The Home Run Menace

Don’t be fooled by that alarming statistic out of the new
Yankee Stadium, namely that the Indians and Yankees shattered the record for
the most homers hit in the first four games of a new big league park: 20,
compared to the 16 hit in the bandbox in Las Vegas back when the A’s had to
open up there.

Don’t be fooled. The problem is much worse.

That raw number excludes the two exhibition games the
Yankees played against the Cubs at the start of the month. That raw number
doesn’t address the bazooka-like quality at the new park, of any left-handed
hitter holding a bat. That raw number doesn’t address the variety of weather
conditions in which the homers have been hit.

Through circumstances unlikely to be repeated, I have thus far
attended all the events at the new facility, and thus I can not only
report on the 28 blasts that rocketed out of the place in the first six games,
I can testify to them. Let’s start by noting that 21 of them have exploded into
rightfield (and only a few have “just made it,” pretty much invalidating the
three- or four-foot shortening of the fence at some points, as compared to the
old Stadium). A 22nd was absolutely blasted by Jorge Posada to
dead-center (and it may be awhile before we see anybody do that again).

Two more were fluke jobs against the Cubs by Cody Ransom to
the corner in left. One actually struck the pole. Judging by body language
alone, Ransom’s freak bases-clearing double in the 8th Inning Sunday
against Cleveland certainly appeared to Ransom, and probably to leftfielder
Shin-Soo Choo, as a ball that was curving into the stands, foul, by twenty feet
or more. Choo only sauntered toward the corner. Ransom didn’t even follow the
ball and was staring at the broken bat handle in his hands. From my seat I get
a full view of the third base foul line, from the plate to the wall. I know
that I looked down, convinced the ball was foul, in the seats, and by a lot.

Only four traditional in-the-seats homers were hit to left in the first two exhibitions and four regular season games.

For all the air-gun blasts of Mark Teixeira, Ransom’s
hitting patterns may be the best clue so far as to what’s going on here. There
seems to be a jet stream, left to right, at all times. I speculated here
earlier that it is probably a fabrication of the open-to-the-air ring in the
Upper Deck combined with the open-to-the-air entrances at street level in the
corners, from which the playing field is visible. I think it was bad enough
Sunday that it blew Ransom’s ball, left to right, and fair. I think it’s been bad
enough this month to blow several balls already heading to right, far deeper
than physics should’ve allowed.

This does not discount another juiced ball theory (although
this theory must be incredibly flexible, to explain why juiced balls being hit
to LF aren’t pushing through the wind) and presumably the Posada homer Sunday
would’ve been a clear case of interference, or maybe just a ball caught at the
fence, if the new Stadium measurement was precisely the same as the old one).
It should also be noted, as it was noted here, that as early as the middle of
the Yankees’ first workout in the place on April 2, righty batters like Xavier
Nady were pointing to the seeming jet stream, and trying to go the opposite way
in batting practice. Thus it would seem that the wind currents are either the
only explanation, or, far and away, the most important one.

The question becomes, as Lou Piniella posited it after his
first experience with a wind that scared him as much as the gusts of Wrigley:
“Will it change when the weather does?” Obviously the vagaries of the climate
in April are not equivalent to the contrast between any April day and August.
But of the first six dates here, none have been identical. Review them with me
game-by-game.

1. Cubs-Yankees, Friday April 3: Left-handed hitters Cano
and Matsui take left-hander Ted Lilly deep in consecutive innings. Ransom hits
the LF foul pole off Lilly in the 4th. It’s a night game, the air
heavy and dank, 56 degrees and falling, and it rains starting in the 3rd
inning.

2. Cubs-Yankees, Saturday April 4: It’s now a 1 PM start,
colder, drier, much windier. Alfonso Soriano hits the hardest ball yet to LF
off Andy Pettitte. Then Jeter goes the opposite way off Rich Harden in the 3rd,
and Teixeira touches him in consecutive innings for homers to RF that looked
like the Mets’ Party Patrol shooting t-shirts into the stands. Ransom hits the
fifth homer of the blustery afternoon into the LF corner off Chad Gaudin.

