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Damned Yankees

New Yankee Stadium

With attendance and TV ratings down, a mediocre record on the field and the loss of several marquee players, the New York Yankees are suffering through a painful 2013 season.

The Yankees are in fourth place in the American League East, six games behind the surprising Boston Red Sox, and are also trailing the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays is what is undoubtedly the most competitive division in baseball. (The last-place Toronto Blue Jays are 41-41, so the East is the only MLB division with every team at .500 or better.) You could argue Joe Girardi is doing a great job considering his horses — Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira — have barely contributed to the team this season.

But we’re talking New York Yankees baseball here, and an analysis of the team’s current situation points out an interesting fact: the New York Yankees business model doesn’t just rely on winning, but winning with stars. From The New York Times:

“The Yankees are known as a team of stars,” said Randy Levine, the team president, who acknowledged that the absence of Jeter, Rodriguez and the others was clearly having an impact “on the television side.”

“These Yankees are competitive, but they’re not the Yankees that fans have been accustomed to for the past 20 years,” said Wayne McDonnell, a professor of sports management at New York University. “Are families going to spend $500 to see Lyle Overbay at first base?”

Vince Gennaro, a consultant for several major league teams, said the Yankees were suffering from the fact that their business model differs from that of other teams — it is built on “a tradition and a history of greatness — all the things that the Yankees stand for,” Gennaro said.

The TV impact is particularly striking: ratings on the YES Network are down some 40 percent. Now, it’s certain that those ratings will recover once the stars come back and if the Yankees continue to be in playoff contention. The more troubling stat has to do with fans at the game: attendance is down some 6 percent, with a drop of 106,000 fans from a year ago. The Yankees overhauled their pricing structure after moving into the new ballpark, and it’s clear some additional tweaking is still needed.

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