Reviewing Yankee Stadium’s new features

More food, more fun? (Steven Tydings/River Ave. Blues)
More food, more fun?
(Steven Tydings/River Ave. Blues)

On Tuesday, the Yankees gave media members, including yours truly, a tour of the new features of Yankee Stadium and a tasting of the new menu items coming to the ballpark starting on Monday. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get right to it.

Above the Bullpens

(Steven Tydings/River Ave. Blues)
View from Toyota Terrace area in right field (Steven Tydings/River Ave. Blues)

The biggest thing to happen to the stadium this offseason was easily the ripping out of the bleacher seats closest to the centerfield batter’s eye. Many of the seats were obstructed view and the organization decided to go for more areas to socialize and walk around rather than need these seats, which were among the cheapest at the park.

What replaced it are multiple rows of standing room with table tops for food, bags, scorecards, etc in the Toyota Terrace (right field) and Frank’s RedHot Terrace (left field). It reminds me a lot of the area down the right field line at Progressive Field in Cleveland if you’ve ever visited that park. The first of these rows gets a really nice view of the bullpen, just like the old bleacher seats did, which makes it a prime spot to get to, whether you want to watch the Yankees’ guys warmup or to heckle the opposing relievers, if that’s something in which you’d like to partake.

If you’re further back in the terraces, you’ll still deal with some obstructed view of the rest of the outfield, but this also won’t be your ticketed seat, so you’re not necessarily tied down to a poor view as some would be in the past.

Perhaps the best feature of this new area is outlets. Beautiful, wonderful electricity! I’m sure the Yankees got plenty of complaints about the lack of places to charge your phone and they delivered with an area where you can both watch the live game and plug in, whether via a normal outlet or USB. I imagine there may be a day where there’s some sort of plug near all seats at ballparks, but that’s probably way off in the future. This is a pretty cool step though.

The batter’s eye area itself, now called the Masterpass Batter’s Eye Deck, has been expanded with more open space, charging stations and food. The view over the drink railings in centerfield is very pretty. There’s also plenty of new food in the terraces with new structures that include a bar and open space next to the new standing room sections.

New Food!

(Steven Tydings/River Ave. Blues)
New Lobel’s (Steven Tydings/River Ave. Blues)

I can’t say I’m a professional food critic, but I did have the opportunity to try a lot of the new food. There are signature foods to each new area, both the Masterpass deck and each terrace. The Frank’s RedHot Terrace in left field features the Yankee Dingers (which the chef joked were called that because they’re a real home run) and a sandwich with, you guessed it, Frank’s RedHot sauce. The Dingers are solid mini-burgers. Yay mini-burgers. The Toyota Terrace has four non-traditional kinds of baos. The vegetarian one, the cauliflower buffalo one, was a nice small treat.

The batter’s eye deck features new items, including a really tasty hand-pulled mozzarella sandwich. One of the better things I tried Tuesday.

Then, in section 134, there’s new Lobel’s food. I didn’t try their new burger/sandwich, which both appeared delicious, but I did go for their steak and potato fries. Those, seen above, look incredibly fattening but are really really good. Don’t know if the latter offsets the former, but hey, ballpark food!

(Steven Tydings/River Ave. Blues)
Mighty Quinn’s (Steven Tydings/River Ave. Blues)

The highlight of the new food was probably the addition of Mighty Quinn’s and Bareburger in section 132 (left field). The BBQ Mighty Quinn’s is serving up is legit and I can’t recommend the brisket sandwich enough. Bareburger has both a solid sandwich called El Matador (it features bison!) and a quality turkey burger. There are also new Jersey Mike’s and Ben & Jerry’s spots located in assorted sections throughout the park.

As always, the price for each new food item will be key. Each of the new food items, even the ones I didn’t try, look appetizing, but the price — which we’ll find out on Monday — will decide whether they are worthwhile fanfare. The tour emphasized that all of the food will be available to anyone going to the park and so it will depend not on your ticket but on your wallet whether you can go for the new treats.

