The Yankees sent their star catcher, Gary Sanchez, on a mission over the past the past weekend. His off-season job entailed making a few sandwiches, while garbed in a team jersey and chef’s hat, at a New York City deli adjacent to Yankee Stadium. No harm, no foul. But there’s more to the story than just that.
When the Yankees stage an event, it’s usually to retire a player’s number or to give him a “Day” at Yankee Stadium. The team does not (usually) present a choreographed scene, complete with invites to the press. But this is what we witnessed at the Bullpen Deli Twin Donut on 161st Street in the Bronx. Here then, are a few takeaways from that episode.
The Yankees See Gary Sanchez As The New Face Of The Team
The Yankees are not waiting until the season begins, and there are numbers on the board to reinforce the star power of Gary Sanchez. Nope, he is already the newly crowned face of the team from here forward. The go-to guy, the public relations people, will direct media to when an individual request comes in. As if Sanchez doesn’t already have enough on his plate. There is no doubt, the franchise needs a new face to replace the old ones, most notably Derek Jeter. And they could make worse choices than Sanchez. But for heaven’s sake, give the guy a break. Yes, I get it. He needs the “practice.” But right now, he needs to play baseball more than anything.
Under the watchful eyes of Jason Zillo, the team director of publicity and media relations, Sanchez performed admirably in his new role. Showing no signs of stress, the photos all have Sanchez with a big smile on his face. According to reports, he even stayed to sign autographs for bewildered customers. Zillo even came prepared with a quip, “No Knives,” easing the concern that there might be an unfortunate accident during the sandwich making. We’ll never know, but is there a chance that Sanchez might be wondering, “What’s next? What’s my costume going to be next time? I could have been working out at the gym”. At the moment, Sanchez, of course, doesn’t have the “juice” to decide his fate in a Yankees uniform. For now, the team pushes his buttons. The front office needs to be mindful of that responsibility.
Is This A Harbinger For A New Yankees Marketing Tactic?
Writing in the New York Times, Flip Bondy had an interesting take on the deli episode. Bondy believes that the Yankees could be awakening to the fact that the Mets offer significant attendance challenges to the team, pointing to decreasing Stadium attendance figures versus the rise in Mets attendance. He adds, and I agree, that we never saw this type of marketing in recent years by the Yankees in their quest to sell tickets.
There is no mystery, though, behind the Yankee’s attendance problems. Because while the Mets continue to offer ticket combinations which attract families, the franchise continues to reinforce their brand by catering mostly to Wall Street types. A distinction also needs to be drawn between tickets sold and fans who attend the game. For the Yankees, that’s what all those empty seats behind home plate are all about when YES cameras switch to the center field shot.
Yankees Brass: Hold The Mustard Please
As I said in the beginning, there is no harm and no foul in the Yankees ham and cheese production, starring Gary Sanchez. It worked once. It was cute, but let’s not get away from what the team is supposed to be about – and that’s baseball. If the team wants to send Sanchez out to play a game of stickball in the streets of the Bronx, that all well and good. Or, if they want to raffle off an autographed baseball signed by Sanchez to every tenth person who buys four or more tickets to a game, that’s fine too.
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But other than that, the Yankees are who they are. And there’s no need to manufacture and hype publicity when the team’s fan base is already on board with the direction the team is taking. No more costumes, and hold the mustard, please.