3. Indians-Yankees, Thursday April 16. It’s a beautiful,
sunny day with no excessive wind. 56 degrees – at least ten degrees warmer than
the second Cubs game - and it
feels warmer still. This time Posada (batting righty) takes Cliff Lee over the
wall in center. Damaso Marte gives up blasts to Sizemore (RF) and Martinez (LF).

4. Indians-Yankees, Friday April 17. Now it’s warmer still,
63 at game time. In a 6-5 game, six homers are hit, all into various distant
locales in right, including two by righthanded batters (DeRosa and Jeter).

5. Indians-Yankees, Saturday April 18. Again the temperature
jumps around ten degrees and it’s a preview of summer. We start later in the
afternoon (3:43 EDT) and there are no fewer than eight homers, six to dead
Right and another by DeRosa to Right/Right-Center. Counting the exhibitions, we
are already up to 25 homers in five games here.

6. Indians-Yankees, Sunday April 19. Now the weather
plummets. It’s 17 degrees cooler at game time and a breezy wind makes it feel
colder. And we still get three more homers, two to rightfield.

So basically at this point we have five different kinds of
weather conditions (six if you think Thursday and Friday are radically
different) and the only pattern, based on very skimpy evidence, is that we
might be seeing homers rise as temperatures do.

Uh-oh.

Steinbrenner Stadium Illustrated:

I earlier noted the one major architectural anomaly in the new
place and finally got a decent shot at it. All the other deck facings at each
tier are absolutely symmetrical except this one:

IMG_0709.JPG

Yep. The official Steinbrenner Box – although he has not yet
been seen in the perch that guarantees occupants are actually about ten feet
“closer” than anybody else. This is to say nothing of the direct view provided
into the Yankee dugout, which can be used to stare daggers at Joe Girardi.

Baseball Photo Of The Week:

Courtesy my friend T.S. O’Connell at Sports Collectors Digest:Nothing less than a photo of the front display at a
Woolworth’s store, apparently in the New York metropolitan area, in the spring
of 1952. He has figured out what would today be the estimated value of what
seems to be 231 unopened, pristine boxes of 1952 Topps Baseball Cards. He has
apparently not even included the value of two partial uncut sheets hanging in
the window, one of which shows a Warren Spahn card, and the other both an Enos
Slaughter and a Duke Snider.

Gaps In My Education:

This is driving me more nuts than usual. I abhor things like
“The Great Yankee Subway Race” – not on any kind of “purity” level, but simply
because people sit there and think there is some legitimacy to the competition
when it’s only an animation. Stories abound of a foolish Yankee employee of the
past who actually thought the outcome was performance-based, or somehow
randomly-generated, and who actually wagered on the outcome, not knowing that
his opponent could simply call up his friend in Scoreboard Operations and say
“Make sure the B-Train wins tonight.” Also, the “B” is the local version of the
“D” train – how could it ever win? And at many times of day the “D” terminates
two stops before The Stadium. Maddening, I tells ya.

But what I want to know is: what is the name of the piece of
classical music which serves as the soundtrack for the “race.” I may have known
it once, but that brain cell is long since hors-de-combat. Anybody know?

17 Comments

Coors Field of the East. I think the Bombers picked the wrong year to retool and rely less on power. What is this going to do to recruiting efforts for RHPs? I can’t wait to see the results come August.
Quick question — is that NY Cubans jacket an Ebbets Field Flannels? Just curious. I enjoy reading your blogs.

http://lukewerner.mlblogs.com/

The New York Yankees have become the Unlovable Laughingstocks, the Stocks, the Laffees, and in Manhattan the Laffay, spelt Le Fe.

Much as i really don’t give a dollop, but the Mets got it right, a large park where the game can be played the way it was supposed to, National League-style, with pitching, speed, D AND NO DH. The Mets have risen as the sole representative of real baseball in NYC.

But please, Keith, say it ain’t so—Are you planning to write every word on New York baseball?! Like we don’t get enough of this bleep? As my Polish grandma mighta said, Yeccch. If so i’m bailin’.

