The new Yankee Stadium has opened to a plethora of empty seats, walk-off wins and long home runs.
The new house has become a launching pad, a homer-happy haven for hitters. The Bronx Bandbox has yielded 87 homers in the first 23 games, just off the all-time pace set in the mile-high homer haven at Coors Field in Denver in 1999, where 303 home runs were hit.
After a thorough inspection of the new Stadium, the SportsLifer has uncovered the problem and knows how to fix it.
Listen I’m no rocket scientist, but I work for a company that employs thousands of brilliant engineers and scientists. And my father is a retired engineer. So perhaps some of that engineering expertise has rubbed off.
Anyway, here’s my premise. First of all, the dimensions of the new Yankee Stadium are identical to the old one, so that shouldn’t have any impact on increased home run rates.
And it’s not as if the new Stadium is located in another part of New York City at a higher elevation with differing weather and wind patterns. Heck, it’s right across 161st Street from the old place.
Air Flow in The Upper Deck
The answer lies in the upper deck, enclosed in the old ballpark but with open spaces in the new Stadium. In fact, on the upper concourse at the new house there is an open gap, roughly 15-feet high. This gap, above the concession stands, allows the prevailing westerly flow entry into the park, especially on the third base side.
That airflow is then channeled into a smaller gap, about six-feet high, between the upper deck and the terrace level, where it eventually flows out to right field from the third base side (or left field from the first base side).
The majority of home runs in the new Stadium have been hit to right and right-center, which is no coincidence. They have been helped by that prevailing air flow.
The solution is a simple one according to this self-anointed engineer/architect. Put up protective tiles on the outside of the ballpark to cut down the wind flow in the upper deck. Problem solved.
With a diminished wind flow the home run ratio is bound to go down, and everyone but the hitters will be happy.
I’ve been waiting the past few years to see the new Yankee Stadium. And I’ve been waiting a lot longer — a lifetime — to catch a ball at a game.
Friday night I did both.
First time ever in the new Yankee Stadium, right after touring Monument Park, I ventured into the lower left field seats to check out the view and watch some batting practice. I wasn’t there 30 seconds when Derek Jeter lined a shot into the stands. It crashed into a seat several rows behind where I was standing, bounced forward, hit off several leaping fans, and popped into my hands as I leaned over the seat in front of me for a two-had grab..
So after more than 50 years and hundreds of games in 20 ballparks,…and just minutes about the new Stadium — I finally got my first ball. (Hey, I know it’s only batting practice, but hey, who’s counting beside me.)
Oh, I’d come close several times, no closer than a home run Bernie Williams hit into the right field seats on the day David Wells pitched his perfect game in 1998. I had that ball lined up and ready to grab, but was shoved by a large fan and missed catching it on the bounce. If you watch replays of that famous game, you can still see me — the guy in the orange windbreaker getting turned around as the ball bounces right underneath his seat.
Close But No Ball
I came close at Candlestick as a kid, and later at Tropicana Field. A friend of mine got a foul ball at Camden Yards once, when we were sitting right behind the Yankee dugout. Once during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, I caught a small yellow ball thrown into the stands and got two free tickets to see the Bare Naked Ladies in concert.
Heck, just a few weeks ago I grabbed a Mets’ tee-shirt thrown into the crowd in my first game at Citi Field.
But never caught a baseball at a major league ballpark — at least until Friday night.
What an introduction to the new Yankee Stadium. Just walked into the place, caught a Jeter BP homer. Feelin’ like I own the joint.
The new house is a magnificent baseball palace with wider concourses than the old Stadium, flat screen TVs everywhere, and an incredibly huge, diamond vision screen in center field. Restaurants and bars are located all over the park, a variety of food and drink available. And unlike the old Stadium with separate entrances, the bleachers are connected to the rest of the stadium.
But there are drawbacks. There are seats in the bleachers, for example, where you can’t see left field. I’m not talking about the left field corner, I mean left field. It’s blocked by the restaurant in center. There are some flat screens there, but you can’t see left field is left out.
Speaking of seats, with all that room it wouldn’t have hurt to put a few more tables around the park for fans to eat — especially in the upper deck.
The out-of-town scoreboard doesn’t really allow the fan to follow other ballgames. It quickly flashes scores with confusing team logos, as opposed to Citi Field where fans can follow each game, all the time.
Like any new house, the new Stadium needs some getting used to. Eventually the Yankees will figure out the economics of pricing the fancy seats behind the plate, and they’ll start filling the park if they’re winning.
The new Stadium is fast developing a reputation as a launching pad, and so far has given up with nearly four home runs a game on average. The night I went, Justin Morneau hit a pair and Joe Mauer one for the Twins. Jeter hit a home run for the Yankees (not the one I caught), and Brett Gardner hit an inside-the-parker, the first for the Yankees in nearly 10 years and the first ever in the new Stadium.
The general impression is that the Yankees lost some of their intimidating home field advantage moving across 161st Street to the new grounds. Winning baseball, like the Yankees dramatic ninth-inning rally Friday night to beat Minnesota, will build that home field edge. The crowd was certainly pretty loud when the Yankees were coming back, and the house went nuts when Melky Cabrera singled with outs to drive in the tying and winning runs.
First game at the new Stadium, a Yankee win, and a ball. Priceless.
Empty seats are a strange yet familiar sight in the new Yankee Stadium.
First, the good news. They still have 26 World Championships and 39 American League pennants in the bank.
Now, the bad news. The wheels are coming off the Yankees World Series express.
