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Pinch hitting: Anthony Solano

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It’s Sunday morning in New York, which means it’s – I don’t know – something like Wednesday afternoon where our next Pinch Hitter is from. Anthony Solano is a 20-year-old college student from Sydney, Australia, and as part of a school project last year, he looked into the global exposure of professional sports franchise and the way they’re able to connect with fans around the world.

For his post, Anthony is bringing us a taste of what he learned in Australia, looking into whether the Yankees new financial strategy might hurt their global brand.

[2]Believe it or not, the Yankee universe extends beyond the realms of North and Central America and beyond even Asia to countries all over the globe. Whilst the fishbowl is squarely located in the Bronx, there is an incredible supporter base made up of global fans, many of whom who have never been to the United States let alone New York. These fans, dubbed satellite fans, represent a large reason why the Yankee brand has become of the most powerful in the world.

Born in Sydney, Australia, I am one of these satellite fans, lured to the MLB through a desire to follow the elite after growing up playing baseball despite it being a minority sport in my country. We’ll get back to this in a minute. Most of you will be well across the Yankees incredibly public declaration that they wish to cut payroll to below the luxury tax threshold.

But so what? Surely with a budget of $189M the Yankees can put together a team worthy of another ring.

It is not so much the $10M or so cut in spending that is concerning, rather the attitude associated with this decision. All of a sudden we have virtually seen a shift from a win at all costs approach to one where suddenly money is an issue. Granted, all teams have seemingly awoken from a slumber and realised that players do decline with age and thus are more cautious when dishing out mega deals to free agents, as we have saw with Josh Hamilton this offseason. But isn’t the modern Yankees legacy built upon almost the exact opposite approach? If there’s a hole in the roster, we simply outbid the closest rival for the star free agent and everybody is happy again. And when you can afford an all-star bench it doesn’t hurt either. It is the star power of the Yankees that makes them the team everybody adores or loves to hate. But now the Yankees are beginning to lose their star power, and it has started with this attitude shift in spending.

[3]So what does this mean from my perspective? Studies reveal that satellite fans are drawn to foreign sporting franchises for various reasons, such as past success, storied history or even just participating in a high quality league. But the single most important reason is the existence of star players. This is the star power that the Yankees possess over most other teams given their willingness to spend on the best. I’m concerned now that this new business decision will lessen the aura of stars that define the Yankee universe, and that the majority of a new generation of potential satellite fans will be lost to other teams seeking to rebuild their status in the game based on star power (see Los Angeles x2).

I’m referring to all those kids who live abroad and are just beginning to follow MLB as the pinnacle of the sport, with no intrinsic geographical connection to the Yankees or any other team for that matter. When deciding (almost subconsciously) which team to follow, these kids are attracted for reasons other than because it is the local team or because their father follows them or because their first game attended was at Yankee Stadium.
As a kid back in 2007, I was fascinated by the elite, and there was none bigger than Alex Rodriguez at the time. By far my favourite player, he one of the stars that first attracted me to the Yankees, and I almost followed him out the door during the infamous opt out saga, heartbroken that the game’s best hitter was leaving the Yankees almost without a fight. Before you condemn me for this, remember I was about 13 years old and attracted to the Yankees initially based on one factor — star power. This is what the Yankees stand for, and that should never wane.

I have since learnt to appreciate the bombers for much more than the mega stars we are used to seeing them attract and have developed a strong connection to the Yankee brand. But the allegiances of the younger generation, particularly those abroad, are wide open to be taken. The idea of star power as a catalyst for attracting new fans is crucial, and if the Yankees begin to shift away from this, then it could have a negative impact on its potential fan base.

I mean if you were a kid. who would you pick? Trout, Pujols and Hamilton; Cabrera, Fielder and Verlander at the peak of their powers, or a group of aging veterans past their prime who are legends that continue to produce without the star power they once had?

Associated Press photo