Check out them Dodgers ~~~ Native Angeleno

The answer to your question is ‘ Four Seasons’ by Vivaldi

The only piece of classical music that evokes a race to me is “Flight of the Bumble Bees.” Is that what you’re talking about? And, not being one who has too much time or a chance to have access to NYC media, are there calls for Joe Girardi’s head on a pike yet?

Coors Field of the East. Nice. Would a humidor, like ours in Colorado help, hinder, or make no difference? Home runs significantly declined after the introduction here. But that had to do with adding moisture to the ball. But on warm days in New York, would a humidor remove extra moisture?

heard about your blog on rachel’s show last week, and really like it ? even enough to overlook your heavy-duty yankeeness. (after all, if it was MY blog, it would probably be very white sox heavy!)
looking forward to your insights on baseball so much that i’ve bookmarked the site ? above kos but below page 3 (a guy’s gotta keep his priorities).

Somehow, you wonder what was MORE maddening…the meltdown performed by the Yankees on Saturday, or having to watch (as I did) Joel Hanrahan of the Nationals blow not one, not two, but THREE save opportunities.
On three SUCCEESIVE nights, yet.
So you of all people can understand when he entered the game last night, and the camera literally panned to Manny Acta in the dugout, why I screamed (at the TV) “Manny, WHAT THE EFF ARE YOU THINKING???”
And wouldn’t you know, Hanrahan gets the save.
As to that “Yankee Subway Race”, I won’t debate semantics. Hell, I’M still waiting for Teddy to win a damned “President’s Race” @ Nationals Park (and RFK before that), to be honest!!!
Gary
Nasty Nats Live Here (and Everywhere)
http://go-nasty-nats.mlblogs.com
http://twitter.com/gonastynats

Looking at all these really terrific pictures of the new Yankee Stadium, as well as attached picture of 1950′s Woolworths, gave me an idea for Keith:

1. Perhaps he’ll get to a Red Sox game this summer up here, and take a few pictures of Fenway Park and post the pics here. Preferrably night game photos. Why not this weekend, for instance? The Yankees are coming to town.
2. Jim Rice & Ricky Henderson are being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009. Wouldn’t it be nice if Keith went there this summer for the induction and walked around taking pics to post here. Can you imagine how awesome these photos would be?

A real walk down baseball memory lane for all us baseball junkies who have yet to visit the Hall of Fame. I for one who would love to hear Keith’s thoughts on the old timers and how they measure up against each other. Cobb, Shoeless Joe, Mathewson, Smokey Joe Wood, Honus Wagner, Sam Crawford, Walter Johnson, Babe Ruth (the pitcher) …

What I don’t get is this. The new stadium is across the street (admittedly a very wide street) from the old stadium. Things can be weird in this city, but major atmospheric changes crossing 161st Street isn’t one of them.

I’d say lousy pitching is the more likely answer.

Well italians5, Conservatives like you need to realize that this is a baseball site, not a political forum.

So since Keith was Ill last night, he cannot blog. Give me a break. Obviously you must watch to much Fixed News.

Great work Keith.

I was at the game on Saturday and Sunday, and there is definitely something going on. I know they said there were wind tests done, and the engineers found no significant difference between the new and old stadiums, but how can there be NO difference? The stadiums are facing different directions, and the new stadium is completely open outside and inside, as mentioned in this blog posting. I sat in left field on Saturday, but on Sunday, sitting in the grandstand level on the 3rd base side, I definitely noticed a constant breeze blowing out toward right. At that height, it is just about right to turn a pop up into a homer.
However, as an Indians’ fan, I was more than happy to see the Tribe use the jet stream to their advantage on Saturday. And how!

I was astonished by the score when I finally tuned in on Saturday (there was hockey on, and the Giants on the radio, so my attention was divided) and I’ll admit I was pleased.

Subway train “races” – I’ll see you, and raise you cable car races at Jingle Bell Park. Can’t stand ‘em. Of course, I was the grouchy girl at the ‘Stick who’d yell “SHARK! SHARK!” any time idiots started the wave.

thanks for the commenter who mentioned the President races in DC – I’m heading there next week for a conference, and I think my schedule will allow me to head out to the game Sunday afternoon! Maybe I’ll bring TR luck in the race. ;)

re: the April 2009 “Home Run Derby”

I’ve heard this has happened at least twice before at the previous Yankee Stadium during this decade alone. Right?