Kid’s Clubhouse

(Steven Tydings/River Ave. Blues)
(Steven Tydings/River Ave. Blues)

Whether it’s with the Legends Seats restricting the ability of young fans to get autographs/interact with players or just the general vibe at times from the stadium, there was a feeling that the stadium isn’t kid/family friendly enough. That may still be true, but the team has taken a step towards fixing that with the creation of the Sunrun Kid’s Clubhouse (yes, there’s a corporate name on all of these new areas).

The space, which is on the first-base side of the 300 level, is 2,800 square feet or so of space for young children. A spot to throw wiffle balls at a player. A mock field. Essentially, a baseball-themed playground for young kids. There’s also a mother’s nursing station there, too.

It’s a good step for the park. There’s plenty of times where the Yankees seem to take themselves too seriously, but this area was most reminiscent of similar constructs at minor league parks. You’re not going to sustain a fanbase without young fans and there has to be a way to keep them entertained at the park. Not everyone is a crazy baseball fanatic from age three onwards.

AT&T Sports Lounge/Budweiser Party Decks

(Steven Tydings/River Ave. Blues)
(Steven Tydings/River Ave. Blues)

I’ll group these together because they’re both new areas featuring a bar and tables/seats near the normal concession area. The AT&T sports lounge in section 134 has plenty of large screen TVs that will be tuned to Yankees and non-Yankees games going on. It’s right next to all the new food selections, so it could be an area to sit and each.

Meanwhile, the Budweiser Party Decks are on the first base and third base sides of the 300 level. Some of the carts on the 300 level create these two stand-alone bars. Once again, more gathering areas. That definitely seems like it was a mandate from up above to create and this version of the stadium certainly has more than when originally constructed.

The new seating/standing room areas were certainly well designed and I expect them to be sought-after places to meet in the park. Whether someone buys the new Pinstripe Pass or has a regular seated ticket, they should be nice, particularly if you’re towards the front of the terrace area. The kid’s clubhouse and the assorted charging stations show that the team is at least making an effort to listen to fans, so it will be interesting to see the reception to those new amenities. If you get to the park this season, make sure to try these out and form your own opinions.

(Here are all my photos from yesterday’s trip to Yankee Stadium.)

Attendance, the Shift, and Other Random Stats [2016 Season Review]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

At long last, our 2016 Season Review series comes to an end today. Every year I wrap the season review up with a post on some random stuff I found interesting or caught my eye or whatever. Just stuff that’s worth touching on but isn’t worth a full post, you know? Some quirky stats and whatnot. Time to put a bow on the season review. Here’s our last little bit of 2016 coverage.

Attendance

Attendance at Yankee Stadium was down this season. We all saw it. We watched on television. It wasn’t entirely unexpected either, even after the wildcard berth a year ago. The Yankees have been mostly mediocre the last few seasons and that doesn’t exactly sell tickets. Here are the attendance numbers the last few seasons, via Baseball Reference:

  • 2012: 3,542,406 (43,733 per game) — swept in ALCS
  • 2013: 3,279,589 (40,489 per game) — Mariano Rivera‘s final season
  • 2014: 3,401,624 (41,995 per game) — Derek Jeter‘s final season
  • 2015: 3,193,795 (39,430 per game) — lost Wildcard Game
  • 2016: 3,063,405 (37,820 per game) — missed postseason with no farewell tour

It’s worth noting the Yankees were second in the AL in total attendance this season behind the Blue Jays (3,392,099) and sixth in all of MLB in attendance. It’s not like they were near the bottom of the league or even middle of the pack. Relative to the rest of the league, attendance was very good this year. Relative to Yankees’ standards, attendance was down. Especially considering the attendance numbers are tickets sold, not tickets used. There were large swaths of empty seats late in the season.

On a per game basis, the Yankees’ attendance this past season was their lowest since drawing 36,484 fans per game in 1998. Not too many folks wanted to see a 114-win juggernaut, I guess. In all seriousness, the relatively low 1998 attendance is because there is a lag between team performance and attendance change, historically. Got a great team? The big attendance spike comes the following season, not that season. (The 1999 Yankees drew 40,651 fans per game.) That’s because most tickets are sold before the season and early in the season.

