As Aaron Judge nears ultimate statistical fame, everyone wants a piece of the New York Yankees. And while it’s understandable that baseball’s national TV affiliates would lick their chops at the prospect of televising the 6ft7 judge’s date with the story, the honor should rightfully go to YES Network.
So here is a humble suggestion that contains no admonition to devour Irish babies. On Friday night, before Apple TV begins streaming a showdown between the Yankees and the Red Sox that could prove to be a milestone for baseball and all viewers, the Bombers should become judges. In a sort of Bronx cheer aimed at the digital invader, the Yanks might decide to bench Judge for the night, thereby denying Apple an opportunity to steal the thunder from TV.
While that would admittedly be an egregiously insignificant move, there’s actually a good baseball-like reason to take the bat out of Judge’s mighty meat hook: The linchpin of the Yankees lineup hasn’t had a proper rest day since Aug. 3. Since he is responsible for about Everyone With the team’s performance—his batting average is 20% higher than the guy right behind him—it doesn’t hurt to give Judge a breather before the playoffs begin.
After justifying this entirely hypothetical move with an appeal to protect the straw stirring Big Gulp, it’s hard to underestimate how satisfying such a gesture could be for the Yankees’ home network. Since Apple’s seven-year, $595 million deal to secure the Friday night baseball package was first announced in March, the tech company was a stone in YES’ shoe. Though two of the four Apple games that would otherwise have aired on YES were less than significant (no one’s going to lose sleep losing a Royals or Tigers match), the tech giant’s late-innings deal caught on with the MLB the RSN heels.
Simply put, YES had set a schedule that ensured it would carry a sufficient number of games to meet the guarantees it makes with its distributors each year, and Apple’s sudden addition to the mix means that’s RSN Could miss goal by a game or two. As the make-goods spewed out by RSNs after the long COVID hiatus of 2020 have made clear, not hitting the mark can be a costly affair. (As of Wednesday night, YES has broadcast 117 Yankees games, and with just 13 regular-season games remaining and Fox, ESPN, and TBS all locked down for the upcoming national dates, the hometown channel will go online.)
A similar agreement between baseball and Peacock also prompted a pang of buttock soreness, though YES lost just one game — a June 5 Tigers-Yankees pairing — to NBC’s digital sibling. Still, every game dropped from the YES roster makes it harder to meet RSN’s promotion agreements, and the Peacock deal came just a day before the Yankees were due to play their season opener. It’s hard to plan for contingencies when you’re 24 hours away from opening day.
For what it’s worth, Amazon Prime Video’s inclusion of 21 exclusive Yankees games doesn’t affect YES’ seasonal tally in any way, as the streamer (and 15 percent shareholder of YES) merely owns local broadcaster WPIX -11 as the manager of this smaller package.
For what it’s worth, we are in no way suggesting that YES shares our jaded worldview. The argument is ours and ours alone, but there is a point here that goes beyond the mere joy of inciting chaos. Apple is spending big on its foray into the big sport — annually the gizmo-maker will pay over $55 million in rights fees and allocate another $30 million to advertising — but someone’s had to stand up for the fans and the besieged RSN model.
After all, baseball is a local phenomenon, with much of the heavy lifting on the fan-service frontline done at the regional sports network level. In the New York market, the Yankees’ coverage of YES regularly tops that of its four affiliates, and Wednesday night’s performance against the Pirates, which peaked at 756,000 viewers, pushed the network’s in-game ratings for 2022 to an 11th -year high. by 24% compared to the same period last year. That so many Americans identify as baseball fans is because they can catch the action nearly every night via the local RSN feed, and because older enthusiasts will simply never bother to stream every game reserved for just one of them reserved for the over-the-top services is a game unseen by the folks who make up most of the sport’s grassroots.
Slightly more prosaically, the thought of Apple TV’s Katie Nolan naming Judge’s historic homer is maddening for Yankees fanatics — and not for the usual ankle-snapping “ugh, there’s a lady in the dressing room” reasons that are in the rounds are being thrown into stinkier regions of the online cesspool. she is from Boston, for loud screaming! And yes, parochialism works both ways. Imagine Phil Rizzuto calling David Ortiz’s last play or Dave Roberts’ stealing second base in Game 4 of the ALCS. Yes I thought so.
From the looks of it, Yankees fans likely won’t have more than a handful of upcoming YES games to look forward to as ESPN makes its cuts on September 25 and TBS and Fox follow shortly thereafter. And ESPN always has a chance to snag one more game from the local outlet before the Yankees’ final series against Rangers is played. Chances are an outsider gets lucky in the story, but television has always been fair game. But for Judge Roger to put Maris in the shade Teddy Lasso Platform – a show about Soccerno less – is unbearable.
Put him on the bench, Boone, if only for the night. The judge could use the long-overdue break, and your friends at YES would most likely appreciate the gesture — even if the move doesn’t prepare RSN for its own date with the story. Would such a scheme upset the commis? Probably. Would it upset the 46,537 fans who will be making their way through the turnstiles tonight to see the big guy trot through the infield? Oh you bet. But life is short and brutal and not fair at all, and what is a night of shattered hopes when weighed against the sweet rush of spiteful revenge?
Down comes the hammer. This provocation is adjourned.