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Volume 24 No. 157


A "lust for trophies isn't the only thing fueling" the Yankees' free-agent splurge this offseason, as when they "fail to make the playoffs, as they did in 2013, their revenues plummet," according to Brian Costa of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Public records show that "proceeds from ticket sales and stadium suite licenses alone totaled" $295M through Sept. 30 this year. That is down from $353M in '12, $377M in '11 and $384M in '10. Attendance represents "just one of the Yankees' revenue streams, but it highlights the enormity of the financial incentives for the team to make the playoffs." Sources said that the drop-off from '12 is "almost entirely a result of the fact that they missed the playoffs for the first time" since '08. The sources added that had the Yankees failed to reach the playoffs in '12, their ticket and suite revenues "would have been closer" to $300M rather than $353M. If the Yankees return to the playoffs in '14, spending a combined $238M on CF Jacoby Ellsbury and C Brian McCann and perhaps $170M or more on 2B Robinson Cano "will be well worth it" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/5).

MORE MONEY, MORE PROBLEMS? In N.Y., Mark Feinsand notes the only way for the Yankees to reach their goal of getting below the $189M luxury tax threshold is to see 3B Alex Rodriguez "suspended for all of 2014, slashing his $27.5 million salary ... off the books." Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner for months has maintained that the $189M figure "is a goal, not a mandate, noting that putting a championship-caliber team on the field is the biggest priority." So far, he has "backed that up" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/5). Also in N.Y., David Waldstein notes the Yankees still plan to sign "one or two more relief pitchers," and hope that P Hiroki Kuroda comes back for $16-17M on a one-year deal. If Cano leaves, there is "plenty of money left to spend on free agents, or Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/5). In Newark, Steve Politi writes under the header, "Yankees Offseason Will Be A Failure Without Signing Robinson Cano" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 12/5).

BACK TO THEIR OLD WAYS: In Hartford, Jeff Jacobs writes of the Yankees, "If you can't beat 'em, outspend 'em. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Either way, loving the Yankees means never apologizing for opening the wallet" (HARTFORD COURANT, 12/5). In N.Y., Joel Sherman writes, "Love it or hate it, complain that it is hurting the sport or building value for all, call it a stupid way to operate or the Yanks behaving as a behemoth should, this is what the Steinbrenners do" (N.Y. POST, 12/5). The N.Y. Daily News' Frank Isola said the Ellsbury signing is a "classic Yankee move, right out of the George Steinbrenner playbook." Isola: "They're talking about fiscal responsibility and they go out and give Ellsbury all this money" ("Daily News Live," SNY, 12/4). CBSSN's Jim Rome said, "The Yankees are hellbent on paying for another ring and, apparently, they do not care how much it costs. After missing the playoffs and seeing their archenemy, the Red Sox, punk them by winning it all once again, you know this spending spree is only beginning” ("Rome," CBSSN, 12/4). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Daniel Barbarisi writes, "This is how the Yankees work: in cycles." They commit "big money and long contracts to land top players they know will be on the downslope during the latter stages of their lengthy contracts" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/5).

Bills President & CEO Russ Brandon's comments yesterday regarding his plan to review the team's Toronto Series "served as an acknowledgement to fans, as well as his own players, that the team has yet to establish a noticeable home-field advantage in Toronto's Rogers Centre," according to Mark Gaughan of the BUFFALO NEWS. Still, the Bills "have four years remaining on their deal to play in Canada, and there is no expectation inside the organization they are going to try to break the deal." The club's contract with Rogers Communications "is a money-maker," as over the first five years, the team got an average of about $9.75M a game, "roughly double" what it would gross at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The new deal "is for less, but the exact terms have not been released." It is "hard to imagine the team paying to get out of a profitable contract." The Bills fell to 1-5 in regular-season games in Toronto with Sunday's loss to the Falcons, and the atmosphere in the dome "was not good" for the team as there were "roughly as many fans wearing Falcons jerseys as those wearing Bills jerseys." Bills coach Doug Marrone said that he "viewed an evaluation of the Toronto deal as standard operating procedure" (BUFFALO NEWS, 12/5). In Rochester, Sal Maiorana writes of Sunday's game, "Although the crowd wasn't completely behind the Bills, this seemed like the most pro-Bills crowd to date." That was "largely due to the fact that the Bills started well, led most of the way, and the game was exciting as it went to overtime." But there is "no doubt the Bills lose their true home-field advantage and an argument can be made very easily that had that game been played in Orchard Park, outside in the elements ... they would have won in a runaway" (ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 12/5).

