Although Yankees executives have yet to ask their TV/radio operators to help defray the cost of signing Aaron Judge to a massive contract extension, the ramifications of Judge’s final decision on partners broadcast of the Bombers are extraordinary.
If Judge divides the Bronx for greener pastures, the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network and Audacy (the radio rights holder) lose a ratings and publicity magnet of untold proportions. It would be a commercial disaster. His departure would leave the Yankees not only with a huge hole in their roster, but a void of a transcendent superstar. After a historic 2022 season, Judge, in 2023, will be catapulted even higher into the celebrity stratosphere as the ultimate Yankee, the face of Major League Baseball.
Without Judge, YES (aka Judge TV) wouldn’t be able to have its best Yankees season in 11 years. Al Yankzeera is averaging 354,000 total viewers for its Bombers shows this season, 24% more than in 2021. Without Judge’s full presence and continued anticipation for his batting staples next season, YES will struggle. to continue to pull viewership high, especially with the Mets expected to bring more power to Citi Field.
While the YES combinations may underscore the judge’s advantages for their continued success, they are powerless to sway or pressure Hal Steinbrenner who will have the final say on the extent to which, in terms of money and contract length, the Yankees will go to keep the batting outfielder. The Yankees also hold the majority stake (26%) in YES. Unless Steinbrenner argues with himself, there will be no dissent. The final decision on Judge will be made by a happy family.
Local television stations pay baseball owners for television rights. In this system, it is not uncommon for TV executives to express opinions on a team’s performance or even make suggestions on free agent acquisitions. Some TV costumes have funded a particular player’s contract. One of the greatest examples of a “participant” television channel came in the NHL. Many moons ago, in 1988, the Los Angeles Kings traded players and $15 million to Edmonton for superstar Wayne Gretzky. PrimeTicket Network, based in Los Angeles, home of Kings TV, paid $2.5 million to cover part of Gretzky’s contract.
It would also benefit Rob Manfred and his MLB team if Judge stayed with the Yankees. With Judge in pinstripes, playing in the biggest media market in the world, MLB’s national television partners (Fox, ESPN, TBS, Apple and Peacock) could give Judge and the Yankees maximum exposure, increasing the prospect of producing a consistently high number of viewers.
Manfred cannot get involved in individual player contracts. All he can do, if he even cares, is hope “for the sake of baseball” that Judge stays pinstriped.
So any pressure on the Yankees to pay the judge big money will come from the media and the fans. With Judge on his home tour, there have already been radio columns and rants about what the Yankees “have to do.” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman knows how to handle media heat. Not only has he cultivated a good relationship with the scribe bosses, but he knows when to talk and when to stay mum.
Steinbrenner has shown he won’t melt into the media spotlight, which he avoids. He speaks mainly through press releases. And as the ultimate decision maker, he will look at the numbers (money and years) and make a substantive decision.
A decision that will determine whether Judge TV continues — only on YES.
Aaron Judge’s relationship with the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network was thrown into question a year ago when it was reported that he didn’t like being spied on by network cameras as he and his teammates traveled inside the Bombers dugout.
Is the “relationship” still fragile? On Tuesday night, after the Yankees’ savage 9-8 victory over Pittsburgh capped by Giancarlo Stanton’s dramatic 9th round Grand Slam victory, which followed Judge connecting on his historic 60th HR, Stanton showed up for the interview on-field post-match with Meredith Marakovits. During the chat, YES cameras showed a smiling judge waiting in the dugout.
It left us feeling like Judge would be coming for an interview when Stanton was done. After a classic TV show, YES wouldn’t leave a hole in it by not getting an on-the-spot interview. Judge ? That’s what happened. Yankee sources said the plan was for Stanton to be interviewed by Marakovits and then by radio analyst Suzyn Waldman. Judge was supposed to follow Stanton and do separate interviews with the two reporters. He refused.
Judge finally did his post-game stuff in the interview room with the entire press corps. While YES played down Judge’s no-show with Marakovits, it’s obvious that Judge isn’t giving YES any “exclusive” moments as he continues the story.
Maybe the judge is just cashing in “receipts” for his spycam complaints?
Is Christopher (Mad Dog) Russo saving his best material for his SXM radio party and holding it back from ESPN’s first take?
The question is legit after hearing him, on both outlets, verbally punch out Colts coach Frank Reich. On the first take, Doggie lashed out at Reich, saying he stinks, isn’t a great trainer, and has a coordinator mentality.
Yet during his Monday SXM Fiesta, Russo went further and was more specific, saying Reich is “protected” by some NFL TV analysts. Russo used strong adjectives and named nouns (which he didn’t on FT). Included on Dog’s list of hits were Reich’s close pal Norman Julius Esiason of CBS and Phil Simms of CBS, who does a weekly SXM spot with Russo. Dog stopped short of saying former QBs were carrying Reich water, but accused them of “always praising Reich.”
When it comes to making decisions about replaying grotesque and uncomfortable moments during ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” the network’s production team doesn’t show much sympathy or judgment.
Did ESPN really have to replay (twice) the video of Bills DB Dane Jackson having his neck violently broken in a collision with teammate Tremaine Edmunds? At least ESPN stopped replaying the hit before an ambulance arrived on the field to transport Jackson to the hospital.
On air, play-by-play voice Steve Levy said, “Really hard to watch that.”
By the end of the week, we were totally confused: Was Michael Kay more interested in his own crusade to be in a broadcast booth delivering game-by-game of Aaron Judge’s 60, 61, 62 HR than he Wasn’t it in Judge’s quest to smash Roger Maris’ historic HR record? … The sudden Yankees/YES concern about getting Apple+ to deviate from Friday’s Red Sox-Yankees tilt for the greater good of Bombers fans was hilarious — hilarious and hypocritical. YES suits showed no concern for their loyal viewers when they sold 21 games, which for many moons had been streaming on Ch. 11, to Amazon Prime. Amazon owns 15% of YES. …Mike Kessler, the man who caught the 60th HR from the judge, took a lot of unnecessary heat, most of his free heat, from Valley of the Stupid, infested with greed, Gasbags who would rather he keep the ball and sell it. Yet Kessler’s allegiance to Judge, the Yankees, and baseball, reveals he’s the truest fan. Commissioner Rob Manfred is expected to invite Kessler to sit with him during a game. This photo would be good for baseball. … Carlos Beltran worked smoothly in the YES studio with Jack Curry and Bob Lorenz. Beltran’s demonstration segment of how Judge adjusted his swing was insightful without being overly technical. … Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will join Kay and Alex Rodriguez in ESPN’s (Red Sox-Yankees) Sunday K-Rod cast. Looking forward to this PED seminar. God help the ‘Roids Boys if they mess up Kay’s Judge HR call.
* * *
The Pinstripe Express
Daily News sportswriters select the best Yankees stories of the week from our award-winning columnists and beat writers. Delivered to your inbox every Wednesday.
GENTLEMAN OF THE WEEK: ROGER FEDERER
For his gracious farewell. The twenty Grand Slam titles are enough to place him among the immortals of tennis. But it’s the class, dignity and respect he showed in every game that will never be forgotten.
DWEEB OF THE WEEK: MLB TONIGHT CREW
To be silly. There was supposed to be a full moon Tuesday night. Otherwise, why would the panelists be so hooked, wondering why the Yankees would hit Aaron Judge for No. 1? They also argued that the Mets should settle for a Wild Card slot. They didn’t see the need for them to go full steam ahead to win the division.
What Kenny Golladay said: “I’m not here to be friends with coaches. They are just colleagues to me.
What Kenny Golladay meant: “I like my colleagues, but not those who don’t let me play.”