the sports section

The Worryingly Homer-Happy Yankee Stadium

The first weekend of the new Yankee Stadium is on the books, and it sure was an active one. The first game featured a nine-run inning by the Cleveland Indians, and, as if they just wanted to make sure no one remembered it, the Yanks gave up a whopping fourteen in the second inning two days later in a 22–3 loss. The Yankees have been outscored 40–19 in the new digs … and amazingly, somehow, they’re 2–2. So it could have been worse.

But the major story coming out of the weekend — other than the horror that is Chien-Ming Wang’s 34.50 ERA — is the rather shocking home-run rate at the ravishing new digs. (And they really are ravishing: Those who have called it a Bellagio with a baseball diamond in the middle aren’t far off.) In the first six games, if you count the two exhibitions against the Cubs, there have been a total of 28 home runs, with an unusually high number of them hit to right field. (WasWatching has a detailed look at the home runs hit so far.)

Considering the new stadium has the same dimensions as the old place, it, theoretically, should be playing the same. But so far, it isn’t. ESPN’s Buster Olney, who has forgotten more about the Yankees than most of us will ever know, is already claiming the park is “playing like Coors Field East.” That might be a little premature (and his statement that the stadium could be “a wind tunnel where two or three or four or more home runs are hit per game” seems a bit over the top), but the idea merits some scrutiny. After all, as Olney points out, if the new Yankee Stadium turns into a homer-happy park like Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark or Coors, it throws a rather large screwball into the plans of a team that just signed two pitchers to a combined $243.5 million over a total of twelve years.

Of course, this speculation comes after only four games, and considering the Yankees gave up 32 runs in two matches, we’re not exactly dealing with the Maddux/Glavine/Smoltz/Avery-era Braves here. But we were at the park yesterday, and neither homer hit to right field — Shin-Soo Choo’s hit off A.J. Burnett, and Jorge Posada’s game-deciding (and highly controversial) home run in the seventh inning — was made with any sort of authority, on a day that wasn’t particularly windy. Did the Yankees just spend $1.5 billion on a stadium that’s going to completely turn their entire roster-construction plan upside down? Again: Too early to tell. But if they did … good Lord, what have they done?

The Worryingly Homer-Happy Yankee Stadium