrown talent, supplemented by astute trades and signings by General Manager Brian Cashman.
The Yankees took Houston, last year’s World Series winner, to the seventh game of the AL Championship Series. The Yankees were back.
Prior to the winter meetings, Cashman swung a deal with the Miami Marlins for the Majors’ 2017 home run leader, Giancarlo Stanton, giving New York their most feared set of sluggers since Ruth and Gehrig.
Dubbed the “Baby Bombers” for their youth and enthusiasm, the Yankees are a sexy pick to win it all this year. With a minor league system overflowing with talent, the team is set up to compete now and for the foreseeable future.
All of which is good for Yankees’ fans for whom winning the World Series is considered a birthright. So why is this also good for baseball? Even though this Yankees team is more lovable than their predecessors, the Yankees are one of the teams fans love to hate, which is more difficult to do when the team isn’t competitive. When the Yankees are in the postseason, more people tune in.
Need proof? Game 7 of last year’s ALCS between the Yankees and Astros was broadcast by FS1, Fox’ sports affiliate. It was the highest-rated program in the four-year history of the channel and the most-watched League Championship game since the 2010 NLCS.
Going back further, in 2009, the last time the Yankees were in the World Series, television viewership increased by 6.2 million per game from the previous year. With the Yankees out of the World Series the following year, there were 5.1 million fewer viewers per game. Of course, some of the increase can be attributed to New York’s large market relative to most other teams.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
The Yankees are consistently one of the league’s top road draws. Their draw includes transplants, casual fans who are attracted to the Yankees’ mystique, along with haters who root for the team to lose. With Judge, Stanton and Sanchez expected to fuel a high-powered offense, the team’s road attendance should be especially robust this year.
Love them, hate them or fall somewhere in between, when the Yankees are relevant, it’s great for the business of baseball.
Jordan Kobritz is a former attorney, CPA, Minor League Baseball team owner and current investor in MiLB teams. He is a professor in and chair of the Sport Management Department at SUNY Cortland and maintains the blog, sportsbeyondthelines.com. The opinions in this column are the author’s. Kobritz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.