Anyone Else Hear That?

Was it me, or did the Orioles play "The Imperial March" aka Darth Vader’s theme song when the Yankees were being introduced before the game? 

Pretty clever Baltimore, may I suggest the Yankees play "Send in the Clowns" when the Orioles come to town? 

Stop Raining!

Is there anything worse than having Opening Day rained out?  The White Sox and Red Sox have already suffered that fate, will the Yankees?  Based on this, I am hopeful that we will get this one in, but who knows with Mother Nature?

On a side note, it appears the Yankees didn’t lie.  According to this article, the Yankees did drop their payroll, $8 million from last season’s figure.  Overall, 14 teams have a lower payroll, 10 of those decreased their payroll by more than $10 million.

Fizzle…

The anticipation, the thrill of opening day for Red Sox fans just got washed away.  The Red Sox have officially postponed opening day because of the "near certainty of heavy rain."

The game will be played Tuesday at 4:05pm.  At least I have a shot at catching the last few innings of a 4:05pm start.  Always thinking about me…

Citi Field

Andy and I braved the wind and the cold to go to Citi Field yesterday.  Actually, we didn’t have to brave much because we scalped amazing seats with a wonderful indoor option.  So, we would watch some baseball in our seats and then retire to the indoor bar for an adult beverage before heading back out to the seats.  In between adult beverages and sitting in the seats, we walked around all of Citi Field, let me share some impressions.

First, the Jackie Robinson Rotunda is spectacular.  It is the full height of the stadium and makes a wonderful entrance.  They are two video screens with highlights of Robinson’s career, pictures of him throughout his life and his quote "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives"  There is also a big, blue "42" right behind the main escalators that was very popular with the kids to climb on. 

The ballpark has some interesting dimensions.  The upper deck overhangs the field about 8 feet in right.  The height of the outfield fence varies all over the field.  One complaint about the layout.  From the seat I was sitting in, which goes for somewhere between $105-$250 per game, depending on opponent,(not that I paid even half that) you could not see the whole field.  The rightfield corner is out of view.  Shouldn’t you get to see the whole field when you are paying over $100 per seat? The seats are very nice, comfortable and wide. It looked like all the seats had cup holders.   

There are tons of different food options and you can eat all sorts of different fare from hot dogs to crab cakes and lobster rolls.  One nice touch is the open concourses which allow you to keep an eye on the game while waiting in line.  There is a dunk tank, a couple of batting cages and a mini Citi Field for the kids to play on. I was struck by how many things there were to do that had nothing to do with watching a baseball game- and isn’t that the point of the whole experience?

I really enjoyed Citi Field and I think Mets’ fans- who had a dump of a stadium to go to, are going to absolutely love it.   

Crystal Ball Time

It’s time to once again make some predictions that will probably be terribly wrong. (I had Pitt winning the National Championship this year)

Anyway, here is how I see teams finishing this season….

AL East

1- Yankees- There are a lot of things I worry about from Posada’s health to Jeter’s range, but the fact remains the Yankess had a wonderful offseason and are a deep and dangerous team.  I think they have improved the defense, offense and pitching staff.  They are better equipped to deal with the inevitable injuries they will suffer and Girardi seems looser this year.  I think it adds up to an AL East crown.  

2- Boston- Great team, great pitching, but I think just a fraction behind the Yankees.

3- Tampa- It’s too bad that the three best teams in the AL are all in the same division.  I like a lot of things about Tampa, but this year they are not going to surprise anyone, they will be expected to win.  I think those expectations will be tough to live up to for a young team and they won’t repeat as division champs or even make the playoffs.

4- Baltimore- The reason I pick them 4th instead of 5th?  See below

5- Toronto- I just have a feeling they are going to launch a fire sale and Roy Halliday will be pitching somewhere else and Alex Rios will be hitting somewhere else

 

AL Central

1- Minnesota- Joe Mauer’s back worries me, but I think a full season with Liriano pushes them to the top of a bad division

2- Cleveland- Does anyone else expect Carl Pavano to pitch against the Yankees when they open the new Stadium and fire a two-hit shutout or is it just me?  Anyway, I think they just miss out beating the Twins for the crown.

3- White Sox- I think the final three spots are a toss up, but I think Chicago finishes third plus they have a big fan in the Oval Office.

4- Kansas City- I think Detroit is a mess and the Royals have some nice young players, plus Greinke could be great. 

5- Detroit- I don’t like the pitching in either the rotation or bullpen and I think it is going to be a long summer for the Tigers.

AL West: 

1- Angels- Losing Teixeira hurts, but Abreu will help replace him.  Still the class of the division, but they had better watch behind them because…

2- Oakland- The A’s are closing fast on them.  Giambi+Holliday+ young pitchers= a pretty good club.

