Thursday, May 29, 2014

There was something strange about this road trip: The seats behind home plate were actually full

It must be a distraction to Yankee pitchers,
actually seeing fans in the expensive seats behind home.
On this recent road trip, Yankee fans were treated to a rare image: Actual human beings watching from the seats behind home plate.

Yes, in other cities, people actually come to games and sit behind home plate. Crazy, huh? How do they do that? Are they holograms? How is that done?

Back home, our "new" Yankee Stadium has now been around for five years - long enough for two Kim Kardashian weddings - but there are always huge, blue algae blooms of empty seats in the high-priced sections, behind home plate. It's normalcy, the Yankee way.

The blue empties are a symbol of the financial powers that control New York City. The choice seats in Yankee Stadium cost way too much for regular fans, so they purchased by corporations and/or billionaires. The owners not only don't attend many games, but they aren't even bothered enough to give them away. So the seats are empty. The Yankees don't even let fans come down and use them in the final innings. This is the modern Yankee reality, and someday, you'd think it will rise up and bite this franchise hard in the butt.

Meh. Not this year.

Thus far in 2014, overall MLB attendance is down slightly - by 149 fans per game from last season. But the Yankees home attendance is up - by 2,939 fans per game.

Why would this be? Maybe it's the Jeter Effect - fans longing to glimpse The Captain's farewell tour. It might be a splash from Masahiro Tanaka or Jacoby Ellsbury, or the fact that we played Boston way too many times in April. My guess: We're counting sales, not butts.

The center field camera at Yankee Stadium almost always shows empty seats behind the plate. But empty does not mean unsold. The money flows where fans cannot go. Against Seattle - on a cold night, there were so few bodies in Yankee Stadium that the booing of Robbie Cano seemed to echo across a cavernous empty structure. In the final innings of a few home games this year, the stadium has looked like an April game in Syracuse. And believe me, there are empty seats on cold April nights in Syracuse.

The Steinbrenner brain trust may not think it has a problem. Hey, as long as the money flows, as long as the numbers show attendance up, ka-ching. All is fine. But like algae blooms on a lake, those swatches of blue represent something seriously bad going on beneath the surface. One of these days, the Yankees will wake up to a crisis. Do you think the brass noticed the fans in Chicago and St. Louis? Do you think they said, "Wow, who are those people? They actually sit behind home plate?" Ah, who cares? Just count the money. In two years, there will be another Kardashian wedding anyway.


KD said...

My wife feels I watch too much baseball and is very gleeful regarding those empty seats. It is really a pet peeve of mine, especially when I see the area packed at Fenway. This horrid empty-seat spectacle is enough reason to hate the steinspawn.

Ken of Brooklyn said...

Two good reasons to listen to Yankees baseball> The Master, and you can't hear those empty seats!
Your algae bloom analogy is absolutely correct El Duque, urrgg!

I'm Bill White said...

Mark my words. You will see specific sections of the Stadium for which fans may purchase 3 inning tickets. I predict this occurs within 4 years.

I leave the details about extra innings to the business folks.

Tom said...

Bill White is on to something. The empty seats are galling, but instead of attempting to create additional revenue, maybe the Yankees could invite people down from the nosebleeds and let them enjoy the game while making the stadium look like less of a mausoleum for Rudy Giuliani and other power brokers who only show up for the big games.

The greed that went into designing that stadium has sucked almost all the New York soul out of Yankee baseball.