"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: New Yankee Stadium

Too Much F***ing Perspective

My in-laws got my wife and I some “Bomber Bucks” for Christmas, including with the gift their babysitting services so that Becky and I could get out to at least one game this year. It was a very thoughtful gift. Unfortunately, it turns out that Bomber Bucks can only be cashed in for tickets (not concessions or merchandise) and only at the ticket windows at Yankee Stadium. Adding insult to the difficulty of finding babysitting (thanks, Mom!), spending $25 on trains, and taking a three-hour round trip from suburban New Jersey to the Bronx simply to purchase tickets, the Yankee Stadium ticket windows didn’t open for business until five days after tickets went on sale to the general public via phone and internet.

When I finally got there on Friday, piggybacking the journey on a trip to mid-town for a “Bronx Banter Breakdown” taping (three segments coming Monday through Wednesday), I was informed that there were no bleacher seats left. Period. That the only seats to Red Sox games remaining were north of $300 a piece, and that of the six Sunday games my wife and I could both make, none had two available seats together in the grandstand. After playing what amounted to a game of battleship with the amicable young woman on the other side of the glass (“May 16″ “miss” “August 18″ “miss” “July 25″ “miss” . . .), I was finally able to use up the gift certificate on two pairs of nosebleed seats to weeknight games and a single ticket in the grandstand for a Monday night game in May against the Orioles. Remember, tickets had only been on sale to the general public for a week. Frustrated and disappointed, I stuck my tickets in my bag, wheeled around and was greeted by this:

It is a monument to corruption, greed, and the failures of our municipal and state governments to act in the best interests of the people they are supposed to represent, and a vile and disgusting insult to all but the wealthiest of Yankee fans.

. . . what they’ve really done is take affordable seats away from the common fan who can only afford to sit in the upper deck or bleachers of the current Stadium and relocated them to parts of the ballpark only the wealthy can afford. To make matters worse, the new Stadium will hold 4,561 fewer fans, and you can surely guess which seats are being slashed. With a smaller bleacher capacity, a smaller upper deck, and an increase in luxury and outdoor suite seating, the new Stadium will be spitting out fans of modest means to accommodate the organization’s target audience of free-spending fat cats.

That was what I wrote about the new Yankee Stadium back in September 2008, three days before the final game in the real Yankee Stadium, a game Becky and I would watch from the right-field bleacher seats that were ours every Sunday, Opening Day, and Old-Timers’ Day for the old park’s final six years. Yesterday, I felt the harsh reality of those words.

To be honest, my fanaticism has receded in recent years, in part due to professional necessity and in part due to the team’s stadium shenanigans, which have soured me significantly, but I still consider myself a Yankee fan. I inherited it from my grandfathers. I paid my dues as a kid growing up in the ’80s when the Mets were hip and Yankee hats were about as cool as bell bottoms and mutton chops. I indoctrinated my wife in the ’90s, and I’m not about to abandon her or that familial tradition now. I hope to introduce my daughter to the joys of baseball through her inherited Yankee fandom. I just wish the team my family and I root for wanted or even needed us just a little.

Extra Credit

I left two grades out of my post from this morning. Here they are:

Joe Girardi, Manager

Girardi has impressed me in a number of ways this season. Starting with instantly rewarding Nick Swisher’s hot start with more playing time, Girardi has done an excellent job of rewarding performance with playing time throughout his roster. When Brett Gardner stumbled and Melky Cabrera got hot, Girardi didn’t hesitate to invert the roles of his two center fielders. Angel Berroa may have been on the roster for far too long, but Girardi barely used him, quickly recognizing Ramiro Peña’s superior skill set and rewarding the rookie with opportunities commensurate to his performance. Similarly, when catchers Kevin Cash and Francisco Cervelli were called up within three days of each other following injuries to Jorge Posada and Jose Molina, Girardi didn’t simply default to Cash as the starter because of his major league experience (which includes a .186/.248/.287 career batting line). Rather, he again favored talent over experience, making Cervelli the starter, and was rewarded for it. Girardi excelled at this in his bullpen usage last year, and has done it again this year, letting Phil Coke, Alfredo Aceves, and now Phil Hughes pitch their way to high-leverage duty while casting aside more experienced arms in Jose Veras and Edwar Ramirez.

Of course, managers manage people and not just teams, so there have been a couple of cases in which Girardi has persisted with a player in a role beyond the point at which the media and fans thought was appropriate. Specifically, Girardi put Brian Bruney right back into his eighth-inning role after Bruney was activated from the DL for the second time and stuck with Robinson Cano batting fifth behind Alex Rodriguez through a considerable slump with runners in scoring position. In both cases, Girardi was showing some necessary faith in those players, but not so much that he didn’t eventually move Bruney into the middle innings and Cano down in the order.

