On Thursday it arrived, as straight and sure as a Rick Ankiel pitch to the backstop: City Comptroller Alan Hevesi‘s yearly predictions of the economic benefits of a New York World Series—and this year, of a possible Subway Series. In Hevesi’s estimate, a best-case scenario—two full-length league-championship series followed by a seven-game World Series between the Bombers and Amazins—would result in about $15 million in city tax revenues on a whopping $246 million in new spending.
But there’s ample reason to suspect that Hevesi’s windfall may be illusory—or worse, mask a net drain on city coffers. To arrive at the $246 million figure, for example, Hevesi’s study merely tallied up playoff ticket sales, TV revenues, concessions, and advertising sales. But while these all qualify as “economic activity” (i.e., the sum total of dollars exchanged within city limits), it’s dubious as to how much they’re worth to city residents: Aside from a few hundred beer vendors and ticket takers, the bulk of this money goes straight into the pockets of the owners and players—and so is more likely to spur Lexus sales in Tampa and North Jersey than boost receipts at the local bodega.
This “leakage,” as economists term it, is only worsened by the fact that much of the ticket buying and beer guzzling likely comes at the expense of other, more locally beneficial entertainment options. While the comptroller excluded spending at local restaurants and souvenir stands—noting correctly that such spending is offset by drop-offs in such sectors as “movie-going and eating at restaurants that don’t have large-screen televisions”—he somehow overlooked the fact that city residents who’ve just plunked down $500 plus TicketMaster charges for a pair of World Series ducats likewise might have to curtail moviegoing and dining out until their bank balances recover.
The only spending not subject to this diversion effect, in fact, is from out-of-towners who wouldn’t otherwise have set foot in the city—a demographic likely to be in short supply during a series featuring two New York teams. All of which is to say: Calista Flockhart, you better eat a lot of hot dogs. Alan Hevesi is counting on you.
When an at-the-time washed-up Roger Clemens beaned at-the-time MVP favorite Mike Piazza in the head during a July 8 interleague matchup, the already thermal Mets-Yankees rivalry reached levels of lavalike proportions. Immediately, Mets fans sought vengeance for the assault on their best player. The response to these promises of retribution? A muffled chuckle from Yankee fans, who knew the Met threats were futile—after all, Clemens, as an American League pitcher, would never have to step to the plate and risk hearing a little chin music in return, so what kind of direct retaliation could the Amazins achieve?
Well, with the promise of the Subway Series comes a twist to our plot. Indeed, if Clemens starts Game 1 of a Mets-Yanks World Series at Yankee Stadium—as expected—he’d be slated to start either Game 4 or 5, both of which take place at Shea, where pitchers must hit for themselves. And with an openly furious Piazza calling the pitches from behind the plate, the portly and no longer invincible Clemens might want to make sure he’s got workers’ compensation.
With each passing game, it looks more and more like the baseball gods were indeed smiling on the (can it be?) World Series-bound Mets when Derek “Just Say Yo” Bell—he of the .187 batting average after the All-Star break—went slip-sliding away with that year-ending ankle injury out in San Francisco. Not only has his replacement, Timo “Check That Birth Certificate” Perez, sparkled in the leadoff spot, but his presence there has caused a muy beneficent ripple in the entire lineup—especially for Edgardo Alfonzo, who, back in his old number-two hole, is now seeing more fastballs from pitchers concerned with the threat of Perez stealing—and making them pay dearly. Then again, maybe all the newfound Mets offense is karmically due to Mike Piazza finally shaving off that pencil-thin interpretation of the word “beard.” . . . One not-so-offensive stat worth noting: If you’re a Mets fan, pray that Jay Payton doesn’t come up anymore with the bases loaded, as it’s the one place the freshman outfielder has looked like an overanxious rookie. His numbers this year with the sacks juiced are a woeful 2 for 22 (and one was a misplayed double), which includes five double-play grounders. . . . Speaking of double dips, while we certainly understand a playoff ticket costing more than a regular-season game, asking fans to also cough up $14 rather than the usual $7 for a spot in the same Shea Stadium parking lot simply because the calendar says October does seem a bit much. The least they could do is put up a sign that says “Contributions for the Alex Rodriguez Free Agent Fund.”
• Has there ever been a cooler-sounding injury than Jason Sehorn‘s bruised sternoclavicular joint? Now that’s an adjective! . . . • He has a dubious track record for the Yanks, but starting pitcher Denny “Kenny” Neagle is even worse as a movie critic. The sometimes crafty left-hander contributes a monthly column for Major League Baseball’s Web site, and he’s something of a Neil Rosen of the Major Leagues. Neagle rates the films he sees on a scale ranging from “Three Strikes” to “Grand Slam”—the latter reserved only for such theatrical masterpieces as Gladiator. Indeed, his “Guy Movie of the Month” award is often handed over to exploding-glass-genre films such as Gone in 60 Seconds. We’d settle for a bit more explosiveness on his breaking ball and positive reviews for his own performance this October. . . . • It’s worth noting that the pitch being received in the MLB logo is a ball.
Contributors: Neil Demause, Blake Zeff, Billy Altman, Paul Lukas, Howard Z. Unger, Brian Parks
Sports Editor: Miles D. Seligman