Where to begin. Start with the bullpen
No Relief…When .Mariano Rivera starts to struggle, the Yankees are in big trouble. The best relief pitcher in baseball history has lost some velocity on his cutter, courtesy of a tired shoulder. You have to wonder if, at 39, this is the beginning of the end for the great Rivera. The other night against Tampa Bay he gave up back-to-back home runs for the first time in his career in an 8-6 loss. He’s already given up as many home runs (4) as he did all of last season…and more than he’s given up in eight other seasons. And he’s sporting a very un-Rivera like 3.97 ERA, the highest of his career.
The rest of the Yankee bullpen is, in a word, pathetic. Every game is a crap shoot with this group. They can’t get the ball over the plate, and when they do, it gets hit someplace hard. At some point this year the Yankees will need to move Joba Chamberlain back to the bullpen to ensure at least a semblance of consistency.
Choking in The Clutch….One thing you can count on — Yankee hitters do not deliver in the clutch. This was a problem last year, but this year it has grown to epidemic proportions.
During their five-game losing streak, the Yankees did not hold a lead in any game and were 6-for-43 with runners in scoring position. We’ve seen this act before. And it’s been a problem up and down the entire lineup, with virtually every hitter sharing the blame.
Free Agent Struggles….During the off-season, the Yankees spent more than $423 million dollars — that’s right, nearly half a billion in the middle of an economic turndown — to sign pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and first baseman Mark Teixeria (pictured right in happier times) to long-term contracts. Like virtually all high-profile free agent signees with the Yankees, the early returns have not been good.
Neither Sabathia (two wins, 3.94 ERA) and Burnett (two wins, 5.26 ERA) have been the stoppers the Yankees expected. And Teixeira has been awful, so bad he was booed repeatedly by the home fans in an 0-for-5 effort the other night. That is what happens to a .192 hitter making $22.5 million a year.
Old And Injured…The Yankees are an older team, one of the oldest teams in baseball. Old teams run the risk of injuries, and that’s what’s happening in New York. Alex Rodriguez and Chien Ming Wong have hip problems, Hideki Matsui’s knees ache, and Johnny Damon has a bum shoulder,
Now the Yanks are decimated at catcher, with both Jorge Posada and Jose Molina on the disabled list and no young catching prospects in sight. Injuries are part of the game, and older teams are more injury-prone. That’s a fact. The Yankees knew that coming in and chose to roll the dice with older players.
The New House….What’s with all those empty seats? The Yankees have a beautiful new ballpark, but they can’t fill it. They miscalculated their fan base, seriously over-priced the seats behind home plate, and as a result have lost some of the home-field advantage they enjoyed for so many years right across the street. This is a problem, and it’s not going away…but some fans are.
The Front Office….If you were given a bigger budget than your competition, and your business failed year after year, would you keep your job? So how does general manager Brian Cashman keep his?
Cashman has put together a team that can’t pitch, can’t hit with runners on base, is old, and is lacking in speed and defensive abilities. He has to absorb some of the blame.
And Joe Girardi needs to be held accountable too, although to be fair, it’s tough to be successful when your players don’t execute. Still Girardi’s propensity to over-manage can be disturbing.
The Lightning Rod…..The Yankees are getting Alex Rodriguez back. Is that good news or bad news? We all know how A-Rod , left, has reacted to pressure over the years. Not very well.
His failures in key situations, especially in the post-season, have been well chronicled. But he certainly came though in fine style in his first at bat with a three-run homer.
Strange as it may sound, the Yankee turmoil may be the perfect foil for A-Rod. It sets him up to be a hero. If A-Rod can come back and generate some offense, carry the team and produce some victories, the New York fans will love him. So like Bonds in San Francisco, he may be a jerk but he’s our jerk.
Fans and the media alike have been piling on A-Rod ever since it came to light that he was using steroid. His eputation has taken a serious beating.. Rodriguez seemingly has nowhere to go but up. The fact that Manny Ramirez is stealing the headlines with his steroid use and 50-game suspension, may actually take some of the onus off A-Rod.
Of course, it’s up to Rodriguez and the rest of his Yankee teammates to produce if they want to get back in the race.
Was hoping to get to the opening of the new Yankee Stadium this week. Tried to call in a few favors, but the tickets never came through.
Fuggedaboutit! I’m not the godfather.
And with a slim wallet and the cheap seats going for $200 and up hundreds, scalping was out of the question.
So instead I took the day off from work, and saw the game on TV. For free.
Saved hundreds in the process, considering the price of tix, parking, gas, hot dog and beer and a program.
Not to mention peanuts.
Instead, I watched the Yankee Stadium opener in high-definition splendor on my 37-inch flat screen. On the coach. In my living room.
Got to see the pre-game festivities, John Fogerty and Bernie Williams playing guitar in center field.
The living Yankees, and the ghosts of many former Yankees too, gathering at the new Stadium.
And of course Yogi Berra. throwing out the first pitch.
Jorge Posada, following in the rather gargantuan foot steps of Babe Ruth, hit the first home run in the new Stadium.
Only One Chance
But you only get one chance a year to win the home opener, one chance in a lifetime to win the first game in a new ballpark.
And after the Cleveland Indians scored nine runs in the seventh inning, it was clear the Yankees weren’t going to win on this day.
Final: Cleveland 10, New York 2.
THUD!! was that sound heard from the Bronx on Thursday afternoon.
The Yankees did win the next day, edging Cleveland, 6-5, on a Derek Jeter home run in the eighth.
Nice win, but that doesn’t count as the opener.
Related Links: The SportsLifer takes one last look at some of the great moments at the old Yankee Stadium.