July 22, 2005
Today's Washington Post reports what I have long suspected: the marked distances to the outfield fences [in RFK Stadium] are inaccurate, especially in the power alleys. The distance markers have been located much closer to center field than to the foul poles, and I regret not voicing my doubts earlier. The erroneous markers may well have been an honest mistake, possibly caused by adding advertising billboards to the outfield fence in the place where the true power alleys lie. The 16-inch difference between right and left field may be the result of home plate being in the wrong spot. In response to the Post exposé, the RFK grounds crew has moved the green fence pads [with the "380" markers] toward the foul poles. Is this another Washington scandal -- "tape-measure-gate"? What did Tony Tavares know about this, and when did he know it? Jose Guillen, who has hit 19 home runs this season but only one at home, is among the players who have been complaining about the deep outfield. They should realize that that distinctive aspect of RFK has played to the team's advantage. Looking for excuses for their recent slump is not a good sign. Here are the indicated outfield distances and the actual ones as reported by the Post:
For purposes of my diagrams, I don't worry about a discrepancy of only a couple feet (each pixel equals 1.67 feet), but I will redo the RFK diagram, putting the 380 marks where they belong. More generally, I've been thinking about changing the "vital statistics" on each stadium page so that it will show the estimated true power alley distances, as defined by an angle midway between center field and the foul lines, rather than the marked distances. (For RFK, I estimate 388 feet.) If so, those data would often differ from what is indicated in the diagrams, requiring an explanation. From one stadium to the next, there are significant differences in the position at which the power alley distances are marked. I may also list stadiums that I believe have inaccurately marked outfield distances, such as Dolphins Stadium; I think the 434 mark there is at least 15 feet too long.
I've been waiting for an opportunity to borrow that line from Elton John's song "Levon" for a long time. Earlier this week workhorse ace pitcher Livan Hernandez vented his frustrations with team management, hinting that he might need surgery on his knee that would take him out for the rest of the season. Now he says he'll keep soldiering on. If his knee is bothering him that bad, he shouldn't stay in the game so long. [Livan's sore knee] may have been what allowed J.D. Closser to hit the game-winning home run [against the Rockies on Wednesday]. Livan leads the majors in innings pitched this year (149.1), but there are no awards for masochism in baseball. He should take a cue from the Eagles and "Take It Easy." Sorry for the gratuitous references to classic hits from the 70s, folks. I just couldn't help it.
No, not a crude terrorist weapon or a North Korean or Chinese ICBM, but a Texas-sized rocket from the land of NASA: Roger Clemens. This is the Houston Astros' only visit to Our Nation's Capital this summer, and since this may be Clemens' final season in the majors, I expect a packed house this evening. With the unpredictable Ryan Drese pitching, the odds are stacked against the home team. It looks like the best the Nats can hope for in this series is to salvage a 2 - 2 split.
Last night FOX-5 TV showed a clip from a brief interview at the All Star game in which a reporter embarrassed Roger Clemens by asking (in a subtle, indirect way) if he would consider being traded to the Nationals. At first he didn't understand the question, and then he quickly exited with a grinning mumble. Now wouldn't that be something?