New Yankee Stadium

Well, before I get into my predictions for the 2009 lineup, I must first give my thoughts on the new Yankee Stadium after attending Friday night’s game vs. the Cubs.

I’m still shocked they were able to even play the game (Although the field seemed to drain just as advertised, as that field looked game-ready just a few minutes after the tarp was removed).  All day I was staring out the window, noticing the rain stopped for five minutes and convincing myself the game was on, then it would start pouring and the game was back off, and then, finally, after reading on yankees.com that they were opening the gates on time no matter what, heading out to the Stadium, game or no game, for the chance to finally see the Stadium myself.  I mean, my ticket cost $1.30. While I was excited to see the Yankees play, the main attraction Friday night was the Stadium, and it did not disappoint!

First, unless you are one of those people who are against the new Stadium on principle (Which is a perfectly acceptable point of view.  The Yankees did not NEED a new Stadium. I mean, ticket sales were fine, the whole “Ruth/Gherig/Dimaggio/Mattingly/Sojo played on this field! reason ((Again, I guess I understand this point, but, hell, if you can’t knock down Yankee Stadium because Babe Ruth played there, well, he played in a ton of parks during his life.  Was there rage when Braves Field was knocked down?  I know that’s stretching the point big time, but how many games does Ruth have to play in a place before it’s deemed unknockdownable (((made up word)))?) Anyway, as you can tell,  while I loved the old Stadium and would have probably had no issues with the Yankees playing there for another 80 years, I had no problem with the building of a new Stadium and was extremely excited to see it for the first time.

My verdict: Fan-tabulous!

It honestly looks like someone just took the old Stadium and improved everything about it.  Nothing seemed gratituous, it didn’t look like they were enhancing things just for to show off that it’s new. For some reason I really like the navy blue on the seats and the outfield wall.  It’s a lot sharper than that lighter blue at the old Stadium, and really gives it more of a classic look.  The Great Hall is, well, great.  There’s tons of classic photos everywhere, with all the World Series teams over the concession stands throughout the Stadium.  The manual score boards is a minor change but, like the navy blue, gives it a more classic feel.  On the other hand the gigantic screen gives it a much more modern look, and the picture quality is ridiculous. 

I was in the last row of the grand stand on the third base side of the field and, outside of a small corner in right field, the sight lines were great.  I could even turn around and look at the old Stadium across the street, which was a bit weird at first.  Later in the game (after the great Mariano Rivera’s appearance) I went down to the area between the two bleacher sections, on top of the Hard Rock in center field, and, while I still would probably not by a standing room ticket myself, that area seems like it will be an awesome place to hang out during games if you want to leave your seats for a while.  It also had the best view of the frieze stretching around the grand stand.  Again, there was nothing that seemed out of place or unecessarily overdone.  Just a great job. The game was fun, too. 

New Yankee Stadium

The Joba controversy

Because Hank Steinbrenner said this quote in Play Magazine:

“‘Red Sox Nation?’ What a bunch of (expletive)
that is. That was a creation of the Red Sox and ESPN, which is filled
with Red Sox fans.

“Go
anywhere in America and you won’t see Red Sox hats and jackets, you’ll
see Yankee hats and jackets. This is a Yankee country. We’re going to
put the Yankees back on top and restore the universe to order.”

He is already a Yankees legend.  Just like Hideki Irabu, Luis Sojo, Derek Jeter, and Jose Canseco.  You see, anyone who has ever worn a Yankees uniform is a Yankees legend (yes, that includes Kyle Farnsworth).

However I, like many sane people, am not with Hank on the current Joba controversy.  You see, I support what seems to be the Yankees’ current plan.  Start the season with the rotation they have now, keep Joba in the setup role and then, around June, work him into the rotation.  The only reason the Yankees have to accelerate putting Joba into the rotation is if any of the five starters suffer an injury that would keep them out long-term.  Right now (and hopefully, not ever), that hasn’t happened.  I realize Hank and many fans of the Yankees think Hughes and Kennedy may not be ready, and that Mussina may be finished as an effective starter, but I do not agree.

With Hughes and Kennedy (and Moose to some degree) the main problem right now seems to be they’re not being aggressive.  Moose, of course, needs to take a page out of Tom Glavine’s book and start pitching inside more.  This doesn’t mean Moose has to completely reinvent himself as a pitcher, that’s not what Glavine did, he just has to sneak the fastball inside enough that batters can’t sit on his breaking balls or a fastball over the outside of the plate.  A successful Moose start at this point also relies on him having excellent control and a sharp breaking ball.  He had that against the Rays and he pitched a great game (He also worked inside a bit more, especially to Gomez).  In the first start against Boston he had it early, but they have one of the best offenses in the league and were going to score a few runs off him no matter how great he pitched.  It also didn’t help that in both starts against Boston he was matched up against Josh Beckett.  Moose can still be successful (I’m talking a 2008 record of somewhere in the 13 wins, seven losses range) but he’s going to have to make some adjustments.

With Hughes and Kennedy I think they’re problem, right now, is their both being tentative.   With Hughes, and I’m not sure if this is because he’s still building up his arm strength, his fastball velocity seems to be less than he’s capable of throwing.  When he was pitching his brief and infamous no-hitter against the Rangers last year, he was topping off with a fastball in the mid-90’s, while I don’t think I’ve seen him hit over 93 on the gun this year.  If it isn’t an arm strength thing, I think it’s a situation where he’s aiming the ball too much, and not relying on his stuff.  He has a tremendous curveball, and he’s had success with it so far this year, but it seems like he’s too concerned with absolutely nailing his spot with his fastball that he’s either missing off the plate for a ball, or he’s getting too much of the plate with a subpar fastball and it’s getting hit hard.   Again, I’m not sure if this is a arm strength issue or a situation where he’s worrying too much about hitting his spot with perfection.  We will see as he progresses over the season.

I managed to catch a few of Kennedy’s starts during Spring Training and was quickly becoming a fan of his approach.  He seemed willing to throw his tremendous change up on any count, and he was consistently throwing strikes with his fastball.  Then, in his first start against the Rays and his start against Baltimore this weekend, he became an extreme nibbler.  And when he was getting into 3-0 and 3-1 counts, he would then just throw a fastball right down the middle of the plate.   He seems afraid of letting the batter make contact early in the count.  At 89 mph, hitters are going to catch up with his fastball.  For him, he has to keep it low in the zone and, most importantly, throw strikes.  It would be great if he could hit the black with every pitch, but it’s not going to happen.  Attack the zone, work in the change up (I’d also like to see a bit more of the curve, for a different look) and, most importantly, throw first-pitch strikes.

The most exciting part of this season, for me, is the young pitching.  The offense will be great, there’s too much proven talent there, but the great unknown is the pitching.  Outside of Wang and Pettitte, it’s off to a rough start, but they’re young, they’re talented, and I think fans have to be patient (and by patient I mean see progress by Memorial Day) before there are any shake ups with the rotation.

The Joba controversy