It was discovered in April of 2008 that Gino Castignoli, a local Bronx construction worker and displaced Boston Red Sox fan, buried a David Ortiz jersey in the cement foundation of the New Yankee Stadium. Castignoli fully intended to use the Boston slugger’s jersey to curse all future games in Yankee Stadium. What a rare opportunity for a Red Sox fan. Castignoli took full advantage.
Soon after, other construction workers on the project tipped off team officials and it was decided to excavate the jersey. After all, the New Yankee Stadium was to be the crown jewel of the baseball world, if not the sporting world in general. It was to be a throne for the King, the franchise of all franchises, winners of 26 World Series titles. This would be the world’s grandest board room, fit for a team that’s uniforms are adorned with pinstripes meant to look like business suits.
In a turn of sportsmanship, the Yankees donated the jersey to the Jimmy Fund, the Boston Red Sox cancer fund and called it a day. It was at the time a cute story. The Yankees missed the playoffs that year for the first time in over a decade. Still, it was bound to happen eventually, right?
What followed was a monster offseason. The Yankees ink C.C. Sabathia. They ink A.J. Burnett. They ink Mark Texeira. It is the spoils. They will have the pitching and the hitting and they will do it at Yankee Stadium. The NEW Yankee Stadium.
But then things start to turn. Alex Rodriguez gets caught for using steroids. Even if he wasn’t supposed to be using them during his Yankee years, he had lied. Suddenly, he gets a hip injury and vanishes from the field. More importantly, he is out of the spotlight.
They Yankees hit the road to start the year and C.C. Sabathia has a horrible first outing. The main significance, it was a historically bad outing, statistically one of his five worse of his career.
Then, they Yankees open the doors to their new stadium. In the first four games, in which they split with the Cleveland Indians, 20 home runs were launched. The Yankees gave up 45 runs in the first for games at their park. They even lost one game 22-4. Most importantly, the first game in Yankee Stadium ended 10-2, a loss for the Bombers, the opening day doors opening to a deluge of disappointment.
The Yankees sit 7-6 in the standings, tied with the hated Red Sox for 2nd place in the American League East. It is still way, way too early to prognosticate about the team’s record. What it is not too early to do is question the fact that the New Yankee Stadium in fact was cursed by that David Ortiz jersey. Is that impossible to believe? It might be jumping the gun, but it is worth considering.
Cue the creepy music.
The new Yankee Stadium was built to the exact playing dimensions of her predecessor. She was intended to be a twin sister with a new wardrobe. Deep walls in center and left, a short porch in right. This stadium was built for Yankee baseball.
But a flurry of home runs has people calling the stadium Coors Field East. This is of course in homage to Coors Field in Denver where the Colorado Rockies frequently Moon Shot the ball into the cheap seats thanks to high elevation. Only New York is at sea level.
Imagine the feeling of being the most storied franchise in sports, leaving perhaps the most storied stadium in history, the House that Ruth Built, for the most perfect stadium in history, a testiment to their greatness and a new cathedral for modern baseball. Only within it’s first four games it gets a nickname comparing it to a stadium occupied by a team with less history than some college programs. “Coors Field East” is a big slap in the face.
The Yankees have to be perfect, and this is why. The microscope is so finely tuned, the pressure is so concentrated, nothing can go wrong. It is hard to break first impression. Each time a home run launches out of Yankee Stadium, people will say Coors Field East. What happened?
Accuweather has some theories. Perhaps a new stadium shell is to blame. Apparently, the new stadium is of a wider slope, which could allow more wind to sweep the plains. Accuscore also claims the angle of the seats can create a “downslope” effect causing a wind tunnel to blow out to right, where an even 70% of the first series’ home runs landed. In case you were wondering, the 20 home runs are the most in a series to open a new ballpark ever. It leaped the 18 hit in Cincinnatti when they opened the doors. That stadium, however, was intentionally made to be a hitter’s park, just like the Phillies home stadium.
As a Dodger fan, let me tell you about how hard it is to shake a reputation. A large part of Dodger Stadium’s rep as a pitcher’s park came from the wide, wide foul regions the stadium boasted. They have all bee reduced and what you are left with is a fairly middle of the road stadium in a warm, dry climate. Still, it will always be known as a pitcher’s park.
What will happen in warmer weather when the ball always tends to fly farther? It seems ominous. Sure, they Yankees get to hit there also, but what effect will this have on pitching? Will future C.C.’s and A.J.’s want to play in a bandbox? Yankee fans will tell you the answer is yes. They Yankees can spend money, and pitchers want money. At the same time, if money was equal, say if the Red Sox offered the same, where would you like to pitch? Any Yankee fan not worried about this is probably lying or an extreme optomist.
This isn’t being made up. Yankee skipper Joe Girardi was quoted saying: “It seems to be playing somewhat short. You don’t see this many home runs usually. It’s too early to tell, but the early indications are the balls are carrying to right field.”
Sure, the Yankees will make some adjustments. They could build a huge wall in right, although it’s tough to picture them building a “blue monster” out there. They could adjust the seats up top like the Red Sox did to limit wind current. I am sure science can prevail here.
That is, of course, if something greater than science hasn’t already taken over.
The House that Ruth Built sits next door, the ghosts of Mantle and Ruth and Gehrig and DiMaggio helpless blow a strong wind in from the right field seats to help their team. The ghosts that have scared opponents and humbled fans are not in this new stadium they call Coors Field East. A silent wind pulls and pulls the universe towards that short porch in right field.
Somewhere beneath the stadium is a slightly newer patch of concrete, the place where David Ortiz’s jersey was dug up. David Ortiz, an overweight slugger who bats lefty and pulls the balls into that vortex in right. One can’t help but wonder if this is all a coincidence. Did they buried jersey curse this field? Did the Yankees build a stadium designed for their mortal enemy’s best power hitter?
Ortiz has been struggling, but you have to be thinking no matter who you root for, this new stadium might be a place he loves. There might be something in the water, or in the concrete in this case. The Yankees may get punished for their ridiculous love of excess and the vastness of their spoils. This might be a second coming of the Mattingly years. Mark Texeira, who has publically stated he will reserve judgement on Coors Field East until the weather warms, knows he may be the new Donny Baseball.
It’s early. Who can say what is next? All I can say to the angry Yankee fans who will respond with even angrier comments to this blog, is that you shouldn’t kill the messenger. I didn’t build the short porch in right and I didn’t bury a David Ortiz jersey in the stadium’s foundation.
As I said, I am only the messenger.