Girardi also deserves credit for lightening up this season after receiving poor marks for his militaristic approach to last year’s team. Starting with a spring training team field trip to a pool hall conceived by the skipper, this year’s Yankees team has been one of the loosest and most colorful in recent memory, from Nick Swisher’s iPod, to A.J. Burnett’s cream pies, to the post-game championship belt (donated by Jerry Lawler), to the Mariano Rivera-judged kangaroo court.

Still, Girardi continues to have a blind spot when it comes to the fragility of his players. Though he seems to have discontinued his practice of lying to the media about his players’ health, he initially failed to follow the doctor’s orders to give Alex Rodriguez proper rest following the third baseman’s return from hip surgery, and has too often overextended CC Sabathia beyond the big man’s effectiveness. Fortunately, CC’s pitch counts haven’t been dangerous (he has reached 120 pitches just twice, tellingly both times in Yankee losses), and Rodriguez has responded incredibly to having some regular rest of late. Still, taking those kind of chances with the team’s top assets early in the season is more than just obstinate, it’s potentially disastrous for the organization. Given Girardi’s injury blind spot, I wonder to what degree his approach is to blame for the fact that both Cody Ransom and Brian Bruney tried to cover up injuries to the detriment of the team.

B+

Yankee Stadium 2.0

Prior to Opening Day, my objections to the new Yankee Stadium were sentimental, political, financial, historical, and aesthetic. Then the thing opened and turned out to be a giant Homermobile. Worse, it had a significant, detrimental effect on the game being played on the field. Though it feels cavernous to fans, it plays like a bandbox and has been host to many game-changing pop-fly home runs. Just look at the pitching staff’s splits:

Home: 4.80 ERA, 1.45 HR/9, 3.86 BB/9
Road: 4.32 ERA, 1.11 HR/9, 3.57 BB/9

Compare that to last year’s splits:

Home: 4.11 ERA, 0.83 HR/9, 3.10 BB/9
Road: 4.46 ERA, 0.96 HR/9, 3.01 BB/9

That is by far the most significant aspect of the new park, but beyond the way it plays, all of my preseason objections still hold. The best seats in the house have been half empty or worse because of their exorbitant price. The massive new scoreboards are poorly organized, making it unnecessarily difficult to catch any pertinent information with a quick glance away from the action. It’s gaudy, cacophonous, somehow looks cheap despite its billion-dollar price tag, caters primarily to luxury clients, has compromised the quality of the games being played on its field, and was utterly unnecessary in the first place.

D-

Joba Demands a Bounty Of Solos

a beautiful day for a ballgame

Joba Chamberlain’s second start of the season didn’t go quite as well as the first. He gave up a solo home run to the second batter he faced (Mark DeRosa), walked five men including two in the fourth inning leading to a second Cleveland run (on a Ben Francisco two-out RBI single), and coughed up three more runs in the fifth before being pulled with two outs in that inning. Chamberlain still managed to strike out four in his 4 2/3 innings, but he lacked control throughout, throwing fewer than half of his 93 pitches for strikes and mixing in a wild pitch in the top of the fifth.

The Yankee offense, meanwhile, drew six walks, but didn’t get a single hit with a runner on base in the entire game. Instead they took advantage of the jet stream heading out to right field in their new park and peppered the right-field stands with solo home runs. Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira went back-to-back off Tribe starter Anthony Reyes in the third to give the Yankees their first lead at their new ballpark. After Chamberlain allowed the Indians to tie the score in the top of the fourth, Melky Cabrera answered back with a solo shot in the bottom of the inning to make it 3-2 Yanks.

Chamberlain gave that lead right back as well, but the Yankee bullpen locked it down from there with Phil Coke, Jonathan Albaladejo, and the suddenly unhittable Brian Bruney combining to face the minimum over 3 2/3 scoreless innings. In the meantime, Robinson Cano brought the Yankees to within one with a solo shot of lefty Zach Jackson leading off the sixth, and Cleveland reliever Vinnie Chulk handed the Yankees the tying run in the seventh by walking Damon to start the inning, then throwing away a comebacker from Mark Teixeira for a two-base error that let Damon come all the way around to score.

Rivera takes the new Yankee Stadium mound for the first time in the regular season as "Enter Sandman" blasts over the P.A.After Bruney’s dominant eighth inning (11 pitches, 8 strikes, two Ks), pinch-hitter Hideki Matsui and Brett Gardner struck out against Jensen Lewis to start the bottom of the ninth, but Derek Jeter connected for a two-out solo shot (a Captain Solo, if you will) that proved to be the game winner as Mariano Rivera  pitched around a pair of singles and struck out DeRosa to earn his first save and seal the Yankees’ first win in the new stadium. Final score: 6-5 Yankees.

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First Look

When I went to the Yankees’ workout day at the new Yankee Stadium back on April 2, a reporter from The Bronx Beat followed me around with a camera to capture my initial impressions of the new ballpark. The result is this piece, which also uses my photography of the park’s construction from the previous two seasons.

All of the still photographs in that piece are mine. Many of the photographs I took that day can be found in my photo essay on the new stadium. My other writing on the new ballpark can be found here, while my posts on the closing of the old Stadium can be found here.