3- Texas- Signs of life, but as the saying goes in Texas, the baseball season is over when the Cowboys open training camp.

4- Seattle- Bedard is an injury mess and Ichiro on the DL.  At least the fans can root for Griffey again.  

NL East

1- Phillies- I actually like the Mets a little bit better, but after the last two Septembers I am going with the defending champs. 

2- Mets- See above, but that bullpen has been reworked and looks great.  I have some doubts about the rotation, especially Oliver Perez.

3- Braves- Better than last year, but still not as good as the top two teams in the division.

4- Marlins- The best player in baseball is Hanley Ramirez and Nolasco has been amazing this spring, but I don’t think they have enough pieces to make a run.  Then again, they could be the 2009 version of the Rays if everything clicks.

5- Washington- We can update that great baseball line to, "First in war, first in peace and last in the National League" 

NL Central

1- Cubs- The class of the division and possibly the league

2- Reds- I think there will be a revival on the banks of the Ohio this season.

3- Cardinals- Mediocre at a number of spots, but Pujols is amazing.

4- Brewers- Tough to lose all those players and still compete.

5- Pirates- Yes, they lost to a college team last week, but I think they are better than Houston.

6- Houston- This is another team I could see holding a fire sale in the middle of the season.  Berkman, Oswalt, Lee, they have some attractive pieces to trade.

NL West

1- Dodgers- Manny’s back and that makes the difference.

2- Arizona- Love the rotation and I think they will make some noise before falling short.

3- Giants- They are on the upswing, but the offense needs to improve.

4- Colorado- I would have picked them for last, but there is no question in my mind that the Padres are terrible.

5- San Diego- The worst team in baseball.

Playoff predictions

Red Sox win the wild card and play the Angels who they beat for the 55th time in a row

Yankees play the Twins and beat them

Red Sox beat the Yankees in the 17th inning of Game 7 when A-Rod forgets to throw to first on a bunt play because he is posing for another photo shoot.

In the NL the Mets are the wild card team and they beat the Dodgers.

The Cubs take care of the Phillies

The Cubs beat the Mets, setting up a World Series between the most tortured fan base in baseball and the former holders of that title.  The Cubs win it all, putting an end to 101 years of losing.  Embracing the spirit of bipartisanship, the President embraces the team from the North Side for a change.   

Change Has Come

It is a minor move, but it has major implications: Ramiro Pena is the Yankees new backup infielder.  The obvious choice was to take Berroa, an expensive veteran with very little upside, but the Yankees went with a guy who has never played above AA. Why did they do it?  Defense is the primary answer, the guy is a wizard with glove.  Now the question is, how will the Yankees use Pena?

He will probably sit on the bench unless there is an injury or they need a pinch hitter, but the Yankees would be smart to consider Pena as a late-inning defensive replacement for Jeter and give him an occasional start when Chien-Ming Wang is on the mound.  

Whatever they do with Pena, it is significant that they chose youth over experience and gave him a spot.  Hopefully, it is the start of a trend in the Bronx.   

Field Trip

Later today Andy and I will take a bit of a field trip to Citi Field to take in a Mets-Red Sox game.  After watching the debut of both New York baseball palaces on TV last night, I am eager to see one in person.  Due to massively expensive tickets I have to wait until April 18th when I can use my own, much cheaper Saturday Plan seats, to see the new Yankee Stadium, so Citi Field will come first.

It’s great to be headed to a baseball game again and only two days left until Opening Day! (And yes, I am aware that there is a "real" game tomorrow night, but I hate that MLB sold its soul to ESPN) 

Wow

Interesting little tidbit in this story about Yankees’ ticket prices.  If you take the difference in average ticket prices at the new stadium and the old one and assume the Yankees sell 50,000 seats a game the team stands to make an EXTRA $120 million in ticket sales this year.

Now, don’t forget that the Yankees own a share of this which will bring new revenues online this season as well and the team is absolutely awash in cash. (They also have a share in YES making them plenty of money)  Use my numbers above and the Yankees make almost $300 million from ticket sales in 2009.

Yes, they have debt to pay off from building the new place, but I wouldn’t expect the Yankees’ payroll to shrink anytime soon.   

Sad News

Unless you are in your 60’s there has been only one "voice" of Yankee Stadium throughout your life and that voice was "The Voice of God".  Now comes word that Bob Sheppard is officially retiring

In many ways it seems appropriate that he never will do a game in the new place, but I am sad that I will never hear "Your attention please, ladies and gentlemen.  Now batting for the Yankees…" at lest with the same inflection, tone and accent.