Even in the best of times the Yankees, as a TV product, have been taken for granted.
The organization’s mission statement was “World Series or bust.” The high expectations often diminished the importance of the regular season. Viewers would tune in until the Bombers’ road to October appeared to be cleared then tune out, waiting for the postseason, when the games “really mattered,” to tune back in.
For some eyeballs, watching the Yankees dominate night after night became tedious, especially when the games were not even competitive. ”Wake me up in October” became their battle cry. Now, the Yankees are in a similar position, way over .500 and pulling away from the rest of the AL East.
If the beat goes on, and a postseason appearance becomes a sure thing, will eyeballs exit YES telecasts? Will winning “fatigue” once again set in as it did before, especially during the Joe Torre/Core 4 dynasty years?
Not this time around. Things should be different.
There are a few reasons. By their own high expectations, the Yankees haven’t won anything since 2009. And during that 13-year drought, the organization – aka Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman, Randy Levine – has successfully sold the notion that regular season success leading to a playoff appearance, is by no means a sure thing. They have elevated the importance of the regular season and the Yankees sustaining year-in-year-out “success.”
Pontificators in the Valley of the Stupid and other media precincts, have bought into the organization’s propaganda, er, explanation. So, at least publicly, they lowered expectations. The pinstripe masses have mostly accepted this new philosophy.
Now, visions of what might be, and winning on almost a nightly basis, is enough to help fuel viewership numbers. YES’ average total viewership this season is up over 11% from 2021. And the network, in nine games this season, averaged over 400,000 total viewers through 50 games. It took the Yankees the entire 2021 season to record nine such 400,000 total-viewers-games on YES.
These numbers could be sustainable or even go higher. The Yankees have another riveting plot boiling. Enter Aaron Judge. In April, the slugger rejected a 7-year, $213.5 million contract offer from the Yankees. He bet on himself to have the kind of season leading to an offer more to his liking. Every time the Judge steps to the plate the stakes are sky-high. Judge’s contract situation has added a reality show element to each and every YES telecast.
Judge is not only playing to win a championship; he’s playing to win at the negotiating table. It’s an irresistible double-hook storyline that should keep eyeballs glued to YES.
Even if the Yankees continue winning.
MORE CAPTAIN OBVIOUS
The hype machine now rolling for ESPN’s upcoming seven-part Derek Jeter documentary, “The Captain,” produces questions. Will the doc be an infomercial, a Valentine to Jeter? Or will the production produce real revelations and insight, breaking through the brilliantly controlled image Jeter still preserves. The commercials tease an inside look at his rocky relationship with Alex Rodriguez, or lack thereof. Will we get something new on this or the same old doubletalk? Will viewers find out what he really thinks about Brian Cashman? Or the circumstances surrounding Jeter’s departure from the Marlins? The closest Jeter has come to giving the unwashed masses an “inside look” came in 2011 when HBO produced “Derek Jeter 3K,” a doc chronicling his pursuit of 3,000 hits. Jeter had editorial control of that project.” While “3K” was entertaining, there was nothing surprising in the piece. It was sanitized to the max. While “The Captain” is a three-headed (producers Spike Lee, Mike Tollin and director Randy Wilkins) project, it’s hard to imagine Jeter giving the crew carte blanche. It’s hard to even imagine Jeter not having a big say in what stays and what gets cut out of the doc. It’s likely Jeter would never have agreed to the project if he was not a controlling factor in it. Wilkins, the director, has said he wants to “discover the man behind the iconic Yankees number two jersey.” If he is able to do this, in an honest and truly transparent Jeter doc, Wilkins and his colleagues will have accomplished the near impossible.
DOG GONE QUIET? THAT’S A FIRST
Stephen A. Smith, Molly Qerim and the crew of ESPN’s “First Take” found a way to silence Christopher (Mad Dog) Russo. They just cut him out of a segment. Seriously though, it was strange, during the first hour of Wednesday’s show, that Dog was not on camera, or yapping into a microphone, when the topic was the latest in the Deshaun Watson saga. SAS went solo. While he provided plenty of thought-provoking material, Russo’s contribution was missed. Unless he had to take a bathroom break, Dog should have been able to offer his take on Watson. Do the powers that be, for legal reasons, want Russo steering clear of such a sensitive topic? Meanwhile, this new, so-called feud between SAS and his former partner and still (we think) friend Skip Bayless is comical. Bayless got bent, and took strong issue with the way SAS chronicled his initial arrival at “First Take.” Please! Besides Bayless, few even care about this self-indulgent history. It was also a way for Bayless, who may as well be in Witness Protection working at FS1, to pick up some easy publicity. Perhaps Bayless is actually miffed over SAS’ new on-air relationship with Mad Dog.
BECTON TACKLES BUST LABEL
A not-so-subtle Mekhi Becton skillfully handled the fat-shaming media by wearing his blue “Big Bust” T-Shirt when he met with them Wednesday. Wearing the shirt, which also included other unflattering words (fat, lazy, out of shape, injury prone, bum, sucks, overweight) not only was the focus of those covering Becton’s first media session since he was injured last season, but temporarily defused those who characterize his inability to lose weight as a football crime. Some, like WFAN’s Norman Julius Esiason, even try guilt-tripping Becton with lines like “the young man must do it [lose weight] for his family.” No, Becton should do it because HE wants to do it. That’s the only way this will get done.
AROUND THE DIAL
For reasons known only to him, WFAN’s Brandon (Tiki &) Tierney thought the Free World was coming to an end because Nestor Cortes and Randy Arozarena, two Cubans, dared to chat while a 16-minute procedural delay was taking place during Wednesday’s Rays-Yankees tilt. Hearing the fervor in his voice, one would have thought Tierney actually believed the two players were conspiring to further jack up the USA’s inflation rate. … Michael Kay, on ESPN-98.7, was on a fishing expedition when he said he doesn’t “believe” Buck Showalter does not look at the NL East standings every day. The Mets skipper said the first time he looked at the standings on the Mets’ recent West Coast trip was when the team was flying back to New York. The topic fizzled. But in the ratings environment Kay works in, it’s a good idea to cast a wide net and try just about anything.
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DUDE OF THE WEEK: J.R. SMITH
The man landed in this space a bit late, but so was his move into college golf. Can’t resist the transformative story of how the NBA’s Clown Prince was named North Carolina A&T’s academic athlete of the year with a 4.0 GPA. You never stop learning.
DWEEB OF THE WEEK: MARCUS FREEMAN
In a CBS Sports interview, the new head coach of Notre Dame made the rookie mistake of bashing his alma mater’s (Ohio State) academics despite knowing the two schools meet in the season opener at Columbus. Freeman claims he was misquoted and “key words and context” were missing from the report.
What Aaron Judge said: “Nope. No need [to participate in the Home Run Derby]. I already did it once.”
What Aaron Judge meant to say: “The Home Run Derby is good for one thing — ruining your swing.”