Firsties

The Yankees’ home opener may not be until April 16, but the first baseball game ever played at the new Yankee Stadium took place last night, as did a number of other firsts, which though they may be unofficial, will always be the ones I count because I was there.

Because of the rain yesterday afternoon, neither team took batting practice. I arrived at the park a bit after 5:30 and the Cubs took the field too loosen up soon after. Here are some photographs from before the game (as always, all of my photos can be enlarged with a click).

pregame Cubs

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Poking Around The New Digs

The Yankees held their first workout at the new Yankee Stadium yesterday afternoon. It was the first time the entire team gathered at the new ballpark, the first time the field was used for baseball activities, and the first time that fans were allowed into the stands. The new Yankee Stadium is open for business. Below are a few photos and impressions of the new ballpark (all photos can be clicked to enlarge).

upper deck view

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Major League Sleazeball

The below is an “Outside the Lines” report explaining the emerging scandal over the new Yankee Stadium tax swindle, with a cameo from Friend of the Banter Neil deMause. It may seem petty for the federal government to be concerned with this given the state of our economy, but the Yankees are trying to swindle the government, and thus the tax payers, out of hundreds of millions of dollars. If any other corporation tried a stunt like that, I’d want the feds to investigate, so I’m glad they’re doing so here.

Man, Randy Levine is the ultimate sleaze, ain’t he?

To Serve Fans

Congress is taking Assemblyman Richard Brodsky’s report about the new Yankee Stadium’s cooked books seriously. The charge is being led by Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who is chairman of the House’s Domestic Policy subcommittee:

In an e-mail interview on Thursday, Kucinich said that “our factual findings could be the basis for a later agency or court finding of legal liability.”

In the letter and interview, he cautioned that the I.R.S. could roll back the tax-exempt status of some or all of the stadium bonds. He also suggested that the I.R.S. could reject the Yankees’ pending request for tax-free status on an additional $366 million in bonds to complete the financing of the stadium.

One wonders if such action by the I.R.S. could have a direct effect on team payroll in the coming years, thereby making the Yankees’ proposed spending spree this winter one that severely handicaps their flexibility in subsequent offseasons. It seems a long shot, and I certainly wouldn’t expect the Yankees to alter their behavior in the near term, but this bears watching.

Providing Closer Views For All

This below is a very unscientific comparison of the seating bowls in the new Yankee Stadium (on the left from a photo posted on the WCBS web site) and the current Yankee Stadium (on the right from a photo I took three weeks ago). It’s an imperfect comparsion to be sure (the photo on the left appears to have been taken from in or near the press box, while my photo was taken from a seat in the upper deck behind home plate), but the difference in the upper deck seating is striking nonetheless.

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The Rich Get Richer: The Ugly Truth About The New Yankee Stadium

As the Yankees play their final games at Yankee Stadium, I’ve come to realize that I’ve never really shared my reaction to the organization’s decision to move across the street into a new billion-dollar stadium built primarily with public money. When they announced the plans for the new stadium in June 2005, I said nothing. When they broke ground in August 2006, I remained silent. Beyond a few kinds words for the old park and some photos of the construction taken out of curiosity and a desire to document a significant event, I’ve almost ignored the entire stadium business altogether in this space.

I realize now that the reason I haven’t said much is that every time I start to think seriously about the move, I become overwhelmed with mixed emotions. Certainly there’s a sadness that comes from knowing that after Sunday I’ll never again be able to watch a game at the old ballpark, which has been a part of my life and my love of baseball for 20 years and which I’ve visited more than 125 times. There’s also a curiosity about what the new place will bring and an optimism about the new memories that might be made there. There’s also resignation, as this moment was sure to arrive at some point during my lifetime, even if it didn’t necessarily need to be now. Above all else, however, there’s anger.

I’ll put it as plainly as I can. The new Yankee Stadium has been conceived and built exclusively for the high-end luxury customer. It is not for Yankee fans; it is for corporations and the super-rich. It is an oversized ATM built primarily with public money, and the cash it spits out will go directly into the coffer of the New York Yankees, a private corporation. It is a monument to corruption, greed, and the failures of our municipal and state governments to act in the best interests of the people they are supposed to represent, and a vile and disgusting insult to all but the wealthiest of Yankee fans.

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Naming Rights TK?

I was at the game today (Emma will be along later with the recap), and the Yankees were giving away DVDs of a “Virtual Tour” of the new Yankee Stadium. I haven’t watched the thing yet, but opening up the front flap I saw this:

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If nothing strikes you as odd about that, look a little closer:

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I’m speculating wildly here, but that image in the background looks a lot like a mock-up designed for companies interested in acquiring naming rights to the new Stadium. I’ve not seen any other conceptual image of the new Stadium with any letters to the right of the center field video screen, so I’m guessing whomever layed out this DVD package is in a boat load of trouble right now.

Update: I watched the DVD and, again, there is no lettering to the right of the video screen in any image shown.

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