Stealing more than bases? Lawsuit filed over Yankees' TV network

We know what you've been thinking: When can we have a major-league baseball scandal that doesn't revolve around performance-enhancing drugs? Well, you're in luck; here's a story that's about major-league amounts of dough instead of doping.

Currently -- provided their cable or satellite provider offers it -- New York Yankees fans can watch live games as well as re-live past highlights and see baseball-themed interview and reality shows on the YES Network, a 2002 brainchild developed after years of tussling over broadcast coverage and prices with a big New York-area cable provider. Giving the Bronx Bombers their own network was an out-of-the-park idea that pulled in $360 million in 2007, according to AdAge magazine. By some estimates, the network is worth as much as $3 billion. That's a lot of starlet-dating shortstop salaries.

Except now, a former president of the MSG Network, the company that paid the Yankees $493.5 million to broadcast their games for 12 years ending in the mid-90s, says the YES Network was his idea -- and he deserves $23 million in compensation.

According to a lawsuit filed Friday in Manhattan, Bob Gutkowski says he -- ahem -- pitched the idea of a Yankees-centric network to the team's owner, George Steinbrenner, as far back as 1996. The suit says Steinbrenner was keen on the idea because he thought it would give the team more clout when it came to negotiating broadcast rights, and that Gutkowski was told he'd be part of any such partnership.


You'd figure the head of a major cable TV network would know that a verbal agreement isn't even worth the paper it's not printed on, but it seems Gutkowski had to learn this the hard way. He claims he was stalled and strung along by Steinbrenner's people, who have responded to the lawsuit by calling it "false and frivolous."

Even if Gutkowski's claims hold up in court, the payout won't put a dent in the Yankees' wallet. How do we know this? Hal Steinbrenner, George's son, recently admitted that some of the team's $2,625 suite seats (yes, that's per game) "might be overpriced." He defended most ticket prices, though, pointing to the fact that those tickets sold as evidence that they weren't too expensive. (Think about that the next time you pony up for tickets that seem expensive; if you buy them, they can't be that expensive.)

Got a gripe about those ticket prices? Mr. Steinbrenner? The Yanks? Take it to the comments -- but keep it civil. Poor George is already having a rough week.
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