Even as the Minnesota Twins continued to succumb to their weird allergy here at Yankee Stadium (they’ve now lost 31 of their last 37 here, counting playoffs), Derek Jeter went 0-for-4 and the creepiest stat of all time just got a little worse.
I will state at the outset that those who interpret what’s being done as tribute have my full respect when they so claim. But, personally, I flinch every time I hear the voice of the late Bob Sheppard introduce Jeter, and my reaction is not unlike that of the late comedian Bill Hicks when he first saw a posthumous public service announcement featuring actor Yul Brynner: “What the heck is this guy selling?”
I thought the world of Mr. Sheppard, who extended kindness and support to me from the day I finally screwed up the courage to introduce myself to him. He did not undervalue his place in sports, but he had fun with it. When in 2004 I was researching the then-unknown identity of his predecessor (it was Yankees’ public relations director Arthur “Red” Patterson) I asked him if he had any earthy clue who it might have been, he said without batting an eyelash, “Methuselah!” Merely because I asked him, Bob spent fifteen minutes before the first game of the 1998 World Series with Tony Gwynn. Tony had said that one of the highlights of being in the Series again was the chance to hear Bob introduce him. I got Bob to record that introduction on a disk for me to present to Tony as a gift. Nobody who asked Bob for a favor – or the inevitable voicemail/answering machine message – was denied. I know one of Bob’s sons and have found him to be just as much a gentleman as his father, and I was privileged to get frequent updates on Bob’s health from Chris. I hosted the 2000 Subway World Series on Fox, and the thing became real to me when I wrapped up the pre-game show that it was my greatest honor to introduce him on the PA. When I would get to work the PA at Old Timers’ Day each July I was fully aware at every moment that I was on Bob’s PA.
I get it. I revered Bob Sheppard and I revere his memory daily. But the post-mortem introductions of Jeter have, I think, become disturbing.
And now there’s this to consider: Since Bob Sheppard died last July 11 and the tribute to the absent and beloved Public Address Voice of Yankee Stadium became instead a memorial, Derek Jeter is hitting just .263 here with one homer, 10 RBI, a .338 On Base Percentage and a .349 Slugging Percentage in 43 games. There are various dates and causes to assign to Jeter’s midseason eclipse last year but Mr. Sheppard’s passing is not exactly a random one – which makes the stat all the creepier. As of that sad day, Jeter had had 161 home at bats. Thereafter he had…exactly the same number: 161 home at bats. But in the first half of his home 2010 season Jeter was batting .316, with six homers, an On Base of .380 and a Slugging of .472.
Would it all turn around if Jeter had Sheppard’s successor Paul Olden announce his name, too? No, of course not. It would just be a little less…creepy.
Alex Rodriguez: DNP – Broadcast-related injury.
“It had taken me eight years, including two outright releases in 1946, plus two years in the Army, to get to this moment at Ebbets Field. I thought of all those innings and games I spent pitching in small, minor league towns such as Geneva, Ozark, Brewton, Troy, Dorhan, Greenville, Andalusia, and Enterprise, in the Class “D” Alabama State League during my first season in professional baseball. The contrast between Ebbets Field and those minor league towns and fields magnified the contrasts and the satisfaction I was feeling. Having viewed Ebbets Field only in black and white photos and on television in World Series games, I was now seeing it up close, in full color and from the center of the picture. In my eighth decade of life, the memory of that moment is so vivid I can still visualize Ebbets Field…”
It has been there all season but its inappropriateness can only truly be appreciated now, perhaps, when Mariano Rivera strikes out Torii Hunter to end the top of the ninth of a dramatic ALCS game in the Bronx.
Anybody old enough to remember this? When every state made new license plates every year? When you kept the old ones, and Dad nailed them up to the wall in the garage?
It is a
compelling story of the rich getting, if not richer, then at least getting
This week, the Yankees have been pounded everywhere from the New York papers to
the business publication Forbes for offering freebies, two-fers, and especially
refunds, to only
those customers who had paid the stadium’s absolute top season ticket price of
$2,500 a seat.
only one complication. The Yankees aren’t actually going to wind up giving
out any refunds.
This is for the remarkably simple reason that the tickets for which they announced
refunds or credits,
are the ones they weren’t able to sell.
