October 2016

Enhancements coming to Yankee Stadium

Yankee Stadium will undergo its first series of major design enhancements that are intended to improve the experience for fans of all ages. Enhancements will include seven new social gathering spaces and additional food and beverage areas. Construction began this week for an anticipated debut prior to the start of the 2017 regular season.

“We have listened to our fans and ticketholders, and their top requests were for more family-friendly and socially-oriented spaces at Yankee Stadium,” Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said. “Yankees fans will now have many more dedicated areas for spending time with people who have tickets in other sections of the Stadium, allowing all to be able to enjoy the game from multiple vantage points while having unique food and drink options available to them. We are also especially excited to provide an engaging children’s play area for families to utilize prior to and throughout the game. Having these types of spaces in Yankee Stadium is fundamental to the expectations of our fans, and we look forward to making them a huge part of the Yankee Stadium experience in 2017 and beyond.”

Highlights of the enhancements include:

SUNRUN KIDS CLUBHOUSE: This will be Yankee Stadium’s first-ever children’s zone. Shaped like a mini-baseball field with a soft artificial surface, the 2,850-square-foot area will be located on the 300 Level in right field and will be outfitted with Yankees-themed playground equipment, including oversized baseballs, bases and baseball cards. The Sunrun Kids Clubhouse will be accessible to all ticketholders. Children will be able to play among the colorful fixtures, including a 6-foot-high replica World Series trophy. Parents can join their children on the play area or choose to oversee them from a nearby dugout. Television monitors will ensure that no one misses any game action. There will also be a shaded section of the play area with interactive exhibits. The Clubhouse will also include two family restrooms equipped with changing tables. Nursing mothers will have an additional private space, which will include lounge chairs, a television and power outlets for those using electric breast pumps.

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“We want our youngest fans to feel as if Yankee Stadium is an extension of their local park or backyard,” Steinbrenner said. “The Sunrun Kids Clubhouse is designed to nurture their love for experiencing games in person, while providing parents the resources they need to keep their children entertained prior to and during the game.”

The following new Yankee Stadium food and drink locations will be accessible to all fans, regardless of their ticketed seat:

MASTERCARD BATTER’S EYE DECK: Located on the 200 level in center field with a clear, sweeping view of the entire Stadium, the MasterCard Batter’s Eye Deck will be expanded to 3,500 square feet and will include drink-rails overlooking the field. This outdoor gathering space will feature craft beers, cocktails and a large selection of food options.

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BULLPEN LANDINGS: The new left- and right-field Bullpen Landings (on the 100 Level in the former Sections 239 and 201, respectively) will be open-air social gathering areas which will overlook the visitors and Yankees bullpens. Both landings will feature their own specialty food and drink options. Drink-rail locations at the landings will have power/USB outlets. As a result of this reconfiguration, all obstructed-view seats in the Bleachers will be removed.

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AT&T SPORTS LOUNGE: The new AT&T Sports Lounge featuring DirecTV service at Section 134 on the Field Level will include a full bar with craft beers and cocktails. Tables, stools and large-screen televisions tuned to the Yankees broadcast and other live sporting events will provide a sports-bar atmosphere on the Stadium’s main outdoor concourse in left field. Additionally, power/USB outlets will be available for charging phones or tablets.

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BUDWEISER PARTY DECKS: The 300 Level of the Stadium will include Budweiser Party Decks at Sections 311 and 328, featuring shaded stand-alone bar areas serving beer, cocktails and food. Drink-rail and barstool seating will provide fans a relaxed and casual setting from which to enjoy sweeping views of the field and game action.

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All the areas described will be open for New York City FC fans to enjoy in 2017. The impending construction will affect a very limited number of ticketholders for potential New York City FC playoff matches in 2016, all of whom will be directly contacted by the club. As a result of the offseason enhancements, the Yankees are removing just under 2,100 seats, including approximately 1,100 obstructed-view Bleachers seats and approximately 600 Terrace Level seats.

Once the Stadium enhancements are complete, more than 200,000 additional tickets priced at $15 or less will be made available for the 2017 regular season. These tickets will be in addition to the traditional individual-game ticket specials the Yankees offer, such as MasterCard $5 Games, Half-Price Games and Youth Games. Later this year, additional information will be released regarding the Yankees’ 2017 ticket initiatives, ticket specials and pricing, including the introduction of variable and dynamic pricing.

