Let’s run the Open Thread with A-Rod news tonight. That way, if you, dear reader, don’t want to talk A-Rod, you can talk whatever else you want. Just play nice.

In The Times today, Marjorie Connelly breaks down a poll about Alex Rodriguez and his current popularity. The Times and CBS News surveyed 1112 people, 429 of whom are baseball fans, and they aren’t big A-Rod supporters.

Sixty percent of baseball fans are bothered by steroid use by players, and 44 percent say Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez should not be allowed in the Hall of Fame, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll…

The 60 percent of fans who said the use of performance-enhancing drugs mattered a lot to them was up from 53 percent last year…

Nearly half of those surveyed, 47 percent, said any major league record set by a steroid user should carry a note indicating the drug use, and 32 percent said the record should be eliminated altogether. Fewer than 20 percent favored keeping a steroids-tainted record on the books…

Thirty-seven percent of fans surveyed said they believed that at least half of major league players use steroids, and another 38 percent said a quarter use them. Nineteen percent said few players use drugs.

For A-Rod, those results are largely meaningless. All the poll shows is what we already knew: Alex Rodriguez will get a chilly reception as the Yanks hit the road this year. Hopefully, it won’t impact his play. A-Rod, after all, is used to a bad reception.

But on a larger level, baseball looks bad in the eyes of the public. When 74 percent of poll respondents think that at least a quarter of all baseball players are still juicing, the game has an image problem. In other A-Rod news, Yuri Sucart has been banned from the team this year.

Around NY Sports: Stephon Marbury is en route to Boston. I hope he kills the Celtics … The Knicks and Nets are off while the Devils, Rangers and Islanders all play home games at 7 p.m. … Johan Santana has tenderness in his throwing elbow.

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Baseball is back, baby! After live blogging Hughes’s innings, Mike and I recorded this week’s RAB Radio Show. You’ll notice that we’re not as focused as we are most weeks. Blame it on us watching the game at the same time as we try to record the show. Oh well. It was beyond great to see some game action.

We start off by going over Phil’s performance. There’s not much you can ascertain from his very first start of the spring, but all in all it went well. He let a few pitches fly which grazed a couple of jerseys, but all in all he did a solid job. His only four-ball walk of the day came in an at bat where he threw all six or seven pitches to the outside edge. His fastball sat 91-92. I wonder if this means he’ll ramp it up as we get deeper into the spring.

Onto the podcast. It is available in a number of formats. You can download it here by right clicking on that link and selecting Save As. If you want to play it in your browser, just left click the link. You can also subscribe to the podcast feed, which will send it to you every Thursday. You can also subscribe in iTunes. Finally, we have the embedded audio player below.

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Hughes in STAh, the first game thread of the year. We’ve been waiting for this day ever since Jon VanEvery hit that walk-off single at Fenway Park off Jose Veras in the Yanks’ final game of 2008. Who cares if today’s game doesn’t count, it’ll be great just to see the boys in action again.

But wait, it gets better! We’ve got ourselves a primo pitching matchup this afternoon: Phil Hughes vs Rays’ phenom Wade Davis (#32 on BA’s Top 100). The last time these two met was Game Four of the International League Championship Series last season, when Hughes thoroughly outpitched Davis and clinched the league title for Triple-A Scranton. It really doesn’t get any better than this, does it?

The game is on YES, with first pitch is scheduled for 1:15. If you miss the live broadcast, don’t worry, they’re going to replay it at 7pm. Here’s the starting nine:

Damon, LF
Jeter, SS
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Nady, RF
Posada, DH
Molina, C
Melky, CF

Scheduled Pitchers: Phil Hughes, Phil Coke, Brian Bruney, Damaso Marte, Jon Albaldejo, Mark Melancon

Looks like we’ll get multiple innings each out of the Phils, maybe Albie too. Anyone know anything about this Melancon kid?

Photo Credit: Steve Nesius, Reuters Pictures

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  • Stop the presses: Hank & Reggie have an opinion
    By

    So Alex Rodriguez and Reggie Jackson went out to dinner the other night, and Reggie had some advice for Alex because, you know, he’s dealt with this kind of PED thing before. Coming jointly from Hank Steinbrenner, the invisible executive, Mr. October told A-Rod to “hit the baseball and hit it when it counts.” Hit the baseball. And hit it when it counts. When it counts? When is that? Seems to me like it would be, I dunno, ALL THE FREAKING TIME!!! Reggie also some other words for A-Rod, saying he’s disappointed in him and that when he retired he was one of the best of all time and is sad to see his career accomplishment tarnished. You really didn’t think Reggie could go that long without talking about himself, did you? Even Neyer agrees this is retarded. · (32) ·

  • Even Japan doesn’t want Kei Igawa back
    By

    In 2006, Japan stunned the international baseball community when they claimed the WBC title. They’re back with a vengeance to defend their crown, and while many players — the pitchers especially — view this tournament as a potential audition for the U.S. Major Leagues, the Land of the Rising Sun is mostly concerned with capture another title. While the rehabbing Hideki Matsui won’t play in the tournament, he is wanted for it. His fellow Japanese Yankee isn’t so lucky. When asked about Kei Igawa’s omission from the team, one of the Japanese reporters assigned to the team said “They think he is not so good.” I don’t think Brian Cashman is going to voice much objection to those sentiments. (Hat tip to PeteAbe for this amusing anecdote.) · (68) ·

While much of Ben’s post about Yankees ticket prices bothered me, nothing irked me quite as much as Lonn Trost’s take on the obstructed view bleacher seats. In his view, having TVs on the wall is a substitute for seeing the action on the field. This, of course, is preposterous. If I want to watch the Yankees on an HD, I’ll go to my buddy’s down the street. People go to games to watch the games — or at least in an ideal world they do — not watch TV.

