"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Be It Ever So Humble…

I was a little nervous about heading to the new Stadium for the first time, especially after checking out Citi Field recently and finding it, while very nice, just unsettlingly different and odd and un-Mets-like. But I’ve got to say that while my bitterness at the new Stadium’s prices and medieval caste system (the good seats actually have a moat around them) and Hard Rock-ness and, really, its very existence remains undiminished… well, I liked it  better than I thought I would. Much more on that below.

Of course tonight’s taut, well-paced game helped a lot, as the Yankees beat the Angels 7-4 . The Angels struck first, the Yankees answered, the Angels took the lead again, the Yankees took it back, the Angels tied it up… A.J. Burnett looks like he’s been reading his How to Have an Off Night Without F*#^ing Imploding textbook. It took him a long time to find any kind of groove, but he “grinded it out” (to use Joe Girardi’s favorite vague post-game term), kept the game under control, and made it through seven innings.

The Yankees broke through in the eighth, off of Justin Speier, starting with a single that brought Robinson Cano’s hitting streak up to 17 games. Posada moved him over to third, and newly minted fan favorite Nick Swisher was intentionally walked – an understandable strategy that backfired when Melky Cabrera singled in the go-ahead run. Then Ramiro Pena of all people doubled, and it was 7-4 Yankees. Phil Coke and Mariano Rivera tied up the lose ends.

Many people have noticed that the crowds at the new place were too quiet, and I’ve sensed that from watching on TV too – but it got properly loud tonight, much to my relief. Not Red Sox loud, or playoff loud, but pretty damn loud, and when Jeter got a two-out single in the 4th to give the Yankees a lead, it was the same kind of thick, tangible wave of decibels I remember from so many games across the street. There were still plenty of empty $2500 $1250 seats, and it still hurts to see views like that going to waste, but it didn’t seem to make much of a dent in the cumulative enthusiasm.

(Side note: we’re now entering the stage of Derek Jeter’s career where he passes someone on one all-time franchise list or another basically every time he scratches his balls. Tonight he moved into #9 on the Yankee’s all-time RBI lists, and a few days ago, his 8,103rd at-bat moved him past Micky Mantle for a Yankee record. From now on, I think we can expect milestones of varying degrees of obscurity roughly once a week.)

Getting back to the Stadium: there are certainly flaws, and if you’re reading this you probably don’t need me to tell you what they are; I can’t put it much better than Alex did, when he compared it to being inside a pinball machine. Lots of random noises and flashing lights. The Mohegan Sun restaurant between the bleachers reminds me of the obelisk in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Great Hall is too much, Vegas overkill, and that name sounds like something from Tolkein (one of the scenes you skipped because it was like 12 solid pages of someone singing in Elvish). The whole place is so big, and so heavily branded, that it feels a bit like a theme park – welcome to YankeeWorld™!

As others have noted, the screen in center field is a little overwhelming – talk about larger than life:

Something I loved from my childhood. Something that could never ever possibly destroy us... Mr. Stay Puft!

Something I loved from my childhood. Something that could never ever possibly destroy us... Mr. Stay Puft!

The player’s faces loom like those Easter Island heads.

Alex was kind enough to get me a press pass through SNY, so I found myself back in the clubhouse and press box for the first time in quite a while. The old locker room was plenty nice, but the new one hardly seems like anything you could accurately describe as a “locker room”. It’s got to be at least ten times bigger than my entire apartment, and the blue neon-backlit frieze at the top, in combination with the personal computer screen at each locker, gives you the impression that the entire room is about to blast off into space. I felt guilty dragging warning track dirt onto the plush carpet.

From the field, though, the place looks a lot like home: a little lower, a little less steep, a bit more closed-in, but still very Yankee Stadium-ish. Citi Field threw me because it looks nothing whatsoever like Shea; the new Stadium doesn’t provoke that level of disorientation.

Much of the criticism of the new ballpark, including mine, has focused on the Yankees’ pricing. But the truth is, I haven’t been able to afford good seats to a Yankees game for at least a decade. I know the team screwed over a lot of season-ticket holders, including some of my friends, and I am vicariously angry about it; but on a personal level, as someone who almost always sat in the upper deck or bleachers anyway, nothing much has changed. And, for all that the team has contorted itself to cater to the the super-rich, the bulk of the fans at tonight’s game were the same people I’ve been seeing at Yankees games my whole life.

Besides that, the Yankees have done at least one thing right, and I feel like it partially atones for their avarice: there’s now lots of standing room where anyone, regardless of their assigned seat, can watch the game from surprisingly close up. Not everyone is comfortable standing for a long time, and it won’t work if you’re bringing kids, but I don’t mind it – which means there’s no reason I can’t buy a $5 obstructed bleacher seat and then head over to the back of the field level seats, by first or third base, or to the roof of the center field restaurant, and stake out a prime location. If you’ve got comfortable shoes, you can watch the action from much closer than I ever could at the old Stadium. It’s probably my favorite thing about the new place.

I still don’t think they needed to build it. And I still hate the way they went about doing it (and suspect that if I had a better grasp of the complex city budgets and revenue and taxes and everything else involved, I would hate it even more). But it’s here now, and for all its faults, I think I’ll be able to enjoy watching a game there. Yes, it’s too big, a little too proud of itself, pompous and over-the-top in places, an embodiment of the unhinged free market. But let’s face it: a lot of the time – and I say this with love – so are the Yankees.

Some other observations from tonight’s game:

-Up close, I actually mistook Ramiro Pena for a batboy. I mean for like ten minutes. MLB.com lists him as 5’11” and 165 pounds, but there’s no way, and he looks at most 14 years old. (Rookies! I keep getting older… they stay the same age). Anyway, even though the clock is obviously ticking on his playing time, it was a very nice night for him and he looked like he was trying not to explode with happiness after the game.

-The Booing of Mark Teixeira has commenced. Not vicious or anything – not A-Rod ’06 caliber booing – but the beast is stirring.

-Two things I don’t understand about the new Stadium: Tommy Bahama’s and the “Jim Beam Suites”. Who the hell goes all the way to the Stadium just to sit in a bar with no view of the field and watch the game on TV? Why?

-I liked the following exchange after the game:

TV Reporter: Johnny, it’s still early, but one month in, do you feel like this team is establishing an identity for itself?
Johnny Damon: Well, we have Swisher.

-Related: Nick Swisher’s locker is right next to Damon’s (right by the entrance, creating what I like to think of as “Affability Corner”), and on one side of it, he’s created an intricate collage by clipping out photos of all of his teammates, mostly in full suits and ties, and arranging them around a 2009 Yankees poster.

Categories:  Bronx Banter  Diane Firstman

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1 williamnyy23   ~  May 1, 2009 6:03 am

Press passes...very nice. The SNY hookup is coming through big time.

Very fair review of the new place, although I would counter one point. I have a feeling that if "you had a better grasp of the complex city budgets and revenue and taxes and everything else involved", you would like it more. Unfortunately, I think a misunderstanding of the financial issues (thanks in large part to grandstanders like Brodsky) has pre-disposed many to negative feelings.

Tonight will be my 6th time in the new place, but this time I was lucky enough to get my hands on a pair of $350 seats behind the plate. I am looking forward to watching from that perspective.

2 ny2ca2dc   ~  May 1, 2009 8:15 am

I'm I seeing things or did the Red Sox use a position player to pitch last night?

3 mehmattski   ~  May 1, 2009 9:16 am

Let's see... references to science fiction, fantasy, indigenous American peoples, and Dazed and Confused, making this quite possibly the nerdiest post in Bronx Banter history. Love it!

4 The Mick536   ~  May 1, 2009 9:24 am

Van Avery hit game winning homer two nights ago and pitched last night establishing an Elias moment. Ted Williams pitched two innings in 1940 in a pique of anger aimed at weak performances by the Sox staff. He gave up a run, finishing his career with a 4.50 era.

Good news, as Emma pointed out in her usual neat and skillful way, A.J. recovered. More good news, Beckett did not.

How about them ARod revelations? I, for one, am not tired of them yet. Another boost for Canseco, yes? No wonder he turned to the Kabala.

5 The Hawk   ~  May 1, 2009 9:28 am

A nicely nuanced take on the place.

I think my favorite part of last night was watching brief highlights of Beckett getting shellacked. Sick, I know.

6 Alex Belth   ~  May 1, 2009 9:34 am

Nothing sick about enjoying a Beckett beating. Nothing at all.

Great write-up, Emma, as usual.

7 The Hawk   ~  May 1, 2009 9:36 am

[4] I am so, so, so tired of the A Rod shenanigans. I'm so tired I'm finished blaming him - now I'm going to blame his tormentor, Serena Roberts. Why? For a change of pace. We're stuck with A Rod and apparently thus stuck with the neverending story of A Rod, so best to mix it up somehow.

Plus I'd finally made my peace with the flawed individual that came to light the first Roberts go 'round. I don't have the energy to make peace with this guy, who is on another level entirely if it's true. So ... Kill the messenger, I say. It's easier, for now.

8 Horace Clarke Era   ~  May 1, 2009 9:42 am

Lot of funny lines in the game thread. I tend to avoid them this early, too much manic during a bad game for me, but check in the morning for the laughs. Loved the Lohan Grin (bad pun) stuff.

I actually have no problem with Tex taking pitches. Obviously no rbis that way, but he needs to keep his discipline till it warms up, and my guess is he's USED to doing that. He'll be fine. Burnett seems as-advertised, and he's going deep most of the time which matters a lot. I'm surprised so many people are still so down on Melky ... I see parallels with Robbie's resurgence ... obviously not at same level, or with same star upside, but both were wretched last year, Robbie pulled out late summer, Melky might be doing it now. He's a solid CF for first month. CF was NOT our worry in April, once Girardi decided Leche was better than Gardner.

