The 2009 New York Yankees: 162 road games

Even though my Yankees lost both games I attended in Philadelphia over Memorial Day weekend, overall, I had a pretty decent holiday, especially for my first Memorial Day since 2000 without a beach house.

Phillies fan (cant say I disagree with his jersey)

Phillies fan (can't say I disagree with his jersey)

Wait … what’s that you say? The games were in the Bronx, not Philadelphia? Well, you could have fucking fooled me.

The number of Phillies fans in the ballpark Friday night and Sunday afternoon — naturally, the only game I didn’t attend was the only game the Yankees won — was even more excessive than the number of Boston fans earlier this month.

It was so excessive that when I got on the PATH train to return to Hoboken Friday night, there was only one other Yankees fan on the car, and the rest of the people were Philadelphia fans, which led my girlfriend to ask, “Is this the Broad Street line?”

And the ferry from Hoboken to Yankee Stadium Sunday was even worse. The boat carried, without question, two-thirds to three-quarters Phillies fans. As my girlfriend pointed out, it wasn’t a ferry: It was a pherry. And I phucking hate it.

T-shirt from BaldVinny.com

T-shirt from BaldVinny.com

First off, while Red Sux fans can go get bent, I have no problem with Phillies fans. I’d probably hate a lot of them during football season, because my hatred for the Eagles is beyond irrational, but I really don’t have a problem with them during baseball season, and they certainly did nothing wrong by buying tickets to this past weekend’s games.

Second, I have no problem with Yankees fans who sold their tickets. Many of us were forced into buying full season tickets in order to have seats with a view of something other than a urinal, which is why there are so many tickets on the market.

I just hope the Yankees’ “brain trust” (it was hard to type that with a straight face) sees what they’ve created. There’s absolutely no home-field advantage anymore. When chants of “Let’s go Red Sox” and “Let’s go Phillies” drown out the fans of the home team, this is a serious problem.

I know the team’s management more than likely doesn’t give a rat’s ass, since the tickets are sold, which is all they care about. And that’s the sad part: Yes, baseball is a business, but this organization has managed to drain every last drop of fun out of being a Yankees fan. Feeling like a visiting fan in my own ballpark sucks ass.

New Yankee Stadium: Kiss home-field advantage goodbye

I’ve tried to keep an open mind about the new Yankee Stadium and the entire process of relocating ticket-holders, telling myself that the first Boston series would provide a true litmus test of whether the ballpark is a success or not. After attending both atrocities against the hated Red Sox, some glaring issues reared their ugly heads.

A proud member of Red Sox Nation

A proud member of Red Sox Nation

There always tends to be a strong presence of Red Sox fans at games between the two teams. After all, they are bitter rivals, and Boston’s less than four hours away by car. But the sheer number of Boston fans at the games the past two nights was ridiculous. And the reason why was pretty easy to figure out, especially after talking with some of them: Tickets were available on StubHub for, in some cases, less than one-half of face value.

Why were so many tickets for two premium games practically being given away? The answer is simple: Far too many fans, including the one writing this blog, were basically strong-armed into buying full season tickets, in order to avoid being assigned horrible seats or no seats, and the number of tickets available for every game via StubHub is simply staggering.

It truly pains me to praise a ball club that I hate as much as the Red Sox, but they’re clearly doing things the right way, while the Yankees’ top management is lucky to be breathing, considering how far up their asses their heads must be.

Let’s compare various facets of the two organizations:

The Boston Red Sox have won two World Series titles since the last time the Yankees won, in 2000.

The Red Sox play in a ballpark that opened on the day the Titanic sank (I am NOT making this up). Fenway Park has undergone several rounds of improvements, but it’s still nearly 100 years old, and it still has more than 15,000 fewer seats than Yankee Stadium.

The most expensive ticket in Fenway Park is $325. The Yankees, meanwhile, play in a brand-new, $1.5 billion ballpark with the equivalent of Fenway’s $325 seats having sold for $900, $1,050 and $2,500 before the Yankees were forced to lower their prices due to the embarrassing number of prime empty seats that were painfully visible on TV. But even after the price reductions and factoring in the extra seats being given to season-ticket holders, the Yankees’ premium seats are still far more expensive than Boston’s.

As I mentioned earlier, many of the Boston fans I spoke with at this week’s games paid less than one-half of face value for their tickets, and other blogs documented the staggering number of tickets available for each game and the desperation by sellers to just get some money back on their hefty investments.

