Many baseball fans know about the controversy over the weekend regarding the flagging Yankee Stadium attendance, despite the playoffs being quite in town. The stadium did not fill up by first pitch; it did not fill up by the sixth inning; it did not fill up.
The NotGraphs Investigative Team is about to blow this whole mystery a new news hole. We recently received SPECIAL CLANDESTINE AERIAL IMAGERY of Yankee Stadium, and the truth may be too much for the average fan to wrap their mind grapes around:
This imagery, supplied by a team insider by the name of “toothpick guy,” shows the partial-filled stadium partially filled by none other than TWO-DIMENSIONAL FAN REPLICAS.
Something sinister was brewing in the Bronx, so I looked into it.
I contacted the head of the Yankees public relations department, Jon S. Whiplash, and asked him about attendance and the apparent fake-fan conspiracy:
NotGraphs: Jon, level with me. What is happening?
Jon S.W.: Well, there are some mitigating factors with regards to filling a stadium like ours during this time of year and this time of day. We hope baseball fans will understand we don’t control the traffic or the economy, and the consecutive-games playoff schedule has reduced the time fans have to plan for their trip to historic Yankee Stadium II.
NG: Aren’t those the same problems facing franchises like Tampa Bay, which your team has advocated to contract? It’s difficult to reach the park? The economy is down? The schedule is timed poorly?
JSW: [no comment]
NG: And what do you make of these images released to NotGraphs that clearly show fake fans in the stadium? Is the Yankees franchise planning something?
JSW: [looks at images, laughs] I’m afraid I have no idea what you’re talking about.
NG: Be real with me, Jon. Are the Yankees trying to suppress attendance to get a new stadium!? Are you trying to make New York look like a city that cannot support a baseball team? What’s the play here, Jon?
JSW: It’s Yankees policy to refuse commenting on any rumors regarding a possible franchise relocation.
NG: I never said anything about moving the franchise.
At this point, the media handler interrupted and removed me from the building. But the cat had clawed her way from the proverbial bag and she was hungry for some truth tuna.
I had the research team dig into the Yankees’ financials, press releases, and airline history until we had a clear and terrifying picture of what the Yankees had been planning. On June 14, 2009, seven Yankees personnel and an independent contractor named Herbert Faust took a flight to Orlando, FL, and rented three cars from Avis. The cars were returned in Clearwater, FL, some ten days later. On June 30, 2009, an internal memo went out to franchise’s top executives that read simply: “All sites reviewed. Down to three candidates.”
In January, 2010, millionaire real-estate mogul and Steinberg family friend, Bernard P. Murdüg, attempted to buy several plots of land in the Orlando and Tampa Bay areas. Three of the sales went final, the largest purchase being a four-acre plot near downtown Tampa, FL.
On August 15, 2010, four top executives from Yankee Global Enterprises LLC, the parent company of the Yankees franchise, purchased condos in the Tampa Bay area. March 2011, as the Rays continued pursuit of a new stadium, potentially on the Tampa side of Tampa Bay, the league began swirling with rumors of contraction. New York Yankees officials name the Tampa Bay Rays specifically as a candidate for contraction.
December, 2011, Bernard P. Murdüg gives the large Tampa parcel to Hank Steinbrenner, the elder Steinbrenner brother, as a gift. When asked about the gift in the media, Hank Steinbrenner says he is “looking forward to a sunny retirement.”
The New York Yankees are trying to crowd the Rays out of the AL East and the Tampa Bay market. By moving the franchise to Florida, they will not only take advantage of the robust landed New York population, which now lives primarily in central Florida now, but they will eliminate one of their most fierce competitors for the AL East crown.
And it all begins with some empty blue seats.