The Primary Goal

There seems to be a big debate among the local papers about what the Yankees’ primary goal is. One side professes that wining is the primary goal and the Yankees will do whatever it takes to make sure it happens. The other side thinks that getting under $189-million next year is the primary goal and the Yankees will forgo winning in order to do it. I think they are both wrong.

The primary goal of all sports owners is simple- make money. Look around sports, apart from the Knicks and Rangers, most teams are owned by incredibly successful businessmen. These are franchises worth hundreds of millions of dollars and the owners want to increase that value.

Now some will argue that George Steinbrenner was different. That his primary goal was winning. I would counter that while that is true, it had more to do with the economics of baseball when George was in his prime (70’s to late 1990’s) than anything else. Back then winning was what gave you a healthy bottom line. Winning put fans in the seats and also gave you postseason games, a much bigger percentage of revenues then than now. Winning allowed George to market the Yankees as a must-see TV event and got him a $55-million a year TV contract from MSG back in the 80’s. (Crazy money back then) And let’s not forget, George may have nodded towards the tradition, but he wasn’t against threatening to move the club to New Jersey because a new stadium would have gotten him more money.

Why is any of this important now? Because I guarantee you that the conversations Hal and his partners are having at this moment revolve around money. Specifically, what is the best course of action for 2014? If they meet the $189-million goal, will they actually save money? Or, do they lose too much money from all the empty seats and damage to the brand? If they judge that the $189-million goal will cost them more than it would save them, they won’t meet it. Look at Cashman’s comments today when asked about the $189-million, “It’s certainly a goal; it’s not a mandate. There’s a lot of benefits to staying under that, but it’s not a mandate at the expense of a championship run.”

If they don’t go through with the $189-million plan, we will hear all about how ownership is committed to winning, etc., etc.. But what ownership is ultimately committed to is a healthy bottom line. The $189-million goal may become a victim to that in the next few months.