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The Yankees' New Billion Dollar Bandbox

M. EccherCorrespondent IApril 22, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 17:  A view of Yankee Stadium from center field during the New York Yankees game against the Cleveland Indians on April 17, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Many of the high priced seats behind home plate remained empty during the game.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

It's a mighty fine day to hate the New York Yankees.

If you thought Alex Rodriguez' hip injury or Chien-Ming Wang's meltdown were karmic retribution for treating the rest of the league as a trade deadline shopping center, plundering the annual free-agent market, and fleecing taxpayers into subsidizing a cash cow of a stadium for the richest organization in baseball, you weren't thinking big enough.

Payback for those years of Yankee smarm isn't coming on the field, exactly: It's coming from the field itself.

Seven games into its inaugural season, New York's glossy $1.5 billion new ballpark has been pegged as a homer-happy wind tunnel.

Thirty-one fly balls have left the cathedral on the season, including 14 in a two-day stretch against the Indians in which fly balls to right field might as well have included an airmail stamp.

That's 4.42 home runs per game. Last year, Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field led baseball with 2.79 home runs per contest. The original Yankee Stadium clocked in at a modest 13th, with 1.98 longballs a game.

In 1999, Denver's Coors Field—the pre-humidor version—set the major-league record with 3.70 homers a game, for 303 on the season. The average score of a game in Denver that season was 8-7.

The current pace at the new Yankee Stadium would produce 358 home runs—about one for every million dollars the New York public contributed to the venue—and turn into the biggest pitcher's nightmare in the history of baseball.

Numbers like that lend the park all the mystique and aura of Ken Griffey Jr.'s Slugfest. If Babe Ruth had built this house, Barry Bonds would have been swinging for a distant second on the all-time dinger list.

One imagines this isn't what CC Sabathia had in mind.

Remember that when the Yankees lured the prized free agent pitcher into pinstripes, one of the team's selling points (aside from the $161 million over seven years) was the chance to start the very first game in their glossy new ballpark.

"Think about it," Sabathia gushed. "Fifty-five thousand people? The first game? I can't wait."

Now, the burly hurler finds himself locked into perhaps 48 starts in the three seasons between now and his 2011 opt-out clause in a home stadium where hitters can't wait to take their cuts.

So does A.J. Burnett, whose health concerns just might start to coincide with scheduled home starts. If Philip Hughes didn't have confidence issues after his disastrous stint in the majors in '08, he might develop a few when his number gets called in the new park.

And good luck inking those big-name pitchers next winter if the ball keeps going up without coming down. Just ask the Rockies how top-line starters feel about serving up fodder for home run derbies.

Even if the Yankees diagnose the problem, they're not allowed to tamper with the park until after the season.

For the past decade, the Yankees have made headlines by shelling out for the best toys money can buy.

It looks like their latest, greatest splurge comes stamped with a bold "buyer beware."

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