Stadium looks better than team in Yankees' home debut
The stadium looked like a better deal than the $210-million team
CC Sabathia needs to be more economical with his pitches
The Giants' negotiations with Tim Lincecum won't be quick or easy
NEW YORK -- What do those folks who paid 2,625 smackers a seat think now?
Yankees head honcho Hal Steinbrenner admitted several days ago that perhaps the club "overpriced'' some seats at the palatial new Yankee Stadium, and while it's refreshing to see that sort of honesty from ownership, I have to wonder whether the well-healed suckers who laid out that kind of cake feel any better about it today. Maybe the money doesn't mean a thing to them, because like much of the crowd, many of them were gone by the bitter end of the Yankees' 10-2 defeat to the Indians on Opening Day that was filled with pomp, circumstance and horrific play by the home team.
The Yankees' $1.5-billion grand palace, while seriously overpriced in today's downturn, still looked like a better deal than the $210-million team or the $2,625 seats. All that money didn't buy too much on a sun-filled inaugural day, when the best days were had by Indians starter Cliff Lee, most of the Indians' previously struggling lineup, the weatherman and the official scorer (the scoring of eccentric New York fixture Bill Shannon at Yankee Stadium sets the standard).
As for the Yankees themselves, yeesh.
If I were a paying customer, even one who paid five bucks for the obstructed view seats (and these are real obstructions, not like that complaint of Mets fans where they can't see 1 percent of the field), I'd want a rebate. CC Sabathia, the former Indian and new $161-million man, wasn't too bad, but he was understandably spent after 122 pitches. Unfortunately for the Yankees, that took them through only 5 2/3 innings.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi seems to have adapted the philosophy of the manager he most admires strategically, Tony La Russa, which is to empty his pen when he can. This stratagem generally works better with trustworthy relievers, however, and the first full inning without Sabathia produced a nine spot for the Indians, making them feel somewhat better about their 3-7 start.
Here are some observations from an Opening Day that was all downhill after Yogi and the others were trotted out there early ...
1. CC needs to be more economical with his pitches. He did a nice job pitching out of jams, but five walks didn't help matters. The idea is to pitch until Mariano Rivera takes over, not the underside of a big but mediocre pen. Maybe his ex-mates had an idea to work the count against him, but Sabathia thought it was all on him. "I just wasn't getting ahead,'' he said.
2. Mark Teixeira still doesn't look like a $180-million man, and it's plain now that his left wrist has been killing him. After nine days of pain, one look by the Yankees' wrist man and an immediate cortisone was prescribed after the game. "It's been lingering for a week ... it's been too long,'' Teixeira said. "This will put me over the top.'' It better, because he's still not hitting his salary (.160 now).
3. Cody Ransom continues to make them all pine for Alex Rodriguez. Although, apparently not enough to have him up for the ceremonies. Come to think of it, where was A-Rod? It seemed odd that they didn't transport him up for what were spectacular Opening Day festivities (the highlight of the day, to be sure). Anyway, after Ransom looked like he might play the hero early with a run-saving backhand snag, he wound up making an error, going 0-for-5 and ending the game with a double-play grounder. Manager Joe Girardi has identified Ransom as his guy. Well, his guy is down to .100 now.
4. Yankees relievers are providing zero relief. It got so bad that fans were chanting, "We want Nick,'' in reference to Nick Swisher, the team's second best reliever to Mariano Rivera. Jose Veras loaded the bases and Damaso Marte surrendered the big grand slam to Grady Sizemore. Marte, who looked a lot better in Pittsburgh, also allowed a big bomb to Victor Martinez, who may be back (.381, three homers). It's been a rough week for both part of the Marte-Nady trade as it's been widely thought Nady will require elbow surgery that would keep him out the whole year after an MRI and X-ray Wednesday and another X-ray Thursday. A CT scan was scheduled for Friday morning, providing him slight hope. "Maybe the ligament isn't completely gone,'' Nady said.
5. The whole team generally stunk up the spanking new joint. "I felt like we disappointed quite a few people today,'' Johnny Damon said. Not the least of whom was George Steinbrenner, who took pains to come up from Tampa (though he wasn't actually seen by too many).
6. Yankees fans, perhaps mesmerized by the grandeur or regretful of the expenditure, were abnormally quiet, even if Yankees players wouldn't admit it. Beyond the wonderful opening ceremonies, all the pro Swisher chants and some boos for poor Veras, it might as well have been the most expensive library ever conceived.
7. The Stadium is very nice, and it looks more way more comfortable, cleaner and lovelier than the old place. But the timing just isn't good. The country and city were allegedly doing great when the stadium was approved, so I can't blame anyone. But now isn't the time for this over-the-top grandeur. I don't like the fact that the $5 patrons get real obstructions, or that anyone who pays less than a king's ransom is kept away from close pregame observation by a gulf (a moat without the water) that divides the super rich folks from the merely rich. The field looks fairly similar, with a few exceptions (some good, and some not so good). Upper deck home runs are now a thing of the past, as it's too far to reach in right. I can't see the courthouse out beyond right-center any more, just a tenement that houses folks who'll never get to sit in the good seats. I like the idea of recreating the right-centerfield wall scoreboard, but the one they built is overshadowed by a Pepsi ad and looks slightly tacky. Nothing, but nothing, should look chintzy in a $1.5-billion stadium.
Indians' pitching not over a Cliff ... not yet
The game had to be a major relief to the Indians, whose worst fears about their rotation were being realized through their first nine games. Anthony Reyes still has the best ERA among Indians starters at 6.00 but 2008 Cy Young winner Cliff Lee showed significant progress against the Yankees. He more than matched his old mate Sabathia and hung around to get the win for six solid, one-run innings. Indians executives understood going into the season they had to stick to a tight budget and spent more liberally on a pen that really needed work, spending on closer Kerry Wood with a $20-million, two-year deal that looks like a good one (Wood hit 98 in his last outing and looks his dominating self) and versatile Mark DeRosa (off slow at .179) while scrimping on ex-Yankee punching bag Carl Pavano (16.71 ERA).
Cleveland still has significant issues in the rotation. What's more, they are fighting history. No team has ever started 0-5 and made the World Series, and since Division play began, only two of the 43 teams that began 0-5 have even made the playoffs (the 1974 Pirates and '95 Reds). So it won't be easy.
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