Homers in Yankee Stadium: at least the fans like them

Leave a comment

As many folks — myself included — lament the homerriffic qualities of new Yankee Stadium, Steve Politi of the Star-Ledger reminds us that, for a lot of folks, homers = fun:

The pitchers can whine all they want, but the fans were tickled when
that Cabrera fly ball cleared the wall. They came to have a good time,
and at a baseball game, nothing generates more fun than the long ball.
Which is what makes the outrage about the new Yankee Stadium so hard to
understand. Yes, the ballpark is yielding dingers at a record pace.
Yes, some of them are cheaper than a thrift-store suit.

But what, exactly, are people so worried about? Ruining the sanctity of the record book? Little late for that, no?

Baseball is the only sport where anyone worries about too much
offense. The NHL practically rewrote its rulebook for more goals. The
NFL would let its quarterbacks throw from behind a moat if it meant
more touchdown passes. And there is a reason millions of Americans hate
soccer. Thursday afternoon, it was hard to find too many critics of the
homer-friendly park.

He offers lots of quotes from fans who have quite obviously been having
a good time at the new joint, easy homers or not. And hey, you can’t
blame them. The point of this game is to entertain, and people are
certainly entertained. Indeed, the only negative sentiment in this
article comes from Rangers’ reliever C.J. Wilson, who called Melky
Cabrera’s homer yesterday “a deep fly ball to short left field.” He
thought it was a popup but “then I was like, ‘Oh crap, I forgot where
we are.'”

Fans’ happiness or not, it is sentiments like Wilson’s that will
really going to decide if a having a homer-friendly park in the Bronx
is a good idea. Right now the Yankees are set for the next several
years with Sabathia, Burnett, Hughes, Wang, and Chamberlain in the
rotation (I’m assuming Pettitte is gone after this year). But at some
point, the Yankees are going to want to bring in the next CC Sabathia.
Maybe it will be a 29 year-old David Price or a 27 or 28 year-old
Stephen Strasburg. If, by that time, the Stadium is still playing like
a bandbox, I can’t help but think that it won’t be as easy to attract
those sorts of guys. Sure, the Yankees have money, but they’re already
overpaying guys to deal with the hassle and pressure of playing in New
York. How much more will they have to overpay if an inflated ERA is
part of the deal as well?

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
18 Comments

It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.