Friday, February 8, 2019

Now We Know the Number

The cost of tearing down baseball's One True Cathedral has been quantified.

In his "Please Stop Calling Me a Miser" interview in yesterday's NY Post, Hal Steinbrenner was quoted as saying:

"One of the problems with this narrative is, I hear everything about our revenues, and hear nothing about our costs. I hear nothing about the gargantuan debt service payment that we have to pay every year [about $90 million]."
So there you have it.  Because he was goaded by ex-NYC official Randy Levine into tearing down a long-ago paid off shrine, the following has resulted:
  • The Yankees have $90MM less in operating capital each year to fund essential items such as uncontaminated concession food, reduced ticket prices, and ... there was one other thing ... shoot ... wait ... it's right on the tip of my tongue....  oh, that's right: The Yankees could also use the extra $90MM per year to fund PLAYER SALARIES.
  • We also lost our towering home field advantage which came, in part, from the wall of noise that poured down from seats seemingly on top of the players.  Anyone who ever walked up those steep, tiny upper-deck steps, clutching the railing the whole way, knew the meaning of the words "nose-bleed seats".  But, boy oh boy, when you turned around and looked out at the view in front of you, it was overwhelming.  The Bronx Courthouse off in the distance, the majestic expanse of green, and your heroes looking like they were just a few feet away.

  • We also lost a direct, continuous link back to 1923, back to the best teams in history, back to all that matters in baseball.  I never sat in the upper deck and looked out at the Bronx Courthouse without thinking of Lou Gehrig's "luckiest man on the face of the earth" speech, even though it was delivered long before I was.

    Curt Schilling is a completely disagreeable blowhard, but his description of a palpable "mystique and aura" in the old place was spot-on.  We gave that up AND we're paying $90MM per year for the privilege.
With an extra $90MM kicking around our coffers each year, don't you think we'd already have Bryce Harper on the team?  And maybe a front-of-the-rotation starter and maybe $40MM to spare?  With that extra money, maybe the concession managers could purchase disease-free hot dogs made from the meat of actual animals.  And we'd be playing in the old stadium.  Wouldn't that be a treat?

In October, Duque tapped out a trenchant analysis of how the new building is killing us:
The short right field porch and the bandbox, homer-haven dimensions of Yankee Stadium undercut our ability to field a well-rounded team. It's been nearly 10 years in the new park, and aside from 2009, with the free agent infusion, what have we seen? Team after team of power-drunk whiffers, guys who notch 25 HRs by flicking at mistakes, and who are incapable of bunting to beat the over-shift. Meanwhile, our pitchers get pounded, as fly balls leave the park. I just looked it up: In the nine years of the new ballpark, only one Yankee starter with more than 150 innings has compiled an ERA of under 3.00. (Luis Severino, in 2017, with 2.98 - a stat that cruelly reveals his downward slide.)  You can homer your way through a regular season. Come October, when the best staffs are distilled, pitching always wins, and in this new park, we never seem to have it.
We had a gem of a park that served us well and provided a material home-field advantage for 85 years.  Because it was paid off long ago, it cost the owners nothing other than out-of-pocket operating costs which would be more or less constant for any stadium.  And we took on a crippling -- "gargantuan" in Hal's words -- $90,000,000 per year debt service obligation to build the Mall of America across the street.

I'll say it again: The new stadium reduces the amount of money we have for player salaries by $90MM per year.

There is no doubt in my mind that Randy Levine, New York City's Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, Planning and Administration from 1997 to 2000, orchestrated all this.  He left his position with the city to become President of the New York Yankees.  Levine's head was aswirl in a cloud of do-gooder ideas about economics, development, and planning.  Unfortunately for Yankee fans, the new stadium was one of those initiatives where the principal purpose was to boost the egos of the participants versus accomplishing anything useful.

Yes!  We'll build a new stadium!  We'll create jobs!  We'll have more corporate boxes!  We'll get some of the guys together and put on a show!  We can rip up under-performing 85-year old season ticket plans that have been lovingly handed down from father to son to grandson to great-grandson and replace them with cushiony-soft upholstered Legends and MVP seats and charge people $2,000 per game.