Tex calls it a career as Yanks bow out of season

As it turned out, Mark Teixeira got his wish. When he hit a game-winning grand slam Wednesday night against the Red Sox, Tex said afterward that he hoped it would be the last home run of his career.

It was.

Plenty of Yankees fans would have hoped Texeira might launch one more drive into the seats Sunday in his last major-league game. Alas, it was not to be. Teixeira had three plate appearances and grounded out twice and flied out once before he came off the field to a standing ovation from the Yankee Stadium crowd of 33,277 at the start of the seventh inning as Tyler Austin replaced him at first base.

The slugging for the Yankees in Sunday’s season finale was by Brian McCann, who led off the fourth inning with his 20th home run of the season. It was the ninth consecutive season of 20 or more homers for Mac and the 10th of his career, which made him the fourth catcher in big-league history with at least 10 20-homer seasons. The others are Hall of Famers Mike Pizza and Johnny Bench with 11 apiece and Yogi Berra with 10.

With Gary Sanchez also having goes deep 20 times, the Yankees became the third team in history to have two hitters who played at least half their games behind the plate to hit at least 20 home runs in the same season. The Yankees had Elston Howard and Johnny Blanchard with 21 each in 1961. The Milwaukee Braves had Joe Torre, later the Yankees manager, with 27 and Gene Oliver with 21 in 1965.

A catcher had the big game for the wild-card Orioles in their 5-3 victory. Matt Wieters socked a two-run home run off Yankees starter Luis Cessa in the fourth inning and greeted reliever Tommy Layne with another two-run blast in the sixth. It was the seventh career multi-homer game for the switch-hitting Wieters and the first from both sides of the plate.

Teixeira, who holds the major-league record for homering from each side of the plate in a game (15 times), finished the season with a .204 batting average within 15 home runs and 44 RBI. Tex was a .268 career hitter with the same total of hits as games played (1,862) with 409 homers and 1,298 runs batted in.

In a pregame ceremony, Teixeira was on the field with his wife, Leigh, and their children, Jack, Addy and Will, when he was presented with a framed No. 25 jersey commemorating his final game by Yankees managing general partners Hal Steinbrenner and Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal and Christina Steinbrenner, Hal’s wife. Tex also received a framed base signed by all of the 2016 Yankees that was presented by CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner, his last remaining teammates from the World Series championship team of 2009. Harlem RBI, the organization for which Teixeira donated $1 million and raised more than $10 million over the years, presented him with a signed thank-you card signed by hundreds of youngsters from Harlem and the Bronx who have benefit from his efforts on their behalf.

The Yankees’ fourth-place finish in the American League East this year was their lowest position since 1992, when they were fourth in the then seven-team AL East.

Steinbrenner, Piniella under consideration for Hall

Former Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner and one of his favorite lieutenants, Lou Piniella, were among 10 candidates announced Monday by the National Baseball Hall of Fame on the Today’s Game Era ballot that will be voted on Dec. 5 during the Winter Meetings in National Harbor, Md.

Steinbrenner was one of three executives along with former commissioner Bud Selig and longtime general manager John Schuerholz named to the ballot and Piniella one of two managers along with Davey Johnson. The other five candidates are former players who were passed over previously in elections by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America — outfielders Harold Baines and Albert Belle, first basemen Mark McGwire and Will Clark and pitcher Orel Hershiser.

Any candidate who receives votes on 75 percent of the ballots cast by the 16-member Today’s Game Era Committee will earn election to the Hall of Fame and will be inducted in Cooperstown, N.Y., July 30, 2017, along with any electees who emerge from the 2017 BBWAA election, which will be announced Jan. 18, 2017.

The Today’s Game Era was one of four Eras Committees identified in July when the Hall’s board of directors announced changes to the Era Committee system, which provides an avenue for Hall of Fame consideration to managers, umpires and executives, as well as players retired for more than 15 seasons.

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Steinbrenner purchased controlling interest in the Yankees in 1973 and oversaw the franchise’s path to seven World Series championships. An early adopter in baseball’s free agency era of the mid-1970s, Steinbrenner’s Yankees compiled a winning percentage of .565 and totaled 11 American League pennants in his 37 full years as the team’s owner. Steinbrenner was also influential in various marketing initiatives, including revenue-building enterprises such as cable television, the creation of the Yankees’ own network (YES) and the construction of the current Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009, the year before his death at the age of 80.

