Dissecting the Great City Subway Race

During old Yankee Stadium's final year, somehow, the B won the subway race 26 times. It's a New York City miracle. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

The between-innings entertainment at Yankee Stadium has largely run its course these days. Most fans who trek up to the Bronx would like to do unmentionable things to the Zales Fan Marquee guy; the YMCA merits an eyeroll; Cotton Eye Joe has been banished to points of the game when fans aren’t paying attention; and the blooper reel still features Montreal Expos and a Tommy Lasorda clip from the 2001 All Star Game.

By now, I mostly ignore the distractions. A few years ago, my dad decided to try to tune out the noise the PA system throws at fans between innings and just focus instead on what the players are doing. I’ll watch A-Rod take a long pass from Teixeira or check out Jeter throwing BBs from beyond third base as the guy on the mounds get ready. But one aspect of the stadium entertainment grabs my attention: the Great City Subway Race which arrives around the middle of the 4th inning.

Once upon a time, the Great City Subway Race had some charm. This guy with a heavy Noo Yawk accent used to announce the contest between the 4, D and C trains, but this was ages ago, when the C ran where the B does today. The DiamondVision screen used to show actual footage from inside the subway system, and the race kinda sorta resembled the real thing. Today, it’s all just special effects and some guy who sounds like he’s from Indiana.

But that’s not important. What really grinds my gears is the portrayal of the trains and their routes. It’s just wrong.

Supposedly, the BMT trains are at Herald Square and the 4 is starting from Grand Central. (Photo by Amanda Rykoff)

I’m not sure where to begin. What stations are these? The announcer claims its Herald Square on the left and Grand Central on the right, but a quick visual glance proves that neither are what they say they are. Meanwhile, the blue D train just doesn’t make sense. Blue is the trunk line color for the 8th Ave. line, and at no point is the D considered the 8th Ave. line. Meanwhile, why are the B and D on separate tracks at Herald Square? Is the B going to Queens? Who killed the F train?

As the trains depart from their mid-route terminals en route to Yankee Stadium, the announcer gets quite excited. We watch the B and D start to pull out, shift to the East Side to catch the 4 leaving and then…zoom past Times Square to get back to the B and D? The B and D never pass through Times Square, and to go from Grand Central to the 6th Ave. line involves a trek through Bryant Park. The camera is lost.

As the trains head uptown, the announcer likes to say they are “neck and neck” as they motor toward the Bronx. There is but one problem: Remember how the B and the D started out on separate tracks at Herald Square? Well, as the 6th Ave. express departs Rockefeller Center and heads into 7th Ave., it’s a single track. The B or D will have to go first, and if the D goes first, the B train — a painfully slow local that makes seven more stops than the D along Central Park — will never catch up. Even if the B goes first, the D will pass it before the Museum of Natural History. Yet, somehow, the two trains seem to draw even somewhere under the park. Some race, huh?

What are these trains doing aboveground? (Photo by flickr user fastlaine)

As we speed to the finish line, something funny happens. All of the trains are magically aboveground and seemingly at grade! These trains are now literally running through the South Bronx. Who needs parks when we’ve got open subway tracks? That’s neighborhood transformation at its finest.

Finally, someone has to win, and while the B in Brooklyn is my lifeline to law school in the morning, every time the B wins the subway race at Yankee Stadium, I die a little inside. The B makes eight stops that the D skips, and the 4 is faster (or if it’s a weekday and rush hour, slower) than either. What the Yanks need is some realism. Give me a sick passenger, an unavoidable delay and the D train making stops along the A from West 4th St. to Columbus Circle, and I’ll be a much happier camper.

I’d be remiss to end this post without mentioning the people who have heard me complain about this the most. Of course, my parents and sister get an acknowledgement as do Amanda Rykoff, Stefanie, Leonora, Jake, Mark Schwartz, Kiersten, and everyone else on Twitter who obsesses over the subway. Don’t forget: There’s always Second Ave. Sagas for all of your transit. Now back to your regularly scheduled hand-wringing over the Yanks’ rotation.

Cashman was ‘this close’ to signing Hall

For some reason or another, Bill Hall has been one of those players constantly linked to the Yanks in recent years. During the Winter Meetings in December 2008, Mike wondered why Hall was being connected to the Yanks, and in November of 2010, we heard some low-level rumblings about a connection between Hall and the Bombers. Ultimately, though, the 31-year-old signed a one-year deal with the Astros for $3 million, and the two sides hold a mutual option for $4 million.

For a guy who’s going to give you 0.5-1 wins above replacement, that’s not an awful deal, and today, we learn it could’ve been the Yanks’ checks Hall might have cashed this year. Jack Curry, via Twitter, relates an exchange from today’s game. Brian Cashman says to Hall, “I almost had you. It was this close.” Hall, says Curry, sheepishly says, “Sorry.”

The Yanks won’t miss Bill Hall’s production or lack thereof, and they should be able to replicate it with the much cheaper cast of characters they have in camp right now. It’s always entertaining though to ponder the deals that weren’t. I wonder how many other close calls the Yanks have had over the years.