Yankees are in the most curious of business predicaments – they set the bar too high, the bottom fell
out of the economy, they made a gesture to give back some of their loot (and,
in the process, fill the embarrassingly empty seats), and yet they’re still getting
yelled at – the
Steinbrenners have nobody to blame but themselves. More specifically, they can
chalk it up to an incredible, almost labyrinthine press release issued by an
outside publicity firm, that offered no less than fifteen different responses
and plans to the various ticket prices and locales. The document is slightly
less intelligible than a book of IRS forms, nearly as long, and obviously just
standard reporting on this has fallen in line with Forbes’ account: ”The bum
economy managed to turn the famous Legends Suite seats in the first few rows,
priced as high as $2,650 apiece, into infamous symbols of overreaching during a
time when businesses are gun-shy about lavishing money on sports and other
forms of client entertainment. So top seats will now go for $1,250 a pop, with
those who already laid out the bigger money getting a credit or refund…” There
was a snotty burst to the Associated Press from some television guy who’d
bought three of the $850 suite seats behind the plate. “”If they’re
offering only selective refunds, depend upon it: There are going to be
lawsuits. Great, more tickets nobody wants. The silver lining here is that even
more charities are going to be getting even more tickets from me.” The
shoot-from-the-hip complainant was named Olberding or Overmann or something. The
average egalitarian complaint echoed that of my friend Rich Sandomir of The Times: “The Yankees
did not consider giving refunds or credits to fans in nonpremium seats because
Hal Steinbrenner felt only a small number of top-tier tickets were overpriced.”
As it is,
the Yankees are actually not giving refunds or credits to almost any of their
fans. A Yankee source did say that as many as four ticket-buyers – literally, four
customers, in the
suites hanging from the upper deck in left and right fields – would wind up
with some extra perks. But the source added they weren’t certain: it might only
understandable confusion seems to owe to the first subheading (item “A” on a
list of ticket price adjustments that goes all the way to item “I,” then pauses
for a few sentences and then re-starts with another item “A”, and then a “B” that is
followed by sub-subheadings
1, 2, 3, and 4). It reads “the full season Legends Suite and Ticket Licenses in
the first row in Sections 15A, 15B, 24B and 25 will be reduced from $2,500 to
$1,250 per regular season game. All fans who have purchased such full season
Suite and Ticket Licenses will receive, at their choice, a refund or a credit.”
is, sections 15A and 15B are at the far end of the Yankee dugout – most are
behind the camera well beyond the
dugout – and sections 24B and 25 are their opposites behind the visiting
dugout. The front-row seats in those sections are the equivalent of fourth row
seats in the rest of the park. I’m reliably informed that the Yankees didn’t
manage to sell any of
those seats, so there’s no refund to be had. Reality here reads like something
out of “Catch-22”: you can get a refund on those tickets, but only if you
haven’t bought them. And you can now buy many of those high-end tickets at half the original price, except you can’t, because the Yankees gave them away as make-goods.
all the dollar figures, topic lettering, references to sections “15A and 15B,”
the press release had all the clarity of assembly instructions pulled out of a
swing set on Christmas Eve. The team certainly is giving its high-end customers
extra tickets – the ones it couldn’t sell – particularly those wide swaths of
exposed blue leather down the third base line. But that real story of what the
Yankees were doing was buried down in items C, D, E. Those who actually bought
those $2,500 front-row seats would be getting not refunds but a free set of
front-row seats further away from home plate. Buyers of $1,250 seats would get
24 games’ worth of freebies. Buyers of $850 seats would get 8 free games, and 4
more games’ worth in the $500 section, etc.
one of those $850 buyers, I want to make it clear that nobody, but nobody, should feel sorry for us. Once you
are actually paying three or four figures for one ticket to a sporting event, you are
on your own. The first year my father bought season tickets at Yankee Stadium
(1972), four seats to each game cost a total of $1,000, and we only managed it
by canceling all further vacations. Last year, the same four seats cost a total
of $1,000 per game. The
advent of the Amazing Colossal Yankee Ticket Price didn’t exactly sneak up on
any of us, and we could have gotten out at any time – as hundreds, maybe
was a certain apparent inequity to the way the Yankee ticket adjustment was
framed – an inequity caused mostly by that blasted press release – that the
franchise didn’t deserve. It was not offering a fifty percent rebate to the
highest of the high rollers, and a token handful of tickets to the next group
down. It was giving the people who did buy tickets, all the rest of the tickets
that nobody had bought.
remains unaddressed, of course, is the 2010 season. Not mentioned in any of the
coverage of the cutbacks in the Bronx – at least that which I’ve seen – is that
beginning this season, the Yankees instituted multi-year ticket licenses. The
minimum commitment demanded of season seat-buyers at virtually all price ranges
was three years. An inverted sliding scale of maximum annual price increases
deal (the longer you signed for, the less they could raise the price of your
seats each winter), and the paperwork was as thick as a good-sized magazine. No
matter what the economy does, it will be fascinating to see whether the Yankees
try to enforce those price jumps next year, or hope they can just get people to
pay what they agreed to in more halcyon days. Or 75% of that. Or 50%.
Because if they can’t, the most dreaded thing imaginable might happen. The Yankees might send out another one of these press releases.
Firstly, I believe they may be, in no particular order, Russ Ohlendorf, Justin Maxwell, Micah Hoffpauir, and Jonathon Niese.
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
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
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.
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:
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?
Two new major league ballparks, opening in the same city, in the same week. Hard to believe, never to be duplicated.