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Piniella, 73, is being considered for his career as a manager, which included two stints with the Yankees, a team for which he wore many hats. “Sweet Lou,” a fan favorite, served the Yankees as a player, coach, manager, general manager and television analyst. In 23 seasons as a manager for the Yankees, Reds, Mariners, Rays and Cubs, Piniella won 1,835 games, the 14th highest total in major league history. He won a World Series in 1990 with the Reds in a four-game sweep of the Athletics and piloted the Mariners to an AL-record 116 victories in 2001. He won Manager of the Year Awards in both leagues, in 1995 and 2001 in the AL with the Mariners and in 2008 in the National League with the Cubs. Piniella batted .291 in his 18-season playing career and won World Series rings with the Yankees in 1977 and ’78.

The 10 Today’s Game Era finalists were selected by the BBWAA-appointed Historical Overview Committee (disclosure: I am the committee’s chair) from all eligible candidates among managers, umpires, executives and long-retired players whose most significant career impact was realized during the time period from 1988 through the present.

Eligible candidates include players who played in at least 10 major league seasons, who are not on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list, and have been retired for 15 or more seasons; and managers, umpires and executives with 10 or more years in baseball. All active executives age 70 or older may have their careers reviewed as part of the Era Committee balloting process, regardless of the position they hold in an organization, and regardless of whether their body of work has been completed.

The Today’s Game Era ballot was determined this fall by the HOC comprised of myself as well as 10 other veteran historians: Bob Elliott (Toronto Sun); Jim Henneman (formerly Baltimore Sun); Rick Hummel (St. Louis Post-Dispatch); Steve Hirdt (Elias Sports Bureau); Bill Madden (formerly New York Daily News); Jim Reeves (formerly Fort Worth Star-Telegram); Tracy Ringolsby (MLB.com); Glenn Schwarz (formerly San Francisco Chronicle); Dave van Dyck (Chicago Tribune); and Mark Whicker (Los Angeles News Group).

The 16-member Hall of Fame Board-appointed electorate charged with the review of the Today’s Game Era ballot will be announced later this fall. The Today’s Game Era Committee will meet twice in a five-year period, with the next meeting scheduled for the fall of 2018.

The Eras Committees consist of four different electorates: Today’s Game (for candidates who made their most indelible contribution to baseball from 1988 to the present); Modern Baseball (for candidates who made their most indelible contribution to baseball from 1970 to 1987); Golden Days (for candidates who made their most indelible contribution to baseball from 1950 to 1969); and Early Baseball (for candidates who made their most indelible contribution to baseball prior to 1950).

The Today’s Game and Modern Baseball eras will be considered twice each in a five-year period, with the Golden Days era considered once every five years and the Early Baseball era considered once every 10 years.

Yankees overcome Severino’s poor start

For an organization that relies so much these days on analytical statistics, the Yankees seem to be stubborn in the belief that Luis Severino is better suited as a starting pitcher than a reliever when the numbers at this point clearly suggest otherwise.

Severino got another start Saturday as the Yankees chose to shut down Mashiro Tanaka the day before the end of their season. In his prior start last Monday night at Toronto, Severino in my view got into a foolish exchange of purpose pitches with the Blue Jays and was ejected from the game in the second inning.

None of that nonsense occurred this time, but once again in a starting appearance Severino failed to fulfill the promise he displayed a year ago when he was 5-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 11 starts.

Saturday was Severino’s 11th start this season and the sixth time he did not pitch the minimum five innings to qualify for a winning decision, of which this year he has none. The righthander was gone two outs into the fourth after giving up three earned runs, five hits and two walks with five strikeouts.

The stats tell the story on Severtino. In 11 starts this year, he was 0-8 with an 8.49 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings. In 11 appearances in relief, he was 3-0 with a 0.39 ERA and 25 K’s in 23 1/3 innings. The Yankees continue to have faith that Severino will emerge as an important figure in the rotation someday, but the numbers lend evidence to the possibility that late-inning work may be a better fit for him.

His teammates got Severino off the hook by coming back from the 3-0 deficit to stall at least momentarily the Orioles’ path to the playoffs with a 7-3 victory. Baltimore’s loss opened the gates somewhat for the Blue Jays, Tigers and Mariners, all of whom were playing later in the evening. The sound man at Seattle’s Safeco Field was so happy he played the Frank Sinatra hit, “New York, New York,” before the Mariners’ game against the Athletics.