I looked at StubHub’s offerings for the next Yankees-Red Sox game in Boston — Tuesday, June 9 at 7:05 p.m. — and the results were completely different.

The cheapest tickets available were standing-room vouchers at $78 (face value of $20-$30). The cheapest “real” seats were 26 rows up in the left-field bleachers, at $80 apiece (face value of $12). And while it’s tough to compare the two ballparks, as they could not possibly be more structurally different, tickets in section 9, which is the rough equivalent of my Yankees seats, ranged from $128-$397.75 apiece (face value of $30) — a far cry from the $20 (for $40 tickets) the Red Sox fans next to me last night paid for their tickets. Do you know what that means? The crowd June 9 will be heavily pro-Red Sox, as it should, since it’s a home game for them. As a Yankee fan, I’m not sure what a home game is anymore.

Red Sox fans are able to rake in serious profits, should they choose to sell their tickets, while Yankees fans are, for all intents and purposes, giving them away. Why? Because, as I said earlier, so many Yankees fans were forced into buying full-season tickets, and it’s simple supply-and-demand economics.

You would think the New York Yankees’ brilliant management would want the ballpark to be raucous and pro-Yankees all the time, but especially for big series, like the one Boston just swept. But thanks to their ticketing policies, not only will the Red Sox play virtual home games at Yankee Stadium, but so will the Mets, the Phillies and just about any other team with fans willing to travel.

And as the icing on the cake, the Yankees’ organization consistently does things to alienate the Yankees fans who do actually attend games. Just look at what happened Monday night. For those who don’t know, a 7:05 p.m. game didn’t start until 9:22 p.m. due to rain, and many fans left the Stadium after being told by Yankees’ personnel that the game would be canceled.

When an announcement was made that the game was indeed on, many of these fans were refused readmission into the ballpark, despite the fact that they only exited due to being fed erroneous information by representatives of the organization. How many of those people do you think are going to be in a hurry to fork over more dollars to the team after being treated that way? My guess is that the number will be small. Smooth move, Yankees.

The Yankees organization has always been sorely lacking when it comes to dealing with fans, ticket-holders and the media, but it seems to reach a new low every day. Things were far from perfect at the old ballpark, but crap like this makes me miss box 611 more and more every inning.

Unemployment Nine: Taking advantage of my freedom

My frustrations with being unemployed have been pretty well chronicled by now. But with the approach of warm weather and baseball season, while my job hunt may still suck, things are taking a turn for the better in terms of fun activities to keep myself busy.

Riu Palace Las Americas, Cancun

Riu Palace Las Americas, Cancun

Naturally, I will stay vigilant on my search for a new job. And as much fun as the stuff I’m about to discuss will be, I’d rather be employed. But it’s time to start taking advantage of the kind of time off I likely won’t have again until after I retire.

Tomorrow, I will attend the St. Patrick’s Day Parade for the first time in years. Thanks to a good friend, I’ll be in one of the viewing stands, which I’ve never done.

Next Thursday, my girlfriend and I leave for a long weekend in Cancun, at the Riu Palace Las Americas. I can already taste the tropical drinks at poolside.

Then, after arriving back in the States, hopefully with a tan, it’s time for baseball.

First, the Yankees will hold a workout at the new Yankee Stadium, open to full-season-ticket holders, April 2. Why not? I might as well make my first trip to the new ballpark.

Yankee Stadium

Yankee Stadium

The following night, I have tickets for the Cubs-Yankees exhibition game.

Then, if I can get a cheap ticket, Saturday afternoon, April 4, I may try to go to the Red Sox-Mets exhibition game at the new ballpark in Queens, Citi Field. I really don’t care where I sit, so I’ll take any ticket. I just want to see another new stadium.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

The Yankees open the regular season Monday, April 6 in Baltimore, and I was able to get face-value tickets via Ticketmaster, so I’m going to a road Opening Day for the first time ever. The game time is perfect: 4:05 p.m., which means I can leave at a reasonable hour and give myself plenty of time to enjoy Inner Harbor food (crab cakes!) and microbrews (Wharf Rat Porter) before gametime, and still get home at a reasonable hour.

Opening Day at the new Yankee Stadium is Thursday, April 16, and the Yankees and Indians also have a day game scheduled the following day.

Barring lightning striking during this dull job search, I hope to attend all of those. I’d never be able to do all of this stuff if I were employed.

So I guess there is some good to being out of work, after all. But in a perfect world, I’d start a new job Monday, April 20.

Consuming calories in Boston

After invading Washington, D.C., last Presidents’ Day weekend, my girlfriend and I headed in the opposite direction this past weekend and basically ate and drank the city of Boston.

The first of two fantastic restaurants we enjoyed was Atlantic Fish. This was the best seafood meal I’d had in quite some time. Everything was fantastic — great bottle of wine (David Bruce Pinot Noir), fresh clams on the half-shell, hearty bisque, tasty sushi tuna appetizer, her salmon dinner and my blackened scallop dinner. Atlantic Fish is definitely recommended.

The other incredible meal was in Boston’s North End at a restaurant called Taranta, which bills itself as a “marriage between Southern Italian and Peruvian cuisine.” Again, every part of the meal was delicious: another great bottle of wine (La Posta Malbec blend), pan-roasted mussels, her pappardelle pasta with wild mushrooms porcini and my pork chops (the pork chops are their specialty, with good reason).

Now, on to the booze!

Bleacher Bar

Bleacher Bar

If you’re a baseball fan, the Bleacher Bar is a must. It’s built into Fenway Park, and I mean built into Fenway Park — the huge window is actually the right-center-field wall. It’s a great way to get a peak inside a historic ballpark during the offseason or while the Red Sox are on the road, and I’m sure it’s a zoo on game days.

Growler from Boston Beer Works

Growler from Boston Beer Works

I rarely go to another city without hunting for microbreweries, so I visited two old standbys. The first was Boston Beer Works, right near Fenway Park, which had an Espresso Stout that might have cracked my top 10 beers of all time. In fact, it was so good that I brought home a growler.

The second was John Harvard’s Brew House in Cambridge, right by Harvard. I was disappointed that they don’t seem to offer their porter any more, but the XO Stout and Provision Ale were fantastic.

I seriously need to go on a diet.

Josh Hamilton … wow

I have been fortunate enough to experience some incredible moments at Yankee Stadium, so it takes a lot to impress me. But after witnessing Josh Hamilton’s ungodly hitting display at the All-Star Game Home Run Derby last night from my usual perch behind home plate in the upper deck, impressed isn’t a strong enough word.

Yes, I know, the Home Run Derby is a hitting exhibition that means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. And I know, it’s much easier to hit when you can pick and choose only the most perfect batting-practice “fastballs” in your hitting zone, as opposed to having to worry about balls and strikes, breaking balls and all of the other nuances of the game.

Josh Hamilton, 2008 All-Star Game Home Run Derby

Josh Hamilton, 2008 All-Star Game Home Run Derby

But no human being should be able to repeatedly hit a baseball 450 feet, with three of Hamilton’s rockets going more than 500 feet. I don’t care how gift-wrapped the situation was. It was absolutely incredible to watch.

I can generally track home runs very well from my seats, which I’ve had since the 1997 season. But I lost one of Hamilton’s 500-foot-drives against the white background of an ad on the back wall of the bleachers and, until told otherwise by someone with a radio, was positive it had gone completely out of Yankee Stadium. And with the display he put on, I wouldn’t have been shocked if he had accomplished that feat.

I almost feel sorry for Justin Morneau. He ended up winning the contest after Hamilton ran out of gas — the two finalists start the last round at 0-0, so the fact that Hamilton had more than twice as many homers as anyone else during the first two rounds didn’t help him. But last night’s Home Run Derby will disprove the sports cliché that no one remembers who finished second. In this case, no one will remember who finished first because everyone was dazzled by the runner-up.

And Hamilton’s life story — coming back from drug addiction that derailed his career for several seasons and nearly cost him his life — just added to everything.

Just so you know why I say I’m not easily impressed, here are some of the historical games I’ve been privileged enough to attend at Yankee Stadium:

Game five of the 1978 World Series, when the Yankees won their third straight against the Los Angeles Dodgers after losing the first two contests in L.A., going on to win the series in six.

Dave Righetti’s no-hitter against the hated Red Sox on July 4, 1983.

Jim Abbott’s 1993 no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians — only in America can a guy with one hand end up pitching a no-hitter in the Major Leagues, even if he did end up with a career win-loss record under .500.

