Your Yankee mileage may vary, but there’s no escaping the financial realities of it all:
Of the seven billboards around Atlanta promoting the start of the playoffs, Jeter, the All-Star shortstop who has been with the Yankees since 1995, is on five of them. Around the country, TBS has similar billboards featuring St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols and Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Russell Martin. Jeter is on 60 percent of them.
The Yankees are crucial to getting casual viewers to tune into playoff games in the early rounds, [TBS President David Levy] said . . . “It’s essential for them to get higher ratings at those events to get the viewership and advertising revenue they want,” [sports consultant Marc Ganis] said. “And no team generates the interest and the eyeballs, particularly in the playoffs, that the Yankees do.”
Russell Martin? Really? That’s the best they could do for L.A.?
Anyway, the larger point — explained in extensive financial and television ratings detail in the linked article — remains: the Yankees draw eyes, and eyes draw dollars. It’s still worth discussing whether the networks and media at large focus too much on the big city east coast teams, but any such conversation that doesn’t take this business reality into account first isn’t an informed conversation.
For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:
The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).
It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: