Mets Get First Crack at Yanks New Bandbox

Jerry Manuel thought about taking his home run-challenged Mets to the new Yankee Stadium for the first time and laughed.
“I might try to swing a couple times or two,” said the 55-year-old manager, a light-hitting infielder in his playing days. “I had three. I might take me a bat out and see if I can hit one.”
You can't blame him.

Going into the first Subway Series since $2.3 billion of ballparks opened in New York, Yankee Stadium has become known for two things: empty premium seats and its status as baseball's premier launching pad.
There were 105 homers in the first 29 games at the Bronx bandbox. That translates to a season total of 293, just shy of the record 303 hit in the thin air at Denver's Coors Field in 1999 but well above the 160 stroked last year at the original Yankee Stadium.
Compare that to cavernous Citi Field, where the second round of the Subway Series is slated for June 26-28. Just 48 homers were hit in the first 29 games in Queens, a rate that would lead to a season total of 134.
Home runs large and small are on the minds of players and fans heading into the weekend series at Yankee Stadium, a $1.5 billion limestone-and-granite tribute to excess where seats costing up to $2,625 have contributed to 28 consecutive non-sellouts since opening day.
Joba Chamberlain (3-1) was scheduled to start Friday night for the Yankees against Livan Hernandez (5-1). The Mets need to announce a pitcher for Saturday's game against Andy Pettitte (6-2) after John Maine was placed on the disabled list Thursday night. A.J. Burnett (4-3) follows Sunday against Mets ace Johan Santana (8-3) -- who just gave up four home runs in a start for only the second time in his career.

If old Yankee Stadium was a baseball cathedral, the new one is more like an offense discount store, where long balls are always on sale.
“I'm going to give up a few more home runs here in the ballpark,” Pettitte said. “So be it. But I won't make any adjustments yet.”
Through Thursday, Yankee Stadium easily surrendered the most home runs in the majors -- Baltimore's Camden Yards and Rangers Ballpark in Arlington were tied for second with 83.

Citi Field was 24th among the major league parks. Just 21 home runs were hit at home by the Mets, whose total of 37 ranked 28th in the majors, ahead of only Pittsburgh (34) and San Francisco (31). David Wright had four homers -- last year he hit a career-high 33, so it's not a stretch to think he could view a trip to the Bronx as a last-chance power drive.
“I'm excited to play in Yankee Stadium just because it's the new Yankee Stadium,” he said. “We get a chance to play in Philadelphia, you know, a few times every year and, you know, I don't necessarily change my approach, my swing, depending on the ballpark. ... I enjoy hitting home runs, but you don't go to a certain ballpark and try to hit home runs or try not to hit home runs.”
Already, there have been 10 five-homer games at the new Yankee Stadium. While the team insists the dimensions are exactly the same as they were on the north side of 161st Street, Greg Rybarczyk of and the meteorologist say the fence in right field is up to 9 feet shallower.

Rybarczyk also says the fence in center and parts of left is a bit deeper, and that the difference in dimensions alone should account for an increase of only six homers. Speculation on the cause of the power boost has centered on the lesser slope of the stands and the open concourses.
“We pretty much factor it out,” said the Yankees' Johnny Damon, who has hit nine of his 13 homers in the Bronx. “You just want to put together a good swing and hit the ball hard.”        That was the same view held by Gary Sheffield, who hit 45 regular-season home runs at old Yankee Stadium during three seasons in pinstripes.

“You like to go hit at a good hitters' park. But what I've learned is, you can't get focused on the way the ball is carrying there because a lot of times it can mess you up as a hitter,” he said.
Sixty-three of the home runs at Yankee Stadium have gone to right and right-center. Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon said “it's kind of like a jet stream.”

“Everybody's making a big deal out of this park, man. I mean, it kind of is what it is,” Yankees ace CC Sabathia said. “You go in, pitch your gameplan.”
While saying he isn't changing, Pettitte has noticed the difference.
“For me, in the old Yankee Stadium I could make mistakes on the inner half with my cutter and my fastball and they really had to crush it to get it out to left,” he said. “It is carrying a little bit better here and you may give up a few more runs that you normally would, and you just deal with it.”
Playing under the approach pattern of LaGuardia Airport, the Mets are used to jet noise.

And Manuel wouldn't mind some extra offense. He compared his club to an offensively challenged NBA team.

“We would have to play in the 60s,” he said. “We couldn't play in the 90s and 100s.”

So does that mean Yankee Stadium is akin to a court with a lower basket?

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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