Today marks 14 years since the first Yankees broadcast on YES Network, which was conceived in 1999 in the midst of the Yankees dynasty. The first game broadcast was a March 19th spring training tilt against the Cincinnati Reds and who else would be on the call but Michael Kay, who broadcasted Yankees games in the radio booth for a decade before assuming his role as the face of YES. Alongside former pitcher Jim Kaat (previously a Yankees broadcaster for MSG), Kay introduced the network's "Opening Day" from Legends Fields in Tampa, following a healthy portion of the theme song we've all come to know so well:
Kay brought his best KayFaces for his first YES broadcast, including the one seen above. Just terrific. Perhaps even more interesting than the state of Michael Kay's Steve Guttenberg-meets-Chris Christie face of yesteryear is the state of the in-game graphic from 2002:
Aside from Jason Giambi's incredible face and batting line, you can tell YES has come a long way in the graphics department with the explosion in software quality and the advent of high definition television. Over the years YES would add a scroll at the bottom as well as refine their existing graphics:
Although much has changed graphically since 2002, it is somewhat amazing that the RBI remains a featured statistic for slugging first basemen and speedy left fielders alike. Along with Wins, the RBI stat is far too dependent on luck to be considered as legitimate an offensive indicator as OPS, for example, but at least the graphic now features the appearance of nearly an entire body. For another direct comparison, here are introductory graphics for Spring Training games in 2002 and 2016:
Within these two graphics you can see the network changed the presentation of the YES logo by ditching the facade atop the abbreviation. The logo featuring the facade stuck around a few years, but has not been seen in the past decade. It remained at least through 2004, when the Yankees would invite a former player and future manager into the booth to share some insight. This screen grab was taken during the pregame portion of the 2004 regular season opener against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in Japan:
The Yankees lost that game to the Devil Rays and would not win another World Series until the man on the left, Joe Girardi, managed them to it in 2009. Alongside the opening theme and Michael Kay, the man to his left, Ken Singleton, has also been a YES mainstay since 2002. The network now features Singleton as the secondary play-by-play commentator when Michael Kay is unavailable, typically in combination with John Flaherty.
Speaking of commentators, YES has done a great job integrating several former players into the pre and post-game shows, as well as within the play-by-play booth itself. David Cone is one of the most entertaining color commentators in baseball thanks to his unique recollections of his playing days, particularly some of the social aspects of the game, as well as his willingness to introduce more advanced statistics into arguments that have perhaps grown otherwise stale. Al Leiter's pitching analysis is also an asset to the general baseball conversation.
In addition to live game broadcasts YES Network also provides original Yankees programming such as Yankees Classics, Yankeeography, and The Joe Girardi Show. Since its inception in 2002, the network has garnered 92 Emmy Awards and has been the most-watched regional sports network in 11 of those years. Along with Mets counterpart SNY, the coverage on YES can be considered some of the best regional sports coverage in the nation, but it has not come without caveats.
YES, which is majority owned by FOX, is currently embroiled in a battle with Comcast, who alleges that the network charges too much for coverage. This has led to a standoff with no conclusion in sight that has caused Comcast customers in the network's broadcast territory to lose out on coverage so far this season, and will likely cost them at least a portion of the regular season as well. Those Comcast customers in New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, a number estimated to be 900,000 subscribers, will continue to suffer due to stubbornness on both sides.
Those of us fortunate to watch the network's coverage this season will be treated to a professional experience that caters very well to Yankees fans both casual and generational. Hopefully the network's standoff with Comcast will end before long and everybody can get back to enjoying coverage of the Yankees' pursuit of their 28th World Series Championship. For today, though, we wish happy birthday to a network that provides us with 127 games of our favorite team every year.
Screen Grabs via YES Network's website.