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The New, Homer-Happy Yankee Stadium

The new Yankee Stadium was supposed to be all that the “House that Ruth Built” was not.

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It would be more spacious (open-sighted concourses), luxurious (more than 50 suites, nearly triple the amount of the old ballpark), and easier?

With 87 home runs hit in the first 23 games, the new home of the Bronx Bombers is on pace to host 306 long balls in 2009. The single-season record for most home runs in one stadium over a season is 303 (Coors Field in 1999). The original Yankee Stadium never had more than 215.

In 1923, Yankee Stadium was built. It quickly gained a reputation as a nightmare to hitters, especially righties, for deep left and center field fences as well as swirling winds. Interestingly enough, the dimensions marked on the outfield wall of both the original and the new Yankee Stadiums are identical: 318 feet to left field, 399 to left-center, 408 to center field, 385 to right center, and 314 feet to right field. So the question is: Why does the little brother of “baseball’s cathedral” yield so many long balls?

No one is quite sure, but many point to walls that are closer to home plate. Because of the new scoreboard in right field, the wall from right to right-center is straight instead of curved. That makes it up to nine feet closer than in the old stadium. However, some pundits point to a “livelier baseball” for the increased trips around the bases. They argue that this year, balls have traveled farther in general, not just in Yankee Stadium.

Rumors have circulated that architects might move the fences back at the billion-dollar ballpark in the Bronx. Yet, Hank Steinbrenner & Company should consider the following before redesigning the stadium:

Home-field advantage: The Yankees’ combination of Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez could become unstoppable. In the past 11 games, they have combined to hit 13 home runs. Furthermore, Teixeira is a switch-hitter, which allows him to the pull the ball to the short right field corner when he faces righties. Rodriguez has the potential to increase his power numbers at the new Yankee Stadium. His 2007 season is considered one the finest years ever (54 home runs, 156 RBIs), and that was while playing home games in the old ballpark.

New York’s Achilles’ heel: Their division, the American League East, is packed with power. The Red Sox, Rays, and Blue Jays can all score in bunches via the long ball. In addition, the Bronx Bombers’ pitching is in shambles. Mariano Rivera is showing his age (finally!). Chien-Ming Wang is not the pitcher he was in 2007. Phil Hughes continues to struggle, and certainly has not lived up to the hype of being the next Roger Clemens. CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, and A.J. Burnett have been solid, but not stellar.

The home run craze at the new Yankee Stadium has overshadowed the ballpark’s opening season, leading many to crown baseball’s equivalent to the Roman Coliseum as “The House that the Home Run Built.”