The Yankees made the Wildcard Game last year and there were reasons to feel good about the team coming into 2016, but they got off to a slow start, slow enough that they sold at the deadline. That’s a pretty significant event that could have an impact on attendance. Sure enough, the Yankees drew 38,588 fans per game before the trade deadline and 36,515 per game after the deadline. Can’t say a drop of 2,000 fans per game surprises me. The team essentially threw in the towel.

It’s possible if not likely attendance will drop again next season, even though a mediocre team with young players is far more exciting than a mediocre team loaded with veterans in my opinion. Given their attendance this year, it’s not unreasonable to think the Yankees could draw fewer than 3,000,000 fans in 2017 for the first time since 1998. If it happens, it happens. Whatever.

The Shift

Over the last few seasons the Yankees have become one of the most shift happy teams in baseball. According to the fancy Baseball Info Solutions data I have access to through CBS, the Yankees used the seventh most shifts in baseball this season, though they were close enough to bunch of other teams that they were a few more David Ortiz and Chris Davis at-bats away from being third.

Overall, New York’s performance with the shift was not great, at least according to the data we have. Chances are the team sees something different with their internal data. Here are the numbers, via FanGraphs:

No Shift All Shifts Traditional Shifts Non-Traditional Shifts
Yankees .284 .304 .301 .329
MLB AVG .298 .297 .298 .293

A shift qualifies as a traditional shift if one of three things happens: three infielders on one side of the infield, two players are significantly out of position, or one infielder is playing in the outfield. If any of those three conditions are met, it’s a traditional shift. Anything else is considered non-traditional.

Anyway, those numbers in table are both AVG and BABIP. They’re identical because strikeouts, walks, and home runs are not included in the shift data. Interestingly enough, the overall MLB batting average was essentially the same when there was a shift and no shift on this past season. You’d think batting average would be lower with the shift since that’s the whole point, but nope.

For the Yankees though, their overall AVG/BABIP allowed with the shift employed was 20 points higher than without the shift. That’s backwards. The whole idea is bringing down your AVG/BABIP allowed by using the shift. This could be a statistical blip, but last season the Yankees allowed a .292 AVG/BABIP without the shift and .322 with. The year before it was .298 vs. .299, and the year before that it was .302 vs. .304.

Over the last two seasons the Yankees have allowed a much higher AVG/BABIP while employing the shift than without, according to the numbers we have. That’s a problem! The shift should be helping your pitchers, not your opponent. I don’t know what the problem is either. Bad positioning? Pitchers not executing? A bad pitching plan? It could be many things. This has happened two years running now. The shift upped the opponent’s AVG/BABIP by 20 points this season. Last year it was 30. 30!

Does this mean the Yankees should stop shifting all together? Of course not. That’s an overreaction. Intuitively, placing your defenders where the batter is most likely to hit the ball is a very smart thing to do. I’m surprised it took teams so long to start doing it regularly. For all we know the AVG/BABIP numbers we have above are wrong. Remember, this stuff is being recorded by human stringers watching video, so there is scorer bias.

I’m not sure I fully buy the huge gap in AVG/BABIP the last two years, but based on the eye test, I won’t argue with anyone who says the Yankees allow more hits with the shift on than without. If the numbers we have are even close to right, this is something that has to be fixed. Can’t keep shooting yourself in the foot like that.

Ellsbury and the First Pitch

Ellsbury. (Presswire)
Ellsbury. (Presswire)

One thing I neglected to mention in Jacoby Ellsbury’s season review was his propensity to swing at the first pitch this season. He became such an extreme first pitch hacker at times that even Michael Kay noticed and commented about it. Here are the numbers, with an assist from Baseball Savant:

  • 2013: Swung at the first pitch in 23.9% of all plate appearances.
  • 2014: 27.6%
  • 2015: 31.0%
  • 2016: 30.5%
  • MLB AVG in 2016: 28.3%

Those are all instances in which Ellsbury swung at the first pitch. It includes balls in play, foul balls, and swings and misses. If he swung at the first pitch, it’s included in those numbers regardless of outcome. That isn’t just the percentage of first pitches put in play.

