New Yankee Stadium on steroids?
The New York Yankees might have a serious problem on their hands: Beautiful new Yankee Stadium appears to be a veritable wind tunnel that is rocketing balls over the fences.
This was in evidence again on Saturday, when the Indians posted six homers, including 14 runs in the second inning. Cleveland eventually won 22-4 -- and the Yankees and Indians have combined for 14 homers in the last two days.
"With the way the wind has been the last couple of days, right field is a joke," one official said. "I would say at least three or four home runs in this series would be routine outs in nearly every park."
There have been five games played in new Yankee Stadium, including two exhibitions against the Chicago Cubs, and so far there have been 25 homers -- including 17 in the first three games in the Yankees' first home series against the Indians.
That's an average of five home runs per game and, at this pace, there would be about 400 homers hit in the park this year -- or an increase of about 250 percent. In the last year of old Yankee Stadium, in 2008, there were a total of 160 homers.
The Yankees' traditionally have fostered pitching in their home park. Old Yankee Stadium had a short porch in right field, designed originally to take advantage of Babe Ruth's power, but the rest of the park played large. Through the years, this has allowed pitchers to thrive in Yankee Stadium, and been a nice lure for the team in pursuing free agents.
The new Yankee Stadium is just across the street from the old park, but it's not aligned quite the same way as the old Yankee Stadium. In the late-afternoon shadows in the old park, the sun was in the eyes of the left fielder. Now the sun sets into the eyes of the center field and right fielder. Whether or not that's a factor is not known, and it's also possible that the number of home runs hit is directly related to the poor pitching of the likes of Chien-Ming Wang.
But already there have been a number of fly balls that seemed to be routine outs, before almost leaping out of the park. Mark Teixeira lifted a pop to right field off the end of his bat in the first inning Saturday, and players on both teams appeared to be completely surprised when it carried over the wall.
Even if the Yankees wanted to make an adjustment, there is nothing they could do structurally to alter the park this season. They would have to petition for a change going into the next offseason, before doing any reconstruction.
Buster Olney is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine.