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I Saw* Dominic Smith’s First Big-League Homer

At this stage of a lost season, it’s no longer about the standings or even particularly about the score. Baseball becomes a game of individual accomplishments, and the roster a collection of atomized pieces to be assessed for some future mosaic. Keep this one, dump that one, maybe we can swap that one for something that fits better.

Jacob deGrom [1] isn’t going anywhere — he’s the only one of the Mets’ vaunted young guns who didn’t burst a barrel during this campaign. If someone can be said to pitch well despite giving up five earned runs, it’s deGrom, who was mostly unlucky in losing to the Yankees. In a low-wattage Subway Series, this was another mostly dull game, which Mets fans like me scattered through the stands seemed to find more perplexing than anything. DeGrom looked great, except the Yankees lofted all manner of dinks and dunks over the infield, a small number of deGrom pitches were less than great, and that combination was enough to beat the Mets [2].

The game was also my first look at the new Yankee Stadium through civilian eyes. I’d been twice before, but each time I’d lucked into exotic seats I had no business being in. For my first visit I was a few rows behind home plate (for the unveiling of George Steinbrenner’s plaque, no less), and ushers entreated me and my neighbors to not bother Jay-Z, which I thought was some kind of to-the-manor-born joke until I realized that oh, that really is Jay-Z sitting right there. (I didn’t bother him.) The second time, I was in a suite down the right-field line, on a work outing during which I endeared myself to my boss by telling credulous newcomers that Monument Park was a replacement for a statue of Moloch into whose fiery maw luckless Bronx orphans had been fed during secret midnight ceremonies. (Hey, it’s metaphorically true.)

Seen from a less exalted angle, the new Yankee Stadium is just … deeply underwhelming. I still need to give it a proper tour, but it’s like someone took the old white skeleton frieze, then sat down with the post-Camden Yards pattern book, put a big X through anything interesting, surrounded the premium seats with a moat and called it a day.

Citi Field arrived with some horrific sight lines and a woeful lack of affiliation with the team that actually played there, but from the beginning the park had both instantly recognizable pieces (the rotunda, the Shea Bridge, the Pepsi Porch, the home-run apple) and general-access areas (the left-field plaza and the promenade deck above the rotunda) where you could eat, hang out or stroll. Yankee Stadium’s Great Hall is a fitting showcase for the team (which is to say it’s big, expensive and cold), but there’s an absence of common areas, and looking around from a grandstand you mostly just see generic ballpark.

The frieze remains iconic, even if it still strikes me as set dressing that wouldn’t look out of place adorning Skeletor’s lair in He-Man. But Monument Park 3.0 is baffling.

The original Monument Park was actually in play, which I can accept wasn’t the greatest idea; its successor dominated the area beyond center field. The third iteration, however, looks like the backlot of Vinnie’s Used Cars — a sad space beyond the center-field fence, dimly visible under sagging netting. My pal Will and I spitballed new locations for it, finally concluding that anything anyone came up with would be better than what actually exists. I mean, this is Monument Park — something even Yankee haters instinctively look for — and it looks like a shabby afterthought. How do you screw that up?

Oh, when a Yankee hits a home run the stadium lights do a disco/vogue thing, followed by those irritating Yankee chimes. Much as I disliked the frequency of its use, the disco/vogue thing was pretty cool.

Anyway. Your takeaways from the night were exactly two: Dominic Smith [3] hit his first career home run and Amed Rosario [4] hit his second, the latter coming off Aroldis Chapman [5] in the ninth and giving the Yankees a bit of a fright, at least. Here’s to many more Smith-Rosario pairings on the scoreboard in the future, and to their contributions coming in actual wins.

Oh, that asterisk: having concluded that the Mets’ presence in Yankee Stadium was essentially theoretical for the night, I gave up and went looking for a decent hot dog and beer. The Yankees pipe the radio feed into the bathroom, but TVs are lacking while waiting in concession lines. I returned with my expensive prizes to find that the score had gone from 4-0 to 4-2.

“What the hell happened?” I demanded, looking at the Mets suspiciously, and was told that Dominic Smith had hit his home run.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said, disgusted with Yankee Stadium but also with myself.

But hey, I was there. Sort of.