Ellsbury didn’t swing at more first pitches this year than last year. Fewer actually, but by a tiny little amount. Compared to two and three years ago though, Ellsbury is swinging at way more first pitches these days. Swinging at the first pitch is not inherently a bad thing. In fact, I advocated for doing it more often coming into the season. Many times the first pitch of the at-bat is the best one to hit. Why let it go by? It’s not like starters pitch deep into games these days. You’re going to get to the bullpen eventually.

Swinging at the first pitch so often wouldn’t be so bad if Ellsbury had hit well in those situations. He hit .298 with a .131 ISO on the first pitch in 2016. That seems pretty good, especially compared to his overall season numbers (.263 AVG and .111 ISO). The problem is the league averages were a .346 AVG and a .236 ISO on the first pitch this year. Ellsbury was well below that. He rolled over and grounded out to second on a ton of first pitches.

Ellsbury has never been a guy who works deep counts. (He actually set a new career high with 54 walks in 2016.) He’s up there to swing and that’s fine. Hits are better than walks. He just hasn’t hit much the last two years, and when you’re not producing as expected, a lot of quick one-pitch outs gets mighty frustrating. Had Ellsbury hit, say, .350 with a .200 ISO on the first pitch, I don’t think anyone would care. But when his numbers are that far below league average, it gets old in a hurry.

Differences of Opinion on Baserunning

Depending who you ask, the Yankees were either one of the better baserunning teams in baseball this season, or one that was below average. They were successful with 77% of their stolen base attempts, fifth best in baseball, but they also attempted only 94 steals, which was 23rd most among the 30 teams. The Yankees took the extra base (first-to-third on a single, etc.) only 37% of the time, the fourth lowest rate in baseball.

So the Yankees didn’t take the extra base all that often — obviously that is largely due to personnel, because guys like Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez aren’t burners — but they were sneaky efficient at stealing bases. They just didn’t do it often. Here’s what the all-encompassing baserunning metrics say:

Hmmm. Which one is correct? I lean towards BRR myself. The eye test told me the Yankees were not a good baserunning team overall, mostly because they had so many slow players. They didn’t take the extra base often, didn’t advance on wild pitches and similar opportunities all that much, and they didn’t steal often either.

The difference in BsR and BRR boils down to the way the two stats are calculated. Both essentially compare the team’s actual baserunning success to their expected baserunning success — how often does a runner go first-to-third on a single hit to that location? That sort of thing. BRR includes some more adjustments for ballparks and things like that, which are important.

You’re welcome to feel differently, but I agree with the BRR number more than the BsR number based on everything I saw this season. The Yankees weren’t a great baserunning team at all in 2016. Teixeira, A-Rod, and McCann are all gone though, and with the new infusion of younger players, this number will hopefully tick up in the future. Baserunning is a weird thing. It’s easy to overlook but it’s very obviously important, and it can often be the difference in an individual game. It’s something the Yankees can improve going forward, for sure.

Yankees announce extensive ballpark upgrades, making Yankee Stadium more fan friendly

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Yesterday afternoon, the Yankees announced extensive upgrades designed to make Yankee Stadium more fan friendly. There will be seven new social gathering spaces, a kids zone, and “dynamic food and beverage areas.” Construction will begin this week and the renovations are expected to be done in time for next season.

“We have listened to our fans and ticketholders and their top requests were for more family-friendly and socially-oriented spaces at Yankee Stadium,” said Hal Steinbrenner in a statement. “Yankees fans will now have many more dedicated areas for spending time with Guests who have tickets in other sections of the Stadium, allowing all Guests to be able to enjoy the game from multiple vantage points while having unique food and drink options available to them.”

Among the new additions will be “Budweiser Party Decks” in Sections 311 and 328, where folks can meet and hang out, and the “AT&T Sports Lounge” in Section 134, where “televisions tuned to the Yankees broadcast and other live sporting events will provide a sports-bar atmosphere on the Stadium’s main outdoor concourse in left field.” I don’t know about you, but I always go to the ballpark to get that sports bar atmosphere. Anyway, here’s more on the two biggest changes.

The Batter’s Eye

(Yankees)
(Yankees)

So center field is getting a massive facelift. The deck on top of the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar will be expanded to 3,500 square feet, and there are new left and right field “Bullpen Landings.” They’ll feature specialty food and drink options. You can see the rendering above. That looks really different!

To make all that possible, the Yankees are removing 2,100 seats total, most of which currently have obstructed views in the bleachers. Did you ever sit in the seats directly adjacent to the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar? You can only see half the field. Those are being ripped out and replaced with those bullpen landings.

Adding these social spaces seems like a pretty cool idea. It’ll be nice to have some new places to hang out at the ballpark. Two drawbacks though. One, with those 2,100 seats being ripped out, some folks are going to lose their season tickets, and that sucks. I assume the Yankees will give them a chance to buy seats elsewhere, but your seats are your seats. They’re your home away from home, you know?

And two, this new area gives fans another reason to leave their seats*. There’s nothing uglier than an empty ballpark, and with these new spots to hang out, there will be fewer butts in the seats. This isn’t really a problem — some folks go to watch a ballgame, others go to hang out with pals — because people will still be at the ballpark, but it might be an aesthetics issue. We’ll see.

* The Yankees say all these new sections will be accessible to everyone in the ballpark, regardless of your ticketed seat. You can buy a cheap bleacher ticket and hang out in that “AT&T Sports Lounge” all game.

Sunrun Kids Clubhouse

(Yankees)
(Yankees)

The kids area will include a mini-baseball field with a soft artificial surface and all sorts of baseball-themed playground equipment. It’ll be located on the 300 level in right field, and it seems some of those 2,100 seats will be removed from this area. In addition to the playground, there’s going to be a shaded section to sit, interactive exhibits, and a private space for nursing mothers.

“We want our youngest fans to feel as if Yankee Stadium is an extension of their local park or backyard,” said Steinbrenner in a statement. “The Sunrun Kids Clubhouse is designed to nurture their love for experiencing games in person, while providing parents the resources they need to keep their children entertained prior to and during the game.”

This is a really great idea. There was absolutely nothing kid friendly in the ballpark from 2009-16. I don’t have any kids, but I can’t imagine getting the young ones to sit through nine innings is easy. Now there’s a place for parents to take their children for some more age appropriate fun. I love baseball! Six-year-olds probably don’t though. Now they have something to do in the park.

* * *

There are still two aspects of Yankee Stadium that need to be fixed. First and foremost, the security lines outside. MLB (unnecessarily?) requires metal detectors at all entrances for security reasons, so there’s nothing the Yankees can do about that. They can improve the process though. The lines outside are long and move slowly. There’s a reason the ballpark is a ghost town in the first inning and filled up in the fourth. Too many people miss the first pitch.

Secondly, Monument Park. I hate that it’s hidden in center field like that. I wish it were on full display somewhere, like it was at the old Yankee Stadium. Show off that history, yo! I’m not sure how the Yankees could fix this — maybe create a two-tier bullpen in right field instead of the party deck, and put Monument Park in what is now the left field bullpen? — but man, I do hate that you can’t see Monument Park at all.

Kudos to the Yankees for trying to make the Yankee Stadium experience more entertaining, especially for kids. Yankee Stadium has gotten kinda stale in recent years. Maybe stale isn’t the right word, but the novelty has worn off. Adding some new social spots and a kids section mean there are new places to explore and hang out. That’s neat. I’m looking forward to checking out these new upgrades next year.

Saturday Links: Playoffs, Tebow, Garcia, Yankee Stadium

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees and Orioles will continue their ultra-important three-game series at Camden Yards later tonight. Saturday night games are just the worst, aren’t they? Blah. Anyway, here are some links to help you pass the time.

