Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Do the Yankees have to worry about the Mets taking over this town?

We had quite the spirited debate on my Facebook page this past weekend about whether the Yankees had anything to fear from the Mets when it comes to being the big dogs in New York. After all, while it still sometimes seems like it was just a dream, the Mets did make it to the World Series last year!

People think that the Yankees have owned this town forever. But if you look back at attendance figures, the Mets drew more crowds in 1964-1975, and 1984-1992. Not so coincidentally, the Mets had the better team in town in many of those years.

Look at the charts I posted to see the new stadium attendance trends. The Yankees have been trending down, and the Mets have been trending up. And, traditionally, a team that gets to the World Series after being a hot mess before that sees the biggest attendance gains the year after, the way the Kansas City Royals saw a huge jump in attendance in 2015.

It's been a good 20 years since this was a Mets town. But is it possible that they can start outdrawing the Yankees again? I think it is. Or at least they can make things competitive again.

When it comes to TV ratings, the Mets are already giving the Yankees a run for their money. The New York Daily News' Bob Raissman reports that the Yanks averaged a 2.76 rating on YES in 2015, with 259,223 total viewers per game. The Mets averaged a 2.63 household rating on SNY, with 242,434 viewers. However, that doesn't tell the full story. After the Mets traded for Yoenis Cespedes at the end of July, the Mets averaged a 3.21 rating (304,706 viewers) for the last two months of the season -- getting better ratings than the Yankees!

Raissman recently pointed out that the Mets bringing back Cespedes should continue to be good business not just for the team, but for their ratings.

"In 2015, before the Mets acquired Cespedes from Detroit, SportsNet New York was averaging a 2.25 household rating, 202,911 total viewers, on its Mets telecasts. Once Cespedes arrived in Queens, the average rating increased by nearly a full point and over 100,000 total viewers.

Raissman wonders:

"Who on the current Yankees roster can produce those kind of results? Alex Rodriguez? That’s doubtful. Last season, on the comeback trail, A-Rod was a curiosity. This season, his story is not as compelling, unless the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network uses him in the booth when he’s not playing."

I agree. With the addition of Aroldis Chapman, the Yankees' bullpen is the best in baseball. But is that going to translate to more fannies in the seats, as George Steinbrenner would say? Or eyeballs on the televised games? I kind of doubt it.

The Mets have real star power now -- something that has been missing from Queens for a long time. Matt Harvey is the type of figure who transcends baseball. He even made it onto Andy Cohen's "Watch What Happens Live" a few weeks ago, where he talked about manscaping and threesomes and other assorted shenanigans. Then there's Thor, deGrom, David Wright, and the rest of the Mets, who many people in this town got to learn about during the postseason last year. The Yankees just don't have that same sort of buzz any more.

A big question, though, will be if the corporate money in this town heads to entertaining clients at Citi Field as opposed to Yankee Stadium. I think that trend has already started. Heck, I got invited to be in a Citi Field box twice this year -- once with work -- something that hadn't happened before. And if the Mets are contending this year out of the gate, this trend will accelerate.

The dirty little secret about sports fandom is what really moves the needle is not the diehards but the frontrunners. For the last two decades, the Yankees have been the more compelling team for the casual fan. Now it looks like the Mets are going to be the better story, as long as they continue to excel. And Citi Field is the nicer ballpark, with the better food -- something casual fans will discover when they show up.

It will be interesting to see how Yankeeland reacts if the Mets become the team to beat. The powers that be have been so arrogant in assuming that the good times will last forever, that I don't think they will know what hit them!

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