Oh, what will the Yankees do with only 3.5 million customers ...

Andrew Burton

There are some things you just can't make up. For example, somebody who works for the Yankees complaining about attendance ...

Between Superstorm Sandy and a struggling economy, things aren’t looking so rosy in the Bronx when it comes to ticket sales.

“Between the hurricane and the snowstorm, we’re monitoring it,” Yankees chief operating officer Lonn Trost told WFAN host Mike Francesa on Tuesday. “It’s rougher than in years past. It’s rough for the Yankees.”

--snip--

Trost admits that luring fans to the park isn’t as easy as it once was, despite the fact that the product is the Yankees. The landscape is changing, and New York is attempting to stay with the pack by offering fans different experiences.

“Fortunately our full-season tickets have renewed at a greater percentage than we thought they would, (so) we’re very pleased with that,” Trost said. “But it’s still different than it was in the past. In the past, you put your tickets on sale and tickets were purchased. Now, like every other club, there are experiences, there are benefits.

If you'll excuse my bluntness for a moment ... what a load of putrid steamy bullshit.

Superstorm Sandy is really having a measurable impact on ticket sales? A struggling economy? I know things are still tough all over, but the economy has been improving for a few years now. Attendance was up last season ... and yes, a goodly chunk of that increase was due to the Marlins' new yard, but there's little evidence that the economy has been a big issue for the Yankees. More to the point, there's little reason to think the economy has suddenly become an issue for the Yankees.

Before we proceed any farther, it's worth recounting a few things that are facts ...

In 2009, the first season in their new ballpark, the Yankees drew 3.7 million customers, best in the American League.

In 2010 the Yankees drew 3.8 million customers, best in the American League.

In 2011 the Yankees drew 3.7 million customers, best in the American League.

In 2012 the Yankees drew 3.5 million customers, best in the American League.

Yes, their attendance has gone down some, roughly three percent in each of the last two seasons. It sounds like it's going to go down again this season, which means exactly one thing: the Steinbrothers' accountants won't be quite as busy as usual next winter. But there will be no material impact on the Yankees' competitive fortunes, because the club will remain hugely profitable even if the attendance drops 30 percent.

That's what it looks like from here, anyway.

A significant decline this season would be interesting, academically speaking, as I'm endlessly fascinated by the mysterious nature of sporting attendance. If that does happen, I will suggest two reasons ...

One, the bloom will continue to fade from the new ballpark, which has the character of the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Except without the characters. Management seems to have figured they could build anything and the fans would keep showing up. Which they have, to a point. Attendance generally suffers in the first few seasons of a new ballpark, as the novelty wears off. And I suspect the Yankees have actually suffered less than usual. But I suspect the natural decline might have been somewhat lessened if the club had built a more hospitable palace for itself.

Two, a few of the more fickle fans might be turned off by managements' new-found thriftiness. Yes, the Yankees still have one of the larger payrolls in the game. But they've basically promised to lower the payroll in 2014, and that's been a big story since 2012. This winter, the Yankees lost their best relief pitcher and their best catcher because they wouldn't pay the going rate for either. There's a certain sort of fan who is attracted to big spending, and repelled by austerity. The Yankees are going to lose some of those fans this year, and more next year unless the brothers have a change of heart.

It's tempting to take pleasure in the big bad New York Yankees' misfortunes. It just feels an empty pleasure, considering the fortunes of the Yankees will continue to dwarf those of their competition. If there's any solace to be taken, maybe it's in the proof that even the Yankees have fair-weather (or -payroll) fans.

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