MLB announces postseason schedule

A few days ago MLB announced the 2016 postseason schedule, and despite the first four months of the season, the Yankees are still hanging around in the wildcard race. Here’s the portion of the postseason schedule potentially relevant to the Yankees:

  • AL Wild Card Game: Tuesday, October 4th (on TBS)
  • ALDS A: Thursday, October 6th through Wednesday, October 12th (on TBS)
  • ALCS: Friday, October 14th through Sunday, October 23rd (on TBS)
  • World Series: Tuesday, October 25th through Wednesday, November 2nd (on FOX)

The AL has homefield advantage in the World Series this year, remember. I assume a tiebreaker game would be played the day before the Wild Card Game. What happens if there’s a three or four-team tie? Not sure. Kinda hope we find out. I explained the tiebreaker procedures in yesterday’s mailbag. Here’s the full postseason schedule.

Yankees attended Tebow’s workout

According to multiple reports, the Yankees had a scout on hand for Tim Tebow’s workout at USC earlier this week. Ken Davidoff says there were 42 scouts representing 28 teams in attendance — the Cubs and Athletics were the only no-shows — but no high-ranking evaluators. Just area scouts. Tebow did the usual. Running, throwing, live batting practice, the works. Here’s a little bit of video:

I don’t have any problem with Tebow or anyone else giving baseball a try. If he can do it, more power to him. He played in high school and is obviously a great athlete, and based on the video he didn’t seem completely out of place on a baseball field. I just wonder about things like pitch recognition and outfield/baserunning instincts, the stuff that gets honed through repetition. This guy’s been away from the game for 12 years now. Also, how will his minor league teammates receive him? I don’t see this as Tebow taking someone’s job, but the players might.

Jose Garcia leaves Cuba

Outfielder Jose Adolis Garcia, brother of ex-Yankees farmhand and current Braves third baseman Adonis Garcia, has defected from Cuba, reports Ben Badler. The 24-year-old still has to go through the process of being declared a free agent and all that, which could take months. Badler ranked Garcia as the 20th best prospect in Cuba last year (subs. req’d). Here’s a piece of his most recent scouting report:

(Garcia) was one of the most tooled-up players in Cuba, with 60 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale and a plus-plus arm … he has played center field during international tournaments and looked comfortable there, with the tools and athleticism that should allow him to play center field in pro ball … At 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, Garcia has quick bat speed from the right side of the plate  … his long swing, free-swinging approach and struggles to recognize offspeed pitches are significant concerns about his ability to perform against better pitching.

Meh. That sounds almost exactly like a right-handed Leonys Martin, though, if I’m remembering correctly, there weren’t a ton of questions about Martin’s bat when he defected. No one expected him to be an MVP or anything, but he could hit. The Yankees haven’t been all that active on the big money Cuban market since Jose Contreras, and while up-the-middle players are always worth checking out, this tiny little bit of information makes Garcia seem like a non-priority.

Yankees looking to refinance stadium payments

The Yankees are looking to refinance about $1 billion worth of debt from the construction of Yankee Stadium, report Josh Kosman and Lois Weiss. They’re trying to get a better interest rate, basically. Happens all the time. Businesses do this regularly and so do regular folks. They refinance their mortgages, their car loans, whatever. The team’s stadium debt payments are $73M a year. They’re slated to rise to $76M in 2018.

“He’s always looking for ways to cut expenses,” said one of Kosman’s and Weiss’ sources, referring to Hal Steinbrenner. That’ll be misconstrued as Hal being cheap, but it just means he’s like every other business owner on the planet. Kosman and Weiss say the Yankees are breaking even financially right now, but that’s just the team itself. They’re still making a boatload of cash from YES and Legends Hospitality, among other things. Don’t worry, the Yankees won’t go broke anytime soon.

Yankees announce new ticket partnership with StubHub

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier today, the Yankees officially announced a new multi-year agreement with StubHub, making them the team’s official ticket resale marketplace. Yankees Ticket Exchange? That’s gone. Fans have to go through StubHub now. The new system will be operational by July 7th. Here’s the press release.

“We are committed to providing our fans with a first-class ticket experience, and offering the safest, most secure and efficient platform for our fans to sell and purchase tickets,” said team president Randy Levine in a statement. “This new product was the result of many productive discussions with StubHub, which will allow them to fully integrate into our ticket system. We are confident this collaboration will best protect our fans in the resale ticket marketplace.”

