New York (American) opens 0-2 against what it likes to think is its weakest divisional foe. Sabathia’s ERA is 12.46 and is, by nearly five runs, the best among the starters, and Wang got two-thirds of his outs on the ground and still got torched. Oh, and Teixeira’s 1-for-9.
Too early to panic? The Pirates already gave Andy LaRoche a day off “to breathe” (there’s your problem son, you’re not breathing) and they’re in Pittsburgh. This is New York, the capital of sports panic ever since Andrew Freedman used to change managers of the Giants every two months in the 1890’s. Let the panic party begin.
If A.J. Burnett follows the pattern (and I don’t think he will; he was lights out in the spring), there will be a full-fledged hair-on-fire week until the new Stadium opens. The Yankee mantra after Alex Rodriguez’s injury/operation/house arrest was “we have all the pitching; we don’t need to score runs.” This ignored just how little protection Teixeira would be afforded in a Rodriguez-free line-up, or the dubiousness of Gardner’s capacity to create (think Michael Bourn), or the uncertainty of how much of Posada would make it back.
If the Yanks go 0-3 the only question will be who does the panicking. Do not rule out The Boss. Although he was reported to be “in and out” in Tampa, the only time I saw George Steinbrenner his presence offered a complete contradiction. His wheelchair was being pushed towards the elevators near the Press Box of the stadium now named for him – always a shocking thing to see for the first time. On the other hand, he was bright-eyed and when my friend David Cone gingerly went over to say hello – fearing he’d have to reintroduce himself – Steinbrenner happily yelled “I can see it’s you David. I wish you were still pitching for me.”
Sabathia, of course, got lit (nine runs each, I believe) his first two starts last year, and should be fine when he finds his rhythm, presumably well in advance of any 21st Century reenactment of The Ed Whitson Saga. And in wagering sanguine on Teixeira, I’ll now repeat my warnings from last weekend, with the endorsement of no less a sage than Lou Piniella: in the new Yankee Stadium, a lefthanded hitter might just as well stand at the plate with one of those t-shirt-shooting bazookas and aim it at the porch. “Pitch to the center of the park,” Lou said last Saturday, “because if you pitch to right field we’re gonna run out of baseballs.”
The real fear is about Wang. He was not sharp in the spring, he was not sharp in the exhibition game in the Bronx, he was not sharp in Baltimore. There is nothing worse than reading about other people’s fantasy teams, but an AL-only auction with ESPN fantasy experts, I watched Wang get nominated 93th overall and draw a final bid of $4. There was still money on the table (Erik Bedard had just gone for $9; John Danks would go two names later for $9). There is no expectation that the 19-game winner will suddenly reappear – and for the Yankees this belief is dogma.
If these fantasy dollar figures tell you anything you will injure yourself trying to suss out this league. Short rosters (19 players) mean the $260 goes further (about 18% further). Nevertheless: I thought I was going crazy bidding Sabathia up to $49. Halladay promptly went for $58 and Liriano for $50. I put my money on my Teixeira-related mouth ($56) to the titters of the cognoscenti. Miguel Cabrera went for $75. And the boast: Nelson Cruz for $5, eleven nominees before Carlos Pena hammered at $38.
Enough. I just said there’s nothing worse than reading what I proceeded to write two paragraphs about.
Lastly, thanks to all who sent condolences about my mother. In an era of Mantle, Murcer, Munson, and later Reggie and Catfish, her favorite player was always Roy White, which should tell you all you need to know about her fandom.
Do not undervalue the historical import of Spring Training games in big league parks – especially brand new ones. Johnny Damon, videographer, records part of the Yankees’ christening of the second (third?) Yankee Stadium while coach Tony Pena apparently spots a guy who borrowed money from him in 1989.
For your record-keeping pleasure, Aaron Miles got the first exhibition hit in the place, Derek Jeter the first Yankee safety, Robinson Cano the first home run. The first celebrity in the stands was Paul Simon – and parenthetically he sat through the whole rainy magilla. And, yes, as suggested Thursday, the ball rockets to right field. Cano, Matsui, and Cody Ransom hit bullet home runs off Ted Lilly (notice: two lefties going to the shortened-by-wind short-porch in right off a lefty) and Miles and Reed Johnson both rattled extra-base hits into the corner. It’s going to be a take-it-to-RF ballpark.
Fly on the wall time – as caught by the stadium cameraman just before the man in the suit threw out the first pitch, and as the man in the Cubs’ cap was telling me that the new place was magnificent, and that the Yankees had managed both to “recreate the history of the old place, and capture the splendor of a brand new place.” Me? I just listened and learned.
By the way, Lilly looked like crap, Wang didn’t look much better, Brett Gardner forgot to mosey down to the infield to cover second on a rundown play as they were running back Miles to second, and the Yankee bullpen (Rivera, Veras, Ramirez, and Albaladejo, pitched four hitless – oh, and the place looks pretty at night from the visitors’ dugout: