The Yankees played a game in the Bronx last night. They were wearing their pinstriped home uniforms. They took the field first, received a lot of applause, hit some home runs and won. Sounds good, right?
For all that is right in Yankee Universe, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that I was watching the Yanks play a home game in someone else’s stadium. The frieze looks great; the Great Hall looks, well, great; and Michael Kay called the stadium “majestic” every half inning. It will take a little while to get used to this new stadium as the home park for our New York Yankees.
That said, Yankee fans couldn’t have asked for a better debut. The team blasted three home runs with Robinson Cano hitting the first one out. Derek Jeter knocked out the first Yankee hit in the new stadium, and while Chien-Ming Wang wasn’t brilliant, he did enough to nail down what should be the first of many Yankee wins on the north side of 161st St.
For the Yankees, Friday night was nothing but a tune up. They left Florida with the best record in the Grapefruit League and came north to test run the new stadium. The team responded in kind. They knocked out 13 hits — including two doubles and three home runs — and plated seven as they downed the Cubs 7-4.
If we bothered to look closer, we might see a few things that weren’t so encouraging. Chien-Ming Wang was off. He threw just 43 of 71 pitches for strikes, and he induced seven ground balls to five fly outs. He was missing up with his sinker, and the Cubs weren’t getting good swings.
Of course, Wang’s line would have looked a lot better if not for a “past a diving Jeter” play. With two outs and two on in the top of the second, Wang got a ground ball that could have been an out. Jeter ranged to his left, dove and missed it. Two runs scored, and Wang used five more pitches to get through the inning. Jeter’s defensive short-comings aren’t always that obvious, but tonight, we saw exactly how his lack of range can impact an inning.
To be fair, Jeter the leadoff hitter, came to bat three times and was on base three times. He scored a run and did all we could ask offensively. He’s hitting nearly .400 since returning from the WBC and remains a top offensive threat at the top of a potent Yankee lineup. That defense though will always be a problem.
Anyway, enough with the negative digs at Derek. Tonight was a night to ring in the stadium and a new era in baseball history. While the Y.M.C.A. made a rather unfortunate debut at the new Yankee Stadium, everything else was as planned. Here’s to many more of those victories when they count.