Two important details. One, this covers mobile tickets only. You still can’t print your ticket at home, so if your phone dies or you’re not that tech savvy, you’re pretty much out of luck. Mobile tickets and hard stock tickets are still the only way to get into the ballpark. Two, the price floor is set at 50 percent of the full season ticket plan price. Don’t expect any super deep discounts.

Make no mistake, this deal is not about fighting ticket fraud or making sure fans get a good deal when they resell their tickets. The Yankees agreed to this deal because, as Samantha Pell reports, StubHub is going to pay them roughly $100M from now through the end of 2022. C.R.E.A.M. That’s all there is to it.

Friday Links: Safety Protocols, LED Lights, Flynn, Dock

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Winter Meetings are over and soon the dog days of the offseason will be upon us. After the holidays it’s just day after day after day of no baseball. Lame. Anyway, I’ve got some miscellaneous links to pass along as you count down the hours until the weekend.

MLB recommends new fan safety protocols

During the Winter Meetings this week, MLB officially recommended new safety protocols designed to protect fans from foul balls and broken bats. The press release is right here. In a nutshell, MLB recommends extending the netting behind home plate from dugout to dugout, and far enough to protect every seat within 70 feet of home plate.

These are recommendations, not mandates, though many teams have already confirmed they will comply. The Yankees have not but that doesn’t mean they won’t before the start of the season. Right now the netting at Yankee Stadium does not extend to the dugouts. There is one unprotected section adjacent to each dugout. I’m not sure how far the netting would have to extend to satisfy the 70-foot recommendation.

This past season there were several incidents where fans were hit by line drives and broken bats, including one scary incident in Fenway Park, in which a woman seated next to the dugout was hit in the head by the barrel of a broken bat. I’m all for making parks safer. The guys who get paid millions to play the game for a living can barely react to line drives in time. It’s only a matter of time until a fan gets killed if the nets aren’t extended. Not everyone is as lucky as this guy.

New lights at Yankee Stadium

According to Sonia Rincon, new LED lights have been installed at Yankee Stadium. They’re brighter and more energy efficient, stuff like that. I accidentally bought an LED light bulb for my bathroom over the summer and when I turned the damn thing on I thought I was standing on the sun. It was insanely bright. The field will be very well lit going forward. Things should be much easier to see.

Flynn, Dock leave the Yankees

Two behind the scenes employees have left the Yankees. Video coordinator Anthony Flynn has left the team for a job in the private sector, reports George King. He spent the last eight years as video coordinator and the seven before that in the baseball operations department. The New Jersey native is taking over as the director of baseball marketing and sales with XOS Digital, a video editing and technology company.

In other news, Ron Dock, who served as the team’s intervention coordinator for the last 17 years, has left the club. “It was my choice, time to move on. I went to Brian Cashman and thanked him and he gave me a hug. There are no regrets, I left on a high note,” said Dock to King. Dock was instrumental in helping Slade Heathcott get over his alcohol addiction a few years ago, among other things.

Dock, 65, was based in Tampa and responsible for helping players and employees dealing with addiction problems, depression, and family or legal issues. The Bronx native battled addiction after serving in the Vietnam War, and he later met Darryl Strawberry at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. Strawberry introduced him to then farm system head Mark Newman, who asked Dock to help a minor leaguer with a drug problem. The team hired him shortly thereafter.

The Big Ballpark in the Bronx [2015 Season Review]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The 2015 season was the Yankees’ seventh in the new Yankee Stadium. The new park has already been home to one World Series champ, and it has seen its fair share of historic moments too. Just this summer Alex Rodriguez recorded his 3,000th hit in the Bronx. He also took over sole possession of fourth place on the all-time home run list with a Yankee Stadium blast.

The new Stadium is unequal parts beautiful and excess. The new place doesn’t have the charm of the old Yankee Stadium and it never will, partly because the old ballpark has been romanticized into something it never truly was. I enjoy the nice wide concourses and adequately sized bathrooms of the new place. I also miss the upper deck overhang and a Monument Park I can actually see. Oh well. Anyway, let’s review the 2015 season at Yankee Stadium.

