The Yankees continue to ensure that their fans will be unhappy most years

38 Comments

George Steinbrenner started and perpetuated the notion that a New York Yankees season is a failure if it doesn’t end with a World Series title.  Not that winning a championship is the goal — it’s obviously every team’s goal — but that in addition to it being the goal, it is the only acceptable outcome. That a baseball season is a binary proposition: triumph or disgrace.

I get it. It’s motivational and, as the Yankees won a lot of World Series titles between 1996 and 2001, it served as a nice little way for Yankees fans to take pride in their team, its rich history and, of course, for the Yankees to build a unique brand identity.

But it’s also unrealistic. Even with all of their advantages over other teams, baseball is still tough enough and random enough to where nothing makes a World Series title even a close-to-good bet.  I mean, they’ve been among the best teams in baseball for the past decade and they have one title in that time. That’s awesome — better than most — but it’s evidence that no matter what you do, there is luck and chance and stuff that enters into the deal.

But in addition to “World Series or bust” being somewhat unrealistic, it also creates a sense of entitlement in some fans and a built-in disappointment-creation device for others. Think about it: if your old man tells you that nothing but the best will do, you’re likely to become either some hyper-competitive kind of person or an often-depressed one. While I’m fortunate to know several grounded Yankees fans, it’s not a stretch to say that there are many who are either really angry or really morose today.

And even though Steinbrenner is dead, the expectations remain the same. Just ask team president Randy Levine, who summed up the season thusly today:

“We are the Yankees,” Levine told ESPNNewYork.com on Friday as he and the franchise coped with being eliminated at home in Game 5 of the ALDS by the Tigers. “That is the way The Boss set it up. When you don’t win the World Series, it is a bitter disappointment and not a successful year.”

Let me ask you, Yankees fans: did you feel like you just wasted the last six or seven months of your life?  While, sure, the ALDS was a disappointing, are you bitter? Is it a dark time and do you face a brutal winter, or did you actually, you know, have a lot of fun following a damn good baseball team this year?

Don’t worry: if you’re not bitterly disappointed — if you actually can settle for less-than-a-championship most years — I won’t tell anyone.

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts continues to cry poor

Tom Ricketts
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
9 Comments

MLB owners and the MLB Players Association continue to hash out details, some in public, about a 2020 baseball season. The owners have been suggesting a shorter season, claiming that they lose money on every game played without fans in attendance. The union wants a longer season, since players are — as per the March agreement — being paid a prorated salary. Players thus make more money over the 114 games the MLBPA suggested than the 50 or so the owners want.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has been among the more vocal owners in recent weeks, claiming that the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing shutdown of MLB has greatly hurt MLB owners’ business. Speaking to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, Ricketts claimed, “The scale of losses across the league is biblical.”

Ricketts said, “Here’s something I hope baseball fans understand. Most baseball owners don’t take money out of their team. They raise all the revenue they can from tickets and media rights, and they take out their expenses, and they give all the money left to their GM to spend.” Ricketts continued, “The league itself does not make a lot of cash. I think there is a perception that we hoard cash and we take money out and it’s all sitting in a pile we’ve collected over the years. Well, it isn’t. Because no one anticipated a pandemic. No one expects to have to draw down on the reserves from the past. Every team has to figure out a way to plug the hole.”

Pertaining to Ricketts’ claim that “the league itself does not make a lot of cash,” Forbes reported in December that, for the 17th consecutive season, MLB set a new revenue record, this time at $10.7 billion. In accounting, revenues are calculated before factoring in expenses, but unless the league has $10 billion in expenses, I cannot think of a way in which Ricketts’ statement can be true.

MLB owners notably don’t open their accounting books to the public. Because the owners were crying poor during negotiations, the MLBPA asked them to provide proof of financial distress. The owners haven’t provided those documents. Thus, unless Ricketts opens his books, his claim can be proven neither true nor false, and should be taken with the largest of salt grains. If owners really are hurting as badly as they say they are, they should be more than willing to prove it. That they don’t readily provide that proof suggests they are being misleading.

It’s worth noting that the Ricketts family has a history of not being forthcoming about their money. Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts got into hot water last year after it was found he had used inaccurate information when paying property taxes. In 2007, he bought two properties and demolished both, building a new, state-of-the-art house. For years, Ricketts used information pertaining to the older, demolished property rather than the current property, which drastically lowered his property taxes. Based on the adjustment, Ricketts’ property taxes increased from $828,000 to $1.96 million for 2019, according to The Chicago Tribune. Ricketts also had to pay back taxes for the previous three years.

At any rate, the owners want to pass off the financial risk of doing business onto their labor force. As we have noted here countless times, there is inherent risk in doing business. Owning a Major League Baseball team has, for decades, been nearly risk-free, which has benefited both the owners and, to a lesser extent, its workforce. The pandemic has thrown a wrench into everybody’s plans, but the financial losses these last three months are part of the risk. Furthermore, when teams have done much better business than expected, the owners haven’t benevolently spread that wealth out to their players, so why should the players forfeit even more of their pay than they already are when times are tough?