Who cares if no one sits in them?  We don't need crowd noise!  We'll have revenues! Think about it, Hal!  Since the grounds will no longer be hallowed, we can rent them out to soccer teams!

Then they sat down at a mahogany table in a midtown law firm and Randy L. directed the proceedings:
And, now, Hal, sign on this line.  Yes, right here.  And now, on this one.  Aaannnnnd, finally, your initials here.
What?  What is the $90MM per year figure?  Well that's what the bankers are calling a "debt service".  One of those comes with every new stadium they're building these days.  Every team pays a "debt service".  It's one of those nettlesome amounts we couldn't lay off on the taxpayers.  Think of it as a rounding error in the grander scheme of things.
During Randy Levine's tenure, the Red Sox have enjoyed the benefits of:
  • Fans who sit in seats they purchase.

  • Playing in a park that provides a distinct home field advantage.

  • The absence of a $90MM per year debt service because their stadium was paid off
    long, long ago.

  • Three World Championships.
Here's the worst part: What's done is done.  We can't unfry the egg.  We're stuck in a new building that looks like everyone else's, gives us no home-field advantage and, to Duque's point, presents some serious disadvantages for the home team. 

And it's all going to divert $90MM per year from the funds available for player salaries until it's paid off!  What fun!

Hal didn't share with the NY Post the number of years remaining on the promissory note but that's just another thing for fans to think about while they enjoy a hot dog made of sheep "casings", chicken "trimmings", eyelids, recta, and yesterday's shredded newspaper while washing it all down with a delicious $15 beer.

What we've had for the past 10 years is what we should expect going forward: $90MM leaks out of the Yankee coffers each year to fund someone's economic development fantasy of a decade ago.

90.  Million.  Dollars.  Per.  Year.

An easy way to avoid this "gargantuan" cost would be to sell the team.  Makes sense, Ziggy?


13bit said...

Spot-on, Duque. Spot-on.

This goes back to the original sin - tearing down the House that Ruth Built.

Fuck these plutocratic, prevaricating, word-mincing shitfaces.

Der Kaiser said...

I wholly concur. Throwing away so much Yankee tradition and history in return for an awkward replica of same was painful. And the impact the new stadium seems to have on the team is distressing. Although they do still seem to play better at home than on the road (with notable recently-traded exceptions), we see the same story year after year: promising young talents and big established stars come to the Yankees, have a brief flash of success, and then go into sudden, precipitous declines. Surely the coaching staff deserves some of the blame, as do entropy and Father Time. But the declines ALL look like the ones El Duque mentioned in October: sluggers who forget how to do anything but pull for home runs, and pitchers who are so traumatised by repeated home run hammerings that they can't challenge the strike zone.

And now we find out that the new stadium may even be hurting the team's bottom line. I mean, all of those luxury boxes and multi-thousand dollar seats are expensive - but they don't sell out because humans can't afford them, and even if they did sell out would they really bring in $90 million a year MORE than the constantly sold-out old stadium did? The old stadium no doubt needed costly renovations - but the new one can't be cheap to run either, what with all the chefs and security personnel to wait on and protect the corporate raiders who take their clients to the corporate box on a junket.

IF the new stadium doesn't turn the Steinbrenners a massive profit - which is the only reason it was ever conceived - it is truly a failure of colossal proportions.

But to be fair, it's one thing that cannot reasonably be blamed on Hal. It was George's project through and through.

Anonymous said...




13bit said...

LBJ, sorry I attributed this post to Duque. I was hasty, careless, and staring at a tiny screen when I did that. The "spot-on" still stands, though.

Mea Culpa.

Local Bargain Jerk said...

No culpa. To be confused with the masterful El Duque is a compliment.

Anonymous said...


Bravo! A tour de force. Should be required reading throughout the NYC school system.

Doug K.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, so very true, LBJ - - an A+ for your efforts from this geez. LB (No J)

ranger_lp said...

Oddly enough, when I was at Yankee Stadium two years ago for Game 5 of the ALCS, I had never heard the Stadium so loud. How was that a thing? Did they learn something from the Celtics about blasting crowd noise into arena speakers? I would like to know...

