This spring has been all about closure for the Yankees.
The old Stadium is finally coming down, the Joba Chamberlain debate seems to be settled and the terrible mid-decade trades of Nick Johnson and Javier Vazquez have been rectified.
Much of the Yankees' spring training coverage has been spent dwelling on Joba. For the last few years the Chamberlain starter/reliever debate has been a bit of a tradition. He’s the Punxsatawney Phil of Yankees camp — sometimes we’d see the shadow of a potential starter, so we’d have to wait awhile to get him in the bullpen where he belongs — but this spring there was nothing.
He was competing with Phil Hughes for the fifth starting job, but only because Hughes is a bit of a Staten Island Chuck himself.
Wait. What’s that you say? The rodent metaphor is lame? Fine then, but just remember, you asked for it….on to Lord of the Rings!
Nick Johnson and Javier Vazquez are the Merry and Pip of our tale. Separated from their friends by a series of unfortunate events several years ago, the two travelling hobbits have only just been reunited with the Yankees — having just missed out on the destruction of the Phillies at Mount Doom. Sure, while they were separated from the Yankees they crafted their own storylines and gained notoriety as capable, if eminently fallible warriors. But I think we all knew — or at least hoped — that we’d see them returned to the Shire.
Just a reminder. You asked for it.
Unfortunately for our hobbit friends, the land they returned to has vastly changed — having felt the unholy touch of the dark lord Sauron and his henchman, Steiner Collectibles. Yes, when Vazquez and Johnson arrive for the home opener, on Apr. 13, the old Yankee Stadium will be but a memory.
This seems like a good spot to discuss the rotting corpse of the old Yankee Stadium, and the replacement parkland it sits upon — but let’s call in a pro for this part.
TIME FOR A QUICK MID-COLUMN Q&A
As the founder and president of the New York City Park Advocates, Geoffrey Croft has often been a pain in the neck for City Hall, because of his willingess to closely examine plans for projects like the Yankee Stadium redevelopment. I spoke with Croft recently about the Yankee Stadium demolition and the replacement parks, a condensed version of our Q & A follows:
Bronx News Network: When all is said and done, how are the new parks going to compare to the old parks, in terms of green space?
Geoffrey Croft: Well, there’s no comparison. The community is losing three acres of parkland. They’re losing two ball fields, which of course is ironic. It’s just a sham. You know, the Yankees are having Bar Mitzvahs up there, and prize fights, and they’re doing Victoria’s Secret shows, and that’s what it is. It’s an event space, which the public were forced to give over to them for free. It’s the poorest congressional district in the United States, and you know, when Bloomberg was asked — at least he was honest about this — “would this ever happen in Central Park,” he said “no.
BNN: Shea was demolished in a few months and Giants Stadium has a similar timetable, what do you think makes Yankee Stadium different?
GC: Well, the politics. This administration has bent over backwards to serve the Yankees. Shea Stadium, the day after the season ended they started demolition. With Yankee stadium, we found out they had a deal to allow them to stay in the stadium for up to two years. These kinds of behind-close-doors deals are just so abhorrent.
BNN: What did you think when you saw all the coverage last year of Steiner Collectibles collecting tokens of stadium soil and cubes of turf — as someone who has advocated for speedy replacement of parks?
GC: When they were taking up the issue at City Council, only six seconds were spent talking about the actual parkland. So, it’s not about the parks, it’s not about the people, it’s about servicing the New York Yankees. So when Steiner has this deal, the City bends over backwards. There’s so little transparency in the fact that they’re taking their sweet time to remove all that while the public wasn’t getting their parkland.
BACK TO BASEBALL
The Yankees' season starts tomorrow in Boston. First pitch is scheduled for 8:05 pm. That should give all you Easter revelers enough time to worship during the day, before returning to the living room alter for some Yankees-based exaltation.
If for no other reason, watch the game to see Boston's opening day starter Josh Beckett. Each time I see him, I’m awed by just how ugly a chinstrap can be. Great pitcher, ugly ugly facial hair. Just hideous.
It’s going to be a fun season.
NOTE: Make sure to check back every weekend for The Yankees, Unobstructed, BNN's weekly Yankees opinion column.
For more of Graham Kates' sports writing, check out his True/Slant blog "Coaches in the Crosshairs" (http://trueslant.com/grahamkates).