Well Keith, I love the blog, but I’m not buyin’ the wind theories about the home runs at Yankee Stadium. Give me a break. I wouldn’t put it past the Yankees to be doing something to the ball in order to make a name for their new billion dollar beauty. I seam to remember on the baseball special of mythbusters they reported that all teams are keeping their balls in humidors to keep the long balls down. I wouldn’t put it past the yanks to not do this in order to make an entrance. It’s way to suspicious. If it was 10 to 15 homers that would be a good hitters park probably due to wind and weather, but 28!?! I just don’t buy it. The only way those kind of numbers can be reached is by artificial means. Maybe this should be seriously investigated.

#407 Ed Matthews Boston Braves. I’ll let you all know what I find out when I find out. If anyone went to the Woolworth’s link, did you wish you could dive right into the photo and look at those 1952 sets under the shiny wrapping?

*Now, this is for Olbermann’s latest Countdown, 4/23/09 – Manatee and Charity*

- – - – - – - – - – - -

*gurgle* Let’s see what happens with the Manatee! So, he’s only donating 1,000K per second? 5,200K will be enough to help…hmmmm… a family? Sunday – I’ll be looking for it in the headlines! Five seconds is a long time, I’ll bet. So, you’ll match him if he does it, and then double it if he talks? I say, quadruple if he loses his Mana-O-pee-Chee!
- That’s cool you and David Cone got a chance to see Mr. Steinbrenner, by the way. Back to Countdown…

Hannity had better do this, because this is no joke. I feel awful already just thinking of the families who will be hurt if he makes any jokes and/or is a no-show … I don’t know – there are so many ways he can hurt other people.
Enough. “Back will come Spahn
followed by Sain
And followed
we hope
by two days of rain” – (Boston Post writer Gerald Hern).

Baseball is good, and there are enough Manatees already in Brevard Co. AA (Manatees), affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Maybe this all has to do with Jorge Posada – I try not to keep tabs on every catcher but end up doing so when I hear about some of the horrible outings.
Like, get Petite and Burnett and assign him to them. Get another catcher to call games for everyone else. Posada throws CC off every game, he gives away signs by moving his wrist and…. just a bunch of other crap a veteran catcher should know. He’s a wimp with half the staff.
Catchers who can’t handle calling a game to a full pitching staff SHOULDN’T be assigned to everyone on the staff. Is Girardi just going to plant Gardner behind the plate for back-up?
At least Cabrera can track a ball. Holy Cow!
I’m cranky.

I’m delighted to know of your interest in baseball, number 1.

Number 2… the Home Run Menace title attracted my mouseclick in hope that your comments weren’t limited to merely the phenomenon of the Yankee’s pop-fly garden, which they’ve always had, but to the curse of home runs in general. You didn’t comment on that so I’ll try.

Home runs are boring. The ball goes over the fence and out of play. After that nothing happens except that the numbers change in the Run column. No frantic scooping of the ball by a harried outfielder, no bug-eyed hat-flying running of bases, no display of a major league hose from right field, no convergence of ball, catcher, runner, and ump at home plate like sunbeams through a magnifying glass… nope… nada. Just a triumphant trot around the bases and a pitcher looking to the ump for a new ball.

The game is more fun if the ball stays inside the park:
If home runs were so difficult that it made no sense to load a team with fence-swinging goons, we’d see the steroid era end overnight. A softer ball and deeper fences would make it impossible for a guy with warning track power to muscle up to 25 HR per year. Likewise pitchers wouldn’t feel compelled to throw 95+ to suppress the homer-goons. If they throw softer they don’t hurt themselves and don’t need the roids to heal up. Teams would load up on speed and athleticism instead of rocket launchers and good pitchers wouldn’t be rarer than a unanimous vote in Congress.

If homers were an aberration instead of the norm, baseball would be far more interesting and cleaner. The case of the New Yankee Stadium homer porch may be a good thing in that it may serve to illustrate the stifling silliness of this part of the modern pro game.

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