The Yankees fought back in small chunks the way teams that fall behind early are supposed to. Tyler Austin singled in the Yanks’ first run, in the fifth, and Chase Headley made it a one-run game with a two-out, RBI double in the sixth. Austin tied the score and chased Orioles starter Wade Miley with another opposite field home run, to right-center, in the seventh. All five of Austin’s home runs have been to the opposite field at Yankee Stadium and have either tied the score or put the Yankees ahead.

Baltimore’s bullpen came apart in the eighth and surrendered four runs. The normally reliable Brad Brach imploded starting with a walk to pinch hitter Jacoby Ellsbury with one out and giving up Headley’s second double on a ground ball over the first base bag and down the right field line.

Austin Romine thrust the Yankees ahead with a two-run single. After a two-out walk to Ronald Torreyes, who was on base three times, Brett Gardner greeted reliever Oliver Drake with a double to left field for two more runs.

Headley showed some heads-up base running on Gardy’s hit. Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy bumped into Headley between second and third. Headley ignored the stop sign put up by third base coach Joe Espada and continued to the plate. Third base umpire Jim Reynolds took note of Hardy’s interference, so there was a good chance he would have called obstruction on the shortstop but Headley made it home safely anyway.

Dellin Betances bounced back from some disappointing outings recently to withstand a leadoff single in the ninth by Michael Bourn to wrap things up by striking out the next three batters. It was a stirring October victory for the Yankees, albeit in a spoiler role.

Yanks’ playoff hopes vanish despite sweep of Red Sox

The Yankees got revenge on the Red Sox for that four-game sweep at Fenway Park two weeks ago by completing a three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium Thursday night, but there was little to celebrate afterward because they were finally eliminated from playoff consideration in the 159th game of the season.

The killing blow was the Orioles’ 4-0 victory at Toronto, a game that ended while the Yanks and Red Sox were still playing. It was Baltimore’s 87th victory and tied the O’s with Toronto for the first American League wild card position. The Yankees can win no more than 86 games, so their playoff hopes have vanished.

The Orioles will come to town Friday night for the start of a season-ending, three-game series with still plenty at stake for them. The Tigers, who were rained out, and the Mariners, who opened a four-game set at Seattle against the Athletics, are still within striking distance of a wild card berth.

The Yankees have won four straight games, but a 3-11 stretch Sept. 11-25 with that 3-8 trip through Boston, St. Pete and Toronto was a dagger in the heart of their playoff chances. To be in the hunt this long in a season that took a rebuilding turn of events was nonetheless a positive for the Yankees.

Despite dealing Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova before the non-waiver trade deadline for mostly prospects, the Yankees made a strong second-half run behind the heroics of catcher Gary Sanchez, who has emerged as a Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award candidate.

Sanchez had a rough go of it Thursday night at the plate (0-for-5, four strikeouts) but was his usual forceful self behind it in guiding CC Sabathia through a strong outing. The big lefthander ended a stretch of six winless starts with his first victory since Aug. 23.

A solo home run by Xander Bogaerts in the fourth inning was the lone blemish on the night for Sabathia, who allowed only three other hits and two walks with eight strikeouts to finish the season with a 9-12 record and an ERA below 4.00 (3.91), his lowest since 2012 (3.38).

With his his 223rd career victory, Sabathia passed Jerry Koosman for sole possession of 16th place on the all-time list for wins by left-handed pitchers. It was also CC’s 228th start for the Yankees that moved him past Hall of Famer Jack Chesbro for sole possession of 12th place on the all-time franchise list. The combined 10 strikeouts by Sabathia, Tyler Clippard and Richard Bleier raised the staff’s season total to 1,370, which ties the single-season franchise record also accomplished both last year and the year before.

Unlike so many of his starts this year, the Yankees gave Sabathia plenty of runs to work with. Starlin Castro, Jacoby Ellsbury and Aaron Hicks had run-scoring doubles. Tyler Austin got an RBI on a bases-loaded walk with another run scoring on a wild pitch. The Red Sox, who had clinched the AL East title the night before, had something of a makeshift lineup. In his final game at the Stadium, David Ortiz was honored in a pregame ceremony and struck out and walked in his two plate appearances before coming out of the game in the fourth inning.