The question was, how important are the New York Yankees to Major League Baseball. Let’s start off with the answer, very important. The New York Yankees are the only Global sports giant that is known and followed worldwide. Interest falls off significantly when you mention any other baseball team. The Yankee franchise generates a huge amount of money for New York and its family, the Steinbrenners.
But it goes far beyond that. Everywhere the Yankees travel to, the dollars follow. When the New York Yankees play at Tropicana Field in Tampa, Florida, the crowd’s size under the dome nearly doubles. The Tampa Bay Rays have an average home crowd of 14K; when the New York Yankees come to town, that increases to 20K or more for as many days as the series lasts. This is big for the Tampa economy, the Rays, and their concessions. This also applies to anywhere the Yankees play, although to a lesser degree.
As far as New York City is concerned, game day is big for the New York economy, particularly the Bronx neighborhood restaurants, bars, and shops. The average Yankee Stadium attendance in 2019 was 42K on average for every game. Many of those thousands stay at local hotels, visit bars and eat in restaurants along with buying loads of team memorabilia. In 2018 the Yankees generated $11.9 million for the city of New York for just the opening day game.
The New York Yankees have a huge payroll, and because of that, they pay an MLB luxury tax, that contributes a share of their revenue to an MLB pot that then distributes that evenly to every major league team nationwide. That pot paid out $118 million to teams across baseball.
Another good example of how important the New York Yankees is to baseball is in generating television revenue. The Yankees have their own broadcasting ability, with the YES Network the most successful regional sports broadcasting company in all of the sports. But it goes beyond that. For instance, the latest World Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles was the least-watched World Series in history, generating fewer broadcasting dollars.
The most-watched World Series in the past fifteen years was the 2009 World Series. Why, because the New York Yankees faced the Philadelphia Phillies. In that series, nearly 20 million viewers watch the games. This year the average viewership was just over 9.5 million per game. The previous low was 12 million for 2012 in the Detroit San Francisco World Series.
So what is the record for viewership in a World Series? It was again a New York Yankee series, this one the 1978 series with the Dodgers. An average of 44 million viewed those games, and a deciding game six generated the largest television audience for any baseball game, 51 million.
The bottom line is that when the New York Yankees are involved in anything, including the World Series, everybody wins! The New York Yankees are the most important team in Major League Baseball.
EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.