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News » Yanks' new ace can't deliver win on big day

Yanks' new ace can't deliver win on big day

Yanks' new ace can't deliver win on big day
The day began as emphatically as a wave crashing onto the beach, full of sound and fury. That's what it felt like inside Yankee Stadium on Thursday, as the opening-day ceremonies stitched history into the fabric of the future.

All the "ghosts" were there — from Yogi Berra and Don Larsen, to Reggie Jackson and Paul O'Neill. The next decade was represented, too, in the form of CC Sabathia, the $161 million ace whose arrival in pinstripes was supposed to ensure the return of the good old days.

Sabathia: Larger than life, or just slightly larger than his uniform? For the second time in three starts, the left-hander struggled with his control, using up 122 pitches in just 5 2/3 innings while the Yankees were subsequently embarrassed, 10-2, by the Indians.

Instead of ushering in a new era in the Bronx, the blowout raised questions about the Bombers and their new home.

For all its splendor, the $1.6 billion Stadium failed to summon the Yankees fans' hard edge. David Cone said the crowds at the old Stadium "used to intimidate opposing teams. You could see it on their faces, younger players especially. It's like they were confronting a mob."

That wasn't the case on Thursday. Despite an announced sell-out, the decibel level throughout the afternoon was tolerable, the crowd's demeanor overly polite, suburban. There was no crescendo of noise whenever Sabathia got to two strikes on a batter — a repudiation of Yankee tradition that dates back to 1978.

No one heckled Cliff Lee as he struggled to keep the score tied. The Indians, who'd won just twice in nine games, should've been unnerved by the enormity of the moment. Instead, they patiently wore down Sabathia, took apart a trio of Yankee relievers — Edwar Ramirez, Jose Veras and Damaso Garcia — and turned the Stadium into a neutral site.

By the eighth inning, tens of thousands of fans had fled the ballpark and were already on their way home. Hard to believe this was the same army of hardcores that Cone had spoken of with such reverence.

Then again, maybe it wasn't.

This isn't to say Sabathia is a risk (yet), but stretching him out on a cold day in April seems counter-intuitive for a team that can't afford to lose its most precious asset. For the first time since 2003, the Yankees have at least three starters who could exceed 200 innings apiece. So why the anxiety?

Part is the Yankees' concern over Chien-Ming Wang, who's thus far been stripped of his sinker. But the greater issue is October itself. The new Stadium was built on the presumption of Yankee excellence. The team can charge exorbitant prices as long as fans sense they're on a ride to the postseason.

But finishing third last year was a culture shock in the Bronx. The Yankees responded with their most aggressive offseason in years, signing Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira. Now comes the perfect new Stadium, replete with a DiamondVision as imposing as the apocalypse.

The Yankees better win — or else. Never has the mantra been driven home with such emphasis. Their payroll is again over $200 million. They borrowed $400 million from New York City to finish construction on the ballpark. They've taken out full-page ads in The New York Times to hawk their premium seats.

Win — or else the Yankees run the risk of a second straight dark October. It's not just baseball pride that's at stake. It's about post-crash economics.

Another mediocre season, and the Stadium will turn into a Hummer in the driveway. Now you understand.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: April 17, 2009

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