PULL THE PLUG? QMI AGENCY's John Kryk writes it is time for the Bills and Rogers to "pull the plug" on the Toronto Series. They "gave it a good try, but it's just not working." The series "has been a failure for every party involved," and some "would say an embarrassing failure." It is "difficult after six years of Bills-in-Toronto to view the series as anything but a lose-lose-lose-lose-lose-lose scenario for the six parties involved: the Bills, Rogers, the Rogers Centre, Toronto, Western New York and the NFL" (QMI AGENCY, 12/4). In Toronto, Steve Buffery writes, "This droop-fest of an event has become an embarrassment, and if there was any thought this money-grab of a series would somehow help pave the way for a permanent NFL team in Toronto, well that's been shot to hell." If anything, it has "hurt the cause." Buffery: "You think the NFL poobahs were impressed with the 38,969 fans at the Rogers Centre last Sunday? ... I say good riddance to the Bills in Toronto." All it has "really done is expand anger and resentment towards Toronto." Bills fans in Buffalo "aren't happy losing a regular-season game every year and having to drive up to the antiseptic Rogers Centre, where there's no real tail-gating, the atmosphere inside the dome pales in comparison to Ralph Wilson Stadium, and it costs an arm and a leg for a weenie" (TORONTO SUN, 12/5). Also in Toronto, Cathal Kelly writes, "Based on last Sunday's showing, no one in Toronto gives a good goddamn" about the Bills. But it is "more than that," as the city of Toronto has "turned on the team." There is a "growing gang-up mentality," and it is "hard to tell if this is a reaction to the Bills themselves, or Rogers, or the NFL" (TORONTO STAR, 12/5).

Palace Sports & Entertainment President & CEO Dennis Mannion said that the Pistons are "finally starting to show signs of life at the box office in Tom Gores' third year of ownership," according to Tom Walsh of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. Mannion: "We're seeing a big jump now in interest in group tickets. That's sales to groups of more than 15, and we've got a whole department dedicated to that." He added, "We're on pace to double those sales this year." But Walsh notes the uptick in ticket orders "hasn't shown up yet in NBA attendance figures." The Pistons drew an average of 14,486 fans per game for their first 10 home games of the '13-14 season, ranking 28th among the NBA’s 30 teams, which is "where they finished each of the past two years." Mannion said that interest in season tickets "picked up this past off-season with the signing of free agents Josh Smith and Chauncey Billups, along with a trade that brought point guard Brandon Jennings." He expects season-ticket sales "to rise 25% this year, while single-game sales will depend on the team's fortunes." Mannion said that the front-row courtside seats "are sold out." He added the lower-level suites are "virtually sold out -- except for some we held back for individual game sales." Walsh notes upper-level suites "are 50% sold out with full-season buyers and 25% are taken by half-season buyers" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 12/5).

The Nets and the Knicks are "among the worst teams in the NBA this year, franchises in a free fall despite their eye-popping, league-topping payrolls," and some critics "blame the one-upmanship" between Knicks Owner James Dolan and Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov, according to Harvey Araton of the N.Y. TIMES. Araton asks, "In trying to outdo each other, have the two owners overdone it?" Both teams have "traded away draft picks, locked themselves into punitive contracts for aging players and underachieved, shockingly so." Their big moves have "often been almost in sync, as if the teams have been clumsy dance partners stepping on each other's toes." Prokhorov and Dolan "seem to have studied the Steinbrenner playbook, paying top dollar for big-name players who may be past their prime." The formula has "worked for the Yankees" but is "yet to bear fruit on a New York basketball court." Tonight's Knicks-Nets game "will not be the battle for bragging rights envisioned when the season opened," but rather "a slog to avoid further embarrassment." If the teams are "similarly troubled, the contrasts between the two owners are striking." The "dapper Prokhorov is 6 feet 8 inches and knows his way around a basketball court," while the "rumpled Dolan is more than a foot shorter and sings the blues in a band." Despite their "ugly play, both teams are playing before large crowds in high-end arenas -- Barclays Center is new, and the Garden was recently, and expensively, renovated." Meanwhile, speculation "grows about which owner will panic first." Dolan recently said in a N.Y. Post interview, "I'll bet you I'm more patient than Mikhail is of his team." Prokhorov responded in an e-mail, "I totally agree. 'Nuff said" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/5).