Open Thread: March 2nd Camp Notes

Too lazy to throw overhand. (AP Photo/Margaret Bowles)

Today’s round-up…

  • The Yankees beat the Astros 6-5 this afternoon after Russell Martin coaxed a walk-off walk out of former Yankees farmhand Lance Pendleton. A.J. Burnett showed off some new mechanics with two scoreless innings, but David Phelps fell victim to some poor defense in a four (unearned) run inning. Derek Jeter actually hit two balls in the air, hard too, one into Michael Bourn’s glove and another into the grass for a single. The Yankees scored four in the ninth to tie (Melky Mesa had the game-tying two-run single) and a fifth to win. Here’s the box score.
  • CC Sabathia, Mark Prior, Bartolo Colon, Dellin Betances, and Pedro Feliciano all threw side sessions this morning as scheduled. Romulo Sanchez and Warner Madrigal threw simulated games with Austin Krum and Doug Bernier standing in as batters. (Chad Jennings)
  • Martin is wearing a brace around his surgically repaired knee, but he’ll again serve as the designated hitter tomorrow and then catch in Friday’s game. (Dan Barbarisi & Marc Carig)
  • Old buddy Chad Gaudin will be starting for the Nationals against the Yanks on Saturday. Jamie Shields and Clay Buchholz will the opposing starters on Thursday and Friday, respectively. (Carig)

This is your open thread for the night. Today’s game is being replayed on YES starting at 7pm ET, and MLB Network is replaying this afternoon’s Royals-Dodgers game starting at 9pm ET. The Devils, Islanders, and Knicks will all be playing regular season games that actually mean something. Anything goes, so have at it.

Link Dump: Org. Rankings, Int’l Money, Sanchez

Earlier today we pointed you in the direction of John Sickels’ interview with Mark Newman, but here’s a few more minor league links to pass along…

Goldstein’s Organizational Rankings

A few days after releasing his top 101 prospects list, Kevin Goldstein released his farm system rankings today, placing the Yankees fourth overall behind the Royals, Rays, and Braves. You don’t need a subscription to view the whole thing. Instead of posting a generic paragraph on each system, KG added a haiku, and I give him points for originality. His Yankees’ offering: “Slugger with no glove. The B’s need to prove themselves. Yankees or trade bait?” Pretty much everything you need to know right there.

International Free Agent Clearing House

Baseball America posted a trio of great charts regarding international free agency today, one looking at the top 30 signing bonuses from 2010, another with each team’s spending in 2010, and the last with the top 20 bonuses of all-time. None of them require a subscription. The Yankees gave Wilmer Romero and Christopher Tamarez $656,500 and $650,000, respectively, the 19th and 20th largest bonuses of the year. Rafael DePaula got just $500,000 (26th), and some kid named Eduardo Rivera got $475,000 (30th). The $5.27M they spent overall was the second most by any team, so everyone complaining that the team wasn’t spending enough internationally, just stop.

As for the all-time records, Gary Sanchez‘s $3M is the third largest ever, behind Michael Ynoa and Miguel Sano. Wily Mo Pena ($2.44MM) is the ninth largest of all time, and for a while was a record. I still can’t believe the Yankees gave Wify Mo a big league contract as a teenager.

KLaw on Sanchez

Jesus Montero is the cream of the Yankees’ position player prospect crop and rightfully so, but further down the later resides Sanchez, who has to potential to be every bit as good as Hey-Zeus. Keith Law looked at six prospects yesterday (Insider req’d), six guys with the potential to jump into the top ten prospects in all of baseball next year, and Sanchez was among them. “Sanchez can hit, and looks like he’ll hit for power,” said KLaw. “A full year behind the plate and another year of physical development will go a long way toward answering the question of his defensive future, but there aren’t many questions about his offensive potential.”

Law says he believes Sanchez can catch long-term, and at the very least he has a better chance to do so than Montero. It’s unfair to compare Sanchez to Montero but it’ll inevitably happen. If he’s 75% of Jesus, that would be amazing.

Yankees sign Nick Ebert

The Yankees have signed former South Carolina first baseman Nick Ebert as an undrafted free agent, reports Matt Eddy. The 23-year-old hit .302/.448/.638 with 30 homers in 440 plate appearances with the Game Cocks over the last two years, before which he was at a junior college. Baseball America ranked Ebert as the 36th best prospect in the state before last year’s draft, just saying that he was a solid college senior with some power. The right-handed hitter is probably nothing more than minor league depth, a guy that can mash Single-A pitching and help keep the pressure off the youngsters.

MRI inconclusive after Cervelli injures foot

Frankie Cervelli fouled a ball off the top of his left foot early in today’s game and was then lifted an inning later. He was noticeably limping after drawing a walk to finish the at-bat. Joe Girardi said during an in-game interview that they didn’t want to risk further injury and pulled him, but a post-game CT scan and MRI came back negative and inconclusive, respectively, according to Marc Carig. Doctors will evaluate the results again, presumably soon, and until then we’re kind of in the dark about Frankie’s status.

Girardi said after the game that he didn’t know if a prolonged absence would result in some time behind the plate for Jorge Posada, though I would imagine that Jesus Montero‘s chances of making the club would increase tremendously.

John Sickels’ interviews Mark Newman

John Sickels of Minor League Ball recently sat down with Yankees president of baseball operations Mark Newman to chat about the team’s farm system. They of course hit on all the usual suspects – Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Andrew Brackman, etc. – but also spoke about the next wave of prospects, so to speak. Newman discussed Slade Heathcott‘s strikeouts, Mason Williams‘ potential, Gary Sanchez‘s everything, plus a ton more. He also compares a certain infield prospect to a young Robbie Cano, but you’ll have to check it out to find out who.

The RAB Radio Show: March 2, 2011

A.J. Burnett made his first appearance of the spring today. Mike and I talk about how he looked and what he has to do this season. It does appear that he has made some changes, but as with Jeter, don’t expect results to come immediately.

We also run down some other spring training stuff, including plenty from today’s game.

Podcast run time 21:09

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