June 15, 2005 [LINK]

Yankee Stadium: New & improved?

What we've been fearing for months is apparently going to come to pass. At a press conference filled with state and local politicians this afternoon, the Yankees announced they are going ahead with construction of a new stadium to replace The House that Ruth Built. It would have the same outfield dimensions as the existing stadium (that is, without the old "Death Valley" in left center field), with 51,000 seats initially. The capacity could be expanded by a few thousand more, which almost goes without saying. That is not nearly enough for Gotham City. See MLB.com [updated link]. In watching the Webcast I was glad to hear all the appropriate statements about community development, but skeptics are entitled to reserve judgment before jumping on the bandwagon. It would be nice to spruce up the Bronx, as long as the existing residents don't get shunted aside. The same thing goes for southeast Washington, as I've said.

What is curious about this is that the timetable for the Mets' and Yankees' new stadiums coincide, with plans for both to open in 2009. Of course, that's just a wild guess, but it would be unprecendented for any baseball city. I just hope the Yankees front office is smart enough to learn from the sorry experience of the White Sox, who ignored suggestions about how to replace Comiskey Park and ended up with an ugly mess that had to be rebuilt to make it fan friendly.

UPDATE: Mayor Bloomberg, Mr. Steinbrenner, [Governor Pataki, and Steve Swindal] are pictured in the above video grab. Here are some key sound bites from the momentous announcement:

"We are staying at home in the Bronx," Yankees president Randy Levine said. "We are continuing our tradition in the Bronx.

"The Yankees, not the taxpayers, will pay for this project. The Yankees, not the taxpayers, will pay to maintain this ballpark."
"We pledge to all our fans that this ballpark will be affordable," Levine said.

Well, why not build enough seats for all the working-class patrons, then, Randy? Toward the end of the press conference there was a question en español from one of the local journalists, and one of the Yankee officials came back with a snappy and remarkably fluent reply. ¡Qué bien! The total cost of "New Yankee Stadium" (or "Steinbrenner Coliseum," perhaps?) would be $800 million, with the city paying for street and infrastructure improvements. Although I've become a bit fatalistic about this likely prospect, I remain extremely dubious that replacing Yankee Stadium is either necessary or advantageous. I think Steinbrenner is sacrificing the special Yankee mystique, short-sightedly boosting his bottom line at the expense of the franchise's long-term interests. Here's what tradition-minded Steven Poppe has to say:

Three words for this atrocity: CRASH AND BURN. The Mets should try for a new ballpark in midtown Manhattan where the new Jets stadium would have been built. And I've said this before and I'll say it again: The Yankees should build a new Yankee Stadium where the current one stands - with the same fence dimensions as the Yankee Stadium of the DiMaggio and Mantle eras. And while the new Yankee Stadium (description in last sentence) is being built, the Yankees can play at Shea Stadium.

Nats brawl* in Anaheim

The Nationals bounced back from an embarrassing 11-1 loss in Anaheim to win last night 6-3. Trailing 3-1 in the seventh, the Nationals got involved in a bench-clearing brawl (their first one, I believe) after manager Frank Robinson told one of the umpires he suspected pitcher Brendan Donnelly was using pine tar, and his counterpart Mike Scioscia objected, after which both teams went at it. Donnelly may face suspension, and Robinson later said he "lost a lot of respect for Mike tonight as a person and as a manger and there's nothing he can say to me now." See MLB.com. Being in different leagues, there's little likelihood of a grudge developing between the two teams. Two things make this an interesting series, however: former Expos star Vladimir Guerrero now plays for Anaheim, but he might have been playing for Washington now if the relocation from Montreal had not been needlessly stalled for year after year. Also, Nats outfielder Jose Guillen played for Anaheim last year but was suspended late in the season for insubordination.

In yesterday's Washington Post, Thomas Boswell took very seriously the possibility that the Nationals could be contending for the pennant late in the season. I'd like to think so too, but they just don't have enough depth to make up for any injuries. Enthusiasm and team spirit are necessary but not sufficient to "go the distance."

* LATE EVENING UPDATE: From what I've read, no punches were thrown, so I suppose it doesn't qualify as a "brawl." Former Ranger Ryan Drese is pitching his first game as a National right now, and he just gave up his first hit, in the third inning. Angels pitcher Bartolo Colon (a former Expo!) has not allowed any Nats batters to reach first base. I wish I could stay awake to follow these late-late West Coast games...