Jim Leyritz’s game-winning homer in the bottom of the 15th inning in game two of the Divisional Series against the Seattle Mariners in 1995: It was the Yankees’ first playoff appearance since 1981. Who knew they’d drop three games in a row in Seattle, marking the end of Don Mattingly’s career?

• The sixth and final game of the 1996 World Series, in which the Yankees — after losing the first two games at home, then sweeping three in Atlanta, including another dramatic homer from Leyritz — beat the Atlanta Braves to win their first championship since 1978. Current Yankees manager Joe Girardi had the game’s huge hit — a triple. I cried like a baby when Charlie Hayes caught the popup to end the Series. I’m not ashamed.

• Game one of the 1998 World Series, when the heavily favored Yankees, down 5-2 going into the bottom of the seventh, erupted for seven runs — a three-run homer by Chuck Knoblauch, who cost the Yankees a game versus Cleveland in the American League Championship Series by letting a ball roll down the first-base line while arguing with the umpire, and a grand slam by Tino Martinez.

• Games one and two of the long-awaited Subway Series in 2000 against the Flushing Pond Scum New York Mets: Paul O’Neill’s walk in the bottom of the ninth in game one was as professional of an at-bat as I’ve ever seen, and Roger Clemens firing the bat handle at Mike Piazza was just plain funny.

• Games four and five of the 2001 World Series: Two nights in a row, down two runs in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, two two-run homers (Tino Martinez, Scott Brosius). Even though they lost the series to the Arizona Diamondbacks, wow.

• Game seven of the 2003 ALCS — otherwise known as when Aaron Boone became Aaron Fucking Boone.

So when I say I don’t get impressed easily, it’s not because I’m jaded — it’s because I’ve been really fortunate over the years to experience some great baseball moments.

Joe DiMaggio was quoted as saying, “I’d like to thank the good Lord for making me a Yankee.” Well, I’m not very religious, but I’d like to thank whatever power was responsible for making me a Yankee fan.

Josh Hamilton: Well done, sir!

Dear Red Sox Fan? Get bent!

My mail a couple of weeks ago contained an envelope from the Boston Red Sox. I was intrigued. I didn’t think the team was offering me a contract (although I did get five hits in a doubleheader yesterday, and so what if it was slow-pitch softball?), but I was curious what it was all about.

The enclosed letter:

Dear Red Sox Fan,

2008 promises to be a special season for the Boston Red Sox and Red Sox Nation. Not only are we defending our second World Series championship in the past four years, but we are putting on the field one of the most exciting clubs in baseball.

To make it easier for you to follow the Red Sox, wherever you are, the Red Sox are partnering with XM to provide a special offer to Red Sox fans so that you’ll never have to miss another Red Sox game.

XM is the official satellite radio home of the Boston Red Sox and Major League Baseball.

With packages starting at only $99, you’ll get an XM radio and a season-long subscription to XM where you can listen to play-by-play of the Red Sox and every single MLB game from Opening Day to the final pitch of the World Series. Just follow the directions on the enclosed ticket and go to xmradio.com/redsox to sign up or call 866 MLB XM 08.

In addition to XM’s unparalleled baseball coverage, as an XM subscriber, you’ll also get 170 channels of commercial-free music, sports, news, talk and comedy, including a 24/7 all-baseball channel with year-round MLB news and analysis.

We are excited to have you as part of the team, and hope you’ll be able to follow the Red Sox closely throughout the 2008 season.

Sincerely,

Larry Lucchino

President & CEO

Boston Red Sox

What’s wrong with this picture?

First off, the only team I hate more than the Red Sox is the Philadelphia Eagles. I’m a die-hard New York Yankees fan. Calling me a Red Sox fan? That’s a fight in my hood. I’d rather be referred to as a molester of livestock than a Red Sox fan.

Second, I have no idea how they got my name and address. I’ve gone to Fenway Park, but I’ve never ordered tickets directly from the Red Sox. I got Mets stuff in the mail for years after buying tickets to the first interleague series back in 1997. And since I bought tickets to the Dallas Cowboys at the Miami Dolphins last September, the Dolphins marketing people have been total pains in the ass. But I have no clue how the Red Sox organization has my name.

So, Larry Lucchino, take your XM offer and your chowdah and jam them both up your ass. Let’s go YANKEES.