Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Is Shea a tough place to play?

Looks like a nice place to me.

The congressional elections aren’t to far off, so that means we get subjected to all kinds of polls. Apparently Sports Illustrated decided to do some polling of its own, asking 415 players what is the toughest stadium to play as a visiting player.

Some of places make sense, some don’t. And of course we have to deal with the typical SI Yankee bias. Here’s the list and some choice comments.

10) Shea Stadium: We knew this was coming. Every couple of days Yankee-lovin’ Sports Illustrated remembers that it hasn’t trashed the Mets and runs something goofy like this: "Did John Rocker have a vote in this survey? The constant roar from airplanes heading in and out of LaGuardia can be a distraction, as can the baseball-crazed fans who have been waiting 20 years for another World Series winner."

First of all, can we stop with the Rocker references? We are so over that. He’s been suspended, he apologized, he started sucking rocks in the majors, minors and independent leagues. Let it go.

As for the rest, sure the airplanes are loud and so are the fans. You got a problem with that?

9) Dolphins Stadium: The Marlins are so desperate to get their own yard that they’ve apparently started paying players to say bad things about they one they rent now. It’s not that bad. There are gripes about the way they’re treated by the guy who owns the stadium, but those shouldn’t affect the players. I’ve actually been in the dugout and clubhouse here, and it seemed kind of nice.

8) U.S. Cellular Field: No doubt about that. Shirtless, tattooed and somewhat drunk South Siders have been known to run out of the stands and attack first-base coaches. But the biggest fear is that some poor fan will get dizzy in the highest reaches of the park’s legendary steep upper deck -- you practically need seatbelts -- tumble out, pick up speed falling past the three -- yes, three! -- levels of luxury boxes and land right on top of a poor rightfielder.

7) AT&T Park: I think confusion is the issue here. They’ve changed the name of the place so many times -- this is the third one in six years -- that they must have to constantly replace the directional signs. And given the speed DOT crews seem to work, they’re probably two name changes behind, making it hard for bus drivers to get to the yard. That’s not counting the confusion in the stands, where they actually cheer Barry Bonds.

6) Metrodome: Can’t argue with this one. Loud, ugly and charmless -- and those are just the Twins uniforms. They stadium’s no treat, either.

5) McAfee Coliseum: It’s a football stadium, and a bad one at that. But it so favors football that I think they actually schedule Raiders games right in the middle of Athletics games. Sure, there’s so much downtime in a football game that it doesn’t affect the A’s much. The problem is that players have a hard time getting back into the dugout because they have to pass through all the glad-handers and hangers-on that fill the sidelines of any given NFL game. Seriously, who are all those people? You don’t see baseball filling the foul areas with assorted friends of the owners, cheerleaders and whomever could pretend to be in the media and wrangle a credential. And I think the head coach can wear a headset without requiring an employee whose sole job is to keep track of the wire.

4) Citizens Bank Park: No freaking kidding. I think the Mets games on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday tell us all we need to know about this horror show. Not that it stopped Jose Reyes. Last year, at this very park, I was openly mocked for voting for Jose on my All-Star ballot. Guess he showed them!

3) Wrigley Field: It must be tough to play there because their players occasionally resort to cheating, corked bats and all. And it’s tough one the fans. I thought one died right in front of me. True story.

2) Fenway: SI’s explanation: "The Red Sox have the best home record (38-18) in the majors this season and have won at least 50 games at home in each of the last three years." Could this be because the team has good players?

1) Yankee Stadium: Here’s what SI says: Among the 415 current major league players surveyed, 83 (21.2 percent) voted Yankee Stadium as the most difficult place to play as a visiting player. The numbers back them up: Since Joe Torre took over as manager in 1996 through 2005, the Yankees are 513-292 (.805) at home in the Bronx, where the fans are close to the field and into the action."
Just Yankee fans being Yankee fans.

Where to start? Forget for a second the notion that when you spend nearly twice as much as everyone else in the league, you’d darn well better be winning a lot of games. That says nothing about the stadium itself.

But I won’t deny that it’s tough for a visiting player.

First, you have to walk through all kinds of vermin getting to the field. Oh, the rats are nasty, too, but I was talking about the fans.

What’s this "close to the action" stuff? That space between home plate and the backstop is so huge it has three Electoral votes. (All of them cast for Jeter in every election, of course) The seats in left are separated from the field by the walkway to The Shine To Over-rated Yankees Of The Past. There’s even enough room there for a walkway and the line of retired numbers. And it’s a long walk because the Skanks retire so many. You know they’re just waiting for Tanyon Sturtze to retire so they can hand ole No. 56 out there with the Scooter and Reggie.

I suppose the players are closer to Yankee fans than anybody in their right mind would want to be without disinfectant. But they’re no closer than in any other yard.

By the way, Alex Rodriguez says the place is the hardest place for home players, too. It’s not his fault, he swears.

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