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CBS chief: Yankee pitcher blew save
Report: Moonves says network would have topped Fox in ratings if Mariano Rivera held off Red Sox.
May 23, 2005: 9:20 AM EDT
Yankee reliever Mariano Rivera
Yankee reliever Mariano Rivera

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves has an unexpected scapegoat for the network's expected No. 2 finish behind rival network Fox in a key ratings fight: New York Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera.

The New York Times reports that Moonves, when talking to advertisers last week, said that the competition for viewers age 18 to 49 was so close that if you subtract the ratings of some key sports events from Fox's ratings last year, CBS would have been able to beat Fox.

Rivera uncharacteristically blew a ninth-inning lead in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series between the Yankees and Boston Red Sox, and when the Red Sox later won that game, they avoided a four-game sweep. Rivera also lost an eighth-inning lead in Game 5 of that playoff, eventually won by the Red Sox in seven games on their way to their first World Series championship in more than 80 years.

"Mariano Rivera cost us more money than the Yankees," Moonves told the advertisers, according to the Times.

Howard Rubenstein, who serves as a spokesman for the Yankees, told the Times that neither the team nor its principal owner, George Steinbrenner, would respond.

While the Times story doesn't mention it, the Yankees' playoff loss last fall is hardly the team's greatest lost opportunity for CBS.

The network purchased 80 percent of the team for $11.2 million in 1964, after the team had appeared in 14 World Series in the previous 16 years. The team never made it to the series during eight seasons under CBS's ownership, and it sold the team to Steinbrenner for only $10 million in January 1973. The franchise is now worth an estimated $950 million, according to the most recent valuation in Forbes.

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