Here’s Trost’s explanation (via Neil Best):

“When we built the sports bar we knew architecturally there is an architectural shadow,” he said. “And that means there are a group of seats that are in the bleachers that if you are sitting very close to either the rightfield or leftfield side of the sports bar, you may not see the opposite side.

“We knew that going in, and to that extent we pre-prepared to put televisions in the wall, as well as that big screen so you don’t miss anything.”

He pre-prepared. Now that’s some forward thinking. Problem is, pre-preparing for having obstructed seats by installing TVs isn’t preparing for much, beyond fan disappointment. Again, television is no substitute for the live game. That’s why people shell out so much money for tickets.

We also found out in Ben’s post that Mike Francessa and his crew at WFAN were trying to get Trost on the show — you know, put a little pressure on him. It seems to have worked. As Best reports, tickets in the “architectural shadow,” about 600 in total, will cost only $5. It won’t allow you to see any more of the field, but at least it’s admitting that those seats aren’t equal in value to the full-view bleacher seats.

Also of note: The most expensive seats in the house will become open to partial season ticket plans. Why? Because they’re only 70 percent sold right now. No, we don’t know when they’re going to go on sale.

Categories : Yankee Stadium
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  • Canon reups Yankee sponsorship
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    While many sports franchises are having trouble securing sponsorships in today’s economy, the Yankees seem to be doing okay for themselves. Today, Canon announced that they will renew their Yankee sponsorship for the next three years. Canon will now be the Official Digital Camera, Copier, SLR Camera and Printer of the Yanks and will receive signage on the left field wall and on the rotation ad block behind home plate. The company will sponsor a promotional day in May as well at which the first 18,000 fans will receive a cap with the Canon and Yankees logos. While that hat sounds like an instant collector’s item, the quote from Jack Suzuki, a Canon official, was even better: “We hope to see many Yankees home runs hit over our sign throughout the season · (4) ·

cc-in-st_2We’ve had a pretty good idea of what the Yanks’ 2008 rotation would look for weeks now, but Joe Girardi made it official today. CC Sabathia gets the ball on Opening Day, and will be followed by Chien-Ming Wang, AJ Burnett, Andy Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain. I’m glad to see Wang – the senior member of the rotation in terms of consecutive seasons with the team – get the nod for the two hole.

HowEVA, the more interesting story is that the plan calls for Joba to make roughly 30 starts. It’s just a plan, and I think they’re using term loosely at that. You know they’re not going to push him too hard past his innings limit. I think that more than anything, this means they won’t skip him so much on off-days early in the year just to make sure he gets those innings in. When he hits his cap, worry about it then. The playoffs are far from a given in that division.

Anywho, the Yanks actually played a game today, beating the Jays 6-1. Brett Gardner hit a homer on the second pitch of the first plate appearance of the preseason, so helloooooooo World Series! A-Rod hit a two-run jack and drew a pair of walks, Derek Jeter singled, Robbie Cano singled and was hit by a pitch, and Nick Swisher walked twice, once with the bases loaded after an 0-2 count. Austin Jackson and Jesus Montero each picked up a hit after entering the game in the later innings. Brett Tomko started a threw two strong innings, and the prospect quartet of Chris Garcia, Mike Dunn, Steven Jackson and David Robertson combined to throw four shutout innings, the only baserunner coming on a D-Rob walk. They’ll play the Rays tomorrow at 1pm, and the game will be on YES.

Here’s your open thread for the night. The Rangers, Islanders, Knicks and Nets are all in action tonight, and MLB Network will be carrying the Red Sox-Twins game at 8pm. Have fun.

Note: Dave Kaplan, Director of the Yogi Berra Museum on the campus on Montclair State, asked us to mention that some of the Baseball Prospectus guys will be making an appearance to talk about the upcoming season on Sunday, March 1st at 2pm. For more info, call 973-655-6891.

Photo Credit: Reuters Pictures

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Via WPIX 11 comes this historic video taken today at the new Yankee Stadium. With just 50 days left before the official opening of the new Yankee Stadium, the team unwrapped the monuments from Monument Park and celebrated their new home in center field underneath the food court and sports bar.

The team wrapped up the Babe, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Miller Huggins and the Sept. 11 Monument a few weeks ago, and Port Morris Tile and Marble oversaw the relocation of these monuments, the oldest of which is nearing 79 years of age. “It’s a big responsibility, and you can’t mess up,” Rudy Lavazoli, a rigger with Port Morris, said. “These monuments have been around a long, long time. You don’t want to be the one who does any damage to them.”

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