Big Attendance Drop

According to the attendance numbers at Baseball Reference, attendance dropped big time in 2015. In fact, the Yankees had their worst attendance since moving into the new Stadium. Here’s the numbers:

Year W L Finish Playoffs Attendance Attend/G Rank
2015 87 75 2 Lost ALWC (1-0) 3,193,795 39,430 1st of 15
2014 84 78 2 3,401,624 41,995 1st of 15
2013 85 77 3 3,279,589 40,489 1st of 15
2012 95 67 1 Lost ALCS (4-0) 3,542,406 43,733 1st of 14
2011 97 65 1 Lost LDS (3-2) 3,653,680 45,107 1st of 14
2010 95 67 2 Lost ALCS (4-2) 3,765,807 46,491 1st of 14
2009 103 59 1 Won WS (4-2) 3,719,358 45,918 1st of 14

Attendance dropped roughly 2,500 fans per game this summer. Of course, the Yankees still led the league in attendance, so it’s not like they fell back to middle of the pack or something. They just didn’t draw as many fans as they did in previous years. The new Stadium honeymoon period is coming to an end.

The Yankees did not have a farewell tour this year, which hurt attendance. Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter helped put some butts in the seats down the stretch the last two years, even without serious postseason drives. Attendance was always going to decline somewhat for that reason. And after back-to-back postseason-less years, of course fewer fans were going to come to the park. That’s how this pro sports thing works.

I have zero answers for the attendance situation. I have no idea how the Yankees can fill the Legends Seats — lower the prices? fine, but everyone still goes inside to hang out — or get more fans to the ballpark on weeknights. All I know is attendance declined this summer, and, frankly, it wouldn’t be a surprise if it went down again next year.

Metal Detectors & Long Lines

This season MLB required all 30 clubs to have metal detectors at their entrances, and man, it was a pain. The lines got to be pretty long at times — the wildcard game was a total nightmare — and folks coming from the city after work would often miss the first inning or two because it took so long to get into the damn building.

The metal detectors are here to stay. There’s nothing the Yankees can do about that. The team can do something about the process of going through the metal detectors though. The lines themselves were often run poorly with unclear directions and no actual lines, just a blob of people standing together. The process can be streamlined, no doubt. Hopefully this is something the Yankees improve next season. No one goes to the ballpark looking for the airport experience.

Three New Retired Numbers

The Yankees held four special ceremonies his summer to honor former players. Willie Randolph was given a plaque in Monument Park while Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Bernie Williams had their numbers retired. The Yankees also dedicated a plaque in Mel Stottlemyre’s honor as part of a very touching surprise ceremony.

That was really sweet and well done. Mel’s been battling cancer and it wasn’t clear he would even be able to travel from his home in Washington to the Bronx for Old Timers’ Day. He made it though, and the Yankees surprised him. That was a season highlight for sure.

Anyway, the three new numbers were retired, and they all look great. I think. The lack of space means the new numbers had to be hung at the front of Monument Park, on the opposite side of the outfield wall. So they’re all facing the other numbers, not included with them.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

That’s … weird. I mean, I get it, they ran out of space, but leaving those three numbers by themselves on the other side of Monument Park would be pretty lame. Hopefully the Yankees can squeeze some space alongside the other numbers this offseason. It’s bad enough Monument Park is hiding under the restaurant. Can they at least put all the retired numbers together? Pretty please?

NYCFC

The Yankees had a roommate this year. The New York City Football Club, a Major League Soccer expansion franchise, called Yankee Stadium home in 2015 as they worked to land a facility of their own.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

As far as I know, the field itself was kept in good shape. I was worried it would get torn up but that wasn’t the case. Later in the season we could see lines in the outfield, though it wasn’t that noticeable. The soccer pitch spanned left field to right field and covered only part of the infield, so the mound was fine — it wasn’t torn down and rebuilt every time NYCFC played a game — and the infield grass was nearly untouched.

Nothing has been made official yet, but NYCFC is expected to call Yankee Stadium their home again next season. And maybe the season after that too. The grounds crew did a great job this year. The field was really no issue whatsoever. Based on this season, there’s no reason to think sharing the park will be an issue going forward.