The Actual Reason Why the Ratings for Yankee Broadcasts in 2013 are Down

Apparently, through 28 Yankee games on the YES Network this season, the ratings are down 39% compared to the same time span in 2012.   Bob Raissman of the Daily News hypothesized that the main reason for the decline in ratings is the lack of star players, such as Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, in the everyday lineup:

The ratings provide ample evidence that plenty of Yankee fans are not intrigued. They have tuned out. 

It’s got everything to do with the lack of star power. Throughout the history of YES, the Yankees have been a ratings juggernaut. The team has won consistently with a star-studded cast. Now they are winning without one.

Raissman also points out that other factors, such as the playoff games for the other New York teams (the Knicks, Nets, Rangers, and Islanders) and the debut of Matt Harvey with the Mets, may be impacting the ratings.

While lack of star power and playoff appearances by the other major sports teams in New York may have some influence, allow me to offer a counterpoint by applying the principle known as Occam’s Razor.

Occam’s Razor is the idea that sometimes the simplest answer is the right one, and I believe that there is a far simpler explanation for the low ratings this season:  the Yankee announcers.

kay al 2

Michael Kay and Al Leiter keeping it real in the YES booth.

With certain noted exceptions (Ken Singleton and Jack Curry), the YES announcers (Michael KayAl LeiterPaul O’Neill, and David Cone) are awful.  There are points during each broadcast where it is simply painful to continue watching and listening.  O’Neill offers nothing to a broadcast and the banter between Kay and O’Neill is forced and not amusing.   David Cone’s analysis consists of waiting for the replay and then just reciting what he sees (“…and he hits it to right field, and the right fielder fields it, and throws it to second base, and, as you can see, the runner slides in ahead of the tag.”)  Any time the cameras cut to Leiter holding a baseball in the booth to explain a pitch, I have to turn the channel.   Leiter attempts to offer cogent analysis but he always comes across as a rambling, arrogant jerk.  His “analysis” usually consists of incoherently stringing words and phrases together, while stuttering, and never really offering a firm opinion.  (If Leiter uses the phrase “Bugs Bunny changeup” one more time, I am going to scream.)  There is also no demonstrable chemistry between Kay and anyone else in the booth with him.  And Kay really needs to spend more time preparing for games and working on his announcing skills and less time pretending to be knowledgeable about other sports for his radio show on ESPN.

What makes things more difficult for YES is the fact that one of the best broadcast teams in the country resides only a few channels away on SNY.  Gary Cohen, Ron Darling, and Keith Hernandez with the Mets have great chemistry, provide insight, and are never afraid to call out the Met players for poor performances or misplays.  Darling and Hernandez offer terrific analysis on every pitch and when showing a replay, the announcers actually breakdown what occurred.  This is why my favorite time of the season is when the Yankees play the Mets because it affords me the opportunity to listen to these guys call a Yankee game.

It’s inarguable that the quality of the YES broadcasts is at its lowest point ever.  Poor broadcasting is a lot more noticeable in low-scoring games, like the ones the Yankees have mostly been playing this season, because it is incumbent upon the broadcasters to carry the show.  To Mr. Raissman’s point, not having a star-studded lineup is likely hurting the ratings as the powerful Yankee lineups in  years past have always concealed the inadequacies in the YES broadcasting booth.  In this way,  the lack of star power this season has led to an unmasking of sorts and clearly revealed the ineptitude of the Yankee broadcasting team.