Alphonso said...

LBJ - brilliant work, pal.

My guess is this; the original promissory note was 20 years, minimum. It was possibly 30 or 40 years , to stretch out the payments and make each one smaller ( even though the accumulated interest is astronomically greater ). They may have refinanced with a callable option on the note, to take advantage of lowered interest
rates ( remember when interest rates were basically zero, following the 2008 crash?)

That option depends on the acumen of Levine when he structured the deal in the first place.

Okay. They didn't get that option.

So we ( fans ) are screwed forever...Basically...our lifetimes will see only the drooling prospect of a home field advantage in the one game play-in. For which game, of course, Boone will bench our only dangerous hitter, and we shall lose by one run.

It is like being an ordinary citizen in a failed democracy.

We don't matter.

Carl Weitz said...

I have something to admit and Im, quite frankly, embarrassed by it.

In 2010, while walking to the new Yankee Stadium, I realized that management had torn down the House That Ruth Built. The Eight Wonder of the World. Where not only baseball legends like Babe, Lou, Joe, Mickey, Yogi roamed the field but where enormous boxers fought. Joe Louis, Max Schmeling, Sugar Ray Robinson, Rocky Graziano and many more. A venue for memorable football games including "The Greatest Game Ever played", the 1958 championship game between the Giants and Colts. Rock concerts, special events. A cathedral for world leaders such as Pope Paul and Nelson Mandela. And so many other special moments in time that I'm sure I've forgotten.

As I edged closer to the new cookie-cutter 21 century MLB ballpark, I became so enraged by what the Steinbrenner family had done I almost fell into a trance and I put a curse on George. Several days later he dropped dead. I hope there is a statute of limitations on juju-induced manslaughter.

Carl Weitz said...

LBJ...I'm sure that the Yankees refinanced their debt service sometime during the last 10 years. Probably multiple times as the rates kept dropping. If I remember, the prime rate was 1/4 of a point at it's lowest. The bloated Yankee front office is in many ways incompetent. But, this is Economics 101.

Carl Weitz said...

I stand corrected. The bloated Yankee front office CAN be that incompetent. They fucked up royally. If George was still around, Levine, Trost and several others would have been terminated in a flash.

Joe Formerlyof Brooklyn said...

I did a little homework on hitters vs. RHP + LHP. I will draw no conclusions (y'all know how to do that, I think) -- these data from MLB website. I hope this transitions to the blog in some kind of readable (by humans) format --

Vs. RH pitching Vs. LHP in parens

Anduhar .309 (.264)

Bird .192 (.224) 214 Abs vs RHP

Gardner .235 (.235)

Gregorus .264 (.278)

Hicks .258 (.224)

Sanchez .171 (.229)

Stanton .249 (.316)

Torres .278 (.254)


Torreyes .288 (.259) yes, he bats RH


Luke Voit – I was unable to get his splits with NYY to come up


Bryce Harper .250 (.247)

Manny Machado .253 (.318) stats for Dodgers only

Parson Tom said...

This is a master-work essay that spells out the stupid, all-consuming greed behind Yankee Stadium specifically and sports arenas in general. The Yankees reserved the most conspicuous seats, the ones closest to the action, for high rollers who arrive late and leave early and spend most of the game on their phones. Home-field advantage has been sacrificed, and it will be at least another 25 years before the Yankees ask for another new stadium. It's so sad. Player management has been bad enough. The thinking that created the new stadium has been worse. Well done, LBJ!

HoraceClarke66 said...

BRILLIANT bloody piece, LBJ!

Actually, I think Ol' Bloody Sock was mocking the idea of Mystique and Aura living there, but it was true.

And I always thought Yankee Stadium II was a bad plastic imitation of the original, to be valued mostly for keeping the team in the city, and not, as Bruce put it, somewhere in the swamps of Jersey.

Yeah, the proximity of the seats to the field was nice, but the upper deck hallways were warrens through hell and a disaster just waiting to happen.

But the new park should indeed have been built right on the same space, AND it should have been turned once again into the old Cathedral of Yankee Stadium I, with some modern improvements.