Do the Yankees have a “spoiled fan base?”

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Reading a story about how the Yankees HAVE to sign Robinson Cano or else the world ends (there have been a lot of those lately). Come across this passage, in which John Harper talks about the idea of the Yankees rebuilding from the ground-up:

Actually, that might be a tantalizing option, considering that a rather spoiled fan base doesn’t seem all that excited by this team anymore, if the empty seats for playoff games last October were any indication.

The Yankees hosted five playoff games last year. Their average attendance in those games: 48, 217. Game three of the ALDS hit 50,497, which is greater than the park’s listed capacity of 50,287 and is less than 500 butts short of the stadium record. Only one other playoff team had a single game with more than the Yankees average playoff attendance, and that was the Braves, who hosted 52,631 for the NL Wild Card Game (but feel free to go on about how the Braves can’t get their fans to show up for playoff games).

Yes, this is largely a function of stadium capacity. Yankee Stadium’s capacity is listed as 50,287. But it’s not like the team routinely sells out the park, only to have “spoiled fans” refuse to show recently. The average attendance for the regular season since the park opened has ranged between 42,733 in 2012 up to 46,491 in 2010, so more fans showed up for the 2012 playoffs, on average, than usually show up to see the Yankees.

Is this poor for the playoffs? By comparison, sure. The Yankees hosted eight playoff games in their world championship season in 2009 — also their first season in the new ballpark — and averaged 49,994. In 2010 they averaged 50,032 in four home playoff games. In 2011, 50,832 in three games.  The upshot: they drew between 1,700 and 2,600 fewer fans per playoff game in 2012 than they had in the previous three years. That more or less tracks the couple thousand fewer per game they’re getting in the regular season over that time. But they’re still outdrawing everyone else and they do better in the playoffs than they do in the regular season.

Maybe that’s troublesome for some people, but 2,000 fans at the outside is not a lot and can be explained by any number of factors — ticket prices, game times, weather, opponent and the like —  before one can reasonably conclude that they have a “spoiled fan base.”

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.