And ... 12-10 April. Good enough for me. Arod Watch? Stephania Bell on ESPN, who covers health issues in MLB writes:

"You have to admire the way in which Rodriguez has approached his aggressive rehab schedule, and how successful he has been so far. There really is no precedent for a baseball player to return to this level of activity this quickly following such a procedure. The test I was waiting to see -- his first attempt at sliding -- came and went Tuesday without incident. "

9 Horace Clarke Era   ~  May 1, 2009 9:45 am

Hawk, assuming the pitch tipping is true. Did he INVENT it? Damn, "Bull Durham" has a scene that riffs on it, and there are dozens of stories I've read of pitchers with big leads giving 'mercy' pitches to friends in blowouts. (ERA was less an issue once.)

In other words, this may well be a case of Alex getting the 'solo' treatment again (just as he's the only name leaked of 100+ from the federal file).

10 The Hawk   ~  May 1, 2009 9:53 am

Hey, did anyone notice how much Beckett looks like The Grinch? His face, for sure. Puffy, oval face + surly eyes. His body seals the deal, with those creepy legs extending knock-kneed from a squishy-looking torso.

11 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  May 1, 2009 9:57 am

[9] Exactly! A-Rod is obviously a weenie with a serious self-esteem problem, but he gets such crap for things that 75% of the players do (not talking about steroids here).

Say phony and cliched things? Put on an act for the press? See strippers and hookers on the road? Take the highest contract available? Not very unusual..Roberts' book sounds like trash.

Oh, along with the greatness of watching Beckett get beat up last night, anyone catch who pinch hit for the Cubs last night? And he got a hit, first-pitch swinging. Too cool!

12 The Hawk   ~  May 1, 2009 9:58 am

[9 Even if he's being singled out, I think it sets the nefariousness bar too high to require invention of a form of cheating to justify criticism. Cain invented murder, but that doesn't mean Phil Spector shouldn't go to jail.

13 williamnyy23   ~  May 1, 2009 10:05 am

[10] That's excellent! Beckett does look like the Grinch...especially the "scene" when he turns to the "camera" and smiles his grinchly smile.


14 williamnyy23   ~  May 1, 2009 10:11 am

As for the Selena Roberts smut, the allegations sound so baseless that they aren't even worth considering. For every unnamed source that Roberts cites, two or three on the record sources have refuted her claims. Most damning to Roberts, however, was her own interview on the Dan Patrick show in which she states that Alex increases his bench press from 100 to 310 in 6 months. Assuming that those are actually documented numbers, the premise itself if sloppy at best, but more likely dishonest.

To me, this upcoming book isn't about Arod...it's about Roberts. The only thing open to debate is whether Roberts is a hack journalist looking to cash in via exploitation, or something worse. In addition, I think this book exposes the direction SI has decided to take and pretty much removes any last vestige of it being a reputable magazine.

15 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  May 1, 2009 10:18 am

[14] Didn't hear the Patrick interview but agree with you about the book..not sure about the direction SI is taking as havn't seen it in years..

[10] Brilliant. Beckett is the Grinch, Youk is Shrek..so who is Papelbon?? Makes no sense but he reminds me of Sam the Butcher..

16 williamnyy23   ~  May 1, 2009 10:20 am

[15] From the Brady Bunch?

17 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  May 1, 2009 10:23 am

[16] Yes, the one and only..not sure why but that's who first came to mind when I saw him.
Rays-Sox on tv here in the morning, hopefully another blowout where Paps stays in the pen.

18 MichiganYankee   ~  May 1, 2009 10:30 am

I just noticed that Swish has the leading VORP among AL right fielders and is 4th among AL outfielders. Has anyone started up an all-star write-in campaign?

19 PJ   ~  May 1, 2009 12:47 pm

I always thought of Beckett as Conrad Cat... including the "Doh!" factor...


: )

20 PJ   ~  May 1, 2009 12:53 pm

And I couldn't find the pic, but Youk reminds me of Master Blaster in the face from Beyond Thunderdome. I found this, showing Youk and his "side-kick," Pedroia...


: )

21 Emma Span   ~  May 1, 2009 5:11 pm

[3] Heh, yeah, I realized that afterwards - Tolkein, Kubrick, and Ghostbusters all in the same post. No, I had LOTS of friends in middle school, why do you ask...

22 PJ   ~  May 1, 2009 5:38 pm

[21] Did you get the tennis balls yet, Emma?

: )

23 Eddie Lee Whitson KO   ~  May 1, 2009 6:25 pm

[15.] Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO - Do you remember the old claymation show "Davey and Goliath"? Papelbon = Davey on acid

First time, long time, great post Emma. Can't wait to check out the digs!!

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver