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December 30, 2005 [LINK]
Nationals sign Armas, Ortiz
The Nationals are trying to solidify their starting pitcher rotation well in advance of spring training. Tony Armas Jr. avoided arbitration by signing with the Nationals for another year, the same term as the contract signed by former Cincinnati Red Ramon (not Russ) Ortiz. Both have been steady if unspectacular starting pitchers for the past few seasons, though Armas missed many games last summer becuse of a bad shoulder. See MLB.com. Former Indian (and Brave) Kevin Millwood, who was also pursued by the Nationals, just signed with the Texas Rangers.
David Pinto recently compiled a ranking of the top MLB leadoff batters in terms of on-base average over the last three seasons. He was focusing on Johnny Damon's likely effect on the Yankees (Derek Jeter is ranked #2), but I noticed how much higher Brad Wilkerson (.372) is compared to Alfonso Soriano (.335). Did Jim Bowden realize that before he made that trade with the Rangers? At the bottom of the list: former National Endy Chavez, traded to the Phillies last May.
The E-mail bag
I'm still struggling to get caught up with old e-mail correspondence. I always appreciate a friendly compliment or tip from new visitors to the site (welcome Gilbert Ohlson, Michael Springer, and David Bennett), but I regret that some messages requiring serious thought on my part often languish on the back burner for weeks or more. To help me keep track of what to get to first, please include something specific in the subject line when you send a message. Steven Poppe submitted modified versions of the Ameriquest Field (ex-Ballpark in Arlington) diagram, with a retractable roof (a lot of territory to cover), and one of Miller Park; both would be symmetrical. Sean Holland posted a comparison of the Fenway Park (which he sponsored) and Yankee Stadium diagrams on a message board, properly crediting me and including a link to this Web site. That's the way to do it.
December 30, 2005 [LINK]
Obsessive habits: game of "tag"
Phil Faranda got "tagged" in a cybernetic diversion that has a disturbing resemblance to a "chain letter," but I was intrigued and decided to follow suit anyway. The rules:
The first player of this game starts with the topic "five weird habits of yourself," and people who get tagged need to write an entry about their five weird habits as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose the next five people to be tagged and link to their web journals. Don't forget to leave a comment in their blog or journal that says "You are tagged" (assuming they take comments*) and tell them to read yours.
* For non-commented blogs like this one, e-mail will have to suffice. With so many neurotic habits to choose from, the hard part for me was choosing the top ones. Here goes:
- I am obsessed with precision in the stadium diagrams (and maps) that I draw, often spending several consecutive hours hunched over my iMac getting them just right. As if you didn't know!
- Like Phil, I can stare at maps for hours on end, imagining what those other cities, states, and countries must be like. Sometimes I actually go to those places!
- I amass stacks of newspaper clippings, fearing that I might forget something important otherwise, and spend a lot of time keeping them organized. It sometimes takes a great deal of willpower for me to toss old news articles away.
- I am obsessed with making the classes I teach as informative and enjoyable as humanly possible, going overboard with PowerPoint, Web pages, and multimedia "eye candy," to the exclusion of all other activities (including this blog) when I am so employed.
- I have a deeply ingrained "allergy" to free offers of any kind, which means I am immune to most contemporary advertising. I so deeply loathe being enticed into something "with no obligation" (ha!) that I go out of my way to pay for things that most people get for free.
So now, I'm going to "tag" Miguel Centellas, David Pinto, Rudi Riet, Chris Green, and Steve Kijak. You guys are "it"!
[UPDATE: Link(s) in italics denote response to the challenge.]
December 28, 2005 [LINK]
New stadium chronology page
Year-by-year baseball stadium chronology, tracing the complete "life cycle" from construction through demolition of all past and present Major League Baseball stadiums. There are probably a few minor omissions in it. It is plainer appearance-wise, but more information rich than the old graphics-intensive Baseball stadium chronology (by decade) page, which has been touched up just a bit.
Cleveland Stadium update
I bought myself the "Take Me Out to the Ballpark" calendar (by the author of the weird round book by that same title) that included some detailed photos I had never seen before. One of them showed the outfield fence in Cleveland Stadium at some time during the 1980s, when the marked power alley dimensions were eight feet greater in right field than in left field. There was no evident reason for this apparent asymmetry, and I'm beginning to suspect that it was nothing more than a matter of where the distance markers were placed. Anyway, I jumped the gun on the planned revisions to the diagrams on that page, which are now completed.
Movies: Mr. 3000, Bang the Drum Slowly
A new visitor to this Web site just alerted me to the fact that the movie Mr. 3000 was not filmed in Ameriquest Field, as the cover of the DVD implies, but rather Miller Park in Milwaukee. My apologies; the Civic Religion page has been duly corrected. That reminds me, I was going to mention a similar oddity in the movie Bang the Drum Slowly, which I reviewed on Sept. 25. Anaheim Stadium is on the cover (see imdb.com), but none of the movie was actually filmed there. There's an additional quirk about the photo of Anaheim Stadium that shows Robert DeNiro crouching with the catcher's mitt: It is a mirror image of the grandstand in left field, with the foul pole on the wrong side. Also, the stadium roof on the left side of DeNiro's head does not align with the roof on the right side; sloppy photo doctoring, in the pre-Photoshop era.
December 27, 2005 [LINK]
Oakland Coliseum set to shrink
The Oakland Athletics have announced that the entire upper deck of "McAfee Coliseum," a.k.a. "Network Associates Coliseum," a.k.a. Oakland Coliseum, will be closed for the 2006 season. That will reduce its capacity for baseball games from 44,073 to 34,179, which is about the size of the stadium that are pushing for. Why?? "Only 19 of the A's 81 home dates last year necessitated making third-deck seating available..." See MLB.com (via Mike Zurawski). To me, it seems more likely that they are trying to gin up ticket sales by creating an artificial scarcity. That, of course, is one of the main reasons why most newer baseball stadiums are much smaller than the ones (typically dual-use "hybrids") they replaced.
Nats' inaugural year in review
I noticed two date errors on the MLB.com summary of the team's significant happenings in 2005: the Nats' rain-delayed 5-3 win over the Mets was on April 30, not May 1. I should know, because I was there. Also, Joey Eischen broke his arm on May 1, not May 2.
The Washington Nationals just signed relief pitcher Mike Stanton to a one-year contract. He had joined the team in July, and was then traded to the Red Sox at the end of the regular season. The team needs steady, reliable veterans like him.
Monday Night Footnote
While reminiscing over ABC's 35-year history in broadcasting Monday Night Football last night, the subject of stadium name changes came up. Al Michaels asked if Yankee Stadium could be called anything else, and John Madden said that, to him, the Oakland Coliseum would always be Oakland Coliseum, and Candlestick Park would always be Candlestick Park. Hear, hear! In a remarkable historical parallel, the New York Jets lost the very first MNF game ever broadcast, which took place in Cleveland Stadium in 1970, and the very last such game ever broadcast, by the very same score: 31-21. Next year MNF will be cablecast on ESPN. Boo-oo!
Bill Nye, the baseball guy
Will wonders never cease? Bill Nye, the guy who made science "cool" for teenage kids in the 1990s, grew up in the Washington area and used to be a Senators fan. He was terribly distraught when his team left town and became the Texas Rangers in 1972, but he is brimming with enthusiasm over the return of baseball to Our Nation's Capital. See Washington Post. His TV show was produced at the PBS station in Seattle, so I always thought that's where he was from.
December 24, 2005 [LINK]
Power vacuum in D.C.?
Today's Washington Post analyzes the reasons for the latest crisis in baseball stadium negotiations, and concludes that the problem emanates from an absence of leadership in the city's government. It's a blunt assessment of Mayor Anthony Williams' leadership style, and there's probably a lot of truth to it. I guess it proves what Leo Durocher used to say: "Nice guys finish last." Especially when you're up against a shameless scoundrel has-been and an ambitious two-faced wanna-be.
That being said, one cannot dismiss the brazenly monopolistic practices of Major League Baseball in helping to create the mess. Yesterday's Washington Post reported that MLB warned the prospective ownership groups not to make any offer about covering the stadium cost overruns. Well, why the hell not? Other franchises have covered cost overruns in the past. MLB made a good gesture by offering to cover $20 million in overruns as part of a compromise earlier this month, but the demand that prospective owners not pledge to do any more is utterly unreasonable. No wonder the folks in D.C. are so leery about paying for that stadium.
December 22, 2005 [LINK]
MLB OKs PETCO fence move
The Padres' plan to reduce the distance in the deep right center field corner, which I think is quite unwarranted, has been approved by MLB. It's unclear what will fill the void; perhaps that sandy "beach" slope area for sunbathers will be expanded. See signonsandiego.com (via Maury Brown of SABR).
Phillies begin CBP fence move
Workers have begun to remove the left field wall at Citizens Bank Park, as part of a minor expansion that will increase the distance to the power alley by several feet. See MLB.com.
The Nationals on Tuesday offered salary arbitration to reliever Luis Ayala, outfielder Marlon Byrd, infielder Jamey Carroll, first baseman Nick Johnson and catcher Brian Schneider. MLB.com
December 21, 2005 [LINK]
D.C.'s nightmare before Christmas
The dreaded "nightmare scenario" of politicians fouling up the stadium lease deal at the last minute is coming to pass. A few days ago, the nice but hapless Mayor Tony Williams announced that the vote on the D.C. stadium lease terms would be delayed, and now we know why. Former mayor-for-life (and convicted felon) Marion Barry apparently thinks he's in charge of the city once again, because he was conducting his own negotiations in secret, and then blamed the real mayor when his plan fell through. He said, "there are at least seven of us on the Council who remain strong and will still block this horrible . . . agreement." I don't deny the extortionary element in the terms as they stand, but what else are you going to do when you're dealing with a monopolistic cartel? Perhaps such a high-risk game of "chicken" is the only way to get bargaining leverage in this situation. Meanwhile, chairwoman Linda Cropp has resumed her effort to have the new stadium built at the RFK site. Three council members who voted in favor of the stadium bill one year ago were replaced by stadium skeptics this past January; see the Baseball in D.C. page. MLB responded by threatening to take the matter to binding arbitration if the lease is not finalized by Dec. 31. See Washington Post.
Since Barry craves re-acceptance back into the city's power elite, and since he is not one of those who is running for reelection next year, I'm betting that he will come around after getting some token concession and play the role of wise statesman, voting "yes." New council member Kwame Brown appeared on WUSA-TV9 this evening, and made a good case that Major League Baseball should assume much of the risk of cost overruns. (Indeed, as a Post article on Saturday reported, "In all but one of the six cases [of baseball stadium cost overruns in recent years], the team was obligated to pay the extra costs." Of course, Washington's situation is unique because the team has no owner yet! Brown seems like a reasonable guy, and has softened his anti-stadium position since taking office, so he might shift from the "no" column to the "yes" column if the terms were right. Post columnist Thomas Boswell explains why some kind of deal will almost certainly be reached, because both sides would stand to lose many millions of dollars otherwise. Stupidity and stubbornness cannot be ruled out entirely, but sanity will probably prevail in the end. Based on these frightening late developments, nonetheless, I've raised the likelihood of the Nationals relocating out of Washington from five percent to ten percent.
Today's Washington Post also reports that Alfonso Soriano is still insisting on playing at second base, and making noises about looking for a job in the American League after the 2006 season is over. Since Jose Vidro's health is still questionable, however, second base may be available on Opening Day.
Johnny Damon joins Yankees
Holy cow! After weeks of speculation that they might grab some Red Sox free agents, or recent Red Sock Nomar Garciaparra, the Yankees announced that Johnny Damon will replace Bernie Williams in center field next year, pending a physical exam. He'll be paid $13 million per year over the four year contract, slightly more than Williams was making. Damon explained, "We know George Steinbrenner's reputation; he always wants to have the best players and I think he showed that tonight. ... He and Brian Cashman came after me hard and now I'm part of the Yankees and that great lineup. We're going to be a tough team to beat." Indeed -- as long as they can get some better starting pitchers. I wouldn't want to be around when Johnny bids farewell to his "idiot" comrades in Boston. Would this have happened if Theo Epstein were still the Boston general manager? When was the last time a player went directly from the Red Sox to the Yankees or vice versa? See MLB.com.
Dodgers build strong roster
The L.A. Dodgers have become very active in the last two weeks, creating a new infield consisting of shortstop Nomar Garciaparra and third baseman Bill Mueller, both former Red Sox, as well as ex-Braves shortstop Rafael Furcal, who joined last week. The Phillies' veteran center fielder Kenny Lofton also signed with the Dodgers. Apparently, all this is the work of their new general manager Ned Colletti. See MLB.com. The fact that a team won the NL West Division this year with a winning percentage barely above .500 provides a wide-open opportunity for an ambitious franchise to grab a postseason slot.
Metrodome page update
The Metrodome page has been updated with a "dynamic" diagram, and a separate "truncated" diagram conforms to the new standard for use on the Side-by-side page. Based on a close inspection of some photos I've seen since I drew the previous diagram, I've expanded the depth of the upper deck, added the scoreboard, and made other minor corrections. Last April there was a tentative agreement to build a new baseball stadium for the Twins on the west edge of downtown Minneapolis, but the Minnesota legislature has put a higher priority on other projects. As a result, the Twins may still be playing in the Metrodome for ten more years, as I estimated. See MLB.com.
Power alleys, "Status"
On each newly updated stadium page from now on, I will list the "true" power alley distances (measured from the angular midsection between the bases), as best as I can determine them, rather than the officially marked ("nominal") distances, which are shown on the diagrams. If the difference is less than ten feet, I will just go with the "nominal" distance. In some cases, such as Yankee Stadium, the markers are quite a distance from where they should be, making comparisons between the power alley distances from one stadium to the next very difficult. In other cases, such as RFK Stadium until July this year, the distance markers were wrongly placed and had to be moved to the spot at which the marked distance was correct. Another change in the "Vital Statistics" tables is that the second column heading will vary according to whether the stadium is still standing or not. "Status" refers to the physical condition as well as the psychological- aesthetic factor; this is distinguished from "Stadium prospects," which depend on the franchise's long-term plans. The Status categories are "New," "Good," "Fair," and "Bleak."
Mike Zurawski believes that the Mets are going ahead with their plans to build a new stadium, but I have come across only one news item about that since last July, so I will wait and see. In contrast, the Yankees are moving full speed ahead. Mike also informs me that Tampa Bay is spending $10 million this year to make Tropicana Field more aesthetically appealing. They hope to install a new scoreboard in the next couple years, part of an additional $10 million investment outlay. See tampatrib.com "Tear the roof off the sucker," I say!
December 16, 2005 [LINK]
Robinson stays with Nationals
Manager Frank Robinson just signed a one-year contract with the Washington Nationals, which is great news. Several of the coaches are leaving Washington, however, and Robinson's displeasure at that decision by GM Jim Bowden made him think twice before agreeing to stay. There was a clear lack of leadership on the team after mid-season, and someone has to be held accountable. See MLB.com.
Caleb Hannan thinks the Alfonso Soriano trade was a bad deal for the Nationals. (link via David Pinto) I was very disappointed at losing Brad Wilkerson, one of the few promising players who had been a Montreal Expo, but I have to admit that he seemed to lack competitive zeal, so perhaps his commitment to the team wasn't that strong.
Will Cuba play in WBC?
The nasty world of politics has intruded upon the (inter-) national pastime, as the U.S. Treasury Department ruled that participation by Cuba in the World Baseball Championship would violate U.S. laws that prohibit any commercial exchange with the Communist island state. MLB officials say they have not given up on bringing Cuba in, however. See MLB.com. Maybe "El Duque" can broker a compromise agreement!
For some construction updates on Wrigley Field, including the controversial "knothole" for street pedestrians, see Bleed Cubbie Blue (via David Pinto) and chicagotribune.com. (via Mike Zurawski)
Sponsor for Fenway
Thanks to Sean Holland for sponsoring the Fenway Park page, which will be next in line for diagram revision. He is the guy who let me know about the (bizarre?) suggestion to move the diamond to the right field corner while the upper deck was expanded. Based on the Red Sox current plans, that option appears very unlikely. There is just no alternative venue for major league baseball in the Boston area, so they have no choice but to stay in Fenway while any renovations are carried out.
December 13, 2005 [LINK]
Stadium inflation heats up debate
The officical responsible for D.C. finances, Natwar Gandhi, issued a report estimating that the proposed new stadium will cost $667 million, in the upper range of the independent estimates published last week. It is also $78 million over budget. A stadium built next to RFK would cost about $606 million, he estimates, but that would cause a delay of another year and would be unlikely to generate anywhere near the amount of development that the Southeast D.C. site would. Not building at all and just staying at RFK for ten or more years would be preferable to a new stadium in that remote part of the city. (That's what D.C. council member Adrian Fenty wants.) For a "tree-by-tree" look at what accounts for the rising cost of the future stadium in Washington, see Washington Post. That misses the "forest-wide" perspective, however: In the D.C. culture of corruption, buck-passing, taxing, and spending, there is very little incentive for anyone to hold down costs. The absurdity of all this debate over how much the new stadium will cost is highlighted by the fact that no specific design has even been agreed upon as of yet!
In a letter to council chairwoman Linda Cropp on behalf of the 29 franchise owners, MLB President Bob Dupuy rejected the RFK stadium site option outright. (Oddly, Jerry Reinsdorf didn't seem to care where the new stadium would be built when he was in Washington negotiating two weeks ago.) See wtop.com. Today the D.C. council met to debate the matter, and Mayor Williams called attention to the public-private development "teams" he is forming to coordinate revitalization of the area surrounding the Southeast D.C. site. The final vote will be on December 20. It will be close, but sanity is almost certain to prevail.
Eischen stays with Nats
Since the bullpen was consistently the Nationals' strongest spot last year, it was great news that they signed up reliever Joey Eischen for another gig. Utility player Robert Fick was also signed; both contracts last one year. See MLB.com. The more players who once played as Montreal Expos remain with the Washington Nationals as the team adjusts to its new identity during this awkward transition phase, the more collective self-confidence and stability it will have in the future. Brad Wilkerson passed his physical, so the trade by which the Nationals are acquiring Alfonso Soriano was made official. Wherever he ends up playing (hint: shortstop!), he will bring first-class excitement and competitive edge to the Nats.
Thanks to Bruce Orser (once again!), I've come across solid numbers on the outfield dimensions at Aloha Stadium: 325 feet to the foul lines (5 feet more than I estimated) and 420 feet to center field (2 feet less). I've corrected the table on that page, and will tweak the diagram ever so slightly in coming days.
Bruce also sent me a high-quality photo of Wrigley Field, apparently from the Cubs' first opening day there in 1916, showing a slight bend in the grandstand on the third base side. I had thought that that bend was the result of moving the grandstand toward the west in 1923; not so. That means I'll have to adjust the 1914 version diagram. That reminds me, I have some very thoughtful e-mail inquiries about Wrigley Field that I need to answer. I spent a lot of time cleaning out my in-box last week, and I'm almost done. My apologies to all for not answering sooner.
December 10, 2005 [LINK]
Stadium deal nailed down
To the surprise of no one, negotiators for the D.C. government and Major League Baseball reached a compromise over funding the new baseball stadium in Washington yesterday, but it wasn't pretty. In a demonstration of lingering mistrust, D.C. insisted on a clause that mandates that the franchise will remain in Washington for the next 30 years -- except for brief interludes as deemed appropriate by the Commissioner. That sounds bizarre to me, and sets a bad precedent. Otherwise, ther terms were pretty much what was announced last week. If the stadium is not ready by 2008, the city will have to pay a substantial penalty, so perhaps they are going to get moving fast after all. The city also agreed to give up one-third of the parking revenue generated at the stadium on non-game days. Council chairwoman Linda Cropp has been uncharacteristicaly low key recently. As usual, council member Jim Graham complained that the city gave too much away on that concession, while baseball booster Jack Evans said it was the best deal they could get. All in all, it is a classic example of "crony capitalism," a business deal in which monopolistic private enterprises coerce public entities into transfer wealth to them. It's as if they're trying to validate the theories of Karl Marx. The D.C. Council must vote on the matter by December 20. For more details, see Washington Post.
The player transactions that most grabbed my attention from the annual winter owners' meeting last week were: Rafael Furcal signed with the L.A. Dodgers, Edgar Renteria signed with the Braves, . The Red Sox and Orioles are working on exchanging Manny Ramirez for Miguel Tejada, both renowned malcontents. The Mets signed Julio Franco to a two-year deal, which means he will be playing big league ball at the age of 49!!! He did a fine job with the Braves, who were smart to sign the oldster, in the fine tradition of Satchel Paige and Nolan Ryan. As for Washington, their bid for Kevin Millwood hasn't come to anything yet. New "Nat" Alfonso Soriano says there is no way he will play outfield, and I'm starting to worry that Jim Bowden may have made a big goof. Why in the world don't they put him at shortstop??? That's by far the biggest "hole" in the lineup, for cryin' out loud! As for the front office, the Red Sox intend to have two guys share general manager duties, so apparently Bowden will stay in D.C. after all. Whew! (all via MLB.com)
Baseball "Holiday makeovers"
Baseball introductory page! No, not an introduction to the sport, but an introduction to the wondrous resources you'll find on this Web site, for the benefit of first-time visitors. I hope it helps ease the "learning curve" and enhances everyone's enjoyment. Two major sections have been moved from the main Baseball (blog) page to the new page: the list of stadiums ranked in alphabetical order by city, in the left hand column, and the introduction to stadium diagrams, found at the bottom of that page. That will make loading the main blog page quicker. The new page (which actually has the same URL as what used to be the main baseball page) also includes a scrolling menu that allows you to instantly jump from photographs of one stadium to the next. In the future there wil be a "FAQ" section, plus other goodies. Any suggestions?
Another improvement is that many of the ballpark photographs have been sharpened up quite a bit, as I learn more digital tricks. The Great American Ballpark and Comerica Park photos are perhaps the best examples.
As for some of the other Baseball Web site projects underway during the dark, bleak months of winter, I have come up with "true" power alley dimensions for nearly all major league ballparks. In many cases, the distances displayed on the outfield walls are markedly inaccurate, as we found out at RFK Stadium last summer. The true power alley distances will be added to the respective stadium pages in the next few weeks.
While we're on the subject of Web site enhancements, let me take the opportunity to do a little Yuletide "tip jar" rattling: For those of you fine folks who visit here on a regular basis, please consider sponsoring one of the baseball stadium pages. There will be special benefits for "Members" (those who donate or provide photographs or substantial research assistance) as of next January. In addition, there will be more commercial advertisements next year, more than likely, so don't wait until your favorite stadium has been taken by someone else. Just click on the PayPal "Donate" button.
December 8, 2005 [LINK]
Nationals acquire Alfonso Soriano
In one of the biggest player transactions that have taken place during the annual winter meetings of MLB owners, the Washington Nationals have traded Brad Wilkerson and Terrmel Sledge, plus a minor league player, for Texas Rangers star Alfonso Soriano. Since he has played at second base since his days as a Yankee, that creates a conflict with the "incumbent," Jose Vidro, and "the new kid in town" will probably end up in the outfield. This trade came as a surprise to Soriano, who says he wants to stay at second base, so there may be some friction. It will become official as soon as Wilkerson (presumably) passes his physical exam next week. See MLB.com. All this came as a big shock to me, too, since Wilkerson was one of the anchors of the Expos/Nationals, though he slumped in the latter half of the season. I was lucky to see Soriano play in Detroit in August 2004, on a day when he hit a single, a triple (419 feet to center field!), and a home run. Rangers 2, Tigers 1.
Among other Nationals whose contracts have expired, Carlos Baerga and Preston Wilson will not get new offers from the team, while pitchers Tony Armas and Joey Eischen will have the opportunity to have their contract terms decided by arbitration. What's strange about all this is that the General Manager Jim Bowden himself is still negotiating with the Red Sox, and may jump ship at any time.
Busch Stadium (II) is history
The last remaining section of Busch Stadium (II) was torn down yesterday, and some lucky (or crazy?) fans standing outside the fence were given chunks of concrete by the construction workers. See the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for some photos. The first game at Busch Stadium III will be on April 10, against the Brewers. I'll have to get crackin' on that diagram...
December 7, 2005 [LINK]
Baseball at Pearl Harbor!
Serendipity, random happenstance, or "Intelligent Design"? You be the judge! Just in time to commemorate the 64th anniversary of the infamous sneak attack by Japan, I have just completed the diagrams for Aloha Stadium, which is located right next to Pearl Harbor. It is the first all-new stadium page since September (that being Estadio Monterrey). Most Americans know Aloha Stadium as the site of the Pro Bowl, but it also served as a "neutral" venue of a series between the Padres and the Cardinals in April 1997. Of all the football-baseball "hybrid" stadiums, it had perhaps the most radical reconfiguration scheme. Whether there was much point to building such a big stadium for baseball in Hawaii is another question.
Reminder on diagram usage: ©!
$700 million! (Do I hear $800 million?)
Tuesday's Washington Post reported that the newest estimates put the new stadium's total cost as high as $714 million. That seems a little steep even to me, but it's not out of the question. Part of the problem is whether to include infrastructure and neighborhood improvements such as new sidewalks, lighting, and parking garages. This points out something I learned when taking graduate economics courses at American University: When doing a cost-benefit analysis for some proposed development project, there is simply no foolproof way to objectively identify which entities should be included or excluded from the analysis. Estimating the spinoff effects of a stadium, or a fishmeal processing plant near Lima Peru, is inherently a risky judgment call, which is why it's usually better to let self-interested, risk-assuming entrepreneurs run commercial development projects than politicians who couldn't care less about the bottom line. Speaking of which, in my opinion, the disingenuous bargaining tactics employed by the D.C. Council have created a cynical atmosphere around this projects, making it more likely that all sort of corrupt kickback schemes are going to emerge. The folks at fieldofschemes.com are having a "field day" with this latest flap. It's a good thing that there are plenty of accounting scrutinizers to prevent all the greedy hogs from devouring all the public money they can.
I've had a very sober view of this stadium-funding process (and the related franchise-relocation process) all along, and I do not discount the possibility that further legal tangles may put the construction on hold, perhaps for many months. (No problema: We've got RFK!) That's what happened in San Diego, you may remember. PETCO Park was delayed by two years because of bond issue referendum controversies and whatnot. That is another city that has long been plagued by corruption in government, by the way.
December 3, 2005 [LINK]
Stadium deal is almost sealed
Well, what do you know? The negotiating ploy by the D.C. Council seems to have worked, as MLB has tentatively agreed to the City's demands:
District negotiators have asked baseball for a $24 million letter of credit to ensure the Nationals' rent payment for four seasons in the case of a terrorist attack or players' strike and $20 million to cover contingencies in case of cost overruns. Those guarantees are needed to secure an investment-grade rating on stadium construction bonds, D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi has said. SOURCE: Washington Post.
In return, the District is making some unspecified concessions. This is not a huge surprise, as failure to reach a compromise would have cost both sides a lot of money, so they both had incentives to make concessions. From MLB's standpoint, it was mostly a question of pride and maintaining a reputation for tough bargaining. A few details in the contract need to ironed out, but it is expected to be wrapped up next week. Now sell the team and play ball, for cryin' out loud!
Carrasco to LAnaheim
More fallout from the inexcusable delay in finalizing the sale of the Washington Nationals franchise: Hector Carrasco, one of the team's most reliable relief pitchers last summer, just signed a two-year deal with the Angels. See Washington Post.
World Baseball Classic
Further details are emerging abut the World Baseball Classic, which will take place next March. Handling the logistics of that event in the midst of spring training will be one of the main topics at the MLB owner's winter meeting that is about to commence in Dallas. According to current plans, the WBC will be held again in 2009, and every four years after that. Cuba is still considering whether it wants to participate, and risk another wave of mass defections. See MLB.com.
New football stadiums
This being football season, I get more inquiries about whether I intend to devote more attention to football stadiums in the future. (As if I wasn't swamped already!) There's only a low chance of that any time soon, but I may create a separate page to list the current NFL stadiums. One reason is that I'm intrigued by how the architects of some of the new stadiums have tried to emulate the quirky features of the neoclassical stadiums. In the case of baseball, there is some historical and play-wise rationale for doing so, but in football the stadium and the fans are virtually out of the picture. So, I'll probably evaluate the new stadiums based on how much artificial quirkiness they have.
December 2, 2005 [LINK]
RFK stadium site: mere threat?
In negotiations with White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf yesterday, Linda Cropp and other members of the D.C. Council pushed the silly idea to build the new stadium next to RFK, in a penny-wise, pound-foolish attempt to save a few bucks on the construction cost. Reinsdorf didn't seem to care where the new stadium is built, which is rather distressing, since that indicates he may not have a clue about the geographical element of the Washington franchise's future success. It was the first time that the Council members had met directly with an MLB official. It is hard to believe that anyone seriously believes that that location would yield any benefits to either the team or the city, and my doubts about the sincerity of the proposal are reinforced by this:
Some city leaders said the council was using the threat of RFK to try to exert leverage over MLB in the lease negotiations, in hopes of winning a bigger contribution from the league. (SOURCE: Washington Post)
In that same article, there was a graph comparing the total attendance for the inaugural years of the last four expansion clubs, and to my surprise, the Nationals (with 2.7 million) ranked behind three of them: Colorado had 4.5 million, Arizona had 3.6 million, Florida had 3.1 million, and Tampa Bay had 2.5 million.
Miniscule adjustment at CBP
Only two rows of seats will be removed from left field at Citizens Bank Park, so the power alley distance will only increase by five feet. The Phillies expect that will reduce the number of home runs next year by 18 to 22, but tt's hard to imagine that such a small change will have any discernible effect. Will it even be worth my effort to make a new diagram?? The reconstruction project is expected to cost about one million dollars (cue Dr. Evil), which works out to $200,000 per foot! I smell waste, fraud, and abuse. See timesleader.com (hat tip to Mike Zurawski)
December 1, 2005 [LINK]
Showdown over D.C. stadium
For the first time in several months, Mayor Williams has gotten involved in the showdown over funding for the new baseball stadium, calling on D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp to meet with MLB officials. He warned that failure by MLB to make concessions would jeopardize the project. The mayor was thoroughly exhausted from the battles he waged to get the deal through a year ago, but as a political "lame duck," his clout is limited. As a candidate for mayor in next year's race, meanwhile, Mrs. Cropp faces overwhelming temptation to "grandstand," appealing to populist sentiment. White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who was in charge of the relocation process, is visiting Washington in hopes of overcoming the impasse. Both sides have dug in their heels, daring the other side to blink first in a classic game of "chicken," but we've been through this before. See Washington Post. A deal's a deal, of course, but the big honchos in baseball cannot ignore the fact that political atmosphere has changed since last year, nor the obvious huge commercial success that the franchise in Washington has become and promises to remain. They need to get off their monopolistic high horse and cut a deal soon, or risk spoiling the enormous goodwill the Nationals have earned with D.C. area fans.
November 30, 2005 [LINK]
MLB rejects D.C. stadium terms
MLB President Bob DuPuy has rejected the request by the D.C. government that MLB contribute $20 million toward the construction of the new stadium, putting the whole process into major uncertainty once again. He said they might file for arbitration if a lease agreement is not reached with the city by the end of December. See Washington Post. It's not that much money, relatively speaking, but it was not in the terms of the original contract, so I think DuPuy has solid legal grounds, if not moral grounds. Can we just split the difference and get on with it?? D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission Chairman mark Tuohey is in charge of negotiating, and is trying mightily to achieve a delicate balance between the business aspects, financial realities, engineering practicalities, and politics. He urges the interested parties to accept "value engineering," i.e., cutting back on design elements to offset cost increases. Council chairperson Linda Cropp has revived her senseless proposal to build a new stadium next to the existing one; the money it would save would be far exceeded by the squandered investment spinoffs expected in the Southeast D.C. neighborhood.
RFK: long-term home?
One fall-back option for the Nationals is simply sticking with the status quo: RFK for the long term! It's not very likely, of course, but it's not totally out of the question, either. The problem is that building a new stadium was an explicit, central element of the deal that brought the former Expos to Washington, and there is a non-negligible chance that MLB would rather cut off their nose to spite their face, pulling the franchise out of Washington even though everyone knows they couldn't earn nearly as much money anywhere else as they could in D.C. -- even if they do stay in RFK Stadium! As I've said before, I almost wish they could stay in RFK Stadium for at least four or five years. Structurally, RFK could probably be maintained for at least another 20 or 30 years, if not longer. Is it worth the cost of rebuilding, refitting, and renovating all the ancient plumbing and wiring? A discussion on this topic can be found at: DCist.com.
Loaiza to Oakland
As another consequence of the interminable process of nailing down stadium construction terms and selling the franchise, the Washington Nationals' reliable starting pitcher Esteban Loaiza just signed a three-year deal with the Oakland Athletics. I admired the way he kept a compeptitive attitude and splendid performance after several disappointing losses in May and June when the team's batters let him down in close game. He will be sorely missed. See MLB.com
Mike Zurawski brought to my attention some facts regarding the prospects of various older stadiums. For one, construction on the new Yankee Stadium is expected to begin next year, and it should be ready by 2009. I'd rather not face up to that sad eventuality, but I've updated the Stadium prospects table anyway. Other revisions of that table are pending...
A few days ago I made a minor update to the Arlington Stadium page without announcing it, just to see if anyone would notice. Sure enough, Steven Poppe saw it and responded right away.
I have added a new blog archives page: Peter Angelos rants.
November 26, 2005 [LINK]
Nationals earn $10 million
After losing a total of $80 million during the last three seasons as the Montreal Expos, the Washington Nationals franchise made an after-tax profit of $10 million in 2005. Not too shabby for a rookie season in an old, worn-out stadium. It kinda makes you wonder why they didn't move earlier. Oh, yeah. Does all that squandered potential profit get figured into the compensation formula for the Baltimore Orioles? Are the rest of the MLB franchise owners such big suckers that they were willing to absorb such big losses for the sole benefit of one franchise? Ordinarily, baseball franchise profits are kept secret, but the unusual circumstances of the jointly-owned franchise in Washington allow for more openness. See Washington Post.
D.C. council balks, again
Sadly, there is more melancholy news about foot-dragging on the D.C. Council with regard to building the new baseball stadium. Several council members demand that MLB assume the risk for any cost overruns on the project, and Chairwoman Linda Cropp warns that she may put the issue to a vote, even though the matter was supposedly settled last year, when sentiment on the council was more favorable toward baseball. See Washington Post. Since there inevitably will be cost overruns, this is a major stumbling block, and may further delay the process of selling the Nationals franchise. That, in turn, would mean their prospects for acquiring enough talent to compete in the NL East Division next year are fading fast. The possibility of a prolonged impasse also raises the minute possibility that the franchise will ultimately move to another city, so I've raised Washington's relocation likelihood from 0% to 5%. I hope Bud Selig gets the message that it's time to cut a deal.
Few options for Marlins
According to the Palm Beach Post, the Florida Marlins don't have many viable alternative home cities if they are really serious about leaving Miami. Portland, and possibly Las Vegas, are the only real options. Here's a scary image: "a $420 million retractable-roof stadium by the Orange Bowl has collapsed." (quote deliberately taken out of context ) Also, Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga has discussed building a stadium for the Marlins (which he used to own) next to Dolphins stadium. (hat tip to Mike Zurawski)
[corrected] CORRECTION: Mike tells me that the artist's conception of a sliding roof (which I mentioned on Nov. 21) [was only for the proposed Miami baseball stadium]; the Orange Bowl would remain uncovered under the plans for the Marlins' hoped-for stadium. My apologies for the mistaken impression. Coincidentally, I got to see a televised game at the Orange Bowl this afternoon, as the U.Va. Cavaliers blew a lead, losing to the Miami Hurricanes.
The governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, has admitted that he was never drafted by the Kansas City Athletics in 1966, as he had long claimed. Why is it that so many people think they can get away with such preposterous resume-inflating empty boasts? Well, we can all dream, I suppose. For the record, my baseball career ended in my early teens, as I devoted my athletic efforts to golf (!). I did play quite a bit of softball during the 1980s, however.
November 24, 2005 [LINK]
Marlins threaten to leave Miami
Speaking on behalf of team owner Jeffrey Loria (vacationing in Europe) on Tuesday, Florida Marlins president David Samson made plain his intentions to look elsewhere for a permanent home: "Baseball is no longer assured of staying in [South] Florida." After failing to persuade state and local governments to contribute enough funds to build a new baseball stadium with a retractable roof next to the Orange Bowl, it appears that the "project is now dead." Samson emphasized, "I will tell you now, unequivocally, that we will not sign an extension, even if it is offered, to continue to play in this building [Dolphins Stadium]. We simply must play in a baseball-only stadium." Their lease expires after 2007, and the Dolphins told them they must be out by [the end of] 2010. The Marlins have already received permission from Major League Baseball to explore other home cities, in a process that seems somewhat more expedited than the Montreal-to-Washington move. See the Marlins Web site.
The immediate effect of the franchise's uncertain future is that its top players have been traded away. Pitcher Josh Beckett and third baseman Mike Lowell are heading to Boston, while first-baseman Carlos Delgado is joining the Mets. The Nationals are still pursuing pitcher A.J. Burnett, but that's a long shot. Once again, the Marlins are having a "fire sale," leaving baseball fans in south Florida without much to look forward to next year. It's sad that a team that has won two World Series in its short (13-year) life span hasn't received more public support, but that may simply reflect that tropical Florida is not a good place for sports in the summer.
As for the future, Portland is the most likely new home, though the team name would no longer be appropriate in the North Pacific. What about the Portland Salmon? And if Portland doesn't work out, Mr. Loria may still have some friends up in Montreal. Wouldn't that be ironic?
Prompted by the latest dust-up in Miami, I have created a new table of "Stadium prospects" that shows the 13 current baseball stadiums whose long-term future is open to question. It's sort of a "snapshot" of the current situation of major league ballparks and franchises. The "expected life" (my best guess, basically) and "relocation probability" are shown for each team / stadium. The 35% probability of the Marlins relocating away from Miami reflects the fact that the ongoing showdown (blackmail?) is typical negotiating behavior in baseball these days, and I assume that the two sides will probably comes to their senses, and come to terms. I will remove Busch Stadium II from that list as soon as I add a new page for Busch Stadium III, which is under construction.
Odd 'n ends...
While watching the movie Anger Management (starring Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler) last night on FOX, I noticed that an extended scene was filmed in Yankee Stadium, so I've updated that page with said cinematic information.
Bruce Orser came across a Web page for Oaks Park, where the PCL Oakland Oaks used to play, as well as a book: Runs, Hits, and an Era: The Pacific Coast League, 1903-58 (1994), by Paul J. Zingg / Mark D. Medeiros. It's available from highboskage.com.
Photos of football and soccer games at Safeco Field can be seen at Yu's Ballparks. That will help when I redo that diagram with a football version. (hat tip to [Daley Holder])
November 21, 2005 [LINK]
D.C. ballpark cost overruns
No surprise here: Today's Washington Post reports that the cost estimate for the future home of the Washington Nationals (not including land acquisition and infrastructure) has gone up from $244.1 million to $300 million. The cost of the design as submitted by the architects at HOK had risen to $337 million, and in response Allen Lew, chief executive of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, mandated that some elements of the new stadium be trimmed back. In Washington, the idea that a budget is a rigid constraint on what can be spent is a foreign concept, and cost overruns such as these are par for the course. Constant vigilance by local taxpayers and fans will be necessary to prevent all sorts of porcine crooks from "feeding at the trough."
In addition, the D.C. government is putting pressure on the Federal government to contribute funds for this project, which is certainly appropriate since they did so for RFK Stadium. In fact, I urged Rep. Tom Davis to introduce legislation such that the Federal government would retain naming rights to the stadium -- presumably for some appropriate, dignified purpose -- in exchange for payment of Federal money. If you ask me, the idea of letting some private company put its name on a major landmark so close to the Capitol building would be extremely tacky. Concerned fans are invited to join in this call by contacting Rep. Davis via his Web site.
Inasmuch as legal disputes over the proper price to be paid to existing land owners continue, and financial wrinkles remain to be ironed out, there is still no firm date for ground breaking to begin. If they finish building the new ballpark in time for the 2008 season, as is officially planned, it will be a miracle of epic proportions.
Mike Zurawski sends a link to a forum hosted by the Oregon Stadium Campaign (they are still hoping to lure one of the "troubled" MLB franchises to Portland!) that includes a rendering of the proposed future Miami "ballpark," with a roof that could be moved
to cover the Orange Bowl, much like what has been proposed in Kansas City. All I can say is "yikes!" Mike also reminded me that Carlos Baerga is a free agent and therefore can't be traded by the Nationals, though his continued service with the team remains in doubt.
I've been hit with another wave of friendly e-mail messages from new fans. I appreciate such feedback very much, but can't always respond adequately or in a timely fashion. Thanks for your understanding.
November 19, 2005 [LINK]
New D.C. stadium design
According to the Washington Post, the new stadium
features an exterior wall largely made of glass and broken up by limestone portals, according to city sources who have seen the drawings. Aspects of the design create a translucent quality, offering fans inside views of the surrounding neighborhood and teasing those outside with glimpses of game activities.
Councilman Jack Evans is reportedly very angry about the design submitted by the Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum architectural firm, preferring an old-fashioned brick exterior. The ballpark will be oriented toward the northeast, but very few people will have a view of the Capitol dome, which is a shame. "the deepest part of center field is 408 feet, the sources said." Artists renderings will probably not be made public for several more weeks.
Nats sign Marlon Anderson
The Washington Nationals just signed Marlon Anderson to a two-year contract worth $1.85 million. He will apparently play primarily in a pinch hitting role, as he did for the Mets this past year. That means utility players such as Jamey Carroll and Carlos Baerga may be traded. They are also negotiating with Florida Marlins pitcher A. J. Burnett. Those are good signs, but General Manager Jim Bowden is talking to the Red Sox, and the long that the sale of the Nationals is delayed, the greater will be the risk that top-quality athletic talent and valuable front-office staffers will be lost.
Coors Field updates
The Coors Field diagram now conforms with the new standard, but I kept the old "sideways" diagram (with a few minor corrections) because the corners of the structure, and even the back edge of the "Rockpile" bleachers, were truncated. Just roll the mouse over the diagram; I may put text links on that page later. I moved the upper decks in right field closer to the field, and tweaked a few other details. The new version shows the newly added box seat rows behind home plate. With any luck, I'll make it out to Denver next summer and get some better photos of that ballpark. Coincidentally, the outfield dimensions of Coors Field and those of the last ballpark I updated, Comiskey Park, are virtually identical, as you can see on the Side-by-side page.
New book from Japan
I just received in the mail a complimentary copy of a new book published in Japan, Hit the Road! Traveling the U.S. and Learning English with Baseball Stories, by Tsuneo Matsuura. It serves primarily as a travel guide for tourists from Japan who want to see major leage baseball games in the U.S., and has detailed information on terminology, folklore, and each MLB team, including stadium photos. It includes some great full color aerial photos of Coors Field, Tropicana Field, and Turner Field, as well as interior views of Minute Maid Park and Jacobs Field. On page 81 a photograph (THIS ONE) of RFK Stadium taken by yours truly (properly credited, thank you) appears, though the roof is cropped out. It is published by East Press, but unfortunately, I couldn't find it on Amazon.com.
November 16, 2005 [LINK]
Anti-steroid policy is bulked up
The new MLB anti-steroid policy is a belated gesture of serious attention to the festering wound in the sport of baseball which is represented by dope. In the Washington Post, Michael Wilbon gives credit to Congress for frightening the players' union into unconditionally surrendering, after years of stonewalling. He also praises Selig, one of the main beneficiaries, as are "the players themselves." He ridiculed Donald Fehr for pretending that the new policy was the outcome of vigorous bargaining:
Fehr slinked out of Washington, humiliated, and is now left to spin.
Given the union's stranglehold on the owners for the past 25 years, its cave-in is stunning news.
If anything, the new penalties are a little too strong: 50 days suspension for the first offense, 100 days for the second offense, and a lifetime suspension (appealable after two years) for the third. The science of chemistry is not perfect, and tests are likely to yield an occasional false positive, so that needs to be taken into account. As I've said before, however, the key to making the policy work lies not so much in draconian sanctions, but rather in constant vigilance by officials on all sides, and an atmosphere of trust. Apparently, there is not strong enough evidence to charge Rafael Palmeiro with lying to Congress.
Haggling over new D.C. stadium
Mayor Williams has taken the time to meet directly with MLB negotiator Jerry Reinsdorf (yes, the owner of the world champion White Sox) to resolve the impasse over the D.C. Council's demand that MLB guarantee rent payments so that the stadium bond will get an investment grade rating. The city also wants $24 million letter of credit to help pay for parking facilities at the new stadium. See Washington Post. This, of course, is what has been holding up the sale of the Nationals franchise. From what I gather from the D.C. area media, Jeffrey Smulyan is the clear favorite. As an out-of-towner who once threatened to relocate the Seattle Mariners unless a new stadium was built for him, he is the perfect example of why D.C. government officials are so leery of committing public funds without an iron-clad guarantee that the Nationals will stay in Washington in return. Their first year was such a huge success that such a prospect seems outlandish, but Washington was burned twice before, and a third "strike" would be intolerable.
Mike Zurawski alerted me to three stadium news items of interest. Expansion of the bleachers at Wrigley Field is proceeding at a quick pace. Capacity will increase by 1,800 seats next season. Some of the juniper bushes in the center field backdrop will be replaced by an exclusive enclosed viewing area with dark shaded windows, and there will be a small section of wire mesh fence in the right field corner through which passers-by can steal of glimpse of the field. See the Cubs Web site.
Second, at Rogers Centre (ex-Skydome), three rows of seats from the back of the lower deck will be removed to make room for a wider concourse. Also, the club seating area in the stadium's second deck will be reduced in size, and 43 luxury boxes will be renovated. See th Blue Jays Web site
In Kansas City, the Chiefs want to build a new roof to enclose Arrowhead Stadium when the weather is bad, which would make it eligible to host the Super Bowl. The plan is to mount the roof on a set of huge girders rolling along tracks, so that it could cover Kauffman Stadium on rainy days. Whoa! To my surprise, such a mega-roof was envisioned as part of the original 1972 design for the "Truman Sports Complex." See kansascity.com (registration required) This seems like a thinly veiled attempt by the Chiefs to con their baseball neighbors into chipping in for a project they don't really need. The Royals should resist paying any more than ten percent of whatever the Chiefs are paying, if that much.
Finally, the Padres are strongly considering moving the fence in right center field at PETCO Park in, which would cut the distance from 411 feet to about 395 feet. See www.signonsandiego.com. That would be a big shame, if you ask me. In this era of band boxes with cozy power alley dimensions, that extra territory in PETCO Park was a welcome change of pace. What about distinctiveness?? Anyway, thanks for keeping us all informed, Mike!
November 11, 2005 [LINK]
"No, you go first"
In today's Washington Post, Thomas Boswell laments the "squeeze" being put on Washington by the honchos at MLB, as Commissioner Selig keeps dragging his heels on the sale of the Washington Nationals. Boswell observes that one billion dollars is being offered by the city government and private investors (adding together the franchise bid price and the cost of the new stadium), for a franchise that wasn't even worth one tenth of that before it moved to Washington! The franchise sale process has apparently stalled because of the reluctance of the D.C. Council to approve revised financial terms for the new stadium, which MLB has insisted on as a precondition for the sale. Many on the D.C. Council have serious doubts about whether the new owners will be committed to the local Washington community, and neither side is willing to make the first move to overcome the impasse. Washington area fans were so thrilled just to get baseball back that they could forgive the fact that their new team had to play their inaugural season with one hand tied behind their back (i.e., no owner), but this situation is getting totally outrageous.
Comiskey Park update
At last, the Comiskey Park page (sponsored by Bill Blake, in memory of William V. Altieri) has been revised with several new diagram versions, including one for football. I took pains to match the profile diagram to the one for U.S. Cellular Field, making it easier to compare the two homes of the World Champion!!? Chicago White Sox on the Side-by-side page. Indeed, the last row of the upper deck in the old ballpark is closer to the field than the first row of the upper deck in the new ballpark. I may add a 1980s version diagram later, pending further research. Doing those diagrams was a much more difficult task than I had envisioned, which is why I've fallen behind in e-mail correspondence once again.
Damn Yankees on stage!
Talk about coincidences! Just two days after I posted a review of the movie Damn Yankees, I learn that a new version of the original Broadway play Damn Yankees will be performed at the Arena Stage in Washington, from December 9 through February 5.
November 9, 2005 [LINK]
Movie review: Damn Yankees
I recently saw another classic baseball movie on DVD: Damn Yankees (1958), starring Tab Hunter as the (rejuvenated) wanna-be hero, Ray Walston (who is better known for his roles as My Favorite Martian and as Mr. Hand in Fast Times at Ridgemont High) as Satan, and Gwen Verdon as the red-headed temptress. If you're a fan of those exquisitely choreographed, lavishly costumed musicals filmed in glorious Technicolor from the 1950s (such as Oklahoma!), you'll love this one. Oh, you're not? Well, neither am I, but I still enjoyed it immensely.
The very first scene had me enthralled, with game action taking place -- in living color! -- at funky old Griffith Stadium. It felt like I was in a time machine. The stadium was filled to capacity, a rare event for the Senators in that era, so I imagine they had to arrange a special promotion to fill all those seats during the filming. One detail I noticed was that the fence in left field was closer to the infield than it had been prior to the 1950s (except for World Series and All Star games), and it intersected with the big wall at a point in center field very close to the corner. [See photo, added subsequently.] The close-up action scenes were filmed at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, and there were several awkward transitions from L.A. to D.C. and back again. Road games? Nope. In the climactic scene, the hero escapes through a door in the center field wall (ivy-covered), and somehow zips from there back to the locker room before anyone can find him. Hmmm...
The plot and script were adapted from the Broadway musical of the same name. It's basically a fantasy centered upon a dull, middle-aged fan of the Washington Senators named Joe who is obsessed with beating the Yankees in the pennant race, and sells his soul to the Devil for a chance to become a baseball hero. The poor guy's wife is equally dull and plain looking, but extremely devoted to her husband, who basically ignores her from April through September. They live in Chevy Chase, Maryland, a neighborhood that would be way out of such a family's price range in today's world! After being transformed into a youthful superstar, the hero Joe leads his team to an amazing winning streak but exercises an "escape clause" to go home to his wife, at which point the Devil sends one of his demonettes to seduce and corrupt him, as a way to keep him in line. (Would Peter Angelos or George Steinbrenner ever resort to such a ploy?) From a present-day vantage point, the character of the sassy woman of ill repute played by Gwen Verdon was not sexy at all. Times change, and so do tastes. Two other female characters likewise grate upon on our contemporary social sensibilities. One is the brash woman newspaper reporter who virtually betrays her gender, forsaking married life in order to compete in the world of journalism. The other is the friend of Joe's wife, a big baseball fan played by Jean Stapleton, acting in the very same "dingbat" character as Edith from All In the Family, 14 years later! In the end, it's a choice between baseball and glory, or true love and the comforts of home. (Don't rush me; gimme a minute to think about it... ) Some of the musical numbers stretched out a little too long for my taste, but that's what you need to do to keep the womenfolk interested. Overall, it was a well-produced, fun movie filled with nostalgia. For more details, see the Internet Movie Database. The Civic religion page has been updated based on this movie.
In his never-ending research, Bruce Orser came across an interesting page listing documents pertaining to the construction of the Houston Astrodome at the University of Texas Library.
November 8, 2005 [LINK]
Bashing Busch (Stadium)
Demolition of Busch Stadium (II), the home of the St. Louis Cardinals' for the last 30 years, began yesterday. Glenda Postin, a Cardinals fan from Illinois, won the demolition lottery and was given the privilege of giving the official signal for the wrecking ball to start "bashing" the old place. $66,210 was raised for charity by the raffle, and a wide variety of
junk memorabilia salvaged from the old Busch Stadium will be sold nearby the site on November 26-27. See MLB.com. Explosive demolitions such as at Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium are more fun and dramatic, perhaps, but in this case they needed to be careful not to damage the future incarnation of Busch Stadium, which is under construction next door.
More WBC venues chosen
Angel Stadium of Anaheim and Hiram Bithorn Stadium will host the second round World Baseball Classic next March. Chase Field (formerly "Bank One Ballpark") is among those chosen to host first round games, and the semifinals and finals will be held in PETCO Park in beautiful downtown San Diego, from March 18-20. Further details on where the earlier round games will be held are still pending.
November 3, 2005 [LINK]
Bidding war for the Nationals
As the moment of truth approaches, the Washington Post is profiling the most likely top finalists in a series of articles. On Wednesday, Fred Malek's close ties to the Washington elite were scrutinized, along with those of his ambitious younger partner Jeffrey Zients. Malek was the first serious prospective D.C. baseball franchise owner, founding the Washington Baseball Club in 1999, [and in my mind deserves special consideration for all the years of work he did in promoting baseball in D.C.] He has brought on board Colin Powell and other big names into his partnership. Some believe that he has spread bad rumors about some of his rivals. (On an entirely unrelated note, Mr. Malek gave $10,300 to the Kilgore for Governor campaign fund on October 29; see Virginia Public Access Project.) On Thursday they covered Malek's leading rival, Jeffrey Smulyan, of Indianapolis. Smulyan is eagerly seeking to overcome his status as a Washington outsider by parlaying his close ties to other baseball owners such as Jerry Reinsdorf of the White Sox. Credited as a marketing genius by some, he is blamed by others for a poor showing by the Seattle Mariners in the early 1990s when he owned them.
Downsizing the new stadium?
Because of anticipated cost hikes due to materials price increases, some officials in D.C. believe that the new stadium might have to be reduced in size or scaled back in terms of adornments, even before groundbreaking has begun. D.C. Council Chairwoman Linda Cropp said a "Ford or Buick" would be perfectly suitable, rather than a "Cadillac." Certain stadium features not specified in the agreement with MLB last year may be eliminated or financed by private developers. "Mayoral spokesman Vince Morris played down concerns that the stadium's quality might be compromised." Also, the House Committee on Government Reform, headed by Rep. Thomas Davis (R-Va.) may submit legislation that would give the District U.S. Government land for free. See Washington Post.
Nats trade Castilla to San Diego
¡Hasta luego, Vinny! The Nationals traded Vinny Castilla today for San Diego pitcher Brian Lawrence, a right-hander who had a 7-15 record this year with a 4.83 ERA. Obviously, this means that rookie Ryan Zimmerman is expected to play on a regular basis at third base. That will be a heavy burden for such a young guy to carry. See MLB.com. It seems a little odd that Jim Bowden was more anxious to let Castilla go than Cristian Guzman. I'll miss Vinny, who added a lot of spark of class to the Nationals in their inaugural season. Even though he slumped at mid-season and ended up with a batting average of .253, it was his batting, and that of Brad Wilkerson, that played a big part in the team's successes in April and May.
I've touched up several of the football version diagrams, shading the grass/turf areas outside the gridiron in a duller green, meaning "out of play." They now fit the standard color scheme. Three current stadiums used by MLB teams (Dolphins Stadium, the Metrodome, and Oakland / "Network Associates" Coliseum) and two past ones (Jack Murphy / "Qualcomm" Stadium and Candlestick / "Monster" Park) are being used by NFL teams at present. Four of those five stadium pages are in need of some revision; since they are all too big to fit the standard format, I will probably handle their diagrams the same way I did Minute Maid Park.
November 1, 2005 [LINK]
Many thanks to Bill "the Thrill" Blake for stepping up to the plate and sponsoring the U.S. Cellular Field and (soon to be updated) Comiskey Park pages. Bill previously contributed several photos which are shown on the former page. All the good cheer in Chicago from the White Sox World Series triumph is having a pleasant contagious effect!
Epstein to leave
It turns out Daniel Drezner was right after all: Theo Epstein did not come to terms with the Red Sox and will no longer serve as General Manager. Apparently the Boston Globe released a premature story saying that the deal was finalized. Epstein will stay in Boston for a brief transition period. As for playing in Boston for the 2006 season, Johnny Damon, David Wells, and Manny Ramirez are very much in doubt. See MLB.com. Red Sox Nation is stunned.
October 31, 2005 [LINK]
Citizens Bank Park: more outfield
In response to complaints from pitchers, the Phillies management announced they will take out a few rows of seats in Citizens Bank Park's left field next year, to create more reasonable outfield dimensions. There were 201 home runs there in 2005, the fifth most in the majors. See MLB.com. The article states that the actual power alley distances are 350 feet, but I think they are actually right about 355 feet [following the angular midsections of 337.5 and 22.5 degrees]. After they move the wall back, the distance to true left center field will be about what the current marked distance is, 369 feet, but that is at a point 20 or so feet toward center field. (via Mike Zurawski) As an added bonus from moving the wall back, there will be a new angled section at the left foul pole, and the angled seating section just left of center field will now have a more pronounced protrusion than before.
Forbes Field, RFK
Many thanks to Patrick Schroeder for bringing to my attention some excellent photos of a Pittsburgh Steelers game at Forbes Field in 1949. See them HERE. Accordingly, there is a new football version diagram on the Forbes Field page. By amazing coincidence, the Pittsburgh Steelers are playing on Monday Night Football at this very moment!
Jeff Gordon sent me a photo he took, showing that the big scoreboard in right field at RFK Stadium was already there in April 1962. As Gomer Pyle used to say, "Surprise, surprise, surprise!" Speaking of RFK Stadium, D.C. United was eliminated from the Major League Soccer playoffs yesterday, losing to the Chicago Fire, 4-0. The team that formerly resided in RFK suffered an even worse defeat at the hands of the New York Giants.
White Sox, Red Sox
Al Lopez, who managed the Chicago White Sox the last time they went to the World Series in 1959, died of a heart attack this weekend. His career as a catcher spanned 18 seasons, beginning in 1930. He was the oldest living Hall of Famer, at 97 years. See MLB.com. At least he died a happy man.
Daniel Drezner, a blogger who teaches at the University of Chicago, refers to a fake weeklystandard.com story about how conservative political philosopher Leo Strauss supposedly influenced the White Sox in the 1950s. Hmmmm.... I wonder what teams the other top Chicago academicians of that era -- Hans Morgenthau and Milton Friedman -- rooted for?
According to MLB.com, the Red Sox apparently will retain the services of General Manager Theo Epstein, who has been credited with building a winning lineup since he took over in 2002. Daniel Drezner was anxious about what Epstein's departure would have meant for the Bosox.
October 29, 2005 [LINK]
Field of Dreams
Since the White Sox at long last erased the stigma of the 1919 "Black Sox" scandal and "eased the pain" of "Shoeless Joe Jackson," I thought it would be appropriate to revise the Field of Dreams diagram. Likewise, it seems fitting to put Comiskey Park in the "on deck circle." Depending on fan interest and sponsorship support, I plan to revise all of the "classic era" stadium diagrams to conform to the new standard in the next few months. Almost all of them will have "dynamic diagrams" to let you see how they were expanded or modified over the years. Admit it, you just can't wait!
The mail bag
Now that the World Series is over, I'm trying to get caught up with e-mail inquiries that have been piling up lately. Mr. Jean-Paul Lidén, who is from Sweden (though he spent his childhood years in Los Angeles and saw ball games in L.A.'s Wrigley Field), expressed interest in seeing a Forbes Field football version diagram. I certainly would have included one if I had had sufficient information to do it accurately. If anyone has an old photo of a Steelers game there, or has actually seen a football game in Forbes Field, I would appreciate any input.
Jeff Gordon tells me that the big scoreboard in right field was installed in RFK Stadium prior to the beginning of the inaugural 1962 season, contrary to what is implied by the outfield dimensions in Philip Lowry's Green Cathedrals. He also says that the football press box was originally in the upper rows of the first-base-side upper deck, as well. More fact checking...
Steven Poppe is striving to avoid baseball withdrawal pains by looking on the bright side of the next five long months: "The end of the World Series does not mean the end of baseball for the year: The next five months will have Hot Stove League action, more new diagrams on your website, and the first World Baseball Classic in March (the WBC championship game will be held at Petco Park)." It will not be a shoo-in, I'm afraid; U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!
Bruce Orser has sent me more photos of Braves Field and other ballparks, as well as a map of the neighborhood around Fenway Park when it was originally built, indicating that the bleachers in my 1912 version diagram are slightly off.
Seeking to capitalize on the economic spinoff potential of Fenway Park, The Red Sox are in the process of buying the aging Howard Johnson's motel on the south side of the ballpark, and plan to replace it with a fancy hotel that would cost about $140 million. See boston.com. (Hat tip to Maury Brown, of SABR)
SBC Park (formerly Pac Bell Park) may be renamed once again, since SBC purchased AT&T. See sfgate.com (Hat tip to Mike Zurawski)
Seven Washington Nationals players opted for free agency this week: Esteban Loaiza, Tony Armas Jr., Carlos Baerga, Gary Bennett, Preston Wilson, Joey Eischen, and Deivi Cruz. Without an owner, it is very hard for General Manager Jim Bowden to negotiate effectively. Holding onto good talent, much less acquiring new talent, will be a challenge.
The Yankees decided to keep General Manager Brian Cashman, in spite of the fifth consecutive year without a world championship. Mr. Steinbrenner must have been in a good mood this week.
October 27, 2005 [LINK]
WS 2005: Ozzie triumphs
Just like that, a thoroughly enjoyable World Series matchup has been wrapped up ahead of schedule, leaving die-hard baseball fans short-changed of the October entertainment that is their due. Congratulations to the world champion Chicago White Sox, and especially their long-suffering fans! For two years in a row, ancient curses have been reversed, and Shoeless Joe Jackson can finally Rest In Peace. "Ease his pain!" Now, can the other Chicago team finally get a shot at ending their 97-year drought next year? The Cubs' last World Series appearance was 60 years ago. Later on we can get to the Indians and the Giants, who have had World Series appearances in recent years, but without success. That will leave eight expansion franchises that are still waiting for their first world championship. (Six of them have won already.)
The Astros failed to score any runs at all in Game 4, or in the last six innings of Game 3. Houston fans probably deserved better than that, but starting pitcher Freddy Garcia and big rookie closer Bobby Jenks were just too good, giving up only five hits total. As for the White Sox offense, talk about a no-name team! Does Joe Crede eat Wheaties? Does Scott Podsednik have an iPod? Collective star performance in the absence of individual star talent usually reflects well on the manager's abilities, so here's to the all-too-modest Manager Ozzie Guillen! (Too bad about Harriet, though! )
In five of the seven postseason series this year, the final game was won by the visiting team, so there weren't many jubilant crowd scenes. This somewhat melancholy conclusion to the 2005 season was a consequence of the dominance by the White Sox during the regular season (except September), which earned them a top seed, and going 11-1 in the playoffs, easily winning three of those series. Street celebrations in Chicago last night (early morning) demonstrated sheer joy, and [aside from some gunshots] were notably free of the destructive mayhem seen in cities such as Denver following championship victories in recent years. See the Chicago Sun Times.
Today's Washington Post sports section (print edition) headline was "Houston Marathon," the same as the title of my post yesterday. Hmmm... The Washington Nationals have extended the contract of General Manager Jim Bowden through next April. See Washington Post. Hooray!
October 26, 2005 [LINK]
What a test of endurance that was last night! You could say it proved me right that "the Astros will be hard to beat in Houston," because it sure can't get much harder than five hours and 41 minutes! The only previous World Series game to go 14 innings was in 1916, when the Red Sox beat the Dodgers (or Robins?), 2-1; see MLB.com The Astros seemed in control for most of last night's game, except for the five-run hemmorhage in the fifth inning. Giving up that many runs was uncharacteristic of Roy Oswalt, but he bore down and hung in there until the top of the seventh. First Clemens, then Pettitte... Geoff Blum, the humble utility player who hit the go-ahead home run in the top of the 14th inning, reminded us once again of what David Pinto wrote earlier this week: In baseball, any member of the team can be the big hero. (But what's up with that guy's hair, anyway?) As we all know, of course, coming back from a three-games-to-none deficit in a postseason series is virtually impossible. The last 21 teams with a 3-0 lead in the World Series went on to win, and we may see consecutive Fall Classic sweeps for the first time since 1998-1999: the Yankees (twice) vs. Padres and Braves.
UPDATE: Just for fun, here's a quickie "side-by-side" comparison between the two ballparks in this World Series. Click on either of the thumbnail images to toggle back and forth:
UPDATE #2: After both teams failed repeatedly to capitalize on runners in scoring position, Jermaine Dye just knocked in a run in the top of the eighth, to take a 1-0 lead. The Astros are now facing doom, with just two innings to go. Even though I'm rooting for the White Sox, I was hoping (and expecting, frankly) that Houston would put their competitiveness on display and win at least one or two games at home.
The "Latin Legends" were presented before Game 4 tonight. As usual, the Dominican Republic dominated the other countries, while Venezuela struck out completely, making one wonder if some adjustment formula might have been more appropriate. The "starting lineup" (from MLB.com):
- Ivan Rodriguez (PR)
- Albert Pujols (DR)
- Rod Carew (PAN)
- Edgar Martinez (PR)
- Alex Rodriguez (DR)
- Roberto Clemente (PR)
- Manny Ramirez (DR)
- Vladimir Guerrero (DR)
- Pedro Martinez (DR)
- Juan Marichal (DR)
- Fernando Valenzuela (MEX)
- Mariano Rivera (PAN)
"Tear the roof off the sucka"
Bill Blake alerted me to the fact that the roof of Bank One Ballpark (as it was then called) was open during three games of the 2001 World Series in Phoenix, and therefore did not serve to raise the noise level. He's a White Sox fan (his photos grace the U.S. Cellular Field page), but I agree with him that baseball ought to be an outdoor sport, without artificial noise amplification. Speaking of the great outdoors, it snowed in the mountains of Virginia yesterday, so it must be freezing up in Chicago! To me this is another indication that the lords of baseball have pushed the playoffs too late into the fall season over the past two decades. They should compress the playoff schedule (three-game series in the first round, and no travel days), and finish up by mid-month at the latest.
October 25, 2005 [LINK]
World Series at Minute Maid Park
In an unusual display of executive discretion, Commissioner Selig pressured the Astros into keeping Minute Maid Park's roof open for tonight's game, thereby negating one of the Astros' major advantages: N-O-I-S-E!!! Nearly all World Series games played indoors (Minnesota in 1987 and 1991, Toronto in 1992 and 1993, and Arizona in 2001) have been won by the home team. I still think the Astros will be hard to beat in Houston.
Just in time for the very first World Series game ever played deep in the heart of Texas, or in any other part of the Lone Star state, for that matter, the Minute Maid Park page has been revised with a new diagram that conforms to the new standard. (It is still "under construction" as of game time, and hopefully will be completed by the end of the game, between innings.)
October 24, 2005 [LINK]
NOTE: This post was inadvertently omitted until November 1. My apologies.
Pinto on heroes
David Pinto's thoughts on Game 2 last night reminds us why baseball is the greatest sport of all, providing "equal opportunity" for becoming a hero:
Jose Vizcaino proved once again that if you put the ball in play, good things happen (although I still have not seen a report of Garner's reasoning in that situation). His hit along with Podsednik's home run demonstrate something else I love about baseball: Anyone can be the hero. In football and basketball, there are designated heroes. Joe Montana throws to Jerry Rice. Bird or Johnson or Jordan gets the last shot. But in baseball, Podsednik and Vizcaino get the chance to be the hero and sometimes succeed.
More ballpark links
The indefatigable Bruce Orser is hunting for ballpark information sources in cyberspace once again, and sends me a list of links to satellite maps of ballpark neighborhoods (courtesy of maps.google.com) can be found at at mlbroadtrip.com, plus an intriguing set of ancient ballpark images with crude diagrams at seasonspastbaseball.com. Bruce also raises a conjecture
that left handed pitchers, or at least some of them, may be able to put more movement on their pitches than right-handers. Did you ever make an observation like that?
October 23, 2005 [LINK]
White Sox vs. Astros: Close match
After yet another questionable call by an umpire tonight -- when Jermaine Dye was ["hit by a pitch" and] given a free base -- followed by Paul Konernko's grand slam, I was relieved that the Astros tied the game in the top of the ninth, thus erasing any possible stigma about the final outcome. When Scott Podsednik hit the game-winning homer in the bottom of the ninth, it made everything perfect. "And the crowd went wild!" Indeed, the fans were jumping up and down like a swarm of bees. It was Podsednik's second postseason homer, after hitting zero four-baggers during the regular season! Forty five degrees and steady light rain: Br-r-r-r-r! Maybe a dome would have been more appropriate for Chicago after all. I was afraid they were going to call the game after the sixth inning, but there probably would have been a riot. The two teams this year's Fall Classic appear to be almost evenly matched. One good thing about this World Series is that whoever wins, nearly everyone will be happy about it. After the desperate, high-stakes shootouts of the last few years, this year we can just sit back and relax to enjoy it. The White Sox have won all four of their road games so far this postseason. Nevertheless, I'm pretty sure that Houston will win at least two of their home games, and that the White Sox will get to celebrate their long-awaited triumph at home in Chicago. A full seven-game series would not surprise me at all.
UPDATE: I updated the text of the U.S. Cellular Field page, mentioning the White Sox successes in the 2005 season. I've also bumped up my rating of its aesthetics, based on seeing several games there on the tube, pushing its overall rating from 4.8 to 5.0.
October 21, 2005 [LINK]
New D.C. stadium design
For once, the Washington Post let itself get scooped on a major baseball story. Washington's free tabloid City Paper took a peek at what the HOK architectural firm has been working on, and they're not happy. According to author Josh Levin,
Once a stadium innovator, the District has become the ultimate follower. If you thought Mayor Anthony A. Williams rolled over for Major League Baseball when the Expos relocated, you ain't seen nothing yet. The D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, the mayor's office, the Nationals, and Major League Baseball have chosen to kill off the league's last ugly duckling and replace it with yet another shiny baseball jukebox.
They go on to critique in lurid detail various faults of the tentative design, which is aimed primarily at maximizing revenue from upper-crust patrons, leaving second-class facilities and uncomfortably tight seats for average folks. As far as the playing area at "Linda Cropp Field" (!) goes,
The new field's contrived distances will try to summon the old parks' essence: 340 feet down the left-field line, 385 in the left-field power alley, 413 at a sharply angled outcropping just left of center field, 400 feet to straightaway center, 380 in the right-field power alley, 368 on the short side of a protuberance in right-center field, and 330 to the foul line in right. The manufactured quirkiness evinces Major League Baseball conformity: The outfields in the newish parks in Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and San Diego, with their jutting corners and acute angles, look identically asymmetrical.
That's certainly not very encouraging. Whatever happened to the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission's insistence on a unique, signature architectural design? When an artist's rendering is released, I guess we'll be in a better position to judge. And what about the whole idea of integrating the ballpark into the surrounding neighborhood, making it a sports palace for all the people? Are the K Street lobbyists already swarming through the HOK designers' offices, corrupting the creative process? (Major league hat tip to Mike Zurawski for bringing this story to my attention.)
The Dodgers are replacing all of the 1970s-era plastic seats in their stadium with new, more brightly colored ones. The close-in sections that were added last year and in 1999 will have real, old-fashioned box seats, "enhanced by an integrated table amenity." Ugh. About 500 seats from these sections will be removed to create additional legroom. See Dodgers Web site. (Hat tip to Mike Zurawski)
The scaffolding in front of the former "406 Club" suites at Fenway Park collapsed on Friday afternoon. For details, see thebostonchannel.com; hat tip to Maury Brown, of SABR. Well, as long as the main roof and support beams hold up... The Sept. 22 issue of Rolling Stone magazine had a feature story on the Rolling Stones concert tour of North America. It included a photo of Mick and the other "lads" on stage before the inaugural show at Fenway Park in August.
October 19, 2005 [LINK]
Take two: Astros win pennant
Once again, the Astros' pitching was dominant, but this time there was no heroic ninth-inning comeback by the Cardinals. With Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte both pitching at or near top form, who would have thought that the NLCS MVP Award would go to Roy Oswalt? And what's his secret, anyway? His pitches all look like well-placed fastballs to me, nothin' really fancy or tricky. It gives one a warm, fuzzy feeling that the original "Killer Bees," Bagwell and Biggio, will finally get to play in the World Series, reminding me of when the Padres' veteran Tony Gwynn got that long-dreamed-of chance in 1998. It is too bad that bad umpiring calls played a part in yet another postseason game this year, this time a missed tag at second base that was wrongly called out. That stopped a potential Cardinals rally in the fifth inning. Few can deny that the Astros outplayed the Cardinals, though, and fully deserve a shot at the World Championship. (Part of me cringes at the prospect of yet another wild card team going all the way.) With neither of this year's pennant-winning teams having played in the World Series in most of our memories, this one has the potential to be even more exciting than last year. Anything can happen.
Whereas both league championship series went a full seven games in 2003 and 2004, this year neither one did. It was also striking how little home field advantage mattered; seven out of 11 ALCS and NLCS games this year were won by the visiting team. In last year's NLCS, the home teams won all seven games. Another difference is that only one postseason game so far has gone into extra innings (Braves fans would just as soon forget that one), whereas there were seven such games last year.
Bye-bye to Busch
History will record that the Cardinals lost the last two games they ever played at Busch Stadium (II). Likewise, the Braves lost their final game in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in the 1996 World Series, and the Astros lost their final game in the Astrodome in 1999. Over the course of Busch Stadium's 40-year history, however, there were more than enough playoff and World Series game victories to make St. Louisians happy. Among all the doughnut/cookie-cutter stadiums of the 1960s and 1970s, this one will probably be remembered most fondly.
Fenway renovations continue
Being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs gave the Red Sox extra time to finish the next phase of the multi-year renovation of Fenway Park. The big glass panes enclosing the elite "406 Club" in Fenway Park have been smashed and/or removed, as the first step toward installing new club seats all along the upper level. This will add 1,100 seats to Fenway Park, which will still be the smallest capacity ballpark in the majors. See MLB.com. It's clearly a step forward, but they eventually ought expand the upper level into a normal size deck, with 15 or more rows.
Here's a thought: Many folks blithely assume that the Yankees or Red Sox will routinely make it to at least the league championship series, but that did not happen this year. With the persistent torrential rains suffered by New Yorkers and New Englanders last week, any postseason games up there would have been postponed by several days anyway, throwing the entire postseason schedule into turmoil.
October 18, 2005 [LINK]
Wrigley Field begins overhaul
While the ecstatic fans on the South Side of Chicago get ready for the Main Event this weekend, construction on the beloved North Side ballpark is already underway. I had been very worried about what the final result of that expansion would look like, but the artists renderings indicate that the New, Improved bleachers aren't too much different from the old ones. It would appear that only about eight rows of seats are being added along the left and right field sides, while the central part of the bleachers will remain pretty much the way they are. Fair enough. Also, there will be a multi-story parking garage in the triangular parcel of land on the west side of the ballpark. (Will they still tow the cars of hapless out-of-town visitors on non-game days?) See the Cubs Web site.
For some photos of the Wrigley Field bleachers being torn out, see Scott Derenger's shaveyourhead.com. (That page has dozens of photos, and may take a while to load completely; via Temporary Bleachers blog, via Technorati.)
Perhaps as part of the bleachers enlargement project, the Cubs have formalized an arrangement with the owners of most of the condo buildings with rooftop bleachers across Waveland Avenue and Sheffield Street. It's "Endorsed by the Chicago Cubs," so the Cubs presumably get some kind of consideration in return, which would be a reasonable accommodation to the erstwhile "freeloaders." It's about time! See ballparkrooftops.com.
October 17, 2005 [LINK]
Pujols' "bigger bang" saves Cards
Totally unbelievable! After Lance Berkman's dramatic go-ahead home run in the seventh inning, it looked like the Astros had a lock on the National League pennant, which would have meant that no more games would ever be played at Busch Stadium (the current one). Houston fans were delirious at the prospect of a World Series in Texas for the first time. Instead, with two outs in the top of the ninth, David Eckstein singled, Jim Edmunds walked, and then the amazing Albert Pujols launched that horsehide sphere into earth orbit, striking the glass pane above the railroad track in left field. (Estimated distance pending.) There was no doubt about it, and Minute Maid Park fell deathly silent as Pujols calmly jogged around the bases. Talk about an emotional let-down! As if Sunday afternoon's game didn't end on a dramatic enough basis (an amazing double play ended a Cardinals rally in the top of the ninth), what happened tonight was the stuff of baseball legend. Back to St. Louis!
White Sox win pennant
After a clumsy start in Game 1, the White Sox went on to beat the Angels in the next four games (including three games on the road), thus winning the series in five games, not six, as I had predicted. Who would have thought that the White Sox pitching would be so superlative? Well, they did tie with the Indians for the third-lowest team ERA in 2005, even though Buehrle, Garica, Garland, and Contreras are not exactly household names -- yet. The last time four consecutive postseason complete games were pitched was by the Yankees in 1956. (Remember Don Larsen?) Shouldn't someone tell manager Ozzie Guillen that there's no crying or kissing of players in baseball? Even though Latin culture is more fixated on traditional gender roles than is the case in North America, most of those macho men from south of the border are less hung up about not being called a sissy than us gringos. Interestingly, the White Sox manager last time they were in the World Series (Al Lopez, in 1959) was also of Hispanic origin. Back then it was still a rarity. Just a thought: As Chicagoans prepare for their first World Series since Dwight Eisenhower was president, I wonder if the White Sox regret trimming the size of the upper deck in U.S. Cellular Field?
D.C. stadium? More confusion...
Even though the D.C. Council has decided to reexamine the terms of the stadium construction financial arrangement with Deutsch Bank, in part to ensure that the project earns an "investment quality" bond rating, Council Chairwoman Linda Cropp now says she favors building the stadium on the Anacostia site. Ten months ago she was pushing for the new stadium to be build next to RFK Stadium, in order to save construction costs. For more than a year now, MLB and D.C. officials have been manuevering and posturing to get the best possible terms, and neither side trusted the other enough to make a 100-percent commitment. When will this farce ever end? See Washington Post.
Random notes on the Nationals
Since the regular season ended, or perhaps since the Nationals fell out of postaseason contention on September 21, the zombie-like "spell" of fan zealotry has been lifted from my consciousness, and I've been able to pay attention to the rest of the major leagues (and even the real non-baseball world) with a bit more fairness and balance. There will be plenty of time to speculate on Washington's 2006 prospects after the World Series is over.
As the process of finalizing stadium construction plans and selling the Nationals franchise drag on, it is good to remember a telling comment made by Commissioner Bud Selig, as published in the inaugural edition of the Nationals' souvenir program. When asked by the interviewer why he finally relented and allowed the Expos to move, he said, "There weren't any alternatives. This was a last resort." Remember those words well. Washington was not at the top of the list of possible new cities for the Expos franchise, as any reasonable analysis would have concluded, it was at the bottom.
Washington Nationals Tony Tavares was interviewed about his team's performance this year, and its prospects for the future. To my delight, he brushed aside complaints of certain sluggers that the outfield at RFK Stadium is too big. Notably, he put the blame on the lack of leadership by players and coaches. To me, that just goes to show the ultimate result of the absence of any strong direction at the top -- There's no owner, for crying out loud! Until that changes, squabbling and lack of focus are bound to continue. See MLB.com. With regard to front office personnel moves, Tavares says, "Nobody has made any promises. If you get a job opportunity, you should pursue it, because I can't guarantee anything." Ouch. Tavares said if he is rehired, he would offer a job to General Manager Jim Bowden (whose contract expires at the end of the month), but he demurred about Frank Robinson's job. Tavares, Bowden, and Robinson all deserve another year in Washington, working in a normal situation under a real owner, where they just might have a chance at a championship bid.
I had meant to make note of the fact that the Washington Post (print edition only) had a list of "top ten" Washington Nationals inaugural year games on October 5, one day later than I did. Theirs was quite different than mine, however, coinciding only on April 14 (obviously), June 14, and September 17. They omitted April 6, May 30, July 4, July 15, July 26, September 15, and September 21, and included May 7, June 6, July 3, July 5, July 26, September 15, and September 25. Also, it is worthwhile to call attention to Barry Svrluga's prescient words about the Nationals' prospects in the "Baseball '05" special section last March 30:
But look at the rest of the [NL East] division, probably the deepest and most competitive in baseball, and it's easy to see how the Nationals could scratch their way to .500 -- and still finish last.
Well, the Nationals didn't exactly "scratch their way to .500," but it's still a pretty astute forecast of the final outcome.
October 14, 2005 [LINK]
Boswell: Give RFK a "facelift"
In today's Washington Post (print edition only), Thomas Boswell suggests several modifications that could greatly enhance the aesthetics of RFK Stadium, based on the renovations to (soon-to-disappear) Busch Stadium that were made in 1996. To wit:
- Add four rows of box seats to reduce the excessive foul territory.
- Move the bullpens from the corners toward the power alleys, and fill in that space with added grandstand seats.
- Install true bench-type bleacher sections in deep left- and right-center fields.
- Tear out the upper level seats in the outfield upper deck, and put in a big wooden manual scoreboard and historical D.C. baseball display.
- Put in a grass slope ("sward"?) in center field, as a batter's backdrop.
He's definitely on the right track, especially with lower-level bleachers, but I don't think putting in seats around the foul corners would work. For one thing, it would make reconfiguring RFK for soccer games next to impossible. Since the front-row box seats are already fairly low, I think adding two rows along the foul lines is about as much as can be done without having to lower the field level, which would be very costly and difficult. Nonetheless, I agree wholeheartedly with his conclusion:
If the aesthetics of RFK can be improved half as much as the '96-to'97 transformation of Busch Stadium, the long-term value to the Washington francise and its owners may be huge.
White Sox win again
Even though I'm rooting for them to go all the way, I was kind of hoping the White Sox would lose tonight's game so that the Angels wouldn't be able to complain that the rather bogus way that Game 2 was won shifted the momentum in Chicago's favor. Paul Konerko is back in the hitting groove, but Vlad Guerrero and the other Angel sluggers were totally stymied by John Garland, who gave up only four hits in a complete game. Final score: 5-2.
The controversial bumbled call in Chicago Wednesday night by umpire Doug Eddings has sparked renewed interest in this idea. Just say no! Read about it at MLB.com, and cast your vote at foxsports.com. Right now, it's running
31% ALL THE TIME, and
23% IN PLAYOFFS ONLY.
To follow along with the heated argument over that bumbled call, see David Pinto's blog post at Baseball Musings.
Speaking of Chicago, thanks to Mario Vara for sending some great photos of a game between the Cubs and Cardinals at Wrigley Field from last August; I've added two of them to that page, and touched up the old ones. His photos can also be seen on the Cleveland Stadium page.
October 13, 2005 [LINK]
Astros even it up
It's sad when superhuman defensive efforts by outfielders such as Jim Edmunds and Reggie Sanders come to nothing. Edmunds' diving catch showed once again why he's the real anchor of the team, even as others such as Albert Pujols rack up even higher batting records. At the plate, however, Edmunds wasted two RBI opportunities, getting the third out both times. Sanders' missed catch in the eighth inning was scary the way he landed on the warning track, but apparently he's OK. But the real story tonight was the Astros, especially the batting of Chris Burke and pitching of Roy Oswalt, who once again performed amazingly well. Final score, 4-1.
More stalling on stadium in D.C.
The D.C. council may reconsider the agreement it reached by which the Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals. Vincent Orange submitted a resolution to review the private stadium financing agreement with Deutsche Bank, which was supposed to save the city money. So what else is new? Maybe if this thing drags on, the Nationals will stay in RFK Stadium for four more years, rather than just two or three. See Washington Post It is uncertain whether the recent tax evasion charges against council member Marion Barry, or council member Jack Evans' political fundraising irregularities, will affect this decision. "It's a Capital City!"
New stadium in K.C.?
The Barrett Sports Group proposes to build a new baseball stadium to replace Kauffman Stadium, to be located in downtown Kansas City. It would cost $357 million, of which the Royals' owners would pay $41 million. See Kansas City Business Journal. (Hat tip to Mike Zurawski) This all sounds pretty dubious to me. Kauffman Stadium is just too beautiful to throw away. Kansas City does not need a bigger or fancier stadium, and the one they already have could be upgraded in any number of ways to appease to the fat cats.
October 12, 2005 [LINK]
White Sox even it up; Angels fume
This otherwise normal postseason had a second memorable game this evening, as a questionable umpire call allowed White Sock (?) A.J. Pierzynski to run to first after Angels catcher Bengie Molina trapped the ball on the third strike and then tossed it away. FOX commentator Kevin Kennedy said it was clear that Molina caught it before it hit the ground, but I don't think many umpires would call a line drive caught that way an out. True, the home plate umpire did not make a clear enough indication that the ball was in play after he called strike three, and if I were Mike Scoscia, I'd be pretty furious, too. The fans at The Cell were ecstatic when Joe Crede lined a double into the left field corner, allowing the pinch runner to score. The White Sox probably wish they hadn't won that way, because the Angels will be fightin' mad when the series resumes in Anaheim on Friday. But if your team hasn't won a championship since before your grandfather was born, you're probably thinking, "A win's a win!"
Cardinals take game one
In St. Louis, the superlative Cardinals dominated the Astros for most of the game, handing Andy Pettitte (note: FOUR T's) his first loss in his last seven starts. Veteran Reggie Sanders got the momentum going in favor of the home team when he blasted a towering homer over the left field bull pen in the [first] inning. The rest of the Cardinals' sluggers (with the notable exception of Jim Edmonds) got hits at crucial moments as the game progressed, enabling them to score five runs on just eight total hits. [Houston made comeback attempts, scoring in the seventh and ninth innings, but came up short, 5-3.] I've always had a mildly favorable view of the Cardinals, in spite of 1964, and I was happy when they managed to beat the Astros last year, but now I'm thinking it's time that frustrated bunch of space cowboys from way down south caught a break and won the NL pennant for the first time.
After getting hardly any e-mail messages from baseball fans last week, I've received quite a few in the past couple days, some of which will require a thoughtful response. Thanks for your patience.
October 11, 2005 [LINK]
Angels beat White Sox
To my surprise, the LAnaheim Angels beat the Chicago White Sox in the first game of the ALCS. I thought A.J. Pierzynski and Paul Konerko were supposed to be good in clutch situations. Not tonight. Borne on wings of shiny aluminum, the Angels traveled across the country and halfway back again over the last 48 hours (is that a record?), and yet somehow had enough energy to edge the White Sox. The home team's fans were quite spirited, but somehow it didn't seem to motivate the players. Angels pitcher Paul Byrd proved very effective, putting his team in command of the situation. Vlad Guerrero really crushed the ball in the eighth inning, but the famous Chicago wind kept it inside the park, for a long out.
Three of the last four World Series were won by teams either for the first time ever, or for the first time in practically everyone's lifetime. It would be nice for that to happen again this year. If the Astros and White Sox win their leagues' pennants, such an outcome would be guaranteed. The only time in modern baseball history when neither team in a World Series had previously been world champions was in 1980, when the Phillies beat the Royals. The last time that both pennant winners were from the central region of the country (in terms of geography, not divisional groupings) was in 1987, when the Twins beat the Cardinals. It also happened in 1982 (Cardinals-Brewers) and 1985 (Royals-Cardinals).
Devil Rays to stay in the dome
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays' new owner, Stuart Sternberg, says that it is far too early to think about building a new stadium for his team. Tropicana Field may be lackluster, he admits, but that doesn't mean it will hurt the team in terms of winning or attendance. A retractable-roof stadium such as the one being considered for Miami would be ideal, but those things are very costly. See sptimes.com (Hat tip to Mike Zurawski.) The oddly tilted dome has only been in (baseball) use for eight years, and asking for public funding to replace it would surely spark a taxpayers' revolt. If they go ahead with major renovations, I think building new seating sections around the right and left field corners that would be pointed toward the infield and inclined at a steeper angle would create much better sightlines for fans. With a modest population base consisting of many older folks, the Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg area will have a hard time supporting a successful baseball franchise. Baseball was just not meant for Florida in the summer; they should work out a "migrating" franchise deal with Montreal.
Turner Field update
It's too late for the Braves this year, but I've created a new version of the Turner Field diagram to conform to the new standard. The old "sideways" diagrams, including the 1996 Olympics version, are still there to facilitate comparisons. Handling those very large stadiums, such as Memorial Coliseum or Dolphins Stadium, is awkward, but I will probably use the same approach (i.e., both vertical and sideways orientations) for them in the future.
October 10, 2005 [LINK]
Angels beat the Yanks
I must say, the way the Yankees were playing last month as they overtook the Red Sox, just like their old champion selves again, I thought they were going to find a way to win tonight. The collision between Gary Sheffield and Bubba Crosby at the wall in right field in the second inning was a bad sign, as the Angels went ahead 3-2, but the Yankees kept getting hits in later innings, and eventually some of them would have to score. A bad call by the ump in the fifth inning was the second momentum-killer. For the life of me, I cannot figure out how Robinson Cano was called out for allegedly stepping outside the base path, after catcher Bengie Molina dropped the third strike. Even to the announcers Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, it was clear that Cano ran straight down the baseline, and the dubious call put an end to a rally. Derek Jeter's seventh-inning homer closed the gap to two runs, and when he came up again in the ninth, I was certain the Yankees' best players were going to stage a comeback. Inded, Jeter led off with a single, but A-Rod grounded into a double play. (He looked safe at first to me.) With the Yankees hanging by their fingernails, the next two batters managed to get hits, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield, but Hideki Matsui was just barely thrown out at first on a grounder, and that was it. Given their lousy first two months, it was good that the Yankees came this close to the ALCS, but by their standards, not good enough.
The next round
One thing is certain: All four teams in the league championship series are of excellent quality, and deserve to be there. Without either the Yankees or Red Sox playing for the rest of this postseason, however, it will be hard to maintain television viewership. Having had three days' rest, while the Angels battled with the Yankees, the White Sox now have a perfect opportunity to redefine themselves as winners after so many frustrating decades. The last time they played in the World Series (1959), it was in Los Angeles -- in Memorial Coliseum, in fact. White Sox in six. Meanwhile, the NLCS is the same matchup as last year, though with a few new players on both teams. Houston has great hitting, and (now that Andy Petitte is healthy) pitching, but St. Louis matches them in every category, and has the postseason experience to know how to win. Cardinals in five.
October 9, 2005 [LINK]
Braves, Red Sox, Padres go home
There haven't been any huge surprises in the first-round playoffs thus far, and this may turn out to be one of the most "normal" postseasons in several years. Once again, the Braves failed to make it to the second round, but this afternoon's game was perhaps the one truly extraordinary showdown of the first round. Two grand slams in a single playoff game for the first time ever, and at 18 innings, it was the longest playoff game ever. Surprisingly, the often-shaky Atlanta bullpen performed magnificently (in the ten innings after Kyle Farnsworth gave up the grand slam by Lance Berkman, that is), but the Jones brothers and the various newer sluggers just could not come through in the clutch at Minute Maid Park. Suffering such heartbreaking twists of fate as the game-tying bottom-of-the-ninth-inning home run by Brad Ausmus (which cleared the yellow line in left center by only an inch or two), the Braves are in danger of feeling as hopelessly jinxed as the Red Sox once thought they were.
It was no surprise that the top-seeded Cardinals swept the Padres, who won only two more games than they lost this season, but one would have expected the Red Sox to win at least one or two home games against the top-seeded White Sox. Indeed, the Red Sox themselves seemed to expect it. Were they counting on the Fenway Park magic of last year to save them this year? At least they've got proud memories of 2004 to keep them happy through the off-season. This was the first time since 2001 that both wild card teams did not make it to the second round.
Yankees hang in there
The LAnaheim Angels surprised the Yankees by winning games two and three (the latter at Yankee Stadium!), and took an early lead in game four tonight, but the Bronx Bombers eked out a victory by uncharacteristic "small ball" tactics of good base running. Jorge Posada's extra hustle in throwing out would-be base stealers and sliding into home made the difference. It was nice to see the ovation for Bernie Williams, who may have played his last game at Yankee Stadium tonight. Mike Mussina wisely stayed behind in the L.A. area when the rest of his team went back to New York on Friday, and will be well rested to start tomorrow night's deciding game.
D.C. baseball news
The D.C. government estimates it has brought in about $500,000 less tax revenue than it had projected, because so many of the tickets sold to Nationals games this summer were no-shows, a.k.a., "phantom fans." Whereas about 10-15 percent of the tickets most teams sell are no-shows, for Washington, the figure was over 25 percent, meaning that the average "turnstile" attendance at RFK Stadium was probably about 25,000, compared to nearly 34,000 tickets sold per game. This revenue shortfall may affect the scheduled construction of the new stadium. See Washington Post. A recent change in city personnel may end up having the same delaying effect: Andrew Altman has resigned as head of the public/private Anacostia Waterfront Development Corporation, leaving that institution without a strong driving force at the top. This may make it easier for bureaucrats and various parochial interest groups to hold things up as that stadium project trudges forward. Three more years at RFK!?
October 7, 2005 [LINK]
Being at the Rolling Stones concert in Charlottesville last night, I did not know the scores from the ball games until this morning. Beating Roger Clemens was a huge accomplishment for the Braves, but they will have to play hard to beat the Astros, and getting past the Cardinals in the next round will be an even more daunting task.
New owners for D-Rays
Stuart Sternberg recently acquired the Tampa Bay Devil Rays from Vince Naimoli, who had failed to accomplish much since the franchise was born in 1998. See sptimes.com. (hat tip to Mike Zurawski)
October 5, 2005 [LINK]
Red Sox in dire straits
Boston was ahead 4-0, but then David Wells gave up five runs in the fifth, including a three-run homer by Tadahito Iguchi. (!?) Down two games to none against the White Sox, the 2004 World Champions return to Fenway Park with no margin for error. Will David, Johnny, or Manny come through with clutch hits like did last year? Will Curt Schilling perform another magic act just in time? The other team that used to play in Boston, the Braves, choked badly as Houston trounced them this afternoon 10-5. John Smoltz has had a great year, returning to his former role as starter, but he may be showing his age. After a year of injury, Andy Petitte really got in the groove in the second half of this year, and has been a main reason for the Astros' success. The Yanks and Angels are in another close, low-scoring game in LAnaheim...
Feud over lawsuit in Maryland
Another front in the prolonged battle waged by the Baltimore Orioles to try to keep baseball out of Washington has come to light in the past few days. The Maryland Stadium Authority is accused of wrongly paying over $100,000 to the Baltimore law firm of William H. Murphy (who happens to be a pal of Governor Bob Ehrlich) in an attempt to block the arrival of the Washington Nationals. These payments continued through March, when most people thought baseball in Washington was a 100 percent certainty. Adding to the intrigue is the political rivalry between Republican Ehrlich and long-time Attorney General Joseph Curran, a Democrat whose daughter is married to Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, who is running against Ehrlich next year. The dispute is not over the propriety of the last-ditch legal maneuver, but centers around whether pricey ($685 per hour) outside lawyers should have been hired for the task, rather than the state's own legal staff. See Washington Post. This case illustrates the moral hazard that arises whenever the government embarks on a quasi-commercial development project (such as a stadium) in which projected revenues are subject to great uncertainty. It also makes me wonder why overburdened Maryland taxpayers are so apathetic about the dubious purposes toward which their tax dollars are spent.
Brew crew surges
One of the success stories of the 2005 season was the Milwaukee Brewers, who managed an even .500 season, after 12 consecutive losing seasons. Some think that the new ownership of Mark Attanasio deserves much of the credit for this. In an interview with jsonline.com, he lays out his plans for the future, including the possible addition of a picnic area in Miller Park, which would necessitate moving the right field fence in by about ten feet. I'm not so sure I like that idea; it's already a slugger-friendly park. (hat tip to Mike Zurawski)
October 4, 2005 [LINK]
And what a year it was!
Why can't every month be June? If I had to choose, I would much rather have the Nationals soar to first place at mid-season and then fall back, than the alternative of playing poorly early on and then recovering toward the end. Sure, Washington fans were disappointed by the second half of the season, but our new home team gave us plenty to cheer about from beginning to end, and at least showed occasional bursts of excellence through September, remaining in the hunt for the wild card spot. Here are the "Top Ten" games of the year, in terms of excitement, historical significance, and/or setting trends in the divisional race, in chronological order: (Dates are links to the respective blog posts.)
- Apr. 4 -- Phillies 8, Nats 4. The Nationals' very first game; I was there! [changed, 1/13/06]
Apr. 6 -- Nats 7, Phillies 3. The first win, sparked by Brad Wilkerson's "cycle."
- Apr. 14 -- Nats 5, Diamondbacks 3. The first home game; sunny skies, sold-out crowd.
- May 30 -- Nats 5, Braves 4. Close score, tense finish, perfect weather. (I was there.)
- June 5 -- Nats 6, Marlins 3. Ryan Church home run keys Nats' surge to first place.
- June 14 -- Nats 6, Angels 3. Frank Robinson complains about pine tar, benches clear, Nats rally.
- July 4 -- Mets 5, Nats 2. RFK nearly full, but 4th of July spoiled, beginning of the awful downturn.
- July 15 -- Brewers 4, Nats 3. Game decided by Mike Stanton's balk (?!) in 10th inning.
- Aug. 4 -- Nats 7, Dodgers 0. Grand slam by Wilkerson, 13 Ks by Patterson; are bad days over?
- Sept. 17 -- Padres 8, Nats 5. 12 innings; Cordero blows 5-0 lead in 9th. Ouch!
- Sept. 21 -- Giants 5, Nats 1. Another HR by Barry Bonds ends Nats' postseason hopes.
Washington Nationals: 2005 summary
||NL East place
|Sept. - Oct.
SOURCE: My unofficial daily tabulations from MLB Gameday stats and Washington Post.
Fan support: HUGE!
There is no question that baseball was a smash hit in Washington, and the regular big crowds played a big part in the team's success, at least through mid-season. It was a mutual love affair between players and fans. The 2.7 million total attendance at games in RFK Stadium this year exceeded their target by 300,000, and their 33,584 average attendance was more than 3 ½ times the tickets sold for Expos games in Montreal and San Juan last year. (Because of the phenomenon of tax-subsidized "phantom fans," the number of people who actually showed up for games at RFK Stadium was probably about 10-15 percent less than that; let's say 28,000 real live fans.) In terms of "announced" attendance, the smallest crowd was 23,332 on April 26 against the Phillies; in only three other games was attendance below 25,000. In contrast, there were eleven games in which attendance was over 40,000! Meanwhile, the Orioles' 2005 total attendance of 2.6 million was only slightly below last year's total, providing undisputable proof that the effect on the Orioles' attendance from a team in Washington was much less than owner Peter Angelos had claimed it would be. (Indeed, the decline was even less than I expected.)
Divisional series begin
For most of the summer, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago White Sox totally dominated their respective leagues, and it is no surprise that they dealt roughly with, respectively, the Padres and the Red Sox in this afternoon's games. The Cardinals built an 8-0 lead by the fifth inning, but then got complacent, as the Padres staged a three-run rally in the top of the ninth, loading the bases before the final out was made. Final score: 8-5. We later learned why Padres' starter Jake Peavy's pitching was off today: He had fractured his rib while celebrating his team winning the NL West last week. In Chicago, the five runs they scored in the first inning were all the the White Sox needed. A.J. Pierzynski hit two homers and a double, and was also hit by a pitch, as were two of his team mates, in that big first inning! Poor Matt Clement. The White Sox piled on additional runs in the later innings, clearly lusting for a trip to the World Series. Final score: 14-2. You may recall, however, that the Red Sox got some experience in rebounding from huge defeats last year, so they're not necessarily doomed. Now the Yankees and Angels are warming up in "LAnaheim." Presumably the Yanks will not be as complacent as they were three years ago!
UPDATE: Rookie 2B Robinson Cano knocked in three runs with a double in the first inning, getting things off on the right foot. The extra room in Angels Stadium's left field worked to the visiting team's advantage in this instance. The Angels would have scored a run in the second inning but for the low fence in the right field corner, as the ground rule double hit by Steve Finley forced Juan Rivera to stop at third, and the next batter, Adam Kennedy, flew out. The rest of the game was a pitcher's duel, as Bartolo Colon pitched for five scoreless innings, but could not get run support. There were several long fly balls to the warning track, but only one home run, by Bengie Molina. The Angels made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth as Vlad Guerrero walked, stole a base, and made it to home on a high-bouncing single by Darin Erstad, but that was the end of it. Final score: 4-2.
Here's an interesting factoid: Of the 24 teams that played in the first round divisional series over the past three years (including many "duplicates," of course), only three of the higher-seeded teams with the initial home-field advantage -- 12.5 percent -- went on to the next round! To me, that is clear indication that the present format does not sufficiently reward teams with a better regular season record. Once again, I say: Wild card teams should face a higher postseason "hurdle." You can keep track of all the playoff game scores, for this year, and for the last three years, on the Postseason scores page.
October 2, 2005 [LINK]
Season ends on sour note
If you're a Nationals fan, you're mad about getting swept by the Phillies (at home, no less!) and finishing the season with a dead even .500 record -- in last place.
If you're a Phillies fan, you're mad that winning the last four games of the season wasn't good enough to qualify for the wild card spot.
If you're a Yankees fan, you're mad that Boston took two out of three games at Fenway, putting the Yanks behind Anaheim in the rankings, thereby losing home-field advantage.
If you're a Red Sox fan, you're mad that finishing the season with the same win-loss record as the Yankees did not entitle your team to a chance to claim the AL East title. (Perhaps the head-to-head record should not by itself be the tie-breaking criterion, but merely decide which team gets home field advantage in a one-game playoff.)
But let's look at the bright side, folks: At least baseball is back in Our Nation's Capital!!!
Let the battle begin!
It seems like every October for the past three years has been more dramatic, more unpredictable, and more amazing than the previous year. Can the baseball championship series this year possibly top what happened last last year??? There is a new separate Postseason scoreboard page, including this year's teams and all the ones for the three previous years. Each year's baseball archives page still has the respective postseason scoreboard at the bottom.
UPDATE: Farewell to Busch (II)
Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, and Mark McGwire* were among the former St. Louis Cardinals players who came to bid adieu to what many people believe to be the most attractive of all the doughnut/cookie cutter-era stadiums, Busch Stadium (the second of three venues to bear that name). Deceased former Cardinal players such as Curt Flood, Roger Maris, Darryl Kile were also honored, as was long-time Cards' announcer Jack Buck. The oval palace will see at least a few more games played in it before it is finally torn down next month. See MLB.com.
October 1, 2005 [LINK]
Fierce final-weekend competition
It was not John Patterson's best day, but he refused to give up after the Phillies scored four runs on him in the first inning. Like a trooper, he hung in there until the sixth inning, but it didn't really matter because the Nationals could never get a rally going. Meanwhile, Chase Utley hit two homers, rookie phenom Ryan Howard hit another one, plus a three-RBI double that hit the fence in left center field. Brett Meyers threw 12 strikeouts, the most in his career, and the Phillies' relievers threw five more. Final score, 8-4. In their final game tomorrow, the Nats will be playing for pure pride, hoping to finish above .500, while the Phillies will be scrambling for a shot at the wild card spot. Ryan Zimmerman is batting exactly .400 (22 of 55); will he take the chance that Ted Williams did and risk dropping below that magic plateau?
The game in Boston happened to end with the same score, 8-4, and the visiting team likewise won. Few would have expected it early in the season, or even late in the season, but the Yankees won the AL East for the eighth year in a row. Since Cleveland fell to the White Sox again, however, Boston still has an inside track in the wild card race, so get ready, folks: Here we go again!
Roger Clemens performed impeccably as usual, and the Astros' 3-1 win over the Cubs gives them at least a tie for the NL wild card spot. In a game that was meaningless for most of the country, the Marlins took advantage of the Braves' weak bullpen and scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, to win 6-4. That puts the Nationals all alone in last place.
With multiple decisive games being played this afternoon, it would have been nice to kick back and enjoy it all on the tube. David Pinto complained that FOX didn't broadcast a double-header, and I wondered about that myself. In the NFL, double-headers are broadcast every Sunday, so why not baseball? In this case, however, I don't think we can blame Peter Angelos for the lack of TV coverage. [I'm just thankful I got one more chance to see the Nationals on TV before the season ended. Some of the new faces, like Ryan Zimmerman and Brandon Watson, are still unfamiliar to me.]
All of the thumbnail diagrams of stadiums currently in use have now been "upgraded," so you can make quick comparisons between them on the Baseball sitemap page. They are a taste of what's to come as the full-sized versions of those diagrams gradually get polished up over the next few months.
September 30, 2005 [LINK]
Oh, what a night!
There were four games with critical playoff implications tonight, and all four of them were genuine humdingers. The highest-tension matchup was in Boston, where the home team capitalized on Yankee miscues to score three runs in the sixth inning, going on to win, 5-3. The AL East is now tied again. Blood feud? Well, at least no one was ejected from the game tonight. Tomorrow: Randy Johnson versus knuckeballer Tim Wakefield; Yanks by two. In Washington, Livan Hernandez struggled against the Phillies and was perhaps fortunate that they did not score more than four runs. Meanwhile, the Nationals' offense once again let multiple run-scoring opportunities slip by, and they lost another one-run game, 4-3. In Houston, the Astros took a 3-2 lead scoring two runs in the eighth, but then the Cubs came back with two in the ninth, thereby reducing the Astros' lead in the NL wild card race to one game. Finally, in Cleveland, there was a classic pitchers' duel. The Indians tied the game 1-1 in the ninth, and it went to the thirteenth inning, when the White Sox scored two, but the Indians could only score one in the bottom of the inning, falling a game behind the Yankees and Indians in the AL wild card race. Home field advantage?
Camden Yards, and more...
There is a new diagram on the Camden Yards page, at long last showing the outfield dimensions as they have been for every year except for 2001. As is my custom, during October I will concentrate on updating the diagrams of stadiums of those teams that are playing in the postseason. On deck: Turner Field!
Speaking of the perennial NL East champions, my brother Chris, a Braves fan since their days in Milwaukee, has some observations about a former Braves' pitcher:
Now this has to be a rarity in the baseball annals: Tom Glavine, en route last night to his 2nd complete game in 3 starts (the other was an 8 inning stint), hit safely (twice) as many times as he allowed hits. He also scored and had more RBI (1 each) than he allowed. He notched his 275th win, and is the 30th pitcher in MLB history to reach that plateau. He'd be near 290 wins if not for the ... Mets' offense and relief crew! ESPN highlights also showed him snagging a line drive hit right back to him, which he then tossed to 1st base for a double play. Talk about a legitimate triple threat!
September 28, 2005 [LINK]
Florida devastated by Nat swarm
The Washington Nationals roared through south Florida like a hurricane this week, tossing aside the vaunted pitcher Josh Beckett as though he were a puny midget. Not having scored in the double digits in nearly four months (May 7, to be exact), the Nationals managed to do so on two consecutive days! Oddly, in all five of their double-digit scoring games this year, the Nationals have scored exactly eleven runs. Credit for the series sweep goes to virtually every member of the team, even Cristian Guzman, who has raised his batting average to a tolerable .217 just in time for season's end. (Ryan Zimmerman's average is exactly .200 higher than that!) The belated offensive onslaught by Nats makes one wish they could have spread around a few of those superfluous runs in the many one-run losses since mid-season. They could have been leading the division! Their series sweep assures the Nats of at least an even .500 record for the season, as they rest for a day in preparation for the season finale series against the Phillies, in the (usually) friendly home confines of RFK Stadium.
The unbalanced scoring in this series may have been more a reflection of embittered strife among the Marlins, who were favored to win the wild card spot just a couple weeks ago. Their pitcher A.J. Burnett was told his services were no longer needed, after he complained about his teammates and manager Jack McKeon, and he told reporters he would consider signing with Washington for next year. Hmm-m-m-m... It is worth noting that the Marlins, as the last place team in the NL East, have a higher winning percentage than the likely "champions" of the NL West, the San Diego Padres. Even though I think the wild card teams need to face additional obstacles in the postseason (e.g., fewer home games), [I also think that any non-wild card team with a higher winning percentage than one of the divisional champions should be entitled to a one-game challenge playoff (at the divisional champion's home field) to qualify for the postseason. No more than two non-wild card challengers would be allowed, since only two slots (the divisional champions) are open. In such a system, theoretically, one division could grab all the postseason slots for that league.]
In the American League, the White Sox can breathe easier now that Cleveland has fallen back in the Central Division race, thanks to Tampa Bay. (Just think, the White Sox almost moved there in 1990!) Bronx Bomber Alex Rodriguez hit his 47th home run of the season (a team record for right-handers), helping the Yankees edge the Orioles, who had just unleashed their recent frustrations (namely, a nine-game losing streak) by trouncing the visiting squad 17-9 yesterday. The Red Sox are looking a bit shaky, losing to Toronto again and falling a game behind the Yankees, but they've always been one of those unpredictable, high-spirited crews, and they might find a way to get back in the groove before it's too late.
September 27, 2005 [LINK]
Strange bedfellows in Maryland
Orioles owner Peter Angelos, otherwise known as "Dr. Evil," took out a full-page newspaper ad to thank Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich for his support of his failed attempt to prevent baseball from returning to Washington. What is strange is that Angelos used to be very tight with the state Democrat party, and was a major contributor to the campaigns of former Governor Parris ("Not Hilton") Glendening and others. The party affiliation made sense, since he is, after all, a fabulously wealthy trial lawyer. Since the ad did not explicitly urge people to vote for Ehrlich when he runs for reelection next year, it probably won't count as a campaign expenditure. See Washington Post. After a brief honeymoon, Ehrlich's term as governor has been marked by one frustration after another, as the Democrat majority has successfully blocked his initiatives. He and Angelos both needed each other, so you might say it was a match made in ... no, let's not go there.
September 26, 2005 [LINK]
D.C. ballpark land grab?
Sunday's Washington Post detailed the brewing fight over terms of land sales in the four city blocks where the Nationals' future home is to be built. The print edition included a large aerial photograph with all the property lines drawn in and owners' names and property values identified. Some owners are holding out for a much higher price, so a major eminent domain legal case appears inevitable. That may add another year to the constrution timetable.
After a five-month assessment, city planners have offered the property owners about $97 million for land that was assessed two years ago at $32 million. The city has given the property owners 30 days to respond or face eviction.
When Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) announced the arrival of a baseball team and plans for the stadium, his aides estimated land costs at $65 million. The city's chief financial officer, Natwar M. Gandhi, put the estimate at $77 million this spring in a report for the council.
The only homeowner living on the land designated for stadium use is Kenneth B. Wyban, who has renovated a Civil War-era house for possible use as a bed and breakfast establishment. As anyone who is familiar with the history of Griffith Stadium knows, however, the refusal of land owners to sell out can end up having unexpectedly net positive consquences. Hint! Since respect for property rights is one of the bedrock principles upon which our republican form of government is founded, there is a presumption in favor of the land owners. Unlike the New Haven vs. Kelo case in which a city government abused the right of eminent domain to benefit one set of private property owners at the expense of others (see my blog post of June 28), a baseball stadium does represent a clear, compelling public interest. It's not just for baseball.
Jeffrey Smulyan recently added some token minority partners to his prospective Washington Nationals franchise ownership group. In Saturday's Washington Post, Thomas Boswell expressed fears that Smulyan might get the franchise. He performed miserably as owner of the Seattle Mariners (1989-1992), blaming others for the lack of team success and threatening to relocate, but is a chum of the MLB honchos surrounding Bud Selig.
If the Nats aren't sold to owners with deep Washington-area roots, especially since groups including Zients-Malek and the Lerner family are willing to hit baseball's $450 million price tag, then the Council has every right to think about doing a major refurbishment of RFK Stadium rather than take the risk of spending $535 million on a new park on the Anacostia River.
I heartily agree. RFK Stadium would obviously not be adequate as a permanent home for the Nats, but given the way Washington has been hosed so badly by the MLB-Orioles cabal, there's no reason not to stretch out their tenancy there for another two or three years for leverage purposes, pending a better deal and/or a fitting ownership group.
September 25, 2005 [LINK]
Review: Bang the Drum Slowly
I just saw the 1973 movie Bang the Drum Slowly for the first time, and truly enjoyed it. The title comes from a slow-paced mournal folk song, and the sight of a baseball player strumming a guitar in a locker room was certainly novel. The basic plot is a familiar one: A promising young player is struck down in the prime of his life by an incurable illness. In this case it's Hodgkin's Disease. Unlike most other such movies, you learn about the impending tragedy in the very first scene. It stars a young and wiry Robert De Niro, who plays the part of the catcher who tries to hide his illness from everyone but his teammate, the pitcher who is played by Michael Moriarty. Gradually more and more players find out, and everyone is caught in the dilemma of whether to help the ailing player to feel like everything is normal, or to express sympathy. How do you treat terminally ill people? The agony suffered by De Niro's character is interwoven with the ups and downs of the team during its pennant race: The "New York Mammoths" play against Baltimore as well as Pittsburgh in this pre-interleague era, so there are no connections to any teams or leagues from real life. Those alternate-universe sports movies grate on me a little bit, I'm afraid. There are a fair number of action scenes of games being played, but they mostly gloss over the drama of the particular game situations, a minor shortcoming. It's one of the few sports movies that a female companion is likely to appreciate, and that alone makes it worthwhile.
The movie credits state that the game action scenes were filmed in Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium -- in its last year before it was tragically remodeled. I don't believe any other New York team is identified in the movie, however, which makes me wonder whether the director expected the audience to recognize those well-known landmarks. In addition, there is a brief "cameo appearance" by RFK Stadium, in a rained-out game with the tarp being pulled over the diamond. (That reminds me of the April 30 game!) That scene showed very clearly the large scoreboard in right field. Based on this movie, I have updated the Movies section of the Civic religion page.
Mets sweep Nats
Just a week ago, when visions of an inaugural-year pennant still danced in their heads, the Nationals swept the Mets in three games at Shea stadium. Today the Mets got their revenge, doing likewise at RFK Stadium, as Mike Piazza got two home runs. At least this game provided lots of exciting back-and-forth action. Interestingly, both the winning pitcher (Juan Padilla) and losing pitcher (Travis Hughes) were charged with blown save opportunities. Rookie Ryan Zimmerman started in the cleanup position for the first time, but went 0 for 5, bringing his average down to .412, from .483 yesterday.
End of an era in N.Y.?
In their final home series of the regular season, the Yankees completed a sweep of the Blue Jays today. Given the (remote ) possibility that they might not make it to the postseason, and given the fact that their veteran centerfielder's contract is about to expire, this just might be Bernie Williams' final game in pin stripes! See MLB.com. Bernie's one of those unassuming, unsung heroes of the 1990s championship teams, like Tino Martinez. He would be sorely missed. The Yankees head to Baltimore and the Red Sox host the Blue Jays, and then the two rivals will face each other in Beantown to close out the season...
UPDATE: "What if?"
Given the tight races in the AL East, AL Central, and both leagues' wild card spots, it is interesting to ponder some of the strange scenarios that might arise in case of a tie or ties after the final regular season games are played next Sunday. See MLB.com.
September 24, 2005 [LINK]
Into the home stretch
As we head into the final week, most teams have seven games left to play. The National League postseason slots now are almost all decided: the Phillies lost to the Reds and are now two games behind the Astros in the wild card race. Things are much more interesting in the American League: The Red Sox pulled even with Yankees tonight, and the White Sox are barely managing to stay ahead of the Indians, who are on a veritable war path. Which of those four teams will fall short in the race for October? I haven't a clue. There was one more come-from-behind team last night: the LAnaheim Angels, who beat the Devil Rays 7-5 after falling to a 5-3 deficit. That pretty much locks up the AL West title. By the end of the week, the Baseball Archives will be reorganized to permit easier comparisons of each successive year's playoff scores with each other.
The future looks bright for the Nationals
Just try not to pay attention to the gloomy present! When was the last time a team scored five runs in the first inning before the first out?? That was all the Mets needed for the rest of the game, beating the Nats by the same score as yesterday: 5-2. Having lost six of their last seven games, the Nationals are now only one game above .500, and a half game ahead of the last-place Mets. Once again, Washington's lineup tonight consisted entirely of rookies and reservists, except for pitcher Livan Hernandez and (possibly) Cristian Guzman, who is on a "warm streak." Those rookies are, in fact, the team's bright side: Future star Ryan Zimmerman (U.Va.!) got three more hits in tonight's game, and is currently batting an astronomical .483 in 29 at bats. His former team mate from the New Orleans Zephyrs, minor league journeyman Rick Short, is batting .400.
Perhaps some ball players, and even aging wannabes like yours truly, take the spiritual angle of baseball a little too seriously. Last Sunday, the Washington Post ran an article about the Christian evangelizing in which Washington Nationals outfielder Ryan Church and pitcher Matt Cepicky have been engaged. It seemed pretty innocuous and upbeat; "Green Cathedrals," indeed! Many pro sports teams these days include groups of born-again Christians who pray together, which makes some people uncomfortable. A couple days later, however, Church had to apologize for saying that Jews are headed for eternal damnation; see Washington Post. Even if the person is being totally sincere, expressing such an exclusionary belief in public is not consistent with working in a line of business that serves or entertains the general public.
September 23, 2005 [LINK]
Another corporate name switch
The ever-increasing mega-mergers between corporate behemoths in our fair republic makes things confusing for customers, and for sports patrons in particular. "What stadium did you say they were playing in? Who the heck are 'Network Associates'?" As a result of the recent merger of Bank One and J.P. Morgan-Chase & Co., the Arizona Diamondbacks today unveiled the new name of their stadium: "Chase Field." Goodbye, "BOB." For details, see MLB.com.
Palmeiro beats rap, takes hike
One day after criminal charges against Rafael Palmeiro were dropped, the Baltimore Orioles told him to pack up and leave. According to the Washington Post, "The abrupt end to Palmeiro's season came one day after it was learned that he cited a vitamin he received from teammate Miguel Tejada as possibly causing the positive steroid test." So, what's worse, a player on dope or a player on dope who helps identify other players who are on dope? Talk about a moral conundrum. And what does this say about team spirit in the Steroid Era?
Estadio Monterrey corrections
Thanks to a new visitor to this site, Eduardo Sauceda, I've learned a few things about Estadio Monterrey, and about baseball in Mexico. It turns out there are in fact luxury suites at ground level, as well as behind the last rows of the first and second decks. Also, the diagram may understate the size of the second (middle) deck. (The photos I relied upon weren't that great.) Finally, baseball is not as popular in Monterrey as it used to be, contrary to my earlier impression.
UPDATE: Night of big comebacks
The pennant races are really heating up, at least in some quarters. Atlanta was behind the Marlins 3-0, and then scored 4 runs in the bottom of the eighth, going on to win. The Fish are cooked. The rival Phillies were ahead by five runs in the middle of the fifth, playing in Cincinnati, and then the Reds scored nine runs in the next three innings, after which the Phillies scored five runs in the top of the ninth to win 11-10. Finally, the Nationals were behind 2-0 after eight innings, and then tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with a heroic clutch home run by veteran reservist Carlos Baerga, who is usually Just Average. It doesn't matter any more in terms of postseason hopes, but it was still nice show of spirit. Then Gary Majewski foolishly pitched to Carlos Beltran in the top of the tenth, and a three-run homer put the Mets on top for good, 5-2. Once again, ughhhh! The Cubs' timely win (as spoilers) over the Astros means that the Phillies are now only one game back in the wild card race. It's been a few years since they've made it to the postseason, and I wouldn't mind seeing them advance, except for the fact that I saw them beat the Nationals not once but twice this year. The Yankees and Red Sox both won tonight, remaining neck and neck. I wonder how much it would cost to see one of the games between those two rivals up at Fenway Park next weekend?
September 23, 2005 [LINK]
The British are coming!
Neil Young's words "Rock and roll will never die" were never put to a more strenuous a test as when the Rolling Stones launched their tour in support of their new album A Bigger Bang. [Thus far, I've only heard a snippet of their controversial anti-Bush administration song "Sweet Neo-con." More on that later.] They began their tour on August 21 at Fenway Park, and are playing at several other baseball stadiums, including Comerica Park, Angel Stadium in Anaheim, PNC Park, Petco Park, and SBC Park, as well as the Foro Sol in Mexico City next February. (The latter is actually a multiple-use venue.) They are scheduled to play at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville on October 6, and Jacqueline and I are really looking forward to it, albeit warily. The last two times I bought concert tickets, for Fleetwood Mac and Shawn(a) Colvin, the shows were cancelled!
September 21, 2005 [LINK]
For the first time in months, there is a brand new stadium page: Estadio Monterrey, which is ordinarily home of the Monterrey (Mexico) Sultanes, but also served as the venue for three major league games in August 1996 and one game (Opening Day) in April 1999. On the latter occasion, Mexican sports hero Vinny Castilla played there; he was then with the Rockies. Many thanks to Bruce Orser for research assistance, once again, and also to reliable tipster Steven Poppe. I have moved and reformatted the information on Latin American baseball from the Latin America Culture page to a new page: Latin American leagues. It is still far from complete, however.
Pennant contenders & also-rans
After twice battling back from three-run deficits, the Braves gave up a grand slam (hit by Ryan Howard) in the tenth inning, losing to the Phillies, 10-6. That scenario is something Washington fans can relate to: "We feel your pain." I don't think anyone is going to catch Atlanta, until the playoffs, that. Without a full pitching rotation, I don't see how they can get past the first round. Even though the divisional titles in the National League are pretty much decided, on the American side the races in all three divisions are getting tighter all the time. The ongoing Indians-White Sox series is a classic matchup between two very worthy teams. There were some unusually high scoring games yesterday: The Rockies beat the Padres (who had just ruined the Nationals' playoff hopes) 20-1. It's sad to see the Rockies alone in the cellar, ending another disappointing year after getting off to such a great start back in 1993. The front office needs to make some big changes to recharge the once-high fan enthusiasm in Denver; I just hope they don't overdo the hokie promotions. Also last night, the Red Sox beat the Devil Rays 15-2; the Red Sox should have saved up some of that energy for tonight, as they just lost to the Devil Rays, falling behind the Yankees for the first time in months. The Devil Rays have had almost no respect throughout their brief eight-year existence, in spite of playing in one of the most brutally competitive divisions, but at least they held their own during the latter part of the season.
It's over for the Nats
After Barry Bonds hit home run number 707 in the first inning tonight, there wasn't much the Nationals could look forward to. Ace pitcher John Patterson gave up an uncharacteristically high five runs in seven innings, as the Nats batters only scored one run. At least they managed a couple of hits in the bottom of the ninth. Having struggled on the fringes of the post-season quest since their monumental collapse in July, the Nationals are finally out of contention. But who would have thought back in April that they would still be in the thick of it with only two weeks left in the regular season? The Nationals rank a decent ninth place in terms of team ERA, but have the lowest team batting average in the majors, .252. If they can just keep their win-loss record above .500 until the end, we can call this historic season for D.C. baseball an unqualified success. I hope the former Expos' devoted fans up in Montreal don't lose interest in the sport. There may be room for franchise expansion a few years down the road...
September 20, 2005 [LINK]
Nats blow late-inning lead again
For all the media hoopla surrounding the return of Barry Bonds, I would have thought there would have been a bigger crowd at RFK Stadium tonight. Attendance was only a little above average, however: 32,403. Before the game, Bonds deflected reporters' questions about the steroid investigations by saying that Congress has more important things to deal with, such as disaster victims. Good point, Barry! Go hide behind some distraught homeless family while you rake in your megabucks salary. In the fourth inning, Bonds exchanged words with a hostile fan, and then unleashed his anger by smashing his 706th career home run, which landed in the seventh row of the upper deck in right field. Nats' starter Livan Hernandez only gave up two other hits and one walk through the first eight innings, another masterful performance. As usual, however, he got measly run support and clung to a precarious one-run lead going into the climactic ninth inning. Hernandez walked Omar Vizquel and Bonds, and then gave up a three-run homer to former Expo (!) Moises Alou. Ughhh... Just like their previous two games, the Nationals gave up the lead in the late innings, but this time they came roaring back in the bottom of the ninth, loading the bases with only one out after Vinny Castilla doubled and two others got bases on balls. Rookie pinch hitter Ryan Zimmerman hit an RBI sac fly to close the gap to one run, and Brad Wilkerson hit a long fly ball to left field that Todd Linden just barely snagged while diving into the warning track dirt. It was only a matter of inches between a game-winning double and the final out. So, once again, the Nationals snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, falling to five games behind the Astros in the wild card race. You gotta give them credit for fighting till the end, however. You won't find many teams that have endured as many agonizing twists of fate as the Washington Nationals have, and still played hard in the next game. The Nats are a true class act.
As their roller-coaster inaugural baseball season draws to a close, Washington fans can at least draw solace from the football game in Dallas last night. I stepped away from the television for a few minutes in the fourth quarter when the Redskins were behind 13-0, and when I returned the score was 14-13. Huh??? The last time they beat the Cowboys on their home field was ten years ago!
September 19, 2005 [LINK]
Squabbles over new D.C. stadium
To the surprise of no one who has any first-hand knowledge of local politics in Our Nation's Capital, the process of selecting a design of the future home of the Washington Nationals has gotten bogged down in a classic bureaucratic turf war. The mayor, various city council members (some of whom are running for mayor), as well as officials of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission are all trying to assert authority over the final design. Long-time baseball booster Jack Evans objected loudly when he saw an artist's rendering that lacked clear views of the Capitol dome. Good for him! One problem is that anticipated development of the South Capitol Street corridor will result in blocked views of the D.C. skyline, but the city already has ordinances on the books limiting building height in Washington, for aesthetic reasons, so there is no reason why they can't pass a special ordinance for that zone. See Washington Post. All these delays will make it very hard to finish construction of the new ballpark in time for the 2008 season, as is hoped. The impending sale of the franchise will also be held up, because MLB officials have stipulated that a stadium lease must be signed before the Nationals will be sold. One thing's for sure: D.C. officials are not going to be nearly as slow as MLB officials were during the last few years when negotiations over relocating the former Montreal Expos were repeatedly stalled for no good reason!
Busch Stadium's final days
The Cardinals' front office is busy preparing for yet another postseason run, having clinched a berth before any other contenders, but they've also got a lot of logistical work ahead of them as they prepare to evacuate the existing Busch Stadium, which will be demolished as soon as possible after the season ends. The contractors no doubt hope the Cardinals don't go all the way to the World Series, because that would pinch their already-tight construction schedule for the new Busch Stadium (number III) even tighter. It has been decided, for safety reasons, to use a conventional wrecking ball rather than explosives. That will be disappointing to the fans who signed up for a special lottery in which the winner was going to throw the demolition switch on "D-Day." A seating diagram can be found at the end of a lengthy New ballpark season ticket brochure (PDF). I like the field layout, bullpen placement, and the orientation of the diamond with the Gateway Arch beyond center field, but am not too crazy about the unnecessarily disjointed grandstand sections and the excessive number of decks (four, plus skybox levels). The dimensions of the third incarnation of "Busch Stadium" will be ordinary down the lines (335/336) and in straightaway center field (400), but will be quite deep in the power alleys (390 feet on both sides). (Hat tip to Mike Zurawski.)
Thanks to Steven Poppe for reminding me that "Cinergy Field" (the name given to Riverfront Stadium in its latter years) had a grass field during the last two seasons the Reds played there, 2001-2002. That diagram has been corrected.
September 18, 2005 [LINK]
Padres deflate Nats' sails
The trite cliche "That's gotta hurt" never had more meaning than it did for the Washington Nationals yesterday in San Diego. With a four-game winning streak behind them, leading by a comfortable margin of 5-0 in the bottom of the ninth, with every expectation of sailing ahead in the National League wild card race, Frank Robinson abruptly pulled rookie reliever Jason Bergman, and all hell broke loose. Robinson stands by his decision (see MLB.com), but this seems to be another case of shaky managerial confidence in the team's bullpen. Not exactly inspiring. The Padres proceeded to piece together a two-out rally, and a grand slam by Khalil Greene tied the score, sending the game into extra innings. Just like on the previous Saturday against the Braves, the usually rock-solid closer Chad Cordero blew a precious save opportunity. Finally, in the 12th inning, Ramon Hernandez hit a three-run homer to end the game -- again, with two outs. Such an awful, ill-timed reversal of fortune is exactly the kind of thing that can put an end to a team's postseason hopes. In today's game, Esteban Loaiza pitched seven shutout innings, but the Nationals could only manage a single run, and the Padres pulled ahead toward the end, winning 2-1. The Nationals have shown they are capable of bouncing back after enduring similar traumas, and there is no reason why they can't do so once again. Nevertheless, since they are now 4 1/2 games behind the Astros in the wild card race, my estimation of their chances of making it to the postseason has now fallen to just two percent. (Go ahead, call me an optimist.) With exactly two weeks to go, the proverbial "fat lady" has left the dressing room and is heading toward the stage...
By far the hottest team in baseball this month has been the Indians, who have pulled to within 3 1/2 games of the complacently coasting White Sox. The Yankees are closing in on the Red Sox, meanwhile, and the tension between those two ancient rivals is raised to a Fever Pitch (!) by the very real possibility that one of them will not make it to the playoffs this year. In such a case, baseball television ratings in October would suffer a big drop.
UPDATE: Fenway fixup
A visitor to this site, Sean, told me that the Save Fenway Park folks think their proposed addition of a large second deck to their beloved sports palace could be done without forcing the Red Sox out of town if they were to move the diamond to the right field corner and rotate it. So, I've added a modified diagram to the Fenway Park page to show such a possibility, and it's ver-r-ry int-er-esting...
September 17, 2005 [LINK]
Nationals beat Padres
Having recovered from a bout with bronchitis, John Patterson was back to his usual top form in San Diego Friday night, giving up only three hits in nine full innings. Unlike the wild Thursday game with the Mets, the Nationals only substitued the second base position, and none of the red-hot rookies played this time. Cristian Guzman, who has been improving as a batter lately, hit a double and a triple, with three RBIs, which were all the Nats needed. Final score: Nats 5, Padres 1. Guzman is now batting .207, a marked improvement from earliery in the season. Maybe he'll work out after all. (Mr. Bowden sure hopes so.) The D.C. crew is keeping pace with Houston, remaining 2 1/2 games behind in the wild card race. Meanwhile, the Phillies beat the Marlins, and are now in second and third place respectively in the wild card race. Need I remind anyone that a wild card team has won the last three World Series?
Riverfront Stadium update
The Riverfront Stadium (a.k.a. "Cinergy Field") page now has a dynamic diagram that shows the football configuration as well as the unusual "semi-demolished" configuration of 2001-2002 while the Reds' new home, Great American Ballpark, was under construction. I'm having a hard time finding hard information about Monterrey Stadium (supposed to be "on deck"), which until last year was being considered as one of the alternative home fields of the former Montreal Expos. It's very modern, at least by Mexican standards, and has three decks, with a capacity of 27,000.
September 15, 2005 [LINK]
Nationals sweep the Mets
For the first time since one month ago (when they beat the Rockies), the Nationals have swept an opponent in a three-game series. Cliff Floyd's fifth-inning line drive grand slam to right field in Shead Stadium put the Mets on top, but a ninth-inning error by 2nd baseman Kazuo Matsui allowed the Nats to tie the game, and a clutch RBI single by Vinny Castilla in the tenth gave the edge to Washington. Final score: 7 to 6. Now just 2 1/2 games behind in the wild card race, the Nationals are flying west to San Diego, which was the last team to sweep the Nationals -- in Washington! -- earlier in August. Next week the Giants play at RFK Stadium for the first time ever. I wonder what kind of reception the newly activated (and presumably clean) Barry Bonds will get. In tomorrow's (Friday) Washington Post, Thomas Boswell marvels that the Nationals, who have been written off by most experts several times already this season, have returned from the dead," and may just be in the thick of a fierce showdown with the Astros, Marlins, and/or Phillies at the end of the month.
Sale of Nationals is near
According to the Washington Post, Major League Baseball has sent formal contracts to the eligible bidders for the Washington Nationals franchise. This raises the remote but real possibility that the team could have its own owners by the end of the regular season, which would avoid the awkwardness of to whom the National League pennant should be awarded to. The sale price is expected to be about $450 million. I wonder what this franchise would have been worth if the former Montreal Expos had been relocated to Portland, Las Vegas, San Juan, Norfolk, or Monterrey, Mexico?
New photos from RFK
Some new photos from my recent trip to Washington, in which I saw the Nationals lose to the Phillies, are posted on the RFK Stadium page. Of particular amusement to some folks will be the guy with the T-shirt that says, "Mr. Angelos Screws the Nationals," referring to the Orioles-controlled Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. I have also used some new digital tricks to enhance the clarity of existing photos on that page and other stadium pages.
September 14, 2005 [LINK]
Vote for "Latino Legends"
In recognition of Latino Heritage Month, and implicitly, the absence of any Latinos on the "All Century team," MLB is inviting baseball fans to choose a "Latino Legends" team. See MLB.com. I was a little surprised at the paucity of retired Latino position players on the ballot, and the offsetting paucity of current Latino pitchers. Here are my picks:
- Catcher: Javy Lopez (PUERTO RICO)
- 1st base: Andres Galarraga (VENEZUELA)
- 2nd base: Rod Carew (PANAMA)
- 3rd base: Vinny Castilla (MEXICO)
- Shortstop: Alex Rodriguez (DOMINICAN REPUBLIC)
- Outfield: Vladimir Guerrero (DOMINICAN REPUBLIC)
- Outfield: Manny Ramirez, (DOMINICAN REPUBLIC)
- Outfield: Roberto Clemente, (PUERTO RICO)
- Pitcher: Pedro Martinez (DOMINICAN REPUBLIC)
- Pitcher: Juan Marichal (DOMINICAN REPUBLIC)
- Pitcher: Luis Tiant (CUBA)
- Relief pitcher: Mariano Rivera (PANAMA)
Nats hang on for dear life
After the crushing blow suffered in their 9-7 loss to Atlanta on Sunday, it was a good sign that they bounched right back and took the first two games from the Mets at Shea Stadium. Revealing the Nationals' desperate lack of healthy starting pitchers, Hector Carrasco filled that job on Tuesday, the first time he's done so since 2000, and he managed OK for four innings. Esteban Loaiza won his 11th game, and Chad Cordero racked up two more saves, and with 46 total now, he is once again firmly in the lead among major league relievers. The bullpen performed in the crunch both nights, holding the Mets to just five runs combined in the two games. The Nationals are now only three games out of first place in the NL wild card race, but the sad fact is that they have very little control over their own destiny, as their postseason hopes now depend on three very good teams losing most of the rest of their games. I give the Nats a five percent shot at making it.
Andruw leads sluggers
I probably should have paid tribute to Andruw Jones' amazing (if aggravating) burst of home run hitting during the Braves' visit to Our Nation's Capital. With a total of 49 thus far, he leads the rest of the majors by seven. If it weren't for his relatively low batting average (.275), he would have a shot at the triple crown. On the other hand, if he had hit a few fewer homers, the Cubs' phenomenon Derrek Lee would have been contending for the triple crown. (Sammy who?)
September 11, 2005 [LINK]
Nats can't keep up with Joneses
With Chad Cordero on the mound and holding a one-run lead, the Nationals were only one out away from sealing what would have been an even more triumphant comeback than on Friday night. John Smoltz totally dominated the Nats' batters for seven innings, and the Braves had built a 6-0 lead by the middle of the sixth inning, but the intermittently feisty D.C. crew scored two runs in the bottom of the inning (solo homers) plus an amazing five runs in the eighth, capped by a go-ahead RBI single by rookie Ryan Zimmerman. The Nationals were on the very threshold of glory, but then consecutive home runs by Chipper and Andruw Jones retook the lead in the top of the ninth, and pretty much put an end to the Nationals' postseason hopes this afternoon. They are only 4 1/2 games behind in the wild card race, but they the fact that they went 4-6 in this home stand does not bode well. Final score: Atlanta 9, Washington 7. I had another rare opportunity to see the Nationals on TV yesterday (they lost, 4-0), as the game was broadcast regionally by FOX Sports, but today's game cablecast by TBS was blacked out in Virginia, and presumably throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Boo-oo!
Washington wins, 9-7!
Ironically, the football game being played a few miles to the east at the very same time ended up with the very same score, except that the Washington Redskins came out on top, beating Da Bears. This was almost certainly the first time in history that regular season professional baseball and football games have been played on the same day in Washington (or its suburbs). Attendance at RFK Stadium was a respectable 31,834 ("announced," that is), while [90,138] attended the Redskins game at FedEx Field, adding up to over [120,000] combined. Since this was the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a commemorative "Freedom Walk" was held from the Pentagon to the Mall, adding to the traffic congestion in Our Nation's Capital.
L-o-n-g road trip: Saints overcome adversity
Perhaps the biggest game in the pro sports world today was the victory by the presently homeless New Orleans Saints over the host Carolina Panthers. If ever there was an opportunity for a professional sports team to rebuild a city's civic pride and confidence, this is it. The Saints do not expect the Superdome to be repaired in time for the end of the football season, and still do not know whether they will play any of their "home" games in a regional venue, such as San Antonio's Alamodome or Baton Rouge's Tiger Stadium on the LSU campus. More than likely, they'll play their entire 16-game schedule on the road. Washington is not among their opponents this year, however, even though both teams are in the NFC.
September 9, 2005 [LINK]
Do or die for the Nationals
The series against the Braves at RFK Stadium this weekend will be the acid test to see whether the Nationals are still up to the task of fighting for a postseason berth. Tonight's game got off to a bad start, as Esteban Loaiza allowed two runs in the top of the first, but the Nats responded with a run in the bottom of the inning, even without getting any hits! "Moral victories" in close games (such as August 20 against the Mets) and managing splits in series against tough opponents (such as two weeks ago against the Braves) are no longer good enough. The shaky start by John Halama on Wednesday and the unlikelihood that ailing Tony Armas will start again this season have exposed a major weak spot in the Nationals' arsenal: a thin rotation. In today's Washington Post, Thomas Boswell takes a hard look at the stiff uphill challenge facing the new darlings of Our Nation's Capital:
Looking back, after 141 games, it's almost certain that the flame was worth the candle. For many years, Washington's inaugural season will be remembered as a stunning success and the crowds at RFK Stadium, which surpassed expectations, will no doubt attract new ownership with deep pockets and big dreams. But the last 21 games of this season, unless the 72-69 Nationals summon all their remaining pride to finish above .500, may not be easy on the eyes.
UPDATE: The Nationals tied the game in the fourth inning, 2-2, but then the prodigious Andruw Jones hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning, creating a four-run lead that will be very hard for the low-run-producing Nats to erase. The proverbial "fat lady" is rehearsing in her dressing room...
UPDATE: It's "Do!" Oaxaca native Vinny Castilla homered (solo) in the seventh, and both Brad Wilkerson and Jose Guillen drove in two runs each with clutch doubles in the eighth inning, tying the game, and then taking the lead, 8-6. Reliable closer Chad Cordero got all three Braves batters out in the ninth inning, saving one of the most crucial games this season. O me of little faith! Once again, the Nationals are not dead yet!
Niece on TV in Denver?
If you happen to live where tonight's Diamondbacks-Rockies game at Coors Field is being broadcast, you may be able to see my sweetheart of a niece, Rachel, along with a group of Girl Scouts doing the pregame flag presentation ceremony. She's the cute redhead with freckles and glasses.
U.S. Cellular photos
Thanks to Bill Blake for sending more photos of U.S. Cellular Field, which is likely to see a lot of postseason action next month. I've also digitally tweaked the existing photos on that page, adding sharper definition.
UPDATE: Thanks to Ian Scott for letting me know that the center field bleachers in soon-to-be-demolished Busch Stadium (II) had actual bench seats, meaning that the quotation marks I had used around the word bleachers were inappropriate. There are a few other e-mail alerts I've received from helpful fans that I haven't gotten to yet, so thanks for your patience.
September 8, 2005 [LINK]
Astrodome: refuge from the deluge
Thanks to a freak meterological calamity unleashed by Mother Nature, the aging but once-ultramodern Astrodome is presently getting the most intensive use it has had since the Astros left after the 1999 season. Several thousand refugees from Hurricane Katrina have taken shelter there after the collapse of utility services and lack of police protection obliged authorities to move them to a safer location. In recognition of this unique role played by a former baseball (and football) stadium, I have revised the diagrams on the Astrodome page.
Wild card races heat up
I generally try to avoid thinking too much about the wild card standings until well into September, since diverting attention from the divisional races seems to undermine the sport's tradition. Now that Washington has lost three games in a row to the Florida Marlins, they are only three games above .500, and their chances of making the postseason are sinking fast. At the beginning of the season, a finish at or above .500 would have been considered a big success for the transplanted Nationals team, but after their magical hot streak in June put them in first place for over a month, we were hoping for a finish that was more than just "above average." The Phillies and Mets are also in the midst of losing streaks, leaving Houston (on the rebound from a mini-slump) and Florida as leading contenders for the "back door" route to the divisional playoff series.
In the American League wild card race, the Indians have pulled ahead of the Yankees, to the surprise of many. In contrast to Cleveland, the Yanks still have a good chance at winning their division. Pitcher Kevin Millwood (a former Brave) has been a big part of the Cleveland tribe's late upsurge this year. I'm sure those folks up on Lake Erie would love to get revenge on the Marlins for the 1997 World Series. But then the same goes for Bronx fans who want revenge for the 2003 series. With just over three weeks to go, however, both of the wild card races could turn around completely.
September 7, 2005 [LINK]
Marlins thrash Nationals
Tonight John Halama started, but he didn't even last a full inning. Frank Robinson must have been very impatient, as he changed pitchers almost every inning, but it didn't stop the flood of runs scored by the Marlins, who won 12-1. Dontrell Willis thus became the second pitcher this year to win 20 games, and he hit a single and double to boot, raising his batting average to .256, absurdly high for a pitcher. There were only two bright spots for the Nats in the game: a home run by Rick Short, the veteran minor league player who finished the season at New Orleans (!) with just under a .400 batting average. Also, Ryan Zimmerman played his first full game in the majors, playing at shortstop instead of third base. He got his second double of his brief career. This second straight loss puts the Nationals 3 1/2 games behind in the wild card race. Tomorrow the Nationals' best ace, John Patterson, starts against Josh Beckett. Yikes. Who the heck is Darrell Rasner? He was the Nationals' starting pitcher on Tuesday night, and he quickly gave up three runs to the Marlins, which was all they needed to win the game. Brad Wilkerson hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the (third) inning, a great sign of competitiveness, but there were hardly any hits after that, much less runs.
Is it just me, or have the Yankees been 3 1/2 games behind the Red Sox every day since the end of June? The schedule seems to favor the Yanks as the season's end draws near, but some of those games are against the Devil Rays, who have made an amazing resurgence since the All Star break, sweeping the Indians, Angels, and White Sox.
Fan Value Index
sportsillustrated.cnn.com analyzes which ballparks offer the best value to fans. It includes an odd assortment of criteria, only some of which coincide with my own. It refers to RFK Stadium as "a testament to classic '70s stadium architecture" -- huh? Try '60s. (hat tip to Brian Hughes)
Thanks to Gavin Dow, there are two new photos of that big tent in downtown Minneapolis, known as the Metrodome.
September 4, 2005 [LINK]
Nationals rebound, stay in race
While in Washington this past week, I managed to devote a few hours on Friday night to see the Nationals hosting the Phillies in the first game of the series. I had great seats near the front of the upper deck behind home plate, right on top of the action. The weather was perfect, just like the last time I was there on May 31, but unfortunately, the game did not go as well this time. David Bell's grand slam in the third inning opened a gap that was too big for the Nationals to fill, and they ended up losing 7-1. There was one bright, memorable moment, however: Ryan Zimmerman, the recent U.Va. graduate who was called up from the AAA New Orleans (!) Zephyrs this week, got his first big league hit, a double in the fifth inning. The next three batters were out on fly balls to the outfield, however. Ryan also made a fine defensive play at third base in the top of the fifth, nabbing a hard ground ball and starting a double play, the only one of the game. A very auspicious beginning for this likely future star! New photos of the game I saw at RFK Stadium should be posted here soon; one is of a guy sitting next to me with a T-shirt that denounces the Orioles' monopolistic TV enterprise known as MASN: "Mr. Angelos Screws the Nationals." He told me about yet another anti-Angelos Web site: takebacknatstv.com.
I caught the tail end of the Saturday night game on Channel 20, and it was a doozy! The Nats were ahead 4-1 going into the ninth, and then Chad Cordero uncharacteristically gave up two home runs, tying the game. In the twelveth, Brad Wilkerson scored from second on a short looping single hit by Preston Wilson beyond first base, winning the game 5-4, and earning whoops and loud cheers from the relieved fans. On Sunday afternoon, as my train headed south, the Nats got revenge for the Friday night loss by beating the Phillies 6-1, thanks to homers by Brian Schneider and Preston Wilson, whose blast went into the upper deck in left field. Now the Nats are only two games back in the wild card race. Attendance for this series was down slightly, but the fans' enthusiasm was quite high.
ABC ignores baseball in D.C.
The Washington Post reports that ABC filmed a scene of an episode of the forthcoming drama series Commander In Chief in which the president (Geena Davis) throws out the first pitch in Baltimore! Presidents have often carried out this Opening Day ritual in Baltimore in recent years, but anyone who knows anything about baseball should know that this joyous occasion belongs to the Capital City. Haven't those Hollywood moguls heard that there is a team playing in D.C. this year?
August 31, 2005 [LINK]
Nats on TV again!
With broadcast games on both Saturday and Sunday, you would think I would get to see the Nationals at least score a few runs, but no-ooo. Zip, zero, nada. The Cardinals blanked them 6-0 both days. Well, at least the Nationals won the first game of the series, so they weren't swept. The rare opportunity to see the Nats on TV highlights a new group of D.C. baseball fans with a Web site, iwantmynatstv.com. According to the Washington Post, however, this movement may be a front for satellite dish companies. The Nats' loss on Sunday was made slightly less painful by the losses of every other team contending for the NL wild card spot on Sunday. Katrina gave them an unscheduled day of rest on Monday, which may have helped them beat the Braves 3-2 on Tuesday. They're not dead yet!
D.C. stadium advances
The D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission has recommended that the City Council award the construction contract for the new stadium to a group led by the Clark Company. See Washington Post. The city recently made the legal steps to acquire the land from local owners. The only major obstacle seems to be a garbage disposal company.
I've finally finished the revised ("dynamic") diagrams for the Polo Grounds, sponsored by Phil Faranda. Sorry for the unscheduled hiatus; it may be a few more days before I update this Web blog again...
August 24, 2005 [LINK]
Robinson: Erase Palmeiro's stats
Nationals' manager Frank Robinson reported said that Rafael Palmeiro's batting statistics should be erased from the record books because all his accomplishments are tainted by the high likelihood of steroid use. He knows Palmeiro from his days in the Orioles' front office ten years ago. "Where do you go back, stop and say, 'OK, when did he started using steroids?' To eliminate all that, and get the players' attention, you wipe the whole thing out." See MLB.com. I tend to agree, and see no reason whatsoever to be lenient to Palmeiro, but MLB will have to come up with some clear-cut guidelines for handling players' records when drug use is an issue. The problem with threatening such a draconian penalty for performance-enhancing drug abuse is that players will be discouraged from confessing to past minor infractions, such as those "nutritional supplements," so how are they supposed to determine with any degree of confidence which players cheated their way up the career record lists, and which players were clean? MLB's ability to set a fair policy on baseball records will depend on whether most of the abusers are hard core steroid "junkies" who would never confess anyway, as opposed to the occasional users. Robinson has 586 career homers, to Palmeiro's 569.
Nats beat Reds
It was just like old times -- which is to say June -- at RFK Stadium tonight. John Patterson held the Reds to one run until the ninth inning, and after a home run closed to the gap to two runs, Chad Cordero came in and struck out two batters to finish the game, earning his 40th save. Vinny Castilla's double in the seventh inning (an actual rally!) added two insurance runs, which proved to be the deciding margin. It was good to see the veteran slugger perform in the clutch, after a long dry spell at the plate. He and Brad Wilkerson were batting way over .300 in April and May, but both are now below .250. After getting only four hits in their 6-2 loss to the Reds on Tuesday night, this win was a much-needed jolt of encouragement. If they don't win tomorrow's game, however, it would seem they don't stand much of a chance against the Cardinals, who come to town Friday.
UPDATE: It is rumored that recent U.Va. grad Ryan Zimmerman, who was drafted by the Nationals earlier this year and is now playing with the Harrisburg, PA farm club, may get called up to play in the majors for D.C. after the rosters expand in September. He would probably return to the minors next spring to refine his skills, but it would still be a thrill for him and for Nationals fans from the Old Dominion.
August 22, 2005 [LINK]
Home run statistics galore
Sunday's "Parade" magazine featured the work of David Vincent, a member of the Society of American Baseball Research who has created a massive database of all major league home runs ever hit. I learned, among other things, that the next time Julio Franco hits a home run, he will become the oldest player ever to do so. See parade.com (archive link will become active on August 29). I'm particularly curious about tape measure home runs, and have thought about including the approximate location and date for the longest home run ever hit at each stadium on the respective pages. Another SABR member, Bruce Orser, who provides me with lots of research tips, is also doing research on home runs, concentrating on those hit by Mickey Mantle.
Nats avert a sweep
After Saturday's heart-breaking extra-inning loss to the Mets, the question was whether the Nationals would maintain their fighting spirit or just give up. They proved my prediction correct in the Sunday afternoon game, getting six runs in the first inning. The Mets threatened to catch up in the ninth inning, thanks to a Buckneresque error by Nick Johnson at first base, but the Nats settled down and won it, 7-4. Tomorrow the Nats return home to RFK and begin a three game series against the Reds, followed by a three-game series against the dreaded Cardinals. Retired Reds infielder Barry Larkin is now working as a consultant for the Nationals, trying to fix Cristian Guzman's recent defensive woes. Too bad Larkin isn't playing at the shortstop position himself! His presence reflects the connection with Nats' Interim GM Jim Bowden.
Royals fans were greatly relieved that their team's losing streak came to an end just before it reached 20. Now they're on a two-game winning streak!
[UPDATE: The Cubs had a chance to take a big lead in tonight's game against the Braves, loading the bases with no outs, but only scored one run in that inning. The Nationals could have used some help in catching up to the Braves in the NL East (hey, it's still possible!), but the two home runs by Chipper Jones were all Atlanta needed to win, 4-2.]
Stadium page corrections
One of the frequent visitors to this site, Brian Hughes, was at the Sunday Mets-Nats game in Shea Stadium, and tells me that the noise from jets taking off from nearby LaGuardia Airport isn't as bad as I had indicated, so I've corrected that page, and raised my rating of Shea slightly. A new visitor, Ken Levin, questioned the position of the football gridiron in the diagram on the Memorial Stadium page. I know that in some years it was closer to the south side than is indicated in my diagram, whereas in the final years when the Ravens played there it was closer to the north side (ex-center field). If anyone knows for sure where the football gridiron usually was, please let me know. While I was at it, I made a few corrections to the text on that page as well.
August 20, 2005 [LINK]
Nationals go down fighting
After the Mets scored eight runs in the first three innings tonight, I was just about ready to call it a season, but when the Nationals finally got on the board with six runs in the seventh inning, I was convinced that this motley crew of immigrants from the Far North may just have some fight left in them after all. With two outs in the top of the ninth, Brian Schneider came through with a clutch 2-RBI double that almost cleared the fence in right center field. If it had been a foot or two higher, the Nats would have won the game. At least they went into extra innings. Cristian Guzman singled in the tenth and later advanced to third base with two outs, but then Nick Johnson swung at the first pitch and flied out. In the bottom of the tenth, pinch hitter Chris Woodward hit a grounder that just got by the shortstop Guzman (who seemed to lack hustle), and the winning run scored from second. Mets 9, Nats 8. It is hard to imagine a more anguishing outcome than this, which forces us to take refuge in philosophy: It is better to have fought and lost than never to have fought at all! Moral victory or not, this game at least restores some pride to the frustrated Nationals, making it more likely that they will stay in contention for the postseason at least into early September. The last-place Mets are now within a half game of the Nationals in the NL East, by far the toughest division in the majors.
Meanwhile, the NL West-leading Padres have beaten the Braves twice, climbing back to the .500 mark. I say again, there should only be two divisions in each league, and two wild card teams. The White Sox have now lost seven in a row, as the Yankees shut them out 5-0 this afternoon at U.S. Cellular Park. If the see-saw race between the Angels and the Athletics continues at this fervent pace, the AL wild card team may not come from the Eastern Division this year. The Indians and Twins are in contention for that spot as well.
I've redone the thumbnail images of the rest of the cookie-cutter "doughnut clone" stadiums to conform to the new standard. Rolling the mouse over the stadium names on the Baseball sitemap page reveals that a substantial majority of the thumbnail images are now properly aligned, which makes for much easier comparisons. While I was at it, I redid the full-size diagram of Tropicana Field as well, so it is now "up to standard." The Polo Grounds revisions, which involved more work, are almost complete.
August 19, 2005 [LINK]
Nats are still contenders
When the first four batters in the lineup get only one hit altogether, your team is probably not going to win the game. Thanks to a solid, gutsy pitching performance by John Patterson at Shea Stadium tonight, however, the Nationals had chances to at least tie it in the late innings. A runner on third base with one out in the eighth (Cristian Guzman, pinch running for Vinny Castilla) was wasted, and a potential rally-starting leadoff hit by Nick Johnson in the ninth was followed by Jose Guillen's GIDP. Mets 1, Nats 0. I hate to say it, but if they don't improve real soon, the team formerly known as the "One-Run Wonders" might just as well be called the "Wonder What Went Wrongs." With all that fan support, why in blazes can't one or two of their key players get into a groove of consistent hitting and get the rest of the team fired up once again? Well, at least they managed a split with the Phillies this week, thereby staying in the wild card race, just barely. Tuesday was their first rained-out game of the season, hence the afternoon makeup game as the first half of the double-header yesterday.
Talk about going down the toilet! Having lost 18 games in a row, the Kansas City Royals are offsetting the high winning percentage racked up by the team on the other side of Missouri. I sure hope it doesn't lead to further declines in fan support and attendance, as they have a lot to be proud of. It was 20 years ago this fall that they were World Champions...
August 14, 2005 [LINK]
Nationals sweep Rockies
The Nationals' 9-2 win over the Rockies today capped their first sweep since the series against the Cubs just before the All Star break. John Patterson got his seventh win of the season Combined with yesterday's 8-0 victory, it was their biggest two-game run total since May 6-7 in San Francisco. Ironically, the Nats only got two home runs in the series, confounding the expectation of easy long balls in Denver's mile-high atmosphere. See MLB.com. This trip was bittersweet for Vinny Castilla, who still resides with his family in Denver, where he played for most of his career. He said he would have stayed there if they had offered him more money. The Nationals have been in desperate need of something to turn things around as the final month approaches; maybe this series in Denver was it. Winning the NL East is now a very long shot, but the Nats are at least holding their own in the wild card race. Now they head to Philadelphia, and then on to Queens, New York to finish a challenging 13-game road trip.
In Houston on Wednesday, Livan Hernandez accomplished something rather unusual: He hit a home run and yet lost the game as a pitcher. I hope this doesn't add to his already high level of frustration over the lack of run support. Sorry for the lack of updates this past week. I've been occupied with a variety of other pursuits, and my Internet connection was on the fritz yesterday.
Pennant races heat up
The winning streaks chalked up by the Red Sox and Yankees recently point to yet another all-out war between the ancient rivals as September approaches. On the other coast, the race between the Angels and Athletics is likewise getting closer and tenser all the time. In the National League, the Cubs surprised a lot of folks by beating the Cardinals twice, but it would take a miracle for anyone to overcome the lead St. Louis has amassed. The same could almost be said for the Braves, who have built an aura of near-invincibility in their division (if not in their league) over the past 15 years. In the NL East, all the teams are currently above .500, whereas in the NL West, all the teams are below .500. Perhaps there should only be two geographic divisions in each league, and two wild card teams...
Sold to the chummiest bidder?
Saturday's Washington Post explored the murky world of how baseball franchises are sold, recalling the dismay in Boston when the Red Sox were sold to a group of out-of-towners led by John Henry. All indications are that close personal ties to Commissioner Selig have been the primary consideration, outweighing the amount of the bids. Selig says he hopes to decide on awarding the bid for ownership of the Nationals by the end of August, but if the past is any indication, this process could stretch on for many more months. I hope Fred Malek's group gets picked, since he has been working tirelessly to bring baseball back to Washington for two decades, and he deserves a lot of credit for the fact that it finally came to pass.
Nats fever: relapse?
That reminds me, amid all the glum talk about the Nationals' fading postseason prospects, let's put things in perspective and rejoice in the mere fact that baseball is being played in Our Nation's Capital at all! With far more games being played every year than any other pro sport, baseball is famous for all the amazing hot streaks and depressing slumps. Perhaps it's all for the best that Washingtonians are getting a taste of the variety of emotions that come with being a major league city. Anything could happen in the next seven weeks...
Odds 'n ends
Many thanks to Fritz Roberson for sending me excellent panoramic interior and exterior photos of Dodger Stadium, SBC Park, and Miller Park. They have been added to those pages, greatly enhancing them. (The one of Dodger Stadium has been retouched slightly.) I do accept stadium photos for use on my pages, and I always credit the photographer.
Thanks to Richard Morscher for letting me know it was Josh Gibson (not "Howard") who was said to have hit a baseball out of Yankee Stadium. I was told by Bruce Orser a few weeks ago that some of the eyewitnesses to that blast acknowledged that the ball didn't actually leave the stadium but did, they say, sail over the front corner of the upper deck in left field and hit the wall behind the bullpen. Another mystery that will never be known for sure... Coincidentally, Alex Rodriguez hit a monster 485-foot home run that sailed way back into that same area, where an elliptical exit ramp now stands.
Thanks to Mike Zurawski for letting me know about recently unveiled plans for a new home for the Oakland Athletics. See SFGate.com. It would be located a couple blocks north of the existing Coliseum. I like the big roof, the Wrigleyesque triangular bleachers, and the Tigeresque curved grandstand in the right field corner. They seem to be emulating San Diego's PETCO Park by integrating existing buildings into the stadium design.
August 10, 2005 [LINK]
Nats win by one run!!!
For the first time in over a month (July 8, to be exact), the Washington Nationals won a game by a one-run margin, beating the Astros Tuesday night, 6-5. Brandon Watson, who was just called up from the AAA New Orleans Zephyrs, hit a home run in his very first game in the major leagues. (True, it just barely cleared the 315 mark in left field at Minute Maid Park, but who cares?) Watson started in left field, and played the whole game, also hitting a single. He replaces Matt Cepicky, who was "designated for assignment." (What an awful euphemism.) Brian Schneider, Brad Wilkerson, and Vinny Castilla also got homers for the Nats. See the Nationals' Web site. Interestingly, John Patterson didn't pitch nearly as well as he did against the Dodgers last week, but he did hit a single and later scored a run that proved to be the deciding margin.
Stadium architecture scrutinized
Monday's Washington Post detailed the process by which HOK architect Joseph Spears is putting together a plan for the future home of the Nationals. Whereas the original idea was to have the stadium pointed southeast toward the Anacostia River, now most people agree that it would be better to have it oriented toward the northeast, so that the Capitol dome would be visible beyond left field. Only folks sitting in the right field corner upper deck would be able to see the Washington Monument, however, and I still think the stadium should be oriented straight north. One good aspect of the tentative layout is that the stadium would be wedged in between South Capitol Street and Potomac Avenue, which would create a meaningful constraint on the shape of the grandstand, much like at Forbes Field or Ebbets Field.
August 7, 2005 [LINK]
Nationals get swept at home
When I saw the second-stringers in the starting lineup today, I knew that Frank Robinson was mad at his erstwhile star players. It's time to regroup -- again. The Nationals' lineup has been shuffled like a deck of cards this year, but Robinson normally leaves that decision up to his bench coach. No matter, the Padres shut out their hapless hosts at RFK Stadiium today, thereby going above .500 for the first time in at least two weeks. (And they're the division leader in the NL West!) According to MLB.com, "the Nationals are the first team in Major League history to win as many as 12 straight one-run games and lose as many as 12 [now 13!] consecutive one-run games." Thanks to David Eckstein's grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning, St. Louis beat Atlanta 5-3, so the Nationals didn't fall any further behind first place, though they now share second place with Florida.
New stadium progress
Last week Mayor Williams gave his consent to the tentative $246 million deal under which Deutschbank will finance construction of the new stadium in Southeast Washington. A special "ballpark zone" has been created in that area for planning and building permit purposes. Groundbreaking? We haven't even seen a solid design proposal yet. This project will take years and years to complete...
August 6, 2005 [LINK]
PNC Park revision
The crown jewel of the Allegheny River, PNC Park, now has a revised diagram that conforms to the new standard. That page is sponsored by Mark London, and marks the completion of the revisions for all three Pittsburgh baseball stadiums on this site. (I plan to tackle Exposition Park, the Pirates home at the turn of the 20th Century, in future months.) On deck: the Polo Grounds, sponsored by Phil Faranda. Just a reminder to folks who are interested in seeing updates to any one of the existing stadium pages: Sponsorships ($10 per page for individuals, and $8 for additional pages) are more than welcome. I know some folks are leery of PayPal, but I have had zero problems with them, and no one has reported any problems to me. Just do it!
My apologies to anyone whose e-mail messages I've failed to acknowledge recently. It's been another busy cycle for me lately, but hopefully I'll get caught up with all that very soon.
Let there be lights!
The Stadiums by class now lists the years when all of the early-20th Century baseball stadiums first had lights for night games. Those respective pages also list those years, as well. Among other updates are new thumbnail diagrams for several more stadiums. Nearly all of them should be revised in this way within the next week or so, but the full-size diagrams, alas, will take much longer...
Another one-run loss
All was going well in the middle innings last night, as the Nationals took a 5-4 lead, and then the bullpen fell apart, allowing San Diego to tie the game in the eighth and pull one run ahead in the ninth. That made the twelveth straight one-run-margin game that the Nats have lost. They were perhaps lucky that they didn't lose by a bigger margin, as the Padres racked up 16 hits, 12 of which were given up by Livan Hernandez. Livan threw his coat and glove in anger after being taken out of the game by Frank Robinson, even though the Nats were still ahead at that point. Such temper tantrums are not a good sign.
Playoff preview in St. Louis
The Nats remained 4 1/2 games behind the Braves, thanks to the 11-3 walloping inflicted upon them by the Cardinals last night. The Braves got their revenge today, winning 8-1, helped by two more home runs by the phenomenal Andruw Jones, one of which was a grand slam. On the FOX broadcast today, Joe Buck mentioned that the New Busch Stadium will still be under construction when the Cardinals begin playing there next year. The portion in left field (which overlaps the first base side of the present Busch Stadium) is supposed to be finished by July. We'll see.
August 4, 2005 [LINK]
Grand Slam: Nats win a series!
Are the dark days finally over? Topped off by Brad Wilkerson's grand slam in the eighth inning (the team's first grand slam since they moved to Washington), the Nationals trounced the Dodgers at home in RFK Stadium tonight, 7-0. The amazing John Patterson threw 13 strikeouts (accounting for every single player in the Dodgers' starting lineup), going the full nine innings. [What's more, he gave up only four hits and zero walks! Patterson had thrown ten strikeouts against the Astros on July 24, but still lost the game, 4-1.] This was the first time the Nats have shut out an opponent since July 19, the first time they have scored as many as seven runs since July 8, and was their biggest margin of victory since May 22! This the first series that the Nationals have won since early July, when they swept the Cubs at Wrigley. Tonight's huge victory was exactly the kind of tonic the Nationals needed to shake off those demons of July and resume the pursuit of the Braves for the lead in the NL East. How sweet it is!
More revised diagrams
The 1912 version diagram on the Fenway Park page has been revised based on new photos sent to me by Bruce Orser. As a preview of what's in store on this Web site for future months, I have revised the thumbnail diagrams for all of the "Classic Era" (1909-1915) ballparks to conform to the new standard with home plate at a consistent location, and center field at the top. You can readily compare those mini-diagrams on the Diagram introduction, which has been expanded with a more elaborate explanation.
Orioles fire Mazzilli
[UPDATE] Baltimore Manager Lee Mazzilli was fired today, getting the blame for his team's downward spiral since mid-June. Under Sam Perlozzo (ex-bench coach) as interim manager, the Orioles managed to beat the Angels in Anaheim today, 4-1. Mazzilli's dismissal is too bad, because the team had gotten off to such a great start early in the season, dominating all rivals. Owner Peter Angelos had refrained from dismissing other recent managers in the middle of the season, so he is obviously very annoyed by his team's declining fortunes. See MLB.com. I hope this doesn't mean he will become even more intransigent in negotiations over television rights and other issues related to the Nationals.
August 2, 2005 [LINK]
Rafael Palmeiro suspended
News that Rafael Palmeiro has been suspended for ten days for violating MLB's new substance abuse policy came as a huge shock, especially since he made such an emphatic, finger-pointing denial when he testified before Congress in March. See MLB.com
I went in front of Congress and I was honest with Congress. There's no absolute reason for me to do anything at this stage of my career. There's nothing for me to gain and everything for me to lose. I knew I was approaching 3,000 hits. I was not about to put everything on the line, my reputation and everything that I've worked for so hard in my life to do anything like this. It just makes no sense.
Indeed, it makes no sense at all, which is why we should hesitate before judging. It is within the realm of possibility -- but not very likely -- that the test was a false positive, or that Palmeiro did not know what he was ingesting. But then again, many people said it was absurd to imagine that President Clinton would compromise himself by getting involved with an intern. People with big egos often do reckless things, believing themselves to be above the rules of normal society. Today another player received a suspension for drug abuse: Ryan Franklin of the Seattle Mariners. It all reminds me of the Bart Simpson excuse routine:
- I didn't do it.
- You can't prove I did it.
- I didn't do it on purpose.
- So what, everybody does it!
Mensis horribilis for the Nats
Queen Elizabeth II called 1992 the "Annus horribilis" (horrible year) because of the breakup of Charles and Di's marriage and other royal scandals. Likewise, the horrible month of July 2005 for the Nationals will go down as one of the darkest episodes in team history, going from 5.5 games ahead in the NL East to 5 games behind first place. Contrary to what was expected before the season began, the team's pitching has been much better than their batting. Compared to the rest of the major league teams, the Nats had the worst statistics in the categories of runs, batting average, home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and strikeouts; they were 28th out of 30 in hits. Just wait till next month! Oops, never mind: They just lost to the Dodgers 5-4, their twelvth straight loss in a game decided by one run.
To my surprise, the Nationals did not make any last-minute trades as the waiver-clearing deadline passed. GM Jim Bowden said the other teams were asking too much in return, and he didn't want to sacrifice the team's future potential just to grab some hot talent. It's probably for the best; it would have been awful if John Patterson or one of their other young stars-in-the-making had been let go. I still don't understand why the keep Cristian Guzman as a regular in the starting lineup when Jamey Carroll is available.
Forbes Field feedback
I received much helpful input about the revisions to the Forbes Field diagram(s), especially from Bruce Orser and Mark London, who sponsors that page. I now know that the monument was a few feet to the right of straightaway center field, but the distance marker was at least 40 feet to the right, and I suspect it was quite inaccurate. (Such a thing is not unheard of; the power alley markers at RFK Stadium were found to be inaccurate and had to be moved 40+ feet recently.) I may need to make a couple other minor adjustments on those diagrams in the near future, after I've sifted through all the new photos and data. As an aside, Bruce sent me this intersting link: roadtripamerica.com
July 30, 2005 [LINK]
Forbes Field: my favorite
The Forbes Field page (sponsored by Mark London) has been revised with a "dynamic diagram," showing four distinct phases. From a close examination of numerous photographs, in print and online, I have concluded that the universally accepted original left field dimension at Forbes Field (360 feet) is wrong. In at least three photographs from the early years, one can see that the left field foul pole is at the front edge of the bleacher section, at least 20 feet from the end. I estimate that the actual left field distance in 1909 was about 325 feet. As it happens, there is a historical preservation campaign in Pittsburgh to restore the remaining portion of the brick wall that used to mark the edge of center field in Forbes Field. See post-gazette.com.
Being full of eager optimism in the inaugural season of the new team of my former home city, I said the Nationals had hit rock bottom on July 23. Hah! Since then they have lost six straight games, and are struggling just to hold on to second place. After four consecutive one-run margins of defeat, today's 3-0 loss almost came as a relief. John Patterson pitched very well for the most part today, but two of the Marlins' runs came on his wild pitches. On the bright side, in only two games this month have the Nationals' opponents have scored more than five runs. Unfortunately, it has been two weeks since the Nats themselves scored that many. Meanwhile, the formerly dominant Baltimore Orioles have fallen behind the Blue Jays and are now in fourth place. So much for the chances of a "Parkway Series"! Thomas Boswell draws meaning from the sour turn of events for the regions' two teams in the Washington Post. This was only the third Nats game I've seen on television so far; all the Braves-Nationals games on TBS have been blacked out.. Thank goodness FOX's television contract with MLB exempts them from the normal blackout restrictions.
As the trading deadline draws near, Lyflines wonders whether a certain Red Sox outfielder with ego and discipline issues is more trouble and expense than he's worth. (Hint: His last name starts with "R.") The last sentence will make you sit up and think, I guarantee. (via Baseball Crank)
July 29, 2005 [LINK]
Braves sweep Nationals
In each of the five previous series, against the Mets, Phillies, Brewers, Rockies, and Astros, the Nationals have won exactly one game. In this week's series against the Braves, however, they failed to win any. This marked the first time the Nats have been swept since the May 23-25 series with Cincinnati. All of a sudden they are three games back, with the Phillies hot on their tails for the number two spot. Well, let's look on the bright side: the Nats lost each of the three games by only one run, and they increased their score in each game. On a serious note, I do have to give the Nats players credit for hanging in there and playing hard, even though that magic-charm teamwork that propelled them to the top in May seems to have vanished for the moment. Over the course of a season, things do tend to even out, and they couldn't expect to maintain such a high percentage of one-run wins for ever. With one notable exception (!), all of the Nats position players are showing flashes of brilliance, but just not often enough. I think as long as Livan Hernandez, Esteban Loaiza, and Chad Cordero can maintain that rock-hard determination to do their best no matter what, the rest of the team will eventually bounce back and get in the groove again. If the past is prologue, it will be hard to beat the Braves in the divisional race, but it may not be so hard to reach the postseason via the wild card route, and maybe even get to the World Series.
Comcast suit dismissed
For the fourth time this season today, TBS broadcast a game between the Braves and the Nationals, and for the fourth time, it was blacked out in our area, even though none of the games are shown on the stations carried by Adelphia. Booo! Well, I suppose I didn't miss much in today's game. A Circuit Court judge from Montgomery County, Maryland threw out the lawsuit filed by Comcast against Major League Baseball and the Orioles-controlled Mid-America Sports Network; see Washington Post. I really don't care who wins, as long as the issue is resolved and the games are made available to the general public on a reasonable basis.
July 26, 2005 [LINK]
Nats let another close one slip by
Chad Cordero blew a perfect save opportunity in Atlanta tonight, giving up a double to Andruw Jones, a single to Chipper Jones, and a game-tying sac fly to Adam LaRoche. In the tenth, Luis Ayala loaded the bases by hitting the batter, and then threw four straight balls to walk in the winning run. Thus, Livan Hernandez's splendid eight-inning performance was wasted, as was the chance to restore the team's morale. What's really sad is that this gut-wrenching game marked the return of Nick Johnson and Vinny Castilla to the starting lineup, and Jose Guillen started as well, in spite of a sore wrist. The versatile Brad Wilkerson, now playing in left field, nabbed a would-be home run by [Chipper] Jones; he also got three hits, and one RBI. For the first time since June 4, the Nationals are in second place.
July 25, 2005 [LINK]
Battered, bruised, bloodied Nationals cling to first
Well, let's look at the bright side: young ace John Patterson showed why many baseball insiders regard him so highly, striking out ten batters in eight innings yesterday, as many as Roger Clemens did in six. Also, the Diamondbacks thwarted Atlanta's bid to take sole possession of first place, allowing the Nats to share the honors for a bit longer. Nevertheless, we can't ignore the Nats' awful 5 - 13 record since July 4, or such forboding signs as Jose Guillen's wrist injury resulting from an errant pitch. As the waiver-clearing trade deadline approaches with no sign of major moves, one wonders if this team's lack of owners -- which is largely the result of the ongoing litigation over television rights* -- condemns their heroic efforts to futility. Might the grim realization that the business-end deck is stacked against them explain their seeming loss of competitive spirit? In an interview after last night's game, Frank Robinson wisely set very low expectations for his team as they rest and prepare to take on the Braves at Turner Field on Tuesday. The Nationals would do well just to avoid being swept, but you never know when they'll pull another surprise on us all. Baseball is full of amazing streaks, inexplicable slumps, and baffling turnarounds. To my surprise, only about 38,000 people saw Roger Clemens pitch at RFK on Friday evening; attendance on Saturday was much higher, but 3,000+ empty seats remained.
* Speaking of television rights, TBS will broadcast Thursday's Braves-Nationals game in Atlanta, but if earlier precedent holds, the game will be blacked out across a vast region where no one can see the game at all! Thanks a lot, Mr. Angelos. Any Washington-area fan who attends an Orioles game while this stupid, unjustified blackout of Nationals games continues has no self-respect.
July 23, 2005 [LINK]
Nationals hit rock bottom
Hardly anyone expected the Nats to win with Roger Clemens pitching for the other side, but last night's 14 to 1 blowout inflicted upon them by the Astros surely must mark the low point of the season thus far. The Nats were only four runs behind when Clemens left the game after the sixth inning, and then their usually-reliable bullpen withered under the onslaught of Astros slugging. Thanks to the Diamondbacks' tenth-inning victory over the Braves, however, the Nats still cling to a tie for first place, so who's complaining? Interestingly, last night's 13-run margin of defeat equalled the total margin of defeat in their previous ten losses, an indication of how close most of their games have been.
RFK measurement goof fallout
According to foxsports.com, Jose Guillen and other Nationals players used a tape measure to check the measurements from home plate to the fences before the game on Friday. Guillen says his home run totals should rival those of Derrek Lee and Andruw Jones, but insists he isn't complaining. I've revised the RFK Stadium diagrams, which now show the 380-foot markers in their new proper location. On the televised highlights from last night's game, I could see the 380 mark on the left side of the GEICO sign in right center field, about 45 feet from where it used to be.
Designing the new D.C. stadium
In today's Washington Post, Benjamin Forgey discusses some of the issues related to designing the Nationals' future home, emphasizing the desire by D.C. officials for an "iconic" stadium that will become a widely-recognized signature of the Nation's Capital in the new century. He compares various Olympic stadiums of recent years, and those planned for Beijing and London, noting that such oval shapes are not suited for baseball. (Obviously.) He calls for orienting the new baseball stadium so that the distinctive Washington skyline is visible in the outfield, and making it pedestrian friendly, integrated into the neighborhood, two of the key points I have argued; see my proposed new D.C. stadium. He fears that the scenic backdrop would eventually be blocked by new high-rise buildings along South Capitol Street, but city ordinances could control that. He also thinks that batters would be blinded by afternoon sun in such an orientation, but I don't think that would be the case if center field were straight north. I just hope the HOK architectural firm is creative enough to improve upon the recent stale imitations of Camden Yards.
July 22, 2005 [LINK]
Wrong dimensions at RFK!
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.
Livan wears his war wound like a crown
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.
Rocket aimed at Washington
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?
July 21, 2005 [LINK]
Heat wave, cold streak
Here in the Mid-Atlantic region the weather has been stiflingly hot and humid all month long, and I have pretty much given up bicycle riding for swimming. Up in Montreal, meanwhile, it's about 15 degrees cooler and much drier. Might this contrast explain the awful downturn of the Washington Nationals this month? Perhaps the former Expos have been having a hard time acclimating themselves to the brutal Washington summers. Once again, they lost a game by one run tonight, suffering the frustration they had been inflicting on everyone else until early this month. At one point in the latter innings tonight, the Nats had grounded into double plays nearly as many times (3) as they had put a man on base (5), a clear sign that they're in big trouble offensively. Get well soon, Nick and Vinny -- PLEASE! Oddly, there were no bases on balls in the entire game. After six and a half weeks of holding sole possession of first place in the NL East, the Nationals now share that spot with the Braves. And since "A" comes before "W," Atlanta is now listed on top. Groan...
Here's an interesting stat: All but one of the teams in the NL Central Division have won seven of their last ten games. The other, Cincinnati, has only won two.
Author Ted Steele has just published a book about the family responsible for building Ebbets Field. "Although it is not a baseball book, there is a lot of baseball in it. It also corrects much mis-information about Charlie Ebbets and his ancestry -- info that the Dodgers and the Sporting News didn't know and that Ken Burns got all wrong in his TV series Baseball." See Ebbets: The History and Genealogy of a New York Family.
July 20, 2005 [LINK]
54 - 40 and fight!! *
After a dismal 3 - 9 record since the Fourth of July, the Nationals finally won a convincing game at RFK Stadium Tuesday night, beating the Rockies 4 - 0. That was their biggest margin of victory since June 19 (exactly one month ago), when they beat Texas, 8 - 2. This time the promising young ace John Patterson not only lived up to his own high standards, giving up only three hits in eight-plus innings, he actually got some run support. With a record of 54 wins to 40 losses, the Nats are barely clinging to the NL East lead, as the Braves breathe down their backs. Now that Chipper Jones is in the lineup for the first time in six weeks, and Andruw Jones is continuing with the best slugging season of his career, the Braves are heavily favored to reclaim their customary position at the top. (Those two had three home runs in San Francisco last night!) If the Nats can just get a new shortstop to replace Cristian Guzman (batting only .189!), they'll have a good shot at holding their own. Retired Cincinnati Red Barry Larkin is often mentioned, since Nats GM Jim Bowden knows him well. Maybe another starting pitcher would help too, but the main thing is to maintain consistent performance and a fierce determination to win.
* That's a reference to the expansionist slogan of James Polk in the presidential campaign of 1844. The U.S. eventually compromised and settled for 49 degrees latitude as the border with the British colony of Canada in the northwest.
One of the TBS announcers at the game at SBC Park last night mentioned that Barry Bonds doesn't even show up at the ballpark any more. He resides in Los Angeles and keeps the team informed about his rehabilitation progress via his Web site, barrybonds.com.
I stayed up till after midnight to see if the Giants could hold off the Braves, and indeed they did, winning 5 - 4, with each team scoring one run in the ninth inning. So the Nats' lead in the NL East is back to 1 1/2 games. Whew!
Citizens Bank Park
The architects who designed Citizens Bank Park deny that they were warned during the design stage that the tight dimentions in the power alleys would yield a huge surplus of home runs. Yeah, right. They just got carried away with the crowd-pleasing steroid-injected, easy-home run craze of the late 1990s. (Via Baseball Musings, where I just posted a comment.) If the Phillies wanted to, they could solve about half of the problem by moving the wall back about 15 feet in left field, reaching the ends of the diagonal "creases" in the seating sections in the left field corner and deep left center. Moving the right field wall back would be more difficult, but the fence is taller on that side, so it's not quite such an easy target for sluggers.
July 16, 2005 [LINK]
Conratulations to future Hall of Famer Rafael Palmeiro for getting his 3,000th career hit in Ameriquest Field last night. Only three previous players have reached that mark and hit more than 500 home runs: Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Eddie Murray. Note that those three guys spent all or nearly all of their careers with one team, whereas even the best players wander from club to club these days, "thanks" to free agency. I have a feeling that players who stick with one team for several years will ultimately be remembered by fans for a longer time.
Nats bounce back from bogus balk
After losing their fourth game in a row because of a highly questionable balk call in the tenth inning last night (see MLB.com), the Nationals played a solid, consistent game and finally beat the Brewers, 5-3. Vinny Castilla doubled twice, getting an RBI each time, and Jose Guillen knocked in two more runs on a single. Esteban Loaiza stayed in the game just long enough (six innings) to get credit for the win, and his record is now 6-5, over .500 for the first time this season. Mike Stanton came in as a reliever for the Nats for the second time, and this time he threw a pitch! Despite the aggravating end to last night's game, which manager Frank Robinson is reviewing for a possible protest (see MLB.com), it must be acknowledged that the Nationals really beat themselves, wasting multiple scoring opportunities.
Yanks recover from thrashing
The Bronx Bombers didn't let a little 17-1 blowout get on their nerves. In spite of a so-so outing by Randy Johnson, they still prevailed in Boston this afternoon, 7-4. I was glued to the tube. God, Fenway Park looks good on a clear, sunny day. It will be interesting to see how well newly acquired veteran pitcher Al Leiter does in the final game of the series tomorrow. "Caveman" Johnny Damon has hit safely in 28 consecutive games, officially reaching the halfway mark toward Joe DiMaggio's renowned record. Some say it's bad luck to openly count such streaks or no-hit games in progress, but I give scant credence to fortune, so why not?
Happy birthday to long-time visitor Steven Poppe. "¡Vaya con Dios!"
July 15, 2005 [LINK]
Yanks close in on Red Sox
Here we go again! One of the greatest rivalries in the sports world is on display this weekend at Fenway Park in Boston, and tomorrow's Game of the Week will surely draw huge ratings to FOX. The Yankees have been gradually closing the gap for the past two weeks, as the Orioles finally rebounded after their recent skid, clinging to second place. The Red Sox came out roaring with four runs in the first inning last night, but the Yankees gradually climbed back and spoiled Curt Schilling's debut as a Bosox reliever, scoring two runs in the top of the ninth inning. Tonight's game is starting out the same way, and the vengeance-minded Red Sox are now on top 12-1 after four innings. Some guy named Jason Anderson just replaced some guy named Darrell May as the Yankees' pitcher...
UPDATE: David Ortiz hit a grand slam in the sixth inning, and the final score was Red Sox 17, Yanks 1. Ouch! It reminds me of Game 3 of the ALCS last October, but with the roles reversed.
Nats try to regroup
The Nationals also came out roaring tonight, with four hits and two runs in the first inning, possibly angry that they let yesterday's game slip from their grasp so easily. Managerial Motivation may have been a factor in their improved performance as well. The Nats were darned lucky that the Braves matched them loss for loss in the last three game days, thereby maintaining their two and a half game lead. The NL East is still up for grabs, and any of its teams could make a go of it in the postseason. Mike Piazza may not have been the best choice for the All Star game, and his usefulness to the Mets as a catcher is quickly fading, but he sure made the home crowd happy with that three-run homer in the eighth inning last night. Beating the Braves made some Nats fans happy, too!
UPDATE: Milwaukee responded with two runs of their own in the bottom of the first. The Nats took a one-run lead in the fifth, but a homer by Carlos Lee tied it in the eighth. In his debut as a pitcher for the Nationals in the tenth inning, Mike Stanton balked (!!?), allowing the winning run to score from third. Having lost four straight games, the Nats have a serious problem on their hands. The Braves are only one and a half games behind.
Favorite sporting venues
This item is not strictly about baseball, but it is definitely about stadiums. A group of sports writers was asked to pick their favorite venues, from football to baseball to basketball to hockey. Brian Baldinger of FOX Sports ranked RFK Stadium as #3 in his list. There are a number of fascinating descriptions and anecdotes about the Polo Grounds, Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field, and so on. You can see and judge for yourself at themirl.com.
July 14, 2005 [LINK]
There's a lot of news to catch up on as we enter the second half of the baseball season:
Nationals trade up
In preparation for what promises to be a hard-fought pennant race, the Washington Nationals have acquired outfielder Preston Wilson from the Colorado Rockies, in exchange for pitcher Zach Day and outfielder J.J. Davis, plus some cash or an unnamed layer. See MLB.com. In his debut as a National in Milwaukee today, Wilson filled the bill by hitting a home run, but the Nats still lost 4-2. Jose Guillen and Jose Vidro [both] went hitless, a major embarrassment. Hopefully this does not portend a second-half slump. Ryan Church pinch hit in today's game, his first plate appearance since being put on the DL after colliding with the wall making a heroic game-saving catch in Pittsburgh two weeks ago. The Nationals also acquired veteran Yankee reliever Mike Stanton (pronounced "Staunton" ), who will become only the second lefty in their bullpen. Jim Bowden made clear his purpose: "I like his postseason experience." Indeed, hardly anyone on the roster has played in the postseason. The Nats still have a small cash surplus with which they could get more talent this month, but their farm system remains in poor shape, and Ryan Zimmerman (of U.Va.) is one of their few future hot prospects.
D.C. stadium funding
D.C. Council Chairwoman Linda Cropp has changed position once again, coming out in favor of a private stadium financing deal proposed by Deutschbank. The reason for the switch is that many D.C. businesses screamed bloody murder when they got the first tax assessment with the stadium surcharge last month month. See Washington Post. One month ago, the Deutschbank option seemed all but dead; see my June 10 post.
RFK Stadium fixes
Responding to fan complaints, the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission is making several improvements at RFK Stadium: providing 24-hour security (to halt car thefts from the parking lot!), entering a renewed food service contract with Aramark Corporation (which has pledged to widen the variety of food sold), as well as replacing the infield turf and making miscellaneous repairs and touchups. They still hope to get a naming rights contract finalized by August... See Washington Times.
Former Mayor-for-Life Marion Barry and three other members of the D.C. Council endorsed the bid by Jonathan Ledecky to purchase the Washington Nationals. Ledecky promised to donate $100,000 to renovate recreation facilities in the District if he wins the bidding war. He is backed by controversial billionaire George Soros, whose efforts against President Bush during last year's campaign no doubt play well in heavily Democratic D.C. See Washington Post.
Comcast blasts MASN
Comcast, which provides cable TV service to much of the Washington area, charged that the Baltimore Orioles are conspiring to keep Washington Nationals games off the air. This was in conjunction with a legal briefing they filed as part of their lawsuit against the Baltimore Orioles and MLB. Ironically, the Orioles-controlled Mid Atlantic Sports Network recently ran a full-page ad insisting it wants to make Nationals games available to more fans. (Yeah, right; see my skeptical post of June 29.) Isn't it nice when two monopolies accuse each other of monopolizing business? I saw the Nationals on live TV for the first time last on Saturday (FOX Game of the Week) and then, to my surprise, on Sunday (on Washington's FOX-5 TV, which carried an MASN-produced game for the first time).
Tiger Stadium rusts
One positive spinoff from the All Star game was it brought attention to the Tigers' old home, which is suffering badly due to lack of maintenance. Some of the players did not even know it was still standing! The city of Detroit paid $2.5 million to maintain Tiger Stadium, but the money was entrusted to the owner of the Tigers franchise, Mike Ilitch, who has a conflict of interest. Some say "Ilitch doesn't want to see Tiger Stadium redeveloped because it would mean competition for Comerica Park and the Ilitch family's other attractions near the Fox Theatre area." See wxyz.com, which shows a helicopter view of the interior. At least the grass is being mowed. (via ballparksofbaseball.com) What a shame. I still think the Tigers should play at least one game there every year, or else have a regular Old Timers Game there like they used to in the Old Times.
UPDATE: The MLB Franchises and 19th Century Leagues pages have been reformatted and updated.
July 12, 2005 [LINK]
Motor City All Star Game
3rd UPDATE: The NL team made a good show in the late innings, and threatened to tie it in the ninth, until Mariano Rivera struck out Morgan Enberg to finish it. Final score: 7-5. The "Junior Circuit" has now won for nine years in a row. Why has the All Star game become so prone to consecutive victories since the early 1960s? (The NL won every game from 1963 to 1982 except for 1971.) For the first thirty years, neither league won more than four years in a row. I had thought that FOX sportscastress Jeannie Zelasko was looking a little frazzled in recent weeks, but was I the only one not to realize that she was with child until last week? Her postgame interview with MVP Miguel Tejada broke yet another cultural barrier in sports history. I liked it when Joe Buck asked Tim McCarver early in the game: "Do you remember that the Washington Nationals used to be the Montreal Expos?" Or words to that effect.
2ND UPDATE: Nats' closer Chad Cordero was indeed called in to relieve San Diego's Jake Peavy in the bottom of the eighth inning. He struck out Pudge Rodriguez, who will probably be the last AL batter in the game, unless the National League can stage a four-run rally in the ninth. Thanks to David Pinto at Baseball Musings for letting his fans know about comparing Comerica Park and Tiger Stadium on this site. He has been assessing several of the teams' performance and prospects this evening. Kenny Rogers made a sincere-sounding apology and was therefore allowed to play tonight. Andruw Jones' huge home run past the left field corner in the seventh inning perhaps made him wish he hadn't showed up.
UPDATE: Revisions to the Comerica Park diagrams are now complete, in time for the latter part of the All Star game. The AL is ahead 5-0 as of the top of the sixth inning, and it's strange for me to be rooting for the National League for the first time. Washington's Livan Hernandez didn't have much success in the fourth inning, allowing [two] hits and two runs. Will manager Tony LaRussa let Chad Cordero pitch as the closer?
Mike Zurawski inquired whether I intend to redo the Comerica Park diagrams in recognition of it being the venue for this year's Midsummer Classic. I wasn't sure if I could manage to devote more eye-squinting and pixel tweaking after the monumental task in redoing the Tiger Stadium diagrams, but it turns out to have been easier than I expected, reflecting Comerica's simplicity and relative symmetry. I hope to do the fine touches between innings, and finish it by the end of the game. Stay tuned! I still think it's too bad they reduced the size of left field last year; I wonder if anyone tabulated how many of the dingers in last night's Home Run Derby fell into the bullpens which used to be in play? Bobby Abreu's record-breaking total of 41 homers might have meant more if they had left it with the original dimensions. On the other hand, it's still bigger than Tiger Stadium used to be, except in dead center field. Check it out on the Side-by-side page.
"World Baseball Classic"
As expected, there will be a "world cup" of sorts for baseball next year, with national teams from twelve countries: Australia, Canada, China, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Italy (!?), the Netherlands (!?), Japan, Korea, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, South Africa (!?), Taiwan, the United States and Venezuela. Will Hugo Chavez and his buddy Fidel Castro show up? It will take place next March, mostly in the U.S.A., though the venues have not yet been specified. See MLB.com. Ironically, this news comes just after the International Olympic Committee announced that baseball and softball will be dropped as of 2012, the first time that a sport has been deleted since the 1930s. Well, at least they'll still have synchronized swimming!
July 11, 2005 [LINK]
Nats taste own medicine: Yuk!
What comes around, goes around. Eventually other teams were bound to figure out how to beat the Nats (otherwise known as the "One-Run Wonders") at their own game. Too bad it had to be nationally televised! Gleeful D.C. area fans now know how other teams must feel after losing close games to the Nationals over and over again. All three games against the Phillies were decided by one run. Actually, the Mets edged the Nationals on Wednesday and Thursday to take their series, 3-1. It's the first time since April that the Nats have lost two consecutive series, and yet they still lead the NL East by 2 1/2 games. I'm not complaining. Jose Guillen showed he is truly of All Star caliber in yesterday's game, hitting a long two-run homer and making a spectacular catch in right field after hurting his ankle on a foul tip. He's a real trooper, and I don't begrudge his high-spirited approach to the game. He was mad at Livan Hernandez for not retaliating after he was hit by a pitch thrown by Pedro Martinez last week, and did not play in the next game until the ninth inning, presumably as a disciplinary measure. As the Nats have plowed ahead to the top of the heap in the NL East during the first half of the 2005 season, I've started to wonder about how well all the teams that were relocated in years past have fared after arriving in their new cities. Stay tuned for a report on that...
Urban areas with multiple teams
One of the big unanswered questions related to the recent move of the Montreal franchise to Washington is whether the Baltimore-Washington area can support two MLB teams. Gary Gillette and Stuart Shea review the history of the San Francisco Giants - Oakland Athletics friction, which is often cited as bearing many similarities in terms of population and demographics. give a strong affirmative in 24-7 Baseball. The crux of their piece:
In both the Bay Area and in Baltimore, the historical trends have shown that winning baseball brings in fans. The novelty value of a new ballpark cannot be discounted, but new parks in most every major-league city aren't enough to maintain high attendance if a club doesn't win. While the Orioles are among tough competitors in the AL East, the club has won in recent years and clearly can do so again.
Look homeward, Mr. Angelos. The experience of the Giants and the A's in the 1970s and 1980s offers no guidance other an exhortation to play to win. The Orioles' wounds in recent years are self-inflicted, and Baltimore retains the resources to put a winning team on the field again whether it has a National League neighbor in Washington or not.
Will the presence of the Nationals hurt the Orioles? Somewhat; certainly the monopoly the Birds have enjoyed for decades is preferable, from their viewpoint, to having serious competition.
Is it likely that Baltimore and Washington will reprise the experience of Oakland and San Francisco from the late 1960s through the late 1990s? No. The factors that are similar are far outweighed by compelling reasons to believe that Washington and Baltimore have more than enough fans, TV households, and discretionary income to handsomely reward both franchises-assuming they put a good product on the field.
The Tiger Stadium page has been updated with six (6) brand new diagams, including a football version. That happens to be one of the stadiums that doesn't quite fit within the standard template, so there is a separate truncated diagram that appears on the Side-by-side page. Coincidentally, yesterday's New York Times had an article about the status of that homely but lovable old hulk of a ballpark, and the various proposals to restore it for posterity. [UPDATE: In my haste, I neglected to thank Bruce Orser for providing research assistance in preparing the Tiger Stadium diagram (especially the 1936 version), and for bringing to my attention the above-cited New York Times article.]
July 6, 2005 [LINK]
Hot summer, hot teams
So the Nats dropped another one to the Mets tonight. Oh well. At least all the teams in the NL East are at or above .500 again... As the All Star Game approaches, the astounding Washington Nationals are finally attracting nationwide attention, but other teams have been playing as well or even better lately. For one, the Yankees have pulled out of their long, dark slump and trounced the Orioles in two games in the Bronx, and are on the verge of passing the O's to move into second place behind the Bosox. The newly lean, clean, and healthy Jason Giambi has been a big part of the Yankees' upturn, hitting three home runs in two days. He says he finally got the "kink" out of his swing; see MLB.com. In the AL West, the "LAnaheim" Angels have widened their lead over the Texas Rangers to 8 1/2 games. With five of their position players batting well over .300, it's no surprise. Speaking of which, the Anaheim Stadium page has been updated with slightly modified diagrams to conform to the new standard.
Negro League ballparks
Thanks to Bruce Orser for cyber-research assistance on some of the old Negro League ballparks, including Web sites on Hinchliffe Stadium (projectballpark.org, Charlie's ballparks, and National Parks Service), as well as one on Dyckman Oval (Washington Heights & Inwood Online). The Negro Leagues page has been reformatted and updated with some of those links.
July 5, 2005 [LINK]
All Star lineups
Most of the first-string players on the All Star teams are well qualified, even though they do bear a suspicious resemblance to last year's World Series teams. Managerial discretion? How in the heck did Carlos Beltran get picked over Jose Guillen? And Mike Piazza: Has there ever been an All-Star player with less than his .257 batting average? Since Washington Nationals lack an established fan base, it wasn't much of a surprise that their players received so few All Star votes. Livan Hernandez and Chad Cordero made the cut, and rightly so, but no position players at all??? Something is not right with this popularity contest voting system. Nick Johnson deserved at least a reserve slot, but since he was just put on the DL, it doesn't matter. (Perhaps in a parallel universe where the Expos were relocated to Washington two years ago, All-Star Vladimir Guerrero is wearing a Nats uniform.) The selection of the delinquent Texas Ranger Kenny Rogers is a disgrace, and he is technically eligible to play because his appeal of the suspension and fine is pending, but I doubt that Terry Francona would have the gall to have him pitch.
Welcome back Jose Vidro!
Thanks largely to a clutch double in the seventh inning tonight by Jose Vidro, just back from two months on the DL, the Nats faced down the almost unhittable Pedro Martinez and beat the Mets 3-2. Esteban Loaiza threw eight strikeouts in eight innings, finally getting his fifth win. Yesterday's sold-out July 4 game in Washington was a disappointment, as the Nationals lost to the Mets, 5-2, but it only goes to show that even the best (!) teams have off days. They may still win this four-game series... When one measly loss like the one yesterday gets on a fan's nerve, it may be a sign that we are getting spoiled by success. Let's hope that Washington fans don't abandon their new home team if they can't manage to sustain their recent superhuman performance.
As if we needed any more proof that they are in fact serious contenders for the postseason, the Nationals' sweep of the Cubs at Wrigley Field should lay to rest any doubt. As is their fashion, all three games were low-scoring and were decided by only one or two runs. Brian Schneider was the hero of the series, making a key pickoff at third base in the first game and hitting the game-winning home run in the 12th inning of the third game. Twice the Cubs came from behind to tie it on Sunday, and twice the Nationals went ahead once again; pretty disheartening for the home town fans... Thomas Boswell made the case for a D.C. postseason scenario (which would be the first since 1933) in yesterday's Washington Post: "No Telling When, Or If, This Will End." Believe it ... or not!
Fourth of July sellouts
Attendance at the ballgames yesterday was very good for the most part, but rather poor in a few cities. Ballparks in Atlanta, the Bronx, Houston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Washington were filled to the brim, or nearly so, while most of the seats in Kansas City and Miami were empty. Attendance was so-so in Phoenix and Cleveland, where the Indians have been climbing back into contention (for the AL Wild Card spot) recently.
Sorry for the unannounced holiday hiatus, sports fans. Revisions to the Anaheim Stadium, Tiger Stadium, and Ameriquest Field diagrams are well underway. Y'all come back now, ya hear?
June 30, 2005 [LINK]
More phantom fans at RFK
Just as I suspected! The number of empty seats I've seen at Nationals games (in person and on TV sports highlights) has seemed inconsistent with the announced attendance, but the actual discrepancy is even greater than I thought. "The Nationals sold an average of 32,019 tickets for their first 33 games, ... but the average number of people who attended those games was 24,679..." This glaring gap between reality and pretense is having serious consquences: Since "phantom fans" don't drive or eat or drink, the D.C. government is not earning as much money from parking and concessions sales as it was expecting. This, in turn, will put a pinch on financing construction of the new stadium. See Washington Post. Interestingly, the 7,000+ unused tickets per game is about the same as the average of people who actually attended Expos home games last year. As I wrote on April 22, the phenomenon of empty stadium seats is one of the pernicious distortions arising from the U.S. Tax Code, which permits all sorts of luxurious perks and other wasteful corporate spending to be written off as expenses for income tax purposes. Oh, oh! Sorry for injecting more politics into baseball...
Yet another squeaker
Once again, the Nationals didn't waste any extra offensive power in their 3-2 win against the Pirates last night. Jose Guillen batted in the go-ahead run with a double in the eighth inning. The game was delayed by rain for over two hours, and apparently the grounds crew has learned how to get the tarp deployed much more quickly than in the farcical game I saw on April 30.
EVENING UPDATE: The Nationals completed their sweep of the Pirates this afternoon, 7-5. Finally getting good run support, Esteban Loaiza got his fourth win, and he hopes to even his record by the All Star break. Perhaps more significantly, Chad Cordero tied a major leage record by getting 15 saves in one month. After winning 20 games and losing only six in June, the Nationals have crossed the elite .600 threshhold for the first time, behind only the Cardinals and the truly phenomenal White Sox.
That's what David Pinto intends to call them from now on, and I may follow suit. As the "O.C." theme song plays on our tube (it's Jacqueline's favorite show), however, I still wonder if "O.C. Angels" might be more hip.
June 29, 2005 [LINK]
Tom Davis vs. George Soros
In today's Washington Post, Sally Jenkins criticizes Republicans such as Virginia's Rep. Tom Davis who object to controversial billlionaire George Soros joining in the bidding for the Washington Nationals. I would agree that it was probably unwise for Davis to become involved, especially because Fred Malek, one of the leading bidders, is a prominent Republican, but Jenkins stretched credulity by saying it was OK to have Marge Schott as a franchise owners, so why not Soros? Besides, Soros would only be a subsidiary partner to Jonathan Ledecky, or so they say. Jenkins states, correctly, that President Bush is "polarizing" (intentionally or not), but that was not the case when he was a junior owner of the Texas Rangers, so that point is irrelevant. I've always believed there should be a tacit "firewall" between politics and sports, which ought to serve as a unifying function in our society. To look at it another way, how would Democrats feel about someone like Rush Limbaugh becoming part owner of a franchise? Boycott!! The presence of Soros should not disqualify the Ledecky bid, but simple prudence dictates that MLB should take the potential volatility of the new franchise owner groups into account when it awards the winning bid.
War of the tubes
There was a full-page ad by Mid-Atlantic Sports Network urging viewers to demand television coverage of the Nationals in Sunday's Washington Post, so I dutifully obliged by calling my local cable provider. I know full well, of course, that this is just public relations maneuvering as the litigation proceeds, and no one seriously believes that MASN has the Nationals' best interests at heart. Today's Washington Post has more on this disgraceful situation: "Nats Caught in a TV Rundown."
Thanks to a tip from Rich ?, I've learned that today is the 100th anniversary of Moonlight
Graham's one and only baseball game for the New York Giants, which was dramatized in Field of Dreams. See his "lifetime stats" at baseball-reference.com. Speaking of movies, you can see my own cinematic debut starting today in War of the Worlds. No kidding!
June 28, 2005 [LINK]
Eminent domain & new ballparks
The issue of eminent domain, which was hotly debated in the recent Kelo vs. New Haven decision by the Supreme Court, happens to be very relevant to baseball, and the sports world in general, because it has been invoked to acquire land for new stadiums in several cities around the country. That is why D.C. government officials were so pleased, since they will face fewer obstacles in clearing the land in Southeast Washington for the Nationals' new stadium. See Washington Post. The basic question is whether the project qualifies as a "public use." Highways, schools, utility lines, and parks are all widely accepted as "public uses." Not everyone is a sports fan, but virtually all cultures have some kind of public forum for mass gatherings. Since virtually all new baseball stadiums are owned by the city or some regional government entity these days, and since the stadiums are also used for a variety of public gatherings, there is little doubt that they are essentially public in function. For example, see the plaque at RFK Stadium. Nevertheless, the fact that the new ballparks were built for the primary purpose of boosting the owners' profit margins raises troubling questions, as I discuss below.
An early and bitterly controversial case of using eminent domain to facilitate stadium construction was in Los Angeles in the late 1950s, where working class Latinos were evicted from their barrio in Chavez Ravine to make room for Dodger Stadium. The bitter political struggle delayed construction by at least a year. Coincidentally, the offbeat old folk rocker Ry Cooder recently released a CD entitled "Chavez Ravine," in which he laments the lost community. One of the songs is "3rd Base, Dodger Stadium. See the review in the Washington Post. [UPDATE: There are some interesting comments on Ry Cooder and Chavez Ravine at reason.com. (via Instapundit)]
Another such case was the acquisition of land for the new stadium where the Texas Rangers began playing in 1994. See my "editorial comment" on President Bush's questionable involvement in that saga near the bottom of the Ameriquest Field page. That's what you call a political hot potato...
Nats beat Bucs
This is getting monotonous: Once again, the Nats squeaked by with a one-run margin of victory against the Pirates, 2-1. Can their excellence at small ball and situational adaptation carry them into a September pennant race? Jose Guillen returned to the lineup tonight despite getting hurt in Sunday's game. Nick Johnson bruised a bone in his foot while evading the catcher's tag at the plate, and he may be out for a week or more.
June 26, 2005 [LINK]
Interleague sweeps weekend
An inordinate number of consecutive victories were recorded in interleague matchups this weekend. The Red Sox swept the Phillies, the Rockies swept the Royals, the Marlins swept the Devil Rays, the Angels swept the Dodgers, the Athletics swept the Giants, and the Braves swept the Orioles, knocking them out of first place in the AL East in the process. Andruw Jones now leads the majors in home runs, at 24, eight of which have come in the last ten days! Known primarily for his fielding prowess and casual "basket catches" à la Willie Mays, he is having a career year batting-wise, and recently hit the first home run ever to land in the left field upper (second) deck at Turner Field.
The Nationals were trying for a sweep against the visiting Blue Jays in this afternoon's game, but this time their bullpen could not contain the enemy batters in the late innings. So, the Blue Jays won 9-5, the first home loss by the Nats since June 1. President Bush and Condoleeza Rice were at the game on Friday evening, to everyone's surprise. The superb starter Esteban Loaiza finally got his third win. Only two regular pitchers in the majors have fewer wins and a lower ERA than he does (3.63): Brian Moehler (Marlins) and Victor Santos (Brewers). While the Nationals were out of town on their recent road trip, eleven of the players' cars that were parked in a "secured" area next to RFK Stadium were broken into, and one was stolen. Ouch. D.C. chief of police Ramsey has pledged to track down the culprits, but his car was stolen as well. As humorist Dave Barry used to say, "I am not making this up."
The Mets (last place in the NL East) lead the Yankees 4-3 after seven innings, and are on the verge of sweeping the Bronx Bombers in Yankee Stadium. What a revolting development that would be. [UPDATE: Thanks to a clutch two-run single by Jason Giambi in the bottom of the ninth, the Yanks came from behind to win 5-4, avoiding being swept.]
Yankee Stadium feedback
Alex ? let me know that the Yankees have used land on both sides of the 1976 left field fence for their bullpen since 1988, making me wonder if Mariano gets a private bullpen. He also reminded me to include a dark batter's background in the center field bleachers. Peter Piroso informs me that there were no temporary bleachers in right field for Giants football game. (He used to go to those games and therefore has first-hand knowledge.) I was going by a photograph on another Web site that was apparently doctored. Diagram revisions pending; all such feedback is appreciated and acknowledged if it's significant enough to mention, but their are practical limits to the extent of detail I represent.
June 24, 2005 [LINK]
Yankee Stadium "renovations"
I've finally completed one of the biggest diagram revision projects I've yet taken on: Yankee Stadium; that page is kindly sponsored by Michael Rudolf. (Reminder: Anyone who has a favorite stadium and would like that page to be updated is invited to sponsor it by making a PayPal donation. ) It includes five chronological phases plus a football version; all the diagrams are oriented with center field at the top, and the current (1988) version diagram conforms to the common home plate coordinate which facilitates comparison on the Side-by-side page. Speaking of which, you can now easily see that Yankee Stadium's outfield is actually smaller than that of RFK Stadium, in all directions. Shame! This latest enhancement to this Web site comes just as the Yankees have begun to move ahead with replacing the grand old Bronx basilica. Bruce Orser, who provided me with extremely useful blueprints and many fine archival photos of Yankee Stadium, looks on the potential bright side of this sad deed:
The [Yankee Stadium] plan would be even better if the playing field resembled the original instead of the outside. It would give fans a contrasting illustration to what they are used to. What would be ideal in my opinion is for the field dimensions to match the '23 configuration and in two years change to the 1924 dimensions, in two more years the 1937 dimensions and finally to modern dimensions. This would be a very tangible history lesson and one to linger in the fans' mind for some time. It surely would spark conversation and be written about a great deal. In short, lets see a for real Clem Dynamic Stadium over a period of about 7 years.
I agree, but I wonder if the Yankees front office is smart enough to do something that creative. I made a similar suggestion about how the District of Columbia should handle the new stadium, making a virtue out of fiscal necessity by building it incrementally on a "pay as you go" basis. Speaking of which,
D.C. stadium news
As expected, the D.C. council has passed a bill that approves Mayor Washington's preference for labor unions in the new stadium building contracts. But when will groundbreaking begin? The financial pinch of the new stadium has already hit D.C. businesses, and one law firm is threatening legal action over the special-purpose tax assessment. See Washington Post.
Nats squeak by again
The Nationals concluded their road trip by winning their first series in Pittsburgh since moving to Washington, thereby staying on top of the NL East by a 3 1/2 game margin. The Pirates whomped the Nats in game two, 11-4, but the Nats once again came from behind in the rubber game on Wednesday and came away with a close win, 5-4. This weekend they take on the Toronto Blue Jays back home in good old RFK Stadium. Jose Vidro is practicing more every day, and should be ready to return to the lineup before the All Star game.
June 19, 2005 [LINK]
Look for the union label
To no one's surprise, Mayor Williams unveiled an agreement by which labor unions will get special preference in the construction contracts for the new baseball stadium in D.C. This, of course, will inflate the project's total cost by at least five or ten percent, but that was something I took for granted from the beginning. "Let the overruns begin!" Ironically, the union requirement (a political quid pro quo) may prejudice the interests of District residents and businesses, many of which are non-union. Since the city is undertaking the project on its own, it has every right to set the terms for construction. Does this mean construction delays caused by strikes may be more likely? Of course. I'm in no hurry for the Nats to leave RFK. It has already become as much a part of their winning ways as it was for the Redskins in decades past. Which leads us to:
Will Nationals usurp Redskins?
In today's Washington Post, Mark Gauvreau wonders whether the phenomenal success of the Washington Nationals will result in a switch in fan loyalty and attention away from the Redskins. Until recently, such a possibility would be almost unthinkable. It was not until the 1970s, however, when George Allen and then Joe Gibbs turned the team into a real powerhouse, that football enthusiasm really gripped the city. Given the Redskins' huge frustrations of recent years, D.C. sports fans could easily tire of waiting and give themselves over to those scrappy, eager newcomers who are playing in the 'Skins old home.
Nats salvage a win
The Nationals bounced back from two losses in Arlington (Texas), winning this afternoon by 8 to 2. Brad Wilkerson knocked in half of those runs, three of which came in the eighth inning on a double. After his amazing hot streak in April he fell into a bad slump, but he seems to have pulled out of it now. He is leading the majors in doubles this year (with 26), but with a .278 average, he's unlikely to make the All Star team. The Nats are headed to Pittsburgh, and will return to D.C. on Friday.
Soccer at FedEx Field
The D.C. United soccer team played two home games at RFK while the Nats were on the road, and they won both. Because of continuing problems with the temporary grass infield turf, it has been decided to play an exhibition game against the English team Chelsea FC at FedEx Field on July 28. That will be a tight squeeze for a soccer field, and it will be interesting to see what the reactions are. Most soccer fans in D.C. are Latinos, many of whom would have a hard time getting to the suburb of Landover, Maryland.
June 18, 2005 [LINK]
Ex-Senators beat ex-Expos
It's one of the more interesting interleague matchups, between the team that just moved to Washington and the team that moved away from Washington 33 years ago. Also, there are two former Yankees facing each other: Nick Johnson and Alfonso Soriano. The Rangers won the first two game quite convincingly, though the Nats at least showed enough spunk to close the gap in the late innings of tonight's game. It's the first time in over three weeks that the Nats have lost two in a row, but they're still in first place.
Game of the Week
What could be finer than watching the Cubs play the Yankees in the Bronx on the Saturday Game of the Week? It depends who you ask. Some of us had weddings to attend. Well, at least I caught a couple innings between the service and the reception, but I just missed Derek Jeter's first-ever grand slam.
More Yankee Stadium fallout
A new visitor named Alan brought to my attention the following observations about replacing Yankee Stadium which he posted on another Web site. The points he makes are well worth repeating.
Here's what I think is wrong with this new ballpark -- but it is the same thing that is wrong with ALL the new ballparks ...
I understand that owners want luxury boxes and Yankee Stadium has (I believe) only 12. And building 150 or so luxury boxes will steal cheap seats (the kind I sit in.) But worse, today's architects seem to think that lower deck seats are somehow preferable to upper deck seats. In the present Yankee Stadium there are ~ 20000 lower deck seats and ~30000 in the upper deck (plus ~7000 in the mezzanine.) The plan for the new park reverses that. Any real fan would prefer to see the whole game from upstairs. Worse, when Yankee Stadium was renovated in 1974-75 great expense was gone to to, yes, remove the infamous "poles", but also to preserve the extreme cantilever of the upper deck over the lower, so upper deck fans were amazingly close to the action. This was accomplished by the use of cables buried in the concrete and anchored into the ground. The only other ballpark that I know of that used the same cable arrangement was DC Stadium -- another park with VERY close upper deck seating in the infield (despite its concrete cylinder form.) Sit downstairs in the first few rows and look at the upper deck in the Stadium. It seems to be right on top of the lower deck and going straight up. National League teams coming into the Stadium actually marvel at how close the screaming-banshee Yankee fans are to the action.
But the cabled cantilever design is expensive -- much too expensive to waste on the "cheap seats". So they build luxury boxes instead and move you and me to a seat in a different zip code. For all its architecural excellence, even a place like Camden Yards gives the back of its hand to the peons upstairs.
As far as the "history" ... well ... except for the relationship of the stands to the field, which is pretty much the same in the 1976 Stadium as it was in 1923, most of the character of the old ballpark was obliterated when it was remodeled 30 years ago. A fake plastic "facade" tacked on in the outfield just isn't the same as the green copper adornment to the old park's roof. Even if you want to make the case that Gary Sheffield plays on the same patch of ground as the Babe (I think I wanna be sick) you have to allow for the 10 feet deeper the '76 park's field is into the earth than the original.
The new park will recreate the 1923 exterior (although it will actually be a "false-front") and take a stab at recreating the so-called "facade" around the roof. (When Mantle hit the facade off Fisher in, what was it, '64?, he referred to it as the "FACARD".) And, maybe best of all, the plans call for preserving the playing field and part of the lower deck of the present Stadium for amateur games.
So, all in all, as desecrations go it could be a lot worse...
If indeed the replicated exterior walls at the new "Yankee Stadium" are nothing more than a veneer (like vinyl siding), I almost wish they wouldn't bother with such fakery. As for RFK, I had wondered about how the upper deck was supported, and he may well be right about the cable method, which I had thought was pioneered at Yankee Stadium. That bears further research. I am fairly certain, however, that the field in the latter was lowered by about five feet during the 1974-1975 renovations, not ten.
Wrigley Field (L.A.)
I think I've figured out how I'm going to handle the diagrams for stadiums that are too large to fit into the standard size template, such as Yankee Stadium. It's an annoying conundrum, reflecting in part the need to accommodate folks with various sized computer monitors. In the meantime, I've redone the diagram for Wrigley Field, where the Los Angeles Angels originally played.
June 16, 2005 [LINK]
You call that a "save"?
I actually stayed up long enough to catch the whole Angels-Nationals game last night (on MLB Game Day), and it was worth it. After new National Ryan Drese threw eight innings in which only two Angels got hits, the usually reliable closer Chad Cordero took over in the ninth inning and proceeded to almost blow the 1-0 lead. The first three batters loaded the bases on two hits and a walk, and it seemed the best the Nats could hope for was to force the game into extra innings. Somehow Chad settled down and threw two strikeouts, with the second out coming on a short pop fly to center field. Game over! Thus, the Nats won their fifth straight series, and Cordero got credit for his 21st save of the year, leading the majors. On May 20 I called for changes in the way wins are awarded, and this case suggests that perhaps saves statistics need to be reformed as well.
Yankee Stadium fallout
The New York Times has a slide show of renderings of the future "Yankee Stadium." David Pinto gives it two thumbs up. Some features I like, such as the exterior wall that replicates the original Yankee Stadium, and the large roof with the lights built into a grated façade, also much like the original. The overall grandstand shape and the field layout only bear a passing resemblance to the original, however, and the whole thing looks an awful lot like Turner Field in Atlanta. Given that this announcement was originally expected around May 1 (see April 18), one wonders what political haggling might have occasioned the delay. Perhaps it was all the concurrent activity related to the 2012 Olympics and the proposed new Mets stadium.
UPDATE: Lifelong Yankees fan Phil Faranda writes: "I was always in the 'hallowed ground' corner when it came to a new yard for my team, but the fact is the Old Stadium ceased to be after the 1974-75 renovations. ... I say build the thing."
Thanks to a photo in this morning's Washington Post, I realized that I had misidentified two of the men in that (rather fuzzy) video grab from yesterday's blog post about the press conference at Yankee Stadium: "some tall guy" was actually Governor George Pataki, and "ESPN's Chris Berman" was actually Steve Swindal, a general partner of the Yankees, son-in-law of Mr. Steinbrenner, and Heir Apparent to the Dynastic Throne. Yesterday's post has been duly corrected, as indicated by [bracketed text]. See the press release from the Empire State's governor's Web site.
June 15, 2005 [LINK]
Yankee Stadium: New & improved?
What we've been fearing for months is apparently going to come to pass. At a press conference filled with state and local politicians this afternoon, the Yankees announced they are going ahead with construction of a new stadium to replace The House that Ruth Built. It would have the same outfield dimensions as the existing stadium (that is, without the old "Death Valley" in left center field), with 51,000 seats initially. The capacity could be expanded by a few thousand more, which almost goes without saying. That is not nearly enough for Gotham City. See MLB.com [updated link]. In watching the Webcast I was glad to hear all the appropriate statements about community development, but skeptics are entitled to reserve judgment before jumping on the bandwagon. It would be nice to spruce up the Bronx, as long as the existing residents don't get shunted aside. The same thing goes for southeast Washington, as I've said.
What is curious about this is that the timetable for the Mets' and Yankees' new stadiums coincide, with plans for both to open in 2009. Of course, that's just a wild guess, but it would be unprecendented for any baseball city. I just hope the Yankees front office is smart enough to learn from the sorry experience of the White Sox, who ignored suggestions about how to replace Comiskey Park and ended up with an ugly mess that had to be rebuilt to make it fan friendly.
UPDATE: Mayor Bloomberg, Mr. Steinbrenner, [Governor Pataki, and Steve Swindal] are pictured in the above video grab. Here are some key sound bites from the momentous announcement:
"We are staying at home in the Bronx," Yankees president Randy Levine said. "We are continuing our tradition in the Bronx.
"The Yankees, not the taxpayers, will pay for this project. The Yankees, not the taxpayers, will pay to maintain this ballpark."
"We pledge to all our fans that this ballpark will be affordable," Levine said.
Well, why not build enough seats for all the working-class patrons, then, Randy? Toward the end of the press conference there was a question en español from one of the local journalists, and one of the Yankee officials came back with a snappy and remarkably fluent reply. ¡Qué bien! The total cost of "New Yankee Stadium" (or "Steinbrenner Coliseum," perhaps?) would be $800 million, with the city paying for street and infrastructure improvements. Although I've become a bit fatalistic about this likely prospect, I remain extremely dubious that replacing Yankee Stadium is either necessary or advantageous. I think Steinbrenner is sacrificing the special Yankee mystique, short-sightedly boosting his bottom line at the expense of the franchise's long-term interests. Here's what tradition-minded Steven Poppe has to say:
Three words for this atrocity: CRASH AND BURN. The Mets should try for a new ballpark in midtown Manhattan where the new Jets stadium would have been built. And I've said this before and I'll say it again: The Yankees should build a new Yankee Stadium where the current one stands - with the same fence dimensions as the Yankee Stadium of the DiMaggio and Mantle eras. And while the new Yankee Stadium (description in last sentence) is being built, the Yankees can play at Shea Stadium.
Nats brawl* in Anaheim
The Nationals bounced back from an embarrassing 11-1 loss in Anaheim to win last night 6-3. Trailing 3-1 in the seventh, the Nationals got involved in a bench-clearing brawl (their first one, I believe) after manager Frank Robinson told one of the umpires he suspected pitcher Brendan Donnelly was using pine tar, and his counterpart Mike Scioscia objected, after which both teams went at it. Donnelly may face suspension, and Robinson later said he "lost a lot of respect for Mike tonight as a person and as a manger and there's nothing he can say to me now." See MLB.com. Being in different leagues, there's little likelihood of a grudge developing between the two teams. Two things make this an interesting series, however: former Expos star Vladimir Guerrero now plays for Anaheim, but he might have been playing for Washington now if the relocation from Montreal had not been needlessly stalled for year after year. Also, Nats outfielder Jose Guillen played for Anaheim last year but was suspended late in the season for insubordination.
In yesterday's Washington Post, Thomas Boswell took very seriously the possibility that the Nationals could be contending for the pennant late in the season. I'd like to think so too, but they just don't have enough depth to make up for any injuries. Enthusiasm and team spirit are necessary but not sufficient to "go the distance."
* LATE EVENING UPDATE: From what I've read, no punches were thrown, so I suppose it doesn't qualify as a "brawl." Former Ranger Ryan Drese is pitching his first game as a National right now, and he just gave up his first hit, in the third inning. Angels pitcher Bartolo Colon (a former Expo!) has not allowed any Nats batters to reach first base. I wish I could stay awake to follow these late-late West Coast games...
June 13, 2005 [LINK]
Nationals pride: Fan love fest in D.C.
As they used to say in one of those beer ads, "You know, it just doesn't get any better than this." (Or can it?) The Nats have won ten games in a row, completing one of the best home stands in franchise history. Not only have they been in first place for a full week, they have the fourth highest winning percentage (.587) in all of the majors right now! True, there are skeptics, such as Robert Tagorda, who cites the Nationals' negative cumulative run differential that stands in contrast to their win-loss record. Fortunately, Frank Robinson is not the kind of manager who pays a lot of attention to statistics. He knows that skillful "small ball" ultimately counts for more than run production. As long as the fans are happy, who cares? Many years from now, folks from the Washington area will still get a great big smile whenever they think back to 2005 and the Nationals' superb inaugural season. Today's Washington Post explores the sociological phenomenon of "Nats fever," which is turning normally sensible people into escstatic, impassioned zealots. Compared to the twelve previous MLB franchise relocations, Washington ranks along with Milwaukee (1953) and Los Angeles (1958) in terms of the tremendous outpouring of fan enthusiasm and high attendance. In fact, the Nationals have already broken the one-million attendance mark for this year, thereby smashing the old record for all previous Washington teams! The old record was set in 1946.
New ballpark for Mets?
After New York State officials turned down the costly proposed new football stadium for the Jets along the Hudson River in Manhattan, city officials unveiled "Plan B": a new stadium for the Mets next to Shea Stadium! The Mets say they will pay for it, which would make a very compelling offer. The idea is to build a 45,000-seat baseball stadium by 2009, then expand it to 80,000 seats for the 2012 Olympics, and then tear down the temporary annex afterwards. It would be an interesting twist on the Atlanta 1996 Olympics, where Turner Field was born. The design borrows heavily from Ebbets Field, but the original idea of a retractable roof has been discarded. The planned baseball capacity of only 45,000, less than the ballparks in Denver or Baltimore, strikes me as inappropriate for one of the biggest cities on earth. See the Mets Web site; hat tip to Brian Hughes. [UPDATED]
Warning tracks have been added to the U.S. Cellular Field and Colt Stadium diagrams, which now conform to the new standard home plate coordinate. The revised Yankee Stadium diagrams may end up being rotated as well, but if so they won't conform to the new standard; it's just too darned big to fit! Also, the Stadiums by class page has been revised, with Jarry Park moving to the "temporary" class, and two football stadiums being removed from that class.
June 11, 2005 [LINK]
Make that nine straight
Their bats cooled off compared to last night, but the Nats managed to eke by with another frugal win (2-1) over the Mariners tonight, maintaining their lead over the Phillies. I know it's too early to seriously contemplate pennant races, but the further into the season the Nationals stay in contention, the bigger will the seldom-acknowledged conflict of interest based on their peculiar ownership status become. Will legal disputes prevent the sale of the franchise in time for the July 31 waiver-clearing trade deadline? Will the skimpy payroll budget prevent the team from making a bid for the talent they need to get to October? Are the Nationals going to be given a fair chance to win or not??? And even if they do win the pennant somehow, who will accept the NL championship trophy from Bud Selig on the team's behalf, all 29 MLB franchise owners? Such prospects are too absurd to imagine, but the possibility cannot be dismissed outright.
Today's Fox Game of the Week between the two perennially cursed teams, Cubs and Red Sox, more than lived up to its billing. Back and forth the whole way, with the outcome in doubt until the very last pitch. The Cubs have risen above adversity of recent pitching injuries, and if Derrek Lee keeps hitting the way he has been, they just may make another run for the postseason.
A short career
The guy who hit the first RBI for the Nationals last night had a name that was unfamiliar to me: Rick Short. He was just called up after playing for eleven years in the minors and Japan. Now his name has vanished from the team roster as quickly as it appeared, and the story about his brief moment in the big leagues has disappeared from the MLB Web site as well. [June 13 UPDATE: the link has been corrected on the Nats MLB site, and is likewise corrected above.] Chris Needham has some thoughts at Capitol Punishment, recalling a character from a certain classic film.
June 10, 2005 [LINK]
Orioles fans defect to Nats?
Today's Washington Post profiled a number of former Orioles fans from the Maryland suburbs who have gotten caught up in "Nats Fever." It's too bad in a way, since the O's are playing so darned well this year, for once. I suppose if I were an Orioles fan, though, I too would be awfully ashamed by how their owner has been acting toward Washington. I'm a little skeptical about such cases representing a broad trend, however: That Post article sounds like media hype to me.
New stadium woes
D.C. official Natwar* Gandhi has again advised against a private stadium financing plan proposed by local investors, on the grounds that it relied on a dubious tax loophole that could be closed by Congress at any time. That leaves the Deutsche Bank proposal, which is not likely to be approved by the D.C. council either. See Washington Post. *Just wondering: Do you suppose anyone has given him the nickname "Make Love"? Gay activists in the D.C. area are lamenting the imminent demise of The Follies and other gay establishments on O St. SE, where the new stadium will be built. See Washington Post, but only if you have a strong stomach. The article does not shed positive light on that lifestyle.
Nats make it 8 straight
They had to come from behind with a late-inning rally (Brian Schneider hit the key 2-run single), but the Washington Nationals once again prevailed tonight, beating Seattle 9-3. The Phillies won too, so the Nats remain 1 1/2 games ahead in the NL East, "where all the teams are above average" (above .500, that is).
Ohka traded for Spivey
Not surprisingly, Nats pitcher Tomo Ohka was traded to Milwaukee for second baseman Junior Spivey yesterday. Jamey Carroll had been filling for Jose Vidro in as starting second baseman, and has done very well, but he will now return to a reserve role. Vidro did a bit of practice at RFK Stadium yesterday, but is not expected back on the team until after the All Star break. Ohka began as a starter, then got demoted to the bullpen. He had a few solid outings, but was just not reliable enough. Last week he turned his back on manager Frank Robinson, an unforgiveable show of disrespect. It's also out of character for someone with an East Asian cultural background; Confucian ethics place high emphasis on respecting authority figures.
A-Rod reaches #400
Even though the Yankees as a whole are, shall we say, underachieving this season, some of their stars still shine. Congratulations to Alex Rodriguez for becoming the youngest player ever to reach 400 career home runs in Milwaukee yesterday. He's not even 30; what if he lasts another ten or twelve years???
June 9, 2005 [LINK]
Another sweep for the Nationals
Tonight's 4-3 win over the A's was the seventh straight victory for the Nationals. Unlike most of their other recent games, however, this time they did not come from behind. The steamy hot summer air at RFK Stadium seems to be adding lift to long fly balls, as the Nats hit three of them over the fence last night. What was most gratifying about that game was that Esteban Loiaza finally got solid run support behind yet another superb starting performance, giving up only two runs in seven innings. It was only his second win of the season... After a series hosting the Mariners this weekend, the Nats head west to Los Angeles, where they had good success last month. This time they'll be playing the Angels in Anaheim. As soon as the injured Jose Vidro returns to the lineup, the Nationals should be in a very strong position as the All Star break approaches. The Phillies remain only 1 1/2 games behind the Nationals, however, and anything could happen in the NL East. [UPDATED]
Goodbye to Oakland?
As the Oakland A's conclude their three-game series in D.C., Peter Handrinos makes an eminently sensible suggestion on how that proud, high-performing but sadly neglected franchise in Oakland can get going again -- by moving 40 miles south to San Jose. It would be a uniquely short-distance "relocation," remaining within the general Bay Region, but attracting a new set of fans in ultra-rich Silicon Valley. See United States of Baseball. Maybe the marketing geniuses at Apple Computer will fork over the cash for the stadium naming rights!
June 7, 2005 [LINK]
Parkway Series in October?
I know this is wildly premature, but given the fact that no baseball team from Washington has been in first place this late in the season since 1933, I think a little dreaming by a fan can be excused. We've had the Mets-Yankees "Subway Series" of 2000, the Athletics-Giants "Bay Area (Earthquake) Series" of 1989, and a number of all-New York World Series up through the 1950s. Why not a (Baltimore-Washington) "Parkway Series" this year? It's almost a straight shot between the two teams' home fields. Driving east from RFK Stadium, you cross the Anacostia River, get on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, and 40 or so miles later you enter downtown Baltimore and come upon Camden Yards.
As expected, the Nationals have just drafted University of Virginia star Ryan Zimmerman, a third baseman with superb batting and fielding abilities. Wa-hoo-wa! See the Nats' Web site.
Today's Washington Post dissects the Washington National's remarkable success in the (reborn) team's inaugural year. Statistically speaking, they are mediocre at best in nearly all categories. The Nats do have an abundance of that mysterious unquantifiable factor known as "team spirit," however: a quiet, steady confidence that they can hold their own in close games, and usually find a way to win. The big home town crowds are an extra boost, as the Nats have already drawn more fans after two months than the Expos did all last year! The deep outfield fences at RFK Stadium are probably a bigger factor, however: Only 30 home runs have been hit there so far this year, by far the fewest in the majors. That's very fitting for a team that does not emphasize slugging power; the Nats' home run total (40) ranks last in the National League.
The diagram on the Citizens Bank Park page has been reoriented with center field at the top, to match the new standard and facilitate comparisons.
June 6, 2005 [LINK]
Dynamic tables fixed
Thanks to expert advice from my brother Dan, I've fixed (at least I think I have) the problem that was preventing non-Mac Safari users from enjoying the new dynamic effects on several of the data tables on this site, such as Stadium rankings, Military forces, 1995, and Life bird list. If anyone is still having problems with viewing those tables, which should have alternating row colors and highlights for the current row, please let me know.
June 5, 2005 [LINK]
Nationals in first place!
Between May 17 and May 30, those bleak "trying times," the Nationals scored more than three runs in only one game. Since May 31 (when I was there, coincidentally) they have scored more than three runs in all but one game, which is why they swept the Marlins in a three-game home series and have taken sole possession of the lead in the NL East! Amazing but true. Today's hero was Ryan Church, named rookie of the month for May, who hit a three-run homer to take the lead in the eighth inning. Over 40,000 fans were at RFK for the fifth time this season.
Surprisingly, the Phillies have been even hotter than the Nationals lately, winning nine of their last ten, and climbing from last place into third place. The Marlins and Mets now share the "cellar," but they're only 1 1/2 games behind the Nats in that extremely competitive division. In the other five MLB divisions, in contrast, the second place team is at least three games behind the division leader, and in four of those divisions, the last place team is 14 or more games behind the leader.
Meanwhile, the Yankees' fortunes have taken another decided turn for the worse, as they have lost seven of their last eight game, plunging to fourth place in the AL East. Cold streak, hot streak, cold streak... Derek Jeter has been suffering from a chest cold, which probably explains his batting slump.
The text on the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium page has been corrected thanks to Christopher K., who refreshed my all-too-fallible memory of the 1996 World Series. A new visitor named Alan recalls the pleasing smell coming from the nearby Wonder Bread bakery when he went to baseball games in Washington in the 1950s: "The aroma to me was as much a part of Griffith Stadium as was Roy Sievers."
June 3, 2005 [LINK]
Mrs. Cropp: "Never mind"
Remember when the relocation deal nearly collapsed back in December because D.C. Council chairwoman Linda Cropp demanded provisions for private financing of the new stadium in D.C. as a condition for her approval? Turns out her alternative plan doesn't add up, so the whole rationale for her threat to back out of the deal was empty. In the last two weeks it has become evident that the best private deal that has been offered, through Deutsche Bank, has few advantages over the original plan to pay for construction through bonds and tax hikes. Mrs. Cropp says she is "still hopeful" that a private financing plan can be arranged and insists she was only doing what she thought was best for the city. See Washington Post. More likely, she is just seeking a graceful exit. As Post business writer Steven Pearlstein wrote last year (see my blog post of Dec. 21), development projects that are publically financed benefit from lower interest rates, because governments are usually much better credit risks than businesses. As expected, arch-opponent of the new stadium, council member Adrian Fenty, has announced he is running for mayor next year. He is young, smart, ambitious, and like Marion Barry in the old days, he has an aptitude for reaching out to elites as well as poor people.
Nats win again (barely)
What a great matchup: Josh Beckett vs. Livan Hernandez! Each gave up only two runs in a classic pitchers' duel, going eight and nine innings, respectively. The Nats' surprisingly effective bullpen prevailed again, as the game was decided by two walks, an error, and a sac fly in the bottom of the eleventh. Now they're only a half game out of first place! Once again, Esteban Loaiza pitched superbly in the game against Atlanta last night, but once again he did not get credit for the win because of lack of run support. Things looked bleak when the Braves scored four runs in the eighth, but the Nationals showed their spunk once again by scoring five runs in the bottom of the inning, going on to win, 8-6. Hector Carrasco got the win even though he walked half the batters he faced (two). Why does anyone pay attention to pitchers' win-loss records?
Is RFK too roomy?
As anyone can tell by using the side-by-side page, RFK Stadium has one of the biggest outfields in the majors right now. No doubt that is why only one of Jose Guillen's 10 home runs this season has been hit in the home ballpark. Guillen was quoted as saying that he wants the outfield fences at RFK Stadium to be brought in next year. See the Nats Web site. That's the same thing that Mo Vaughn did in Anaheim (where Guillen also used to play): they moved the fences in by 9 or 10 feet in 1999 just to make him happy. I am against pandering to sluggers just to boost their stats. One of the best things about games at RFK is the number of doubles and triples that are made possible by the (comparatively) wide open spaces.
Winning pitchers by stadium
Baseball blogger and statistical fanatic David Pinto has compiled a list of which pitchers have won the most games in every major league ballpark from 1995 to present. At the top of the list is Andy Pettitte, who won 81 games at Yankee Stadium. For much more, see baseballmusings.com.
June 2, 2005 [LINK]
Soros joins bidding war
Hungarian-born global financier George Soros has joined Jonathan Ledecky's partnership that is bidding to purchase the Washington Nationals. Soros, who has played a high-profile controversial role in global and domestic politics, is worth $7.2 billion. See Washington Post. I'm betting that MLB officials would rather not have to let a loose cannon like him into their chummy, ultra-deferential ranks -- even if he outbids Malek, Kasten, and others on the "inside track." Remember, this is not an open, competitive bid with business profit as the primary objective. It is, rather, an inscrutable, elaborate courtship and initiation ritual through which the trusted guardians of our National Pastime maintain their power. It is rumored that the Walentas family failed to make the cut in submitting initial bid applications.
NL East in slump
The fact that the Washington Nationals came within a game of taking first place in their division really isn't saying much, frankly. For the past two weeks, the Braves and Marlins have both been in a slump, while the Phillies and Mets have slowly crawled their way back toward contention. It's still a tight race, but it's a race that has become a somewhat less important. So much for the erstwhile dominance of the Eastern Division over the rest of the league! The two teams to watch right now in the National League are the ones with over .600 winning percentage: St. Louis, which has overcome the loss of Edgar Renteria and other big stars from last year, and San Diego, which seemingly came out of nowhere.
"For the children"
At the game in Washington on Tuesday evening, three young lads spotted the All Star ballot I was carrying and asked with a tone of deep awe if that was a ticket to the All Star game. I smiled and explained that it was just a ballot to choose each league's lineup. Their intense interest really left an impression on me, and serves as a reminder of what baseball is all about. While it is a truly wonderful thing for the many thousands of kids in the D.C. area who now get to see real big league baseball on a regular basis for the first time in their lives, we should also think about all the kids over the last generation who grew up without that character-building experience...
More graphical chores: The diagrams on the Kauffman Stadium page have been tweaked to conform to the new standard, with a common location for home plate. A revamping of the Yankee Stadium diagrams is "on deck"!!!
June 1, 2005 [LINK]
Perfect game in Washington!
No, not a perfect game for a pitcher, as defined by no runners reaching base, but a perfect game for a fan: great weather, great seats, great company, great excitement, and a cliffhanger, dramatic victory. I joined my old friend Dave Givens and two of his pals, Paul and Buddy, to see the Nationals come from behind to beat the Braves last night, 5-4. This was their third straight win, bringing them to within a game and a half the the Marlins and Braves at the top of the NL East. Quite a turnaround from last week! Just back from disabled status, John Patterson had a rocky first inning, but he kept his cool and retired every Braves batter for the next four innings. Pretty impressive. Mike Hampton, likewise returning from the DL, had a devastating fast ball, but his control started to suffer. After both starters were taken out in the middle of the game, things got interesting. The Braves scored twice in the top of the sixth, but the crowd started getting fired up when the Nats scored two in the bottom of the inning, keeping the margin to only one run. The Nats rallied again in the seventh inning, as Nick Johnson knocked a 2-RBI double into the right field corner, and the Nats took the lead 5-3. "And the crowd went wild!" Closer Chad Cordero had a tough time in the ninth inning, as Julio Franco hit a home run, and two singles and a fielder's choice put Andruw Jones on third base -- the tying run with only one out! Somehow Cordero pulled himself together and threw two strikeouts to win the game, though the final pitch -- to Rafael Furcal -- looked a little low to me. Whew! Compared to the frustrating way the Nationals won the last game I saw at RFK [on April 30 -- that game was delayed twice because of rain and finally called after eight innings] -- this one was worth every penny paid for admittance!
Paid attendance last night was 29,512, but I would estimate only about 24,000 were actually present. The lower deck was full, but most of the yellow seats in the upper deck were empty. Our seats were in Section 211, behind the visitors' dugout on the first base side. It was the first time I had seen a game from the lower deck since Coors Field in 1998! I spied Nationals general manager Tony Tavares in the presidential suite, along with D.C. official Don Tuohey. In the press box I saw TBS sports commentators Chip Caray, Don Simpson, and Pete Van Wieren. I realized that most of the ground-level concourse behind the first deck provides good open views of the infield, so you don't miss much of the game if you need to buy a snack or adult beverage.
Tonight the roles were reversed, as the Braves battled back to take the lead in the eighth inning, winning 5-4. So the Nats are two and a half games out of first.
Attendance exceeds expectations
Today's Washington Post reported that attendance at Washington Nationals home games in May averaged 32,251, even greater than in April, and outpacing the Baltimore Orioles. The combined Washington-Baltimore attendance ranked fourth among metropolitan areas with two baseball teams, barely edging Chicago. The Baseball in D.C. page has been updated with a new table showing monthly attendance figures for all the two-team cities (and neighbor cities).
Albert Lord, chairman of the Sallie Mae student loan corporation, is the new leading partner of American Baseball Capital (good pun), taking the place of William Collins, who had been trying for many years to bring baseball to Northern Virginia.
More page updates
The data tables on all of the stadium comparison pages have been enhanced appearance-wise, with alternating row colors and a dynamic row "cursor" for easier legibility. The franchise pages will be revised in a similar way shortly.
May 31, 2005 [LINK]
Nine bids for Nationals
Nine bids to purchase the Washington Nationals have been accepted by MLB. Today's Washington Post has a detailed profile of the leading men in each of the prospective franchise owner partnerships. One of them, Stan Kasten, formerly president of the Atlanta Braves, wanted MLB to move the Expos to New Jersey. Boo-oo! Baseball economics expert Andrew Zimbalist was quoted as saying the franchise might go for $500 if the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (in which the Baltimore Orioles have a 90 percent stake that will gradually decline to 67 percent) is included in the sale. Of course, the legal dispute between Comcast and the Orioles over broadcast rights is holding things up. The franchise might not be sold until after this season is over... The Baseball in D.C. page has been duly updated.
Foul pole, scoreboard
Here's the photo of the place where the controversial call was made yesterday: RFK left foul pole. Note how it is attached to the grandstand, and note the small portion that is not painted yellow, which is where Brian Jordan's would-be home run apparently struck. That photo also reveals the spartan, low-budget (home team) bullpen, with folding chairs used to hold down plastic sheets to keep the dirt dry. It also shows the slight overhang of the second deck in the outfield, as well as the gradual widening of the gap behind the fence as it approaches the foul pole. Finally, it reveals the rail along which the movable part of the grandstand rolls when it is moved into position for soccer games. Between the banners on the green wall are the entry portals for the grandstand when it is in football/soccer configuration. For next season, they should replace one of those banners with an old-fashioned, inning-by-inning manual scoreboard -- nothin' fancy, just a minor touchup that would be functional as well as aesthetically appealing.
May 30, 2005 [LINK]
Nats bounce back
Their batting remains anemic at best, but the Nationals managed to eke out wins against the Cardinals yesterday and the Braves today, back home at RFK. In both cases the score was 3-2. Well, at least they're consistent. Livan Hernandez won his eighth game [yesterday], tying him (with three other guys) for the lead in the majors. Attendance for the Memorial Day occasion was nearly 39,705 -- not bad! I plan to join an old friend up at the game tomorrow...
UPDATE: The game was decided on a questionable call by the second-base umpire, who ruled that an apparent home run hit to the left field corner by Brian Jordan in the seventh inning was a foul ball. See mlb.com. The game was broadcast nationwide on TBS but it was blacked out here in Virginia, so I didn't see it until the local TV sports. On the replay the ball appeared to have hit the foul pole and bounced foul, but it's impossible to say for sure. That foul pole moves along with the movable part of the grandstand when the stadium is reconfigured for soccer games. It so happens I took a photo of that foul pole and the bullpen last time I was at RFK, so I'll have to post that one soon. I should give credit to one of the newest Nationals, Marlon Byrd, who helped the Nats win today and got some clutch hits in other recent games. Endy Chavez seems to being doing well in Philadelphia, so it seems to have been a good trade.
Three Rivers Stadium
Latest stadium update: Three Rivers Stadium, sponsored by Mark London. Thanks to a detailed seating chart from an old program Mark sent me, I was quite surprised to realize that this stadium, like Busch Stadium II [the diagrams of which have just been updated], is slightly oval in shape. That necessitated a bit more graphical tweaking than would otherwise be the case. All's well that ends well.
May 28, 2005 [LINK]
Losing streak: 5
It was nice to see Brad Wilkerson hosting This Week In Baseball, introducing Washington to the world of baseball fandom. The nationally-televised 17-1 humiliation inflicted upon the recently-hot Yankees by the recently-cold Red Sox was anything but nice. For four games in a row until today, the Nationals had scored exactly three runs in each, losing each time. Tonight Esteban Loaiza threw six strikeouts and only one walk in six innings, holding the Cards to just 3 runs, but the Nationals only scored one. Arghh. Can they avert being swept in two consecutive series tomorrow?
Steven Poppe offers yet another perspective on how to rearrange the leagues, emphasizing tradition rather than the recent push for interleague play between teams from the same city or region:
If any two teams jump to the AL, they should be Milwaukee and Washington. Make room for the final two expansion teams -- Montreal and Portland. Traditions should stay intact.
May 27, 2005 [LINK]
Trying times for Nats' fans
After losing five of their last six games, it was no surprise that two of the Washington Nationals' starting pitchers have been sent down to the minors: Claudio Vargas and Zach Day. Reliever Jon Rauch is out for most if not all of the season, and the very promising starter John Patterson suffered complications from pain treatment on his back, and is likewise disabled for the foreseeable future. Ouch! Thomas Boswell puts it just right as usual in today's Washington Post:
In such times, teams learn what they're made of. But self-knowledge won't be limited to Washington players. Many in this area will discover whether they are part of that perverse breed that loves the delicious agony of a 162-game season. For both teams and individuals, baseball is a game of almost incomprehensible hot streaks that are so exciting, and equally mysterious slumps that are so demoralizing, that your own daily moods can be affected by the team's bipolar fortunes.
To paraphrase what I wrote on April 22: "When it comes to baseball in Washington, even a (dismal losing streak) like this one is better than no game at all!" I shouldn't complain, they're still above .500. The Nationals got off to a bad start against the Cardinals this evening, as Jim Edmonds hit a two-run homer in the first inning. Then they showed some spunk by taking the lead 3-2 in the third, but St. Louis came right back with two more runs in the bottom of the inning. It's 5-3 after five innings.
Many thanks to Mark London for sponsoring two (2) additional pages at the new discounted rate: the venerable old Forbes Field and the splendid new PNC Park. Mark now has a monopoly on the Pittsburgh ballparks, having first dibs on Exposition Park, when I get to it in the next few months. Thanks are also due to my good buddy Phil Faranda for sponsoring the Polo Grounds page. He tells me he once visited the housing complex that now stands on that site, and was pleased to learn that the residents are well aware of that funky old sports palace that used to stand there.
Scoreboard at RFK
One of the new Nationals blogs, districtofbaseball.com had a very pertinent opinion poll, asking "Which improvement would you like to see most at RFK?" and I heartily agree with the results: 53% said "More accurate, easier-to-read scoreboards." As I mentioned on May 3, RFK Stadium needs a manually operated inning-by-inning scoreboard! There's plenty of room on that mini-"Green Monster" wall in left-center field, so why not?
May 26, 2005 [LINK]
Colin Powell goes to bat for WBC
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has become a partner in the Washington Baseball Club, the oldest prospective baseball franchise ownership group in the Washington area. Led by Fred Malek, who used to work in the Nixon administration, and Jeffrey Zients, a financial whiz kid, the WBC has expanded to include minority leaders, in hopes of building strong relations with the D.C. community. See Washington Post. Having an ultra-prestigious figure like Colin Powell on board will greatly enhance the Malek-Zients group's already-considerable advantage in the bidding for the Washington Nationals. The selling price could be anywhere from $300 -$400 million, depending on how (and when) the broadcast rights war with the Baltimore Orioles is resolved. Until then, serious work on acquiring land for building a new stadium in Washington cannot begin.
Nats get swept
After nearly two months of playing, the Washington Nationals were swept in a three-game series for the first time, getting trounced by the Reds, 12-3. Jose Guillen's two home runs mattered not. Starting pitcher Claudio Vargas didn't even last two innings this time, and he may be headed back to the minors very shortly. The battered and bruised Nats got to rest today, and will take on the first-place Cardinals in St. Louis this weekend, before returning home next week to face the Braves, who have fallen into second place.
May 25, 2005 [LINK]
Anti-doping bill introduced
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has joined with Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) to introduce the "Clean Sports Act of 2005," which would set uniform drug standards for professional baseball, football, basketball, and hockey. One of the witnesses testified that wealthy superstar athletes could easily defeat the proposed weakly-funded testing mechanisms, however. See Washington Post. I think such legislative moralizing is a misguided attempt to make up for the lack of a spirit of good sportsmanship in contemporary American society. If the "whatever-it-takes" cynicism of most pro athletes prevails, however, there may be no alternative. Which is better (or worse): the cynical, amoral candor of Jose Canseco, or the teary-eyed, shamed stonewalling of Mark McGwire?
New sponsor; discount rates
Thanks to Eric McErlain, sponsor of the Shea Stadium page, for plugging this site on his Off Wing Opinion blog, and thanks to Rob Visconti for sponsoring the Tiger Stadium page, which thereby gets moved ahead in my "to-do" list. You got a favorite stadium? Let everyone know about it (and about you)! In response to inquiries, I've decided to offer a discount for individuals who want to sponsor more than one page: Second, third, and fourth pages can be sponsored for one year for $8 (eight dollars U.S.) each, $2 off the basic rate. These rates are subject to change. Those who have already sponsored pages are eligible for the discount. As the traffic on this site continues to rise, I will also consider commercial-rate ads on a limited basis.
More diagram tweaks
The diagrams on the Milwaukee County Stadium, U.S. Cellular Field, and Hiram Bithorn Stadium pages have been tweaked slightly to conform to the new standard, with home plate at the same location. You'll soon start to notice the aesthetic enhancement on the pages that rely on rollover effects with thumbnail diagrams. One such page, which I've just revised by adding such diagrams, is the Anomalous stadiums page.
May 24, 2005 [LINK]
Realigning leagues (and divisions)
My May 23 "modest proposal" of moving the Diamondbacks to the American League and the Astros to the NL West elicited some thoughtful responses. Ken Levin found my idea "intriguing" but cautioned:
Unfortunately, there is a perfectly good reason there are two more teams in the National League than the American League, and this is for the sake of getting every team to play every day. If each league had 15 teams apiece, it would be necessary for at least 2 teams, one in each league, to have several days off every once in a while except when interleague play is going on. The even number of teams in each league deals with this by allowing every team in both leagues to be able to play another team in their league every day without forcing a day (or 2 or 3 or 4!) off. The contraction proposals were an elegant, albeit destructive, way to even out the leagues. Adding two teams to the AL would also deal with it, but with the current state of things in baseball, such as both Florida teams being in big trouble regarding stadiums and attendance, the climate is not right to add two teams to the league. If there's anything to be learned from the NHL, it's that 32 teams is too many for a league having attendance, popularity, and affordability issues in many of its stadiums. It may not be a bad idea to drop some unsuccessful, upstart franchises (Tampa Bay, for example) and realign the leagues somewhat for the good of the game. Regardless, there must be an even number of teams in each league for scheduling to work..
That's a good point, which I should have acknowledged more explicitly. As I wrote on my MLB franchises page, "To keep schedules balanced, sports leagues must have an even number of teams, but they could have achieved the same result by assigning the Devil Rays to the National League." In other words, by addressing the problem of unequal number of teams in each league, you create another problem. To get around that, I would suggest that the two "leftover" teams (which would change from one year to the next) in each 15-team league should play each other, getting more interleague exposure than the other 28 teams. I also think that there should be more games with teams from other divisions in each team's own league.
Then, from Christopher Jackman:
I believe it would be difficult to move the Diamondbacks to the AL as they
resisted the idea just prior to 1997. They stated that they were told by
MLB that they would be an NL team (at the time Phoenix was awarded a
franchise) and were going to sue MLB is they tried to move them. Selig
backed down, so they must have had a case. The reason they wanted to be in
the NL was to have a rivalry with the Rockies and the large # of Dodger
fans that relocated to Sun Valley.
My idea would be for MLB to grant permission for the Marlins to move to Las
Vegas if they are willing to switch leagues. Pittsburgh would then be moved
to the East, re-establishing their rivalry with Philly. Maybe in a few
years Florida will miss having MLB and agree to build a stadium if they are
awarded a franchise. MLB could then expand to Miami (AL) and Portland (NL).
Expansion right now is a far fetched idea, but a possibility in 5-10 years.
If the Diamondbacks resisted a move to the AL, I'm sure a suitable financial inducement could be arranged. They need the money. From MLB's perspective, Christopher's proposed conditional offer to the Marlins might be an expedient way of putting pressure on Miami and/or Florida to cough up more stadium dough. Whatever the original intent of the 1998 league switch by the Brewers, it seems to me that the current league alignment was not expected to be permanent.
Newest diagram update: Shea Stadium, sponsored by Eric McErlain. It has a dynamic diagram that shows the reconfiguration for football, when the Jets played there. Also, the Memorial Stadium diagrams have been reoriented with center field at top, to conform to the new standard.
Nats fall to Reds
After pulling even in the top of the ninth, the Nats just dropped another close game to the host Cincinnati Reds, 4-3, and this time the game lasted fourteen innings. Ouch. Brad Wilkerson is back in the lineup, but his bat, and Vinny Castilla's, have turned ice cold. Cristian Guzman has fallen back into a terrible slump as well, and Nick Johnson and Jose Guillen seem to be the team's most likely All Star candidates at this point.
May 23, 2005 [LINK]
The Nationals finally started hitting in Toronto yesterday, scoring more runs (9) than they had in the five previous games combined. So, they pulled back into third place and maintained their record of not yet being swept in any 3 or 4 game series. José Guillen is back in the lineup, but José Vidro's ankle may not heal for another six weeks. Now the Nationals head to Cincinnati, where general manager Jim Bowden used to work. The Nats acquired Marlon Byrd from Philadelphia in exchange for the disgruntled Endy Chavez last week, and the results thus far are encouraging. Byrd got off to a good start in his first game with the Nats, hitting three RBIs. He started in left field but is now subbing for centerfielder Brad Wilkerson, who has a strained tendon in his arm.
Among the other series between cross-town or regional rivals, there were only two sweeps, by the Rangers against the visiting Astros, and by the Marlins aganst the visiting Devil Rays. The Mets embarrassed Randy Johnson at his nationally-televised debut as a Yankee on Saturday, and the Yanks barely averted being shut out by scoring a run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Attendance was near capacity in the games at New York (Shea), Boston, L.A., and Chicago (Wrigley), and over 40,000 paid to see the games in Arlington and Seattle. No doubt about it, interleague play is a big success.
Another modest proposal
While we're on the subject of interleague games, let me offer another suggestion. Ever since the Brewers were moved to the National League in 1998, apparently to facilitate the intended contraction that would have eliminated the Minnesota Twins and the Montreal Expos, there has been an imbalance that creates awkward scheduling problems. I was dubious about having the Brewers change leagues, but apparently Milwaukee fans approve of it, and it does create a natural regional interleague rivalry with the Twins. One option to restore the balance between the leagues would be to move the Pirates to the American League, creating a cross-state interleague rivalry with the Phillies, but that would leave the National League without any teams in that part of the country. Also, the Pirates have a long historical bond with the National League, and traditionalists would scream bloody murder. Another option, which I favor, would be to move the Diamondbacks to the American League. With less than a decade of franchise history, that would be much less disruptive, and it would create a good interleague rivalry with the Padres. The Astros would move to the NL West division, so that all six major league divisions would again have five teams. The other non-obvious interleague rivalries would be Mariners-Rockies, Tigers-Braves, Phillies-Red Sox, and Blue Jays-Pirates. Finally, because I lean strongly toward the traditionalist side, I think the number of interleague games should be cut back, with only two three-game series other than the two series with the cross-town/regional rival.
The diagrams on the Bank One Ballpark, Dodger Stadium, and PETCO Park pages have been tweaked, and those on the Rogers Centre page have been rotated, to conform to the new standard with home plate at a common coordinate, for better comparison. Those diagrams were already upgraded in terms of appearance, with warning tracks and an orientation compass, and were thus easy to redo. A major upgrade of the Shea Stadium page is "on deck."
From T. J. Zmina comes another link to a satellite photo, in this case two photos, of Turner Field and the old stadium that used to stand next door, at terraserver.microsoft.com. Also, there is a fine new panoramic photo on the Fenway Park page, taken by Leon Spath on a recent trip to Boston. Thanks, Leon!
May 20, 2005 [LINK]
Nats vie for first place, again
The Nationals managed to eke out one-run victories against the Brew Crew in the last two games of their series at RFK. They, and the Florida Marlins, are now only a half game behind the first-place Atlanta Braves. Even without "the two Josés" (Vidro and Guillen), the team is clicking on all cylinders. There are some weak spots that need work, but after six weeks of solid play, the possibility that the Nats will still be contending for the divisional title late into the season can no longer be dismissed as idle fantasy. Now they're off to Canada to begin interleague play, facing their (former) regional rivals, the Toronto Blue Jays. Presumably the Orioles will become their regional rivals next year.
Though impressive, the Nationals' winning ways have been far outmatched by the Yankees, whose ten-game winning streak was finally broken by Seattle on Wednesday. Washington fans will be cheering the Yanks as they take on the Mets at in the interleague series at Shea Stadium this weekend, and will be cheering on the Red Sox as they host the Braves, formerly of Boston. In the NL West, San Diego and Arizona have surprised many people by their recent hot streaks, pulling ahead of the Dodgers. I got a good look at PETCO Park when the Braves played there on Monday night, and it left a good impression. The Western Metals Building at the left field corner makes for some interesting plays, and those weird angles in the right field corner do likewise.
May 20, 2005 [LINK]
Suggestion on win-loss stats
Gary Majewski got credited for the win by the Nationals on Wednesday, but Esteban Loaiza really deserved the credit. Once again he pitched several innings (in this case, eight) without allowing any runs, but once again his teammates provided no run support. After nine starts this year, Loaiza only has three decisions (1-2), and yet only two major league pitchers who have have pitched as many innings as he has (61 1/3) have a lower ERA than he has (3.08). I'm sure his luck is bound to improve, but that raises a more fundamental issue of how pitching records are kept. Recall that Hector Carrasco got credit for a win even though he only threw one pitch; see May 15. Granted, the statistic of pitching wins and losses reflects not merely cumulative pitching effectiveness, such as ERA and strikeouts, but performance in the clutch. I suppose the criterion for winning and losing pitchers should remain based on the moment when the winning team took the lead, but perhaps in some games there should be no pitcher declared to be the winner or loser. Existing rules do allow for some discretion in judgment by the official scorer (see mlb.com, Section 10.19). Nevertheless, I suggest that to qualify for a win, a pitcher must pitch at least two full innings if he enters the game as a reliever. If no one qualifies for the win, so be it. It will keep the stats more meaningful.
As for the losing pitcher, there should be no minimum number of innings for either starters or relievers (as is now the case), but any runs scored by runners who were already on base when he entered the game should be ignored when determining the point at which his team fell behind in score. That is, a pitcher could only lose a game when he is charged with earned runs. This situation is less likely, however, so there would probably be more games with losing pitchers but no winning pitchers than vice versa.
May 20, 2005 [LINK]
RFK page upgrade & corrections
The diagrams on the RFK Stadium page (sponsored by Rudi Riet) have been revised substantially, based on my inspection of the old ballpark prior to the game on April 30. It now conforms to the new standard, with home plate at the same coordinate. Those with especially sharp eyes will notice that it is slightly smaller than the previous version, reflecting my realization that the upper deck hangs further out above the lower deck. Thanks to Christopher [Jackman] for pointing out that alternate field layout at Camden Yards was only in use for one year (2001), and for letting me know that many scenes from A League of Their Own were filmed at Bosse Field in Evansville, Indiana. The Civic Religion page has been duly updated, with a few other additions.
May 18, 2005 [LINK]
Trouble brewing for Nationals?
After winning their third game in a row on Monday, beating Milwaukee 5-2, the Nationals failed to get a man on base until the seventh inning against the Brewers last night, and would have been shut out for the first time since April 27 if Nick Johnson had not hit a home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. There has never been a no-hitter pitched in RFK Stadium, much less a perfect game. The Nationals have been scoring consistently lately, but their slugging performance is clearly lagging. Where did that near-perfect pitcher Wes Obermueller come from? In contrast, Nats' starting pitcher Claudio Vargas got clobbered with six runs in the first two innings, but the good news is that Tomo Ohka served surprisingly well as a reliever, giving up only two hits in 5 2/3 innings.
D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz (a Republican) wants to put a billboard inside RFK Stadium with the slogan "District of Columbia: Taxation Without Representation" to publicize their demands for a full voting representative in the House of Representatives. See Washington Post. I dislike politicizing baseball, but it's a reasonable way to promote a good cause. Too bad Mrs. Schwartz voted against the stadium deal that brought the Nationals to town in the first place! It's also too bad that television coverage of games in Washington is still so poor (thanks to you-know-who) that hardly anyone outside the District is likely to see those political billboards.
The Oakland Coliseum diagrams have been tweaked slightly to conform to the new standard, and revisions to RFK page incorporating the 2005 layout are imminent. Also, I've added separate text sidebars on the pages of ballparks where movies were filmed to highlight their "cinematic careers," and have filled in the remaining "gaps" in the chronology section of the Baseball in D.C. page. Whew! Finally, for the amusement of those folks who don't often visit my main home page, see our pet canary George at RFK Stadium.
May 15, 2005 [LINK]
Nats edge Cubs, twice
Nick Johnson knocked a two-run homer into the mezzanine level of right field at RFK this afternoon, but the key to the Nats' 5-4 victory was Cubs 2B Neifi Perez, who committed two errors in the sixth inning. It's not often that the winning run is scored without benefit of either a hit or a walk. Relief pitcher Hector Carrasco was credited with the win (his only decision so far this year) even though he only threw one pitch to end the sixth inning. How often has that ever happened? Do the record books count such things? Last night's 4-3 win halted a three-game losing streak and put the Nats back into third place, ahead of the Mets. So far, the Nationals have won five of nine games in which the winning margin was only one run. Today's game was nearly sold out, and last night's probably would have if it weren't for the rain, which delayed the start by two hours. Cubs fan George Will saw his favorite team play in Our Nation's Capital for the first time since the 19th Century. When asked whether he pulled political strings to get his prime-location season tickets at RFK, he gave a coy "no comment."
Since I asked of the Yankees' dismal slump "When will this nightmare end?" on May 6, they have turned things around and been on a red-hot streak, led by Tino Martinez, who has hit a home run in almost every one of those games. Such good fortune couldn't come to a nicer guy. The Red Sox have been even hotter, however, while the Orioles keep winning often enough to remain on top of the AL East. The White Sox have the best record of any team this year, which is quite a story in itself, but on a divisional basis, the East is clearly dominant in both leagues.
Boswell on RFK
Apparently suffering from a severe bout of baseball fever, Thomas Boswell wrote a (qualified) paean to RFK Stadium in yesterday's Washington Post. He concludes, however, by warning against complacency in resolving the broadcast issues and getting the team sold so that a new stadium can be built before the thrill is gone.
The grungy, musty anachronism, with its peeling exterior paint and its ingrained interior aromas of dust, beer and cigarettes, has provided a nostalgic destination for fans who have discovered an utterly unexpected affection for the old dump. RFK hasn't just proved to be a make-do facility but actually has its own time-warp charms. There's personality in the place. Normally sensible people have been caught discussing the "RFK experience," as if they'd forgotten that people have fun at ballgames.
But, eventually, RFK will become a curse. What seems quaint will inevitably become harshly dated. The smells that evoke memories will, in time, simply stink.
I share Boswell's enthusiasm for RFK, partly rooted in the feeling that playing baseball there rights the historical wrong suffered by D.C. after 1971. (See his response to my live chat comment on April 15.) The idea of a '60s-era cookie-cutter clone stadium having character is counter-intuitive, but who knows, we may come to miss those old places as the last few get replaced in the next few years.
Truth in diagramming
As I began tweaking some of the stadium diagrams that had already been fully "upgraded" to conform to a standard home plate coordinate, as mentioned in the last posting, I noticed an inaccuracy in the Atlanta-Fulton County diagram: the distances down the lines are about six feet too long. "Close enough for government work," perhaps, but not good enough for me. Correcton is pending.
Bruce Orser just sent me a link to a page full of satellite photos of baseball stadiums, at yahoo.com. I believe that's called "hitting the jackpot."
May 12, 2005 [LINK]
Wrigley Field update
At l-o-n-g last I have finished the revisions to the Wrigley Field page, which now has a dynamic diagram that lets you "travel through time" as the Home of the Cubs evolved toward the place we know and love today. It includes the walkways between the seating tiers of the lower deck, in part to draw attention to the "bend" in the seating rows on each end of the grandstand. Note that the diagram of the original configuration (1914, when it was called "Weeghman Park") is the result of thorough and painstaking research from various sources and photographs, many of which were graciously sent to me by Bruce Orser. Thanks a million, Bruce! Because it is based on limited information (aerial photographs were very rare around the time of World War I), however, that diagram may need to be revised in the future. A football version diagram of Wrigley Field (Da Bears!) is still pending.
Note that the revised Wrigley Field diagrams are now oriented with center field at the top, and are the first ones to be based on a new standardized layout to which nearly all diagrams will conform eventually. That means home plate will be at the exact same coordinate, so that you can make much better comparisons between stadiums on the "Side-by-side page, and on the pages where thumbnail diagrams appear. One of the most regular visitors and "tipsters" to this site, Steven Poppe, urged me to do just that many months ago. I hesitated, in part because I was afraid the stadium pages would no longer be easily viewable on computers with a 800x600 pixel monitor, but I think I can get it to work for most stadiums. Some very large stadiums, such as Memorial Coliseum or Cleveland Stadium, will have to remain the way they are. It may take me several more months to tackle this project, but I'll get there eventually.
Many thanks to Michael Rudolf for sponsoring the Yankee Stadium page. As a result, that "green cathedral" just moved up several notches on my "to-do" list.
Back to the real world
The injury-plagued Nationals dropped another close on in Phoenix last night, and will host the Cubs this for a three-game series weekend. Both the Cubs and Yankees recently ended long losing streaks, but both have a lot of "repair work" to do before they can resume a serious quest for the division lead. Royals manager Tony Peña resigned this week, and Hall of Famer George Brett said he's not interested in the job. (See the Royals Web site.) Brett showed up on Wheel of Fortune this week; he still has that big grin of a high school jock.
Andrew Clem Archives
May 10, 2005 [LINK]
Not in my wildest dreams would I pretend to know what it takes to be a baseball manager, but I was dumbfounded tonight when Frank Robinson let pitcher Tony Armas bat in the top of the sixth with the bases loaded and two outs. Armas, who has just returned from the disabled list*, had already pitched five shutout innings and would have gotten credit for a win had a pinch hitter gone in to bat for him. But no-o. He lined out to first base, raising the Nats' [individual] left-on-base total to an obscene 17. In the very next inning, the Diamondbacks scored three runs, taking the lead and Armas was relieved of his duties. Arghhh. As of midnight, the Nats are down, 3-2.
LATE, LATE UPDATE: Arizona held on to win, 3-2, in spite of the fact that they were outhit by the Nationals, 10-3. Total team LOB for Washington: 13, pretty awful.
Baseball Crank has the hard data on the cumulative division-by-division win-loss records so far this year, and the NL East came out even higher than I thought, with a net +16 edge. That makes the Washington Nationals, currently 3 games above .500, look even better. *Considering the many injuries the team has suffered lately (Jose Vidro just sprained his ankle), their accomplishments look truly amazing. The NL Central is -15 against teams from other divisions.
Thanks to Mark London for sponsoring the Three Rivers Stadium page, and for informing me that said stadium had a full dirt infield in its first three years, 1970-1972. That is not mentioned in my main source, Lowry's Green Cathedrals, but Mark spent a lot of time at Three Rivers in the 70s and sounds like he knows what he's talking about. So, I've revised the Turf page, including updated info for the Metrodome and a few others. Note that the list of "Coming attractions" in the left column of the Baseball page has been reordered to reflect a higher priority given to stadiums that have been sponsored. And, yes, that is a hint.
May 10, 2005 [LINK]
Get well soon Donna
One of my old friends from the University of South Dakota, Donna Ball, had some bad luck in terms of health. She was having a harder and harder time breathing in the last couple months, and after a battery of tests was conducted, she was diagnosed with Wegener's Granuloma, a rare autoimmune system disease that affects only ten of every one million people. It used to be fatal, but is now treatable with heavy doses of strong medicine over a 12-month period. Donna has endured and overcome numerous tribulations in her life, and yet always manages to bounce back and move ahead. She is fiercely independent and loves to travel to unusual destinations, take photographs, and write about all sorts of topics. She is one of those underappreciated talented, hard-working, honest-as-the-day-is-long people who form the bedrock of this great nation. Get-well wishes may be sent to Donna at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrew Clem Archives
May 8, 2005 [LINK]
Marlins to be homeless?
In spite of intensive lobbying by officials from Miami and the Marlins front office (see April 9), the Florida legislature turned down the request for state help in funding a new baseball stadium in Miami. This doesn't necessarily doom the team to search for a home in another state, however: "Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, who has spent nearly two weeks in Tallahassee lobbying for the stadium, vowed to keep the team in town." See Miami Herald. Folks in Washington, Minneapolis, and elsewhere know how these issues tends to drag out infinitely. Speaking of which, the D.C. Council has lost patience with Mayor Williams and has taken control of the search for alternative stadium financing mechanisms. See Washington Post.
Washington conquers California
The Giants eked out a 4-3 win against the Nationals in the 13th inning tonight, thus averting being swept. The Nats won series against both the Dodgers and the Giants this past week, leaving no doubt that they are a very solid, competitive team. Is it premature to say they cannot be ruled out as contenders for the postseason? Manager Frank Robinson said the key play in Saturday's amazing comeback game was when Jose Guillen hit a sacrifice ground ball to advance the runner to third, rather than go for a home run. See nationals.mlb.com. Guillen had a bad reputation for being hard to get along with in Anaheim last year, but he is definitely a team player for the Nationals. Next up: The Arizona Diamondbacks, who are currently in second place in the NL West but were swept by the Nationals in the opening series at RFK Stadium last month.
Nearly all of the stadium pages should be "upgraded" by now. I tried to double check each one, because I modified many of the photographs to become more consistent in size, but there are bound to be a few glitches that escaped my notice. If so, please let me know.
May 6, 2005 [LINK]
Strange day at the parks
It would appear that the L.A. Dodgers had a lot to get off their chest after losing two of three games while hosting the Nationals earlier this week. In the first inning against Cincinnati today, they scored ten runs! The Reds came back with six runs in the last two innings, but that was not even half of what they needed. Mark Prior pitched an almost flawless eight innings, and Derrek Lee hit a two run homer in the bottom of the eighth to take the lead, but relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins made a throwing error in the top of the ninth, so the Cubs lost to the Phillies, 3-2. Ouch! Seemingly from out of nowhere, the Milwaukee Brewers had a seven-game winning streak going, but the Mets stopped them tonight, 7-4. Mike Piazza hit two home runs. The Yankees came back to tie the game 3-3 against the visiting A's, but Oakland scored three in the top of the tenth, as the Yanks dropped their [fourth] straight game. When will this nightmare end? Nats 1B Brad Wilkerson got tonight's game with the Giants at SBC Park started off on a good foot with a single, but Jamey Carroll then grounded into a double play.
Stadium page upgrades
I've begun the process of upgrading all the stadium pages, a task that should be done by tomorrow. The most immediate change you will notice is aesthetic, with more even layout of the diagrams and a separate shaded background for the main text section, for easier reading. Near the top right of each page you will see a ball (). Be careful when you move the mouse close to it! Clicking on it will take you to the Baseball site map page. If you roll across without clicking, however, the page will automatically scroll down to the Photos section (if there are any on that page), where you will see one photo and one or more green caption boxes on the left. Clicking on those links will let you see any of the photos. That way, the page loads more quickly for those who have seen the photos before and just want to check information. Some pages also have one or more extra-wide panorama photos below that, with similar green caption boxes if there are more than one. Further toward the bottom there is a Fan comments section with a link to a comments form that is not yet functional. The comments form is meant for those who have actually been to the stadiums in question, and have special experiences that other folks would enjoy hearing about. Any questions or errors that need to be brought to my attention should be sent via e-mail, as before.
The Baseball in D.C. page now has a list of the nine investors who have put down a $100,000 deposit to qualify as bidders for the Washington Nationals franchise. Some think the sales price could reach $400,000 or more, but that depends in part on how this insane war over broadcasting rights with the Orioles is resolved.
May 5, 2005 [LINK]
Early All Star picks
I can't believe they are already taking ballots to choose the All Star teams. Is one month enough time to base a decision? Among the Nationals, who are resting for a three-game stand in San Francisco, Vinny Castilla ought to be a shoo-in, and Jose Guillen will probably make the team as well. Brad Wilkerson started the season red hot but has been in a slump for the past ten days, and thus probably won't get picked. He's got plenty of years ahead of him in his career, however. As for the Yankees, A-Rod, Gary Sheffield, and Derek Jeter are hitting just fine and will no doubt get picked as All Stars, but the rest of the lineup pretty much stinks, with none of the regulars batting over .280. Pitching? Ughh... Is the dismal prospect of abandoning their cherished home having a depressing effect on how well the Yankees play?
Many thanks to Eric McErlain (of Off Wing Opinion sports-blogging fame) for sponsoring the Shea Stadium page. That's one of those stadium pages whose diagram is in need of updating (making it "dynamic"), so it will get moved up toward the front of the waiting line. When I was watching a Braves game there a week or two ago I noticed that the left field bleachers have been expanded, with a bigger section in the middle, but I haven't seen any solid information on that. Someone else asked me about sponsoring more than one page, and I said I'd have to think about that. Don't wait until the one you want is already taken!
I just received word from Joseph McCauley that his book Ebbets Field: Brooklyn's Baseball Shrine has just been published. "The book is currently available through Authorhouse.com for $19.50 or from other sites like Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble for a higher fee."
Mike Zurawski has referred me to more recent stadium photos at webshots.com, which has a separate page for baseball. Of particular interest are the extra rows of seats between the dugout and bullpen on the first base side in Wrigley Field. No wasted space there!
My apologies to all those folks who sent me e-mail messages in recent days but didn't get a timely response. Busy, busy, busy...
May 5, 2005 [LINK]
In the beginning...
Thanks to Rudi Riet for being the first person to sponsor a stadium page: RFK Stadium, naturally enough. He came across a wonderful bit of creative prose: Opening Day
Genesis by Glenn Burkmeier. Thus prompted, I updated the Civic Religion page, which was long overdue.
Eric Mirlis, an independent sports writerbased in New York, recently launched The Writers, a collaborative Web site. Among the group, Brian Wilmer is devoting special attention to touring and evaluating all sorts of ballparks. Check them out!
Selig gets tough on steroids
Commissioner Selig seems to have gotten the message from Congress, and has proposed much stiffer penalties for players who use steroids or other banned drugs. Rather than "five strikes and you're out" under the old policy, the third offense would, under his plan, result in a lifetime suspension from Major League Baseall. The first offense would draw a 50-game suspension, rather than 10 as in the current rules. I suppose he is heading in the right direction, but basic problem remains in the culture of "so what?" The seriousness and sincerity with which MLB officials and players actually carry out the new rules will be just as important as what is written on paper.
Nats cope with injuries
Endy Chavez was called up from New Orleans to replace Terrmel Sledge, who suffered an injury. Chavez choked in a clutch situation in his first at bat on Tuesday night in L.A., as the Nats lost to the Dodgers 4-2, but he made up for it on Wednesday by getting two hits, including an RBI double. Final score 5-2. The Nats win their first series on the West Coast!
May 3, 2005 [LINK]
Photos from RFK
My photos from the Nationals game on Saturday night turned out rather mediocre, unfortunately, reflecting the poor lighting conditions. Wait till next time! Note that the RFK Stadium page is a "prototype" of the new format all stadium pages will have shortly, but the comments form linked to it (at the bottom) is still under development.
Pictured with me here are my niece Cathy and her friend Yanira, who had a good time at the ball game even if they didn't understand all of it. More than once they asked me what the score was, which raises a good point: Nearly all scoreboards nowadays are part of multi-functional electronic displays, which show scores one minute and advertising the next. Shouldn't there be one or two old-fashioned mechanical scoreboards to make it easier for less-attentive fans to see who's ahead in the game?
Rising traffic, page sponsorship
As the number of visitors to this site continues to climb, far outpacing my original expectations, the specter of bandwidth limitations rears its ugly head once again. (Some of you will recall that this site used to be hosted by Earthlink, and before that by Apple, but grew too big for its britches.) Yet even on the full-fledged Web server I've used since last June, the number of gigabytes is fast approaching the allowed traffic quota. That is why I've decided to include a "sponsorship box" at the top right corner of each stadium page, as a token of appreciation for those generous folks who put their money where their mouths are. From now on, individuals who contribute $10* to this site may choose any stadium page to "sponsor" for one year. You can have an e-mail or Web site link attached to your name, if you would like. Smaller donations are still welcome, too. ¡Muchas gracias! (* Amount subject to change, [one sponsor per page].)
Bullpen woes, L.A. win
Four Nats relief pitchers are on the disabled list, including Joey Eischen, who broke his arm while diving for a ground ball in Sunday night's game against the Mets. He's expected to be out for 8-12 weeks, and will be sorely missed. See the Nationals Web site. In spite of missing relievers and travel fatigue -- having flown across the continent after the late-night game against the Mets -- the Nationals decisively beat the first-place Dodgers in L.A. last night, 6-2. Pretty darned impressive... I didn't realize that Nats manager Frank Robinson was ejected from the game in the eighth inning on Saturday, after swearing at an umpire in an argument over repairing the mud patches in the infield. The Mets, who had mounted a late comeback, filed a protest of the game. Perhaps the bottom of the eighth and the ninth innings will be played on some other date.
May 3, 2005 [LINK]
Attendance at RFK: solid
An average of 30,951 fans attended the twelve Nationals home games at RFK Stadium during their first month, ranking 13th among the 30 major league teams. This was slightly less than the Baltimore Orioles, who have an established fan base and a fancy new(ish) stadium. Perhaps more significant is how attendance for Baltimore and Washington combined (63,256) compares to other multi-team metropolitan areas, behind Los Angeles (89,836) and New York (82,226), but ahead of Chicago (60,232) and San Francisco Bay (60,035). See Washington Post. (But how many of those are just "phantom fans"?) The 40,000+ attendance at Saturday's game is all the more remarkable because there was also a basketball game at the MCI Center; the Washington Wizards are in the playoffs for the first time since they changed their name from the "Bullets." On my way into Washington I saw more folks on the Metro wearing Wizards logos than Nationals logos, but that was because I went early. Some sports fanatics, such as Rudi Riet, made it to both games!
May 1, 2005 [LINK]
40 K (& I) see Nats edge Mets
I finally got to see a Nationals home game at RFK Stadium on Saturday night, and unlike their inaugural game in Philadelphia which I saw, this time the ending was very gratifying. I expected there to be a big crowd, but the attendance exceeded my expectations: 40,913, the most since the sold-out Opening Day! Unfortunately, a fair number of them were Mets fans who made their presence known. My niece Cathy, her friend Yanira, and I sat up in the nosebleed level, on the left of the old football press box on the first base side. It was at least a clear view of the whole field, if rather distant. The crowd was fired up and the cheering got very loud at some points. As I watched the game unfold, I kept marvelling at how wonderful and perfectly natural it all looked, and wondering how this great city could have been deprived of such an experience for over three decades. The inside of the stadium looked very good, though the field itself could have been trimmed up a bit, and the old and grimy concourses were jam-packed with eateries and souvenir stands, raking in megabucks. How anyone could question the huge net positive economic effect baseball is having on Washington is utterly beyond comprehension. The Nats jumped ahead 2-0 in the first inning thanks to another clutch double by Vinny Castilla, and solo homers by Ryan Church and Nick Johnson in later innings added insurance runs. There was a rain delay in the sixth inning, and another one in the eighth, when the grounds crew failed to get the infield covered by the tarp after multiple attempts with a dozen or so volunteer helpers. It provided great comic relief for the kids, who would have been pretty bored otherwise. (I also had a very unusual bird-watching experience while it rained.) The rain highlighted one of RFK's distinctive features: Since the vast majority of seats are covered by the roof or the overhanging upper deck, most fans weren't bothered at all by the heavy showers. (Actually, there was a leak in the roof above me, and I got hit by a few drops.) After 30 minutes or so, the grounds crew managed to get the infield mud covered, an exercise in futility, but the umps called the game soon thereafter, and the Nats won 5-3. Unlike last week, this time the ground crew's shortcomings worked to the Nats' advantage. For a wrap-up, see mlb.com. I'll have more to say on what I saw at RFK, plus some new photos, soon...
As seen by millions on ESPN tonight, the Nats let the Mets break a tie in the top of the ninth inning, losing 6-3 and failing to complete what would have been their second sweep of the season.
April 28, 2005 [LINK]
Day of rest
After nearly two weeks without a break, the Nationals had a much needed day off today. They need to regroup and focus on problems after recent missed opportunities such as yesterday afternoon. You would think that eight shutout innings and eleven strikeouts would be enough for Esteban Loaiza to win his first game as a National, but no-o. All it took was a solo shot homer by Jimmy Rollins in the top of the ninth to decide the series rubber match; the two insurance runs the Phillies scored didn't matter. I'd like to hear Frank Robinson's explanation for not replacing Loaiza with a reliever in the ninth. The Nats left runners on third base twice early in the game, almost unforgiveable. The last time they won a series was against Arizona, in their home opening series. Since that series, attendance at Nats' home games has averaged about 27,000. Not bad, especially compared to Montreal, but it could be better. Nick Johnson has been pulled from the lineup until a contusion on his leg heals; he's got a 16-game hitting streak going. The versatile Brad Wilkerson will move to first base for the time being.
Nats keep Bowden
Jim Bowden will stay on as General Manager of the Nationals through the end of the season. He had been working under a verbal contract that expires at the end of the month, under the assumption that the franchise would be sold by now. Because of the lingering legal issues, the team's value is still too uncertain for buyers to commit. Without Bowden, it's hard to imagine that the Nationals would have acquired so much first-class talent such as Vinny Castilla and Esteban Loaiza. In my book, Bowden is a genuine hero, going way beyond the call of duty to give Washington fans a real reason to root, root, root for the home team.
Red hot A-Rod
Alex Rodriguez hit three home runs, knocking in ten of the Yankees' twelve runs on Tuesday night. The Yanks have crawled out of last place, while the high-flying Orioles are having their best April in many years. Is it possible that the increased competition for fan support resulting from the Washington Nationals has given the Orioles the needed kick in the rear to be aroused from complacent apathy and start living up to their high historic standards? Just a thought...
Steven Poppe, who has never given up hope that Montreal can support a major league baseball team, brought this Web site to my attention: Encore Baseball Montreal. It's too bad they can't share one of the Florida teams, which could play in Canada from June through August, but that would probably be too hard on the players, as the ex-Expos found out.
The newly reformatted baseball stadium pages should be ready by tomorrow, complete with links to comment forms (not yet functional).
April 26, 2005 [LINK]
New stadium for Twins!
After years of haggling with state and local governments, it appears that the Twins will finally get their wish with a new ballpark in downtown Minneapolis. It would be located on the west side of downtown, and would have 42,000 seats but no retractable roof, which the Twins wanted. (B-b-bring y-your overcoats!) "Under the proposal, the Twins would contribute $125 million [of the $444 total cost], including a $40 million payment up front, with the balance to be paid prior to completion of construction." See the Twins Web site. Today, however, Hennepin County Board postponed voting on the very controversial funding plan for the stadium for at least one week. See Minneapolis Star Tribune. That sounds like a familiar scenario. Indeed, D.C. Council member Marion Barry was quoted today as saying that the fight over the new baseball stadium in Washington is not over yet.
Upper deck blast
Brad Wilkerson hit the real first home run into the upper deck of RFK Stadium since 1971 tonight, landing in the right field corner. It helped the Nats to beat the Phillies 3-1, rebounding from last night's 5-4 loss. That was another "hard day's night" for Zach Day. The Nats are now 11-10 for the season, holding their own in a tough division.
Soccer officials are upset that the turf was not in very good condition for the D.C. United game at RFK on Saturday night. Even worse, the chalk lines were apparently off by several yards, so that the playing field was a parallelogram rather than a rectangle. Well, it was a very quick turnaround between the Nats' home game last Thursday and Saturday. Let's hope the grounds crew gets better with practice. Why don't they play the soccer games at FedEx Field??
I got some good tips on Yankee Stadium from Matt Visco, a new visitor to this site. He is actively engaged in organizing an effort to save Yankee Stadium, a very worthy and not hopeless cause. Hey, it worked in Boston. T.J. Zmina combined satellite images of PNC Park and Heinz Field from the Google service mentioned before, and combined them with an old one of Three Rivers Stadium to come up with a "Pittsburgh composite" image. All that's missing is Exposition Park, where the Pirates played before Forbes Field was built. According to a map in Gershman's book Diamonds, it would be about where the eastbound exit ramp from the bridge is today, that is, slightly closer to PNC Park than where Three Rivers Stadium used to be. Changes in street names and locations over the decades make it hard to be sure. Mike Zurawski informs me that the LC distance marker in PNC Park has been changed from "389" to "378," but after seeing the photos he referred me to, that is because the sign moved 20 or so feet toward the left field pole, apparently to make room for more billboards.
April 24, 2005 [LINK]
That's more like it: Vin-NY!
The Nats got revenge today (and averted being swept), beating the Mets by a resounding 11-4. They embarassed the heck out of Mike Piazza by stealing base four times, including twice by Vinny Castilla who went four for five, and is now batting .386, among the top ten in the majors. Last week Vinny set a new Major League record for consecutive errorless defensive plays at third base (272), but it came to an end on Friday. The streak began in July 2004, when he played for Colorado. Do the last-place Rockies regret letting him go? People said his high slugging marks were boosted by the thin air in Denver, but this veteran is for real. Career year? I'd like to know why the grass field at Shea stadium looked like a wet carpet today.
The Yankees got revenge on the Texas Rangers, meanwhile, but are still in last place in the AL East. The Orioles (!) are in first place. Something is seriously amiss here...
Pot calls kettle black
Speaking of the Orioles, there was a full-page ad in today's Washington Post by that franchise's Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, titled "NATIONALS FANS HELD HOSTAGE BY COMCAST." The open letter, signed by MASN VP Bob Whitelaw, accused Comcast (see April 22) of heavy-handed tactics, deception, and unreasonable litigiousness in the war over broadcast rights. The format and aggressive tone were both remarkably similar to an open letter in late March by a certain franchise owner who shall go nameless. MASN wants D.C.-area fans to know they're on our side: "We continue to work tirelessly to provide you with more Nationals baseball games in your home." On their terms, of course, and only after having done everything humanly possible to prevent the Nationals from ever coming to existence in the first place. Chutzpah on parade! I'd like to know why they are still blacking out Nationals games broadcast on TBS when the games are not yet available on cable TV.
Satellite photos; Firefox
Major league kudos to Rudi Riet for bringing to my attention what seems to be the best online source I've seen yet for satellite ground photos, sponsored by Google. He did all the necessary searching to nail down the coordinates for nearly all present baseball stadiums, and some long-gone ones, posted on hisRandom Duck blog. That's the kind of devoted, painstaking effort that warms the heart of any researcher. NOTE: You'll need updated browser software and plugins to use it, and my Safari version 1.0 wouldn't cut it. (I've been holding out for the next upgrade of Mac OS X, "Tiger.") Rudi pointed me to mozilla.org, from which I downloaded Firefox, which works very well. Many thanks, Rudi!
Ticket to keep
Responding to my recent post "Phantom fans and tax reform," Gary Dunaier of Flushing, NY (home of the Mets and site of the 1657 Flushing Remonstrance) offered a reason why someone might buy tickets without intending to use them: For their value as collectable souvenirs. Well, it's a free country and we can all spend our money pretty much as we see fit, but doesn't that practice result in fewer available seats for people who actually show up at the stadium? Do the ticket booth workers in most stadiums make a practice of selling standing room tickets toward the middle of a "sold-out" game if they know that a significant portion of the sold tickets aren't being used?
Today's Twins-Tigers game in Detroit was snowed out! Maybe a domed stadium there wouldn't have been such a bad idea after all. Actually, I saw a few snowflakes outside our window today. Weird...
April 23, 2005 [LINK]
Ouch! Reality bites
The Nationals dropped their first two games up in Shea Stadium, and now have a three-game losing streak, plunging from first to fourth in the NL East. I can understand losing against Tom Glavine, but today's 10-5 defeat makes one wonder if the magical honeymoon is over. There's a lot of fine young talent on the team, and superb management, but the ex-Expos' transition to their new identity is still underway, and some bad days are to be expected. If they only had an owner...
The Cubs will have a hard time making up for the loss of Nomar Garciaparra, out for at least two months due to a bad groin pull. Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe hinted that steroid use may have made Nomar more fragile and susceptible to inury, which he of course denies. See MLB.com.
In the next few days, all of the baseball stadium pages will be reformatted so as to be more compatible with a broader range of browser software. The main difference you will notice is that there will be more consistent spacing around the diagrams and photographs, which will be redone in a way that speeds up the page loading process. The intent is to make it easier to jump from one page to another. This is in preparation for the inclusion of fan comments on each stadium page... Then I will unveil the revised, "dynamic" diagrams of Wrigley Field, depicting its evolution through the decades.
April 22, 2005 [LINK]
I was pleased to learn that Gary Sheffield did not receive any fines or disciplinary action for the incident involving the interfering fan in Fenway Park last week. Bud Selig said, "I am pleased that Gary Sheffield showed restraint in not overreacting to the improper and clearly aggressive action of the fan in question." See MLB.com The guilty fan, Christoper House, "had his season tickets revoked for the remainder of the season, while a second fan who poured a beer on Sheffield is not permitted to buy Red Sox tickets for the rest of 2005." I hope that such interference doesn't lead to more gaps being built between outfield fences and the stands, as they did in Yankee Stadium. Fans should be part of the game, up to a point. And no, I am not talking about Steve Bartman.
Howard Corday sent me some fine pics of McCoy Stadium, home of the Pawtucket Red Sox. I've had a few other inquiries about whether I plan to include more minor league ballparks, since I recently added the diagram for The Diamond in Richmond. Possibily so, but only after I've finished revamping all the major league stadium pages. In any case, I would be very selective. That reminds me, on the way to the Nationals-Phillies game on April 4 I passed by Ripken Stadium, home of the Aberdeen Ironbirds, located along I-95 in northeastern Maryland.
50 K and climbing
The hit counter for the baseball page just crossed the 50,000 threshhold since this site "went semi-pro" last June. It's nice to get recognition, and I always enjoy hearing from appreciative fans, especially the ones (regrettably few) who have had the nerve to click on that PayPal donation button. "Bloggers increasingly rely on cybertips to finance posts" writes Beth Gillen of Knight Ridder News Service. So how's this: You plunk down a few bucks, and you get first consideration for suggested additions or improvements to this site. It's better than those hideous YOU ARE A WINNER! banners or sleazy pop-up ads for low-mortgage loans...
April 22, 2005 [LINK]
Phantom fans and tax reform
I noticed that the Washington Post is using the phrase "announced attendance" (as in 30,728 yesterday) when referring to games at RFK, a subtle hint that a lot of paid-for seats are not occupied. I have noticed nominal attendance being at least ten or twenty percent in excess of apparent attendance at some games on TV and in person, and I wonder if anyone has tabulated actual human attendance and the difference between that and paid attendance. Why would anyone in their right mind buy tickets without intending to see the game? Well, most of those empty seats are for season ticket holders, of course, and most of those are bought by corporations and lobbying firms who use them as deal-making incentives. Since they get to write off ticket expenses on their tax returns anyway, the bosses really don't care so much if the tickets don't get used on some days. That is one more reason why I favor elimination of the corporate income tax (replaced by a luxury tax so as to be revenue-neutral), to eliminate all those accounting loopholes that create needless distortions in our economy. (Unbeknownst to most people, total corporate income tax revenues are much less than the total of personal income tax anyway.) Of course, such a radical reform would take most of the fun out of being a congressperson, most of whom spend much of their time monkeying with the U.S. Tax Code in order to satsify lobbyists, in order to raise funds for reelection, in order to ... why did they originally run for office, again?
April 22, 2005 [LINK]
What's the worst way to lose a ball game? Nats shortstop Cristian Guzman found out the hard way on Thursday when Washington was one out from a "mini-sweep" (2-game) of the Braves, but then committed a throwing error that ended up losing the game, 2-1. I was angry at Guzman as I followed the game on MLB's Game Day (once again, the TBS-televised game was blacked out)* in our area, but I later saw that the field was so muddy that players could hardly keep their footing. That was why Marcus Giles didn't score from second on Johnny Estrada's single, which instead loaded the bases. Well, let's take heart. Starting pitcher John Patterson has been extremely impressive so far, having pitched at least 13 straight shutout innings. With an ERA of 0.86, he is currently fifth in the National League rankings (20 innings or more). Can we have some run support? The Nationals seem to have taken the disappointing loss well, at least. Reliever Chad Cordero took the blame for loading the bases in the ninth, and Guzman didn't use the mud to make excuses. But you know what? When it comes to baseball in Washington, even a gut-wrenching loss like this one is better than no game at all! I would hate to be in the Braves' shoes and win a game with zero RBIs: shame! Besides, the Nats are still tied for first place!
* Orioles get sued!
Comcast SportsNet has sued the Baltimore Orioles and their "Mid-Atlantic Sports Network" over what a Comcast executive called the [Peter] "Angelos tax," which was the price for getting broadcast rights to Washington Nationals games. As a result, there will be virtually no Nats games on cable TV in Virginia for the foreseeable future. See Washington Post. I could just S-C-R-E-A-M! Are the rest of the MLB owners aware of how much money they are losing by letting this issue drag on?
April 20, 2005 [LINK]
Dodgers on top
So what's up with those Dodgers, anyway? Has the spiffed up, more intimate Dodger Stadium spurred them to excel? Does their total dominance over other teams reflect anger at the Angels for (re-) invading their territory, in terms of urban affiliation? Barry M. Bloom at MLB.com recalls that this is the fiftieth anniversary of the Dodgers' World Series win over the Yankees. He notes the remarkable accomplishment that the Dodgers began the season without several of their top players, including reliever Eric Gagne, who is almost without equal. The Dodgers may have picked up a bit of good luck when they donned Brooklyn uniforms to mark Jackie Robinson Day.
Speaking of which, I hope the Nationals don't try to sweep under the rug their franchise history as the Montreal Expos the way the Senators-Twins, the Senators-Rangers, or the Browns-Orioles seem to have done. Neither the Pilots (1969) nor the original Brewers (1901) or Orioles (1901-1902) had enough of a history to warrant much commemoration.
Zach Day has quickly rebounded from a rough outing against the Marlins, pitching seven shutout innings, as the Nats beat the Braves 2-0. At least they're still above .500 in home games. Jose Vidro's homer in the third inning was all the Nats needed to win. Up in Toronto, meanwhile, the Yankees trounced the Blue Jays 11-2, apparently regaining their composure.
In addition to the new diagram on the The Diamond, page (home of the R-Braves), the updates shown on most of the non-stadium baseball pages are now automated.
April 19, 2005 [LINK]
There is one new page: Baseball site map, with interactive thumbnail diagrams, and one revised page: Stadium chronology, which includes the relocation of the Expos to become the Washington Nationals.
UPDATE: The Nats lost to the Marlins again tonight, 6-3, and now share first place with the Fish. Once again, they tried hard for a comeback but fell short. The entire NL Eastern Division is extremely tight so far, as is the AL West. The Marlins have the lowest team ERA so far this season, 1.87; the Nationals are number 25 out of 30 on that list. In terms of batting and fielding, however, the Nats rank well above average.
April 18, 2005 [LINK]
Good sweep, bad sweep
The phenomenal five-game winning streak of the Nationals has solidified a remarkable "love affair" that has blossomed between the team and their new home city. On some days they show overwhelming offensive power, and on other days they show a feisty competitive spirit. Yesterday's comeback victory over Arizona was a combination of both. Sweeping the Diamondbacks might not seem like a huge accomplishment, given their low place in the standings in the years since their World Series title, but this year they had been at the top in the NL West, which must mean something. Now the Dodgers are the only team in the majors with a higher winning percentage than the Nats. Believe it or not! Meanwhile, the Orioles managed an even more improbable sweep of the Yankees for the first time in five years. Booo! Thomas Boswell waxes euphoric about all this in the Washington Post, but it's way to early to draw any big conclusions about pennant races. (Or is it?)
"Screech," the bald eagle mascot of the Nationals, officially "hatched" yesterday. I suppose if the kids like him, it can't do much harm, but what about dignity? Do the Nats have to play "follow the leader" with every promotional gimmick concocted by other teams?
April 18, 2005 [LINK]
New Yankee Stadium?
I heard on the radio on Saturday that the Yankees are finalizing a deal with the city of New York to build a new stadium next to the "House That Babe Built." Several press reports say pretty much the same thing; according to MS-NBC, the two parties "are completing a 'memorandum of understanding' and ... an announcement is expected around May 1.'" If so, it's a terrible shame. It's instructive that this news comes just as Mr. Steinbrenner issued a highly inappropriate "apology" (called "bombastic, ridiculous and pointless" by Thomas Boswell; see above) on behalf of his team for their mediocre start. If he didn't treat his players like expendable commodities or pawns on a chessboard, playing fantasy baseball with real human beings, they might perform more like a real team, as was the case in the late 1990s. He just doesn't get it.
Mike Zurawski sends word that Coors Field has joined the trend of squeezing more rows of box seats in the area behind home plate. The team's Web site seems to confirm this, but I haven't seen any officials announcements to that effect.
UPDATE: So the Yanks tied a major league record by scoring 13 (thirteen) runs in the second inning against the visiting Devil Rays. Too bad they couldn't have spread some of that offensive firepower around. They let Tampa Bay score eight runs and still won by an 11-run margin. The Nats got another reality check as the Marlins grabbed a 9-0 lead by the seventh inning, but at least they showed enough spunk to get four rebound runs by the end of the game. They left a lot of men on base (12), but the Marlins left even more: 14. Quite a pitchers' duel going on in Houston: Tim Hudson is holding his own against the "Rocket," 0-0 after seven innings.
April 16, 2005 [LINK]
Jackie Robinson (yester) Day
I had forgotten the reason they had moved the home opener in D.C. from April 15th to the 14th; it was to make it possible for Commissioner Selig to be present for the Jackie Robinson Day ceremonies in Los Angeles. (See MLB.com) Actually, Robinson had retired just before the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn. In his honor, I've made several corrections and improvements to the Negro Leagues page, as well as the pages of the nine stadiums that were once the home fields of Negro League teams. Also see the Negro League Baseball Players Association Web site.
After taking a close look at the video of the apparent "bean ball" thrown at Vinny Castilla on Thursday night (in ultra-slow motion on my iMac), I've concluded that it was not intentional. The ball curved sharply inside, and pitcher Lance Cormier winced after it hit Vinny. Hence, no need for the Nats to uphold "honor" by retaliating. Up in Boston, meanwhile, Yankee right fielder Gary Sheffield seemed to me to be within his rights to let an obnoxious interfering fan know his feelings. His tit-for-tat shove was a "proportional response," and he did not go into the seating area or throw any furniture. I hope he won't get any suspensions. Alex Rodriguez did his part to build friendly relations between Boston and the Bronx when he saved a young Bostonian lad, Patrick McCarthy, from an oncoming vehicle.
D.C. blogger Rudy Riet (Random Duck) relates his experience at RFK's home opener with text as well as photos.
Bill Blake saw the White Sox Opening Game, and sent some new photos, two of which are posted on the U.S. Cellular Field page. It has a couple new improvements this year, including a new practice area for kids behind the left field seats.
April 15, 2005 [LINK]
Ahh, the sweet afterglow
It's hard to believe that it was not all just a dream. Some will say that it was too bad Livan Hernandez didn't get the shutout, but from the perspective of a true baseball fan, that nerve-wrenching ninth inning made it as close to a "perfect game" as you could get. The defensive highlight of the game was first-baseman Nick Johnson's spectacular diving stop of a would-be double. The Nationals are now alone in first place (!??) for at least a day, and the team's overall balance and depth are very impressive.
In an interview before the game, President Bush explained why he refrained from taking an active role in pushing for the return of baseball to D.C., and I suppose he's right. He also made a big point about how baseball should reach out to African-American kids, which is very good, but there is also a big Latino minority residing in Our Nation's Capital, and I would hope the Nationals reach out to them as well. In that respect, it was quite fitting that Vinny Castilla (from Oaxaca, Mexico) stepped up to the plate as the Opening Day (& Night) hero. Then Diamondback pitcher Lance Cormier ruined what would have been a monumental accomplishment by Vinny, hitting for the "cycle," one week after Brad Wilkerson did so. If you ask me, any batter who hits a double, triple, and homer before getting hit by a pitch deserves to get a "cycle" in the record books. Here's what Thomas Boswell wrote on that little incident in the Washington Post Live Chat this morning: "
I suspect that this affront to Mr. Castilla's attempt to complete the cycle with the president on hand will not go unnoticed. If not this weekend, then eventually. Baseball is a game with multi-year memories."
[in response to a related question]:
No brawls on Opening Night (or in a World Series). On Saturday and Sunday we revert to Normal Baseball. A lot will depend on whether the Nats thought it actuually "slipped." Which happens. But it didn't look that way. Castilla had tripled in two runs on an outside pitch and hit a two-run homer on an inside pitch. To Arizoan, he probably "looked to comfortable up there."
Then he went on to my query:
Staunton, Va.: RFK Stadium looked so good last night, that it made me wonder: Is there any chance they can stretch out construction of the new ballpark for a couple years, to make up for all the "lost years" at RFK?
Tom Boswell: Talked to a member of a potential ownership group yesterday on their guess at a stadium opening date. For '08, no way. For '09, probably. For '10...it could actually take that long if they don't start hustling."
You're going to see plenty of RFK. But, if an honorable group buys the team, they will pour plenty of money down the RFK rat hole to improve the fan experience each year. THEY MUST. It's a pure seed-corn business decision. (As well as the right thing to do.)
But this one really hit the mark for me:
Baltimore, Md.: Hey Tom,
Up here in Charm City; where the whining has really hit fever pitch. Let me tell you from this perspective; Angelos' pettiness has harmed the once proud Orioles franchise much more than the mere presence of the Nats ever could have. He is a myopic man who thinks that litigation and brinksmanship can win every battle; it is all he knows. He really misplayed this one; much less leverage than he really believes he has, as the owners will not let him devalue the Nats further prior to sale. He should embrace the new rivalry and welcome the Nats, not because he's a nice guy, but because it's smart business.
Tom Boswell: I'm over Angelos. Enough with the guy. Get the Nats-on-TV stuff solidified and then lets go on to more interesting subjects. And almost any subject is more interesting than Peter.
Indeed. "Maryland is for crabs."
April 14, 2005 [LINK]
What a beautiful, glorious OPENING DAY!
If the gorgeous blue skies are any indication, Opening Day at RFK Stadium will be an auspicious, memorable occasion indeed for the (tied) first-place Washington Nationals, hosting the Arizona Diamondbacks. I only wish I could be there. (What are the scalpers charging, anyway?) Well, at least I saw the Nats' first-ever game up in Philly, along with Phil; note historic souvenir in photo. Given the media frenzy surrounding today's game, I figure that fan presence at subsequent games as this season rolls on will be more important than one more body trying to squeeze into this evening's Inaugural Game. President Bush will toss the first presidential pitch in Washington since Richard Nixon did so in 1971; Brian Schneider will catch it. It would be nice if W's father, who was a star player on the Yale baseball team, could be there as well. Yesterday's Washington Post reviewed the history of presidential first pitches at Washington games, a tradition that began with William Howard Taft in 1910 and ended after 1971. Among the assorted politicians, celebrities, K Street lobbyists, and other power brokers to attend are former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who once worked in the scoreboard at Griffith Stadium; see sportsillustrated.cnn.com. Too bad they don't make commissioners like they used to...
"Armed Forces Field"?
Last-minute negotiations are underway to reach a naming rights agreement that would change the name of RFK Stadium to "Armed Forces Field at RFK Stadium," or something like that. The deal with the National Guard fell through, but some folks think that a joint armed services promotion might still be appropriate. It depends how they do it; some military recruitment campaigns rub me the wrong way ("an Army of One"?), and I hope this one is done with proper dignity. See Washington Post and stay tuned...
April 14, 2005 [LINK]
Update: The Game
Well, at least I got to see the introduction of the starting lineup on FOX-5 TV. Man, was that an emotional sight! Even the upper deck in the outfield was jam packed. (Well, of course, we knew that, but still, it's not something you see every day.) President Bush's ceremonial first pitch was over almost before it began. (Security?) The game was a pitchers' duel for the first few innings, and then José Vidro doubled, José Guillen got hit by a pitch, Ryan Church popped out, and good ol' Vinny Castilla came through with a clutch 2-RBI triple. The crowd must have gone wild. Brian Schneider's sac fly scored another run, and the Nats didn't leave any on base, a very efficient rally. Score: 3-0, top of the sixth.
WOW! After both Josés struck out for the Nats in the sixth inning, Ryan Church singled, and then Vinny Castilla hit the first at-home home run in the Nationals' history! Nothin' like a two-out rally to keep the fans fired up. Vin-ny! Vin-ny! Then two more singles, but this time they were left on base. Score: 5-0, bottom of the sixth. (SOURCE: MLB.com Game Day)
Ninth inning drama! As the inning began, the question was whether Livan Hernandez could pitch a complete game shutout. Then veteran Luis Gonzalez wore down poor Livan, hitting foul ball after foul ball, and finally getting a walk. Then Shawn Green singled, and Chad Tracy hit a three run homer. Yikes. Chad Cordero came in to relieve Livan, two batters too late, and things started to look dicey when Quinton McCracken singled, but then Tony Clarke flew out to end the game. Whew! Final score: 5-3. Party time in D.C.: The Nats win their first home game! For at least this one moment, all is right with the world.
April 14, 2005 [LINK]
Home opener: Nats on a roll!
(Blackout in some areas.)
The Washington Nationals will make their long-awaited grand debut in RFK Stadium later today not as hapless underdogs, but as a proud and very competitive team. They have now prevailed in two of their first three series of the season against some of the toughest divisional rivals in all of baseball. Just like they did against the Phillies last week, the Nats rebounded from a crushing defeat on Monday (11 to 2) to edge the Braves on Tuesday night, 4 to 3. Their 11 to 4 triumph in Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon showcased the team's slugging potential, especially that of José Guillen, who currently leads the majors with 5 home runs! Well done, Nats!
I was all excited about watching the Braves host the Nationals on TBS this week, and guess what I saw? A black screen! Eegads: a blackout! I complained to Adelphia, our cable providers, and after two days finally got human response. It turns out that MLB Extra Innings imposes blackout restrictions on broadcasters within the territories specified for each team. I'm sure most folks who live in or near big cities are already quite familiar with this situation, but it's new to me. None of the MLB Extra Innings options is even available where we live in Virginia, however, rendering the blackout utterly pointless and self-defeating. Well, isn't that special?
Motivated by righteous anger, I went through the MLB Web site to find out who controls what territory. Not surprisingly, the infant Washington Nationals do not yet have any such blackout territories, but the Baltimore Orioles of course do. In fact, they control 3,515 zip codes, ranging from 17001 (Camp Hill, PA) to 28594 (Emerald Isle, NC). See for yourself at mlb.com I scoffed at Peter Angelos's territorial claim on March 21, but it turns out he is exerting control over his fiefdom quite well. Now I see the extent of his power in a very direct and ugly way -- as if I didn't have enough reasons to resent him already. Just another reminder of what a crooked, elitist monopoly that the business side of baseball has become. Below are the results of my quick and dirty research, which will eventually be incorporated into the Baseball cities page. A few franchises have an even bigger territory than the Orioles, mostly those in the central part of the country. Of course, there is a wide range of population from one zip code to the next, so these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt.
MLB franchise broadcast domains
| Urban market
|| Number of blackout zip codes
| New York Mets
| Los Angeles Angels
| Chicago Cubs
& White Sox
| Houston Astros
& Texas Rangers
| Baltimore Orioles
& Washington Nationals (?)
| San Francisco Giants
& Oakland Athletics
| Tampa Bay Devil Rays (overlaps)
| Florida Marlins (overlaps)
| Toronto Blue Jays
|| all of Canada
| Atlanta Braves
| Milwaukee Brewers
| St. Louis Cardinals
| Arizona Diamondbacks
| Cleveland Indians
| Seattle Mariners
| San Diego Padres
| Philadelphia Phillies
| Pittsburgh Pirates
| Boston Red Sox
| Cincinnati Reds
| Colorado Rockies
| Kansas City Royals
| Detroit Tigers
| Minnesota Twins
April 14, 2005 [LINK]
Steroid silver lining?
I just learned of a (relatively) new baseball blog, United States Of Baseball. It's by Peter Hendrinos, a sports writer who recently wrote a rather provocative take on the steroid issue: "The Scandal That Doesn't Exist." I think he's downplaying it, but it's good to hear from a contrarian perspective and avoid the herd mentality of too-pious outrage. (Gambling? Drugs? I'm shocked! Shocked!!) Indeed, there may be a "silver lining" around the dark cloud of doping: Fans may lose interest in the crowd-pleasing Long Ball and regain an appreciation for the finer points of the sport: the art of pitching, base running, the smart tactics of "small ball," and fielding excellence.
I caught a glimpse of the Dodgers game on TV sports highlights, but couldn't see the new up-close box seats. FYI, Mike Zurawski sent this link with a photo of the new, more intimate Dodger Stadium, from ESPN.
There are a few minor touchups on the Baseball main page, aiming at easier navigation, plus a new map of the cities that currently have big league baseball teams MLB franchises page.
April 13, 2005 [LINK]
National Guard backs out
After criticism from Sen. John Warner and concerns about the appropriateness of such a venture in war time that were expressed by some generals, the National Guard decided against spending $6 million for a three-year naming rights contract at RFK Stadium. It's probably all for the best, but I just hope the contract doesn't go to some group like BDM, AFGE, or AARP. Speaking of which, Rudy Riet sends word of a citizens' group in D.C. that wants to call RFK "Taxation Without Representation Stadium." That, of course, harkens to the slogan of D.C. statehood rights advocates, such as Adam Eidinger. Personally, I think the original constitutional rationale for excluding congressional representation for residents of the Federal District no longer makes any sense, since most of the political insiders against whom that constitutional provision were aimed live in the suburbs anyway, and I don't think Maryland or Virginia would accept any loss of their precious congressional seats. So I say give D.C. a seat in the House, but not in the Senate, since the District never existed as a state in its own right but is an artificial creation of the rest of the states, and remains beholden to them.
April 13, 2005 [LINK]
Land rush, moneyball in D.C.
Monday's Washington Post detailed the mad scramble to acquire land in the South Capitol Street neighborhood where the Nationals' new stadium is to be built. Land values have doubled since last year; it's almost like Oklahoma in the late 19th Century. I recall well the bleak but soon-to-turn-upscale Buzzard's Point area, which would make a good scene for a violent action movie with exploding warehouses and car chases. D.C. officials are trying to maximize the development impact of the new stadium, and have instructed the chosen architectural firm, Helmuth, Obata, and Kassabaum (HOK) to take that consideration into account as the new structure is designed.
D.C. officials are considering a proposal from Deutsch Bank, which would pay $246 million in exchange for development rights around the new ballpark, which are expected to yield $18 million in revenues per year. That would reduce the amount of funds to city would have to raise through bond issues from $550 million to $313 million, which in turn would reduce the local tax burden. See Tuesday's Washington Post. It sounds like a bunch of accounting gimmickry and tax dodging, if you ask me, and I trust that D.C. activists will keep a close eye on what transpires. That same article also mentioned a lawsuit that aims to block the stadium construction filed by Robert Siegel. He is not the pleasantly erudite NPR news anchorman, but the owner of The Follies, a gay night club / porno bazaar located on O Street S.E. One should not discard the possibility that he may be more interested in getting a higher cash payout than in preserving local cultural traditions...
April 11, 2005 [LINK]
Poor John Smoltz! He threw fifteen strikeouts against the Mets yesterday, and he still lost the game! Not a very auspicious start of the season for his return to the role of starting pitcher for the Braves. New Met Pedro Martinez certainly showed his stuff, after getting roughed up in Cincinnati last week. So the Mets finally won a game!
Meanwhile, the Nationals again got shellacked by the Marlins (or Josh Beckett, more precisely) yesterday. They are now 3 and 3, and will at least have a solid record behind them as they prepare for the glorious Opening Day at RFK Stadium on Thursday. The Nats will appear, as guests of the Braves, on a nationwide broadcast for the first time tonight, courtesy of TBS. WTTG FOX-5 in Washington may broadcast some Nats' games instead of WDCA Channel 20 (WB) after all, but nothing is official.
Just in time for the long-awaited inaugural home game of the Washington Nationals, I've added a page for the "home away from home" in which they played during their last two years as the Montreal Expos: Hiram Bithorn Stadium.
UPDATE: The MLB Franchises page has been updated to include the relocation of Montreal to Washington, with new data on the age of stadiums into which the teams moved. RFK (at 44 years) turns out not to have been the oldest stadium into which a relocated team ever moved; that honor goes to Memorial Coliseum, which was 45 years old when the Los Angeles Dodgers first played there in 1958.
April 9, 2005 [LINK]
Battles in Florida
Last night's 9-0 blowout inflicted upon the Nats by the Marlins was a jolting reality check, but they managed to eke out their second extra-inning victory this evening, winning 3-2. Jose Guillen hit the winning homer, and aging veteran Vinny Castilla got his first homer of the season as well. Occasional lopsided defeats are to be expected when teams are undergoing a big transition such as this, and I'm very encouraged that the Nationals are figuring out ways to win in close-scoring games.
Meanwhile, the Marlins' franchise owners are again lobbying hard to get the Florida legislature to chip in on a new stadium. It would be built next to the Orange Bowl, and the owner Jeffrey Loria has pledged $192 million, nearly half of the estimated cost. By today's standards, that's a lot, but Governor Jeb Bush remains reluctant. Otherwise, the Marlins will be "homeless" and may end up moving to Las Vegas, Portland, or even Monterrey. (It's probably too early to start thinking about Montreal, but who know?) See Washington Post.
Soccer at RFK
RFK Stadium is now back into the soccer configuration, to the apparent satisfactory to the D.C. United soccer players. There are a few uneven spots in the temporary turf where the dirt infield is for baseball games, and that may even provide them with a bit of home field advantage. They are no longer using the seating sections that used be be moved into the third base / end zone gap when the grandstand was moved into left field for football games. A photo in today's Washington Post shows a big vacant gap in back of the home dugout, and the seating chart on the D.C. United Web site confirms this. Those end zone seats aren't really needed, anyway, since attendance at soccer games rarely exceeds 20,000, and the upper decks are hardly used at all. It's looking more and more likely that the Nationals' home will be called "National Guard Field at RFK Stadium."
Restoring League Park
The city government in Cleveland is finally starting to move ahead on plans to restore the site of historic League Park, setting aside [an initial] $100,000 up for the project, [whose estimated total cost is $18 million]. It is now being used as a neighborhood park, but was rather dilapidated when I visited it in 1998. See Cleveland Plain Dealer. (This happened while we were on vacation, and I just now found out.)
April 8, 2005 [LINK]
Hot seats and civic equality
Today's Washington Post reveals the ugly side of the mad scramble to get tickets to see Nationals games: the flagrant abuse of insider connections to bump other folks out of choice seats at RFK Stadium. Pundits such as George Will, Fred Barnes, and Morton Kondracke, as well as dozens of high-powered lobbyists and Paul Begala (former Clinton aide) have managed to score first class box seats, while us honest toilers get pushed further back in line.
Which reminds me, if the D.C. Council is really serious about making the new ballpark the centerpiece of a community revitalization plan, and proving that it really is serving a broad public interest, they should insist on a non-negotiable stipulation: Holders of tickets to luxury suites and box seats must pass through the same turnstiles as the rest of the patrons do. (Seeing the elite entrance at Citizens Bank Park on Monday made me think about this.) To me, attending a baseball game is an act of civic participation on par with voting; you don't see separate lines for rich folks at polling stations, do you? To reinforce such a "no discrimination" principle, there should be a prominent sign above every gate reading:
This ballpark is of the people, by the people, and for the people!
April 8, 2005 [LINK]
Too many asterisks * * *
In response to all the demands that the artificially enhanced batting records of recent years be qualified with asterisks, Mike Bauman writes on mlb.com that the same should apply to records set before the year 1947, when the racial barrier was first breached by Jackie Robinson. His suggested "footnote":
*This record was set when only a portion of the population was allowed to play Major League Baseball.
Well, you gotta admit he has a point. From a strictly legalistic position, however, he is wrong: Racial segregation was the established rule in the old days, and records have to be evaluated on the basis of whether players were abiding by the rules in effect when they played. As far as we know, Ty Cobb, Cy Young, Babe Ruth, and Lou Gehrig were following the rules, but there is considerable doubt about whether the record-smashing sluggers of the last ten years were doing so. Of course, Bauman is not really serious about this, he is just pointing out the futility of establishing a clear-cut line to separate the true-blue clean players from those who cut ethical corners to one degree or another. It is one hell of a mess.
Candid admission: I used to take steroids! It was a nasal spray prescribed by a doctor, however, as a treatment for my allergies to pollen, mold, dust, etc.
Thanks to Bruce Orser for his continued research input on ancient stadiums, and to [Mike Zurawski] for submitting these links: new bullpens in Comerica Park, new pool at Bank One Ballpark, and renovations at Fenway Park.
I forgot to mention a startling discovery I made as I was driving into Washington on Monday morning, en route to Opening Day in Philadelphia. Just as I reached the top of Arlington Ridge on I-395 south of the Pentagon, and as traffic crawled along at a turtle's pace, I took a look toward the east to see whether RFK Stadium was visible. I couldn't see it, but what I did see on the far horizon was even more amazing: FedEx Field, home of the Redskins since 1997! It is located in the Maryland suburb of Landover, about eight miles east of Capitol Hill. It was the first time I had ever seen it; I didn't realize that it is situated in an upland area.
April 7, 2005 [LINK]
Nats win their first series!
Thanks to timely hits and a remarkable "cycle" (single, double, triple, home run) by Brad Wilkerson, the Washington Nationals won their first game last night, beating the Phillies 7 to 3. With such a small outfield at Citizens Bank Park, triples must be few and far between. Vinny Castilla got four hits as well, putting an end to his recent "cold streak." This afternoon the Nationals beat the Phillies 5-4, thanks to a tenth-inning home run by Jose Vidro. In their first three games, the Nats have amassed a total of 40 hits. WOW!
RFK; the new stadium
I saw a brief video clip of the first D.C. United home game of the season, at RFK Stadium. It looked like they did a pretty good job of doing the rapid switchover to the soccer configuration, and I noticed that the left foul pole was moved to center field along with the movable portion of the lower grandstand. There was a hitch, however: one of the metal support beams scraped the wall as that section was being rotated, causing damage to the area near the Nationals' inside batting practice area.
Several D.C. Council members are disputing the cost estimates for purchasing the land where the new stadium will be built. See washingtonpost.com. No doubt, there will be ugly confrontations and threats as this process moves forward.
En route to the game at Citizens Bank Park on Monday I passed by RFK Stadium, Camden Yards, and the site of Memorial Stadium on the north side of Baltimore. Three of those four pages have new photos; there will be more from RFK soon enough...
April 5, 2005 [LINK]
Field of Dream come true
Yes, sports fans, Washington baseball is now an official reality, but it will still take some getting used to. History will record that the first man ever to bat for the Washington Nationals in a regulation game was Brad Wilkerson, who hit a "Texas League" single to center field on the fourth pitch. History will omit the fact that I was about 120 feet above the field at Citizen's Bank Park (truly spectacular -- more on that later!), up in the nosebleed section with camera in hand. The Nationals scored the first run in the second inning, but the Phillies scored two in the bottom of the inning, and went on to win, 8 to 4. The good news is that the Nats played well, getting 13 hits and committing only one error. Terrmel Sledge (note corrected spelling) hit the Nationals' first-ever home run in the sixth inning, and in the seventh inning he had a chance to hit a grand slam that would have [put the Nats back ahead], but grounded into a double play. Arghhh! Nevertheless, because of that home run, I've pledged never again to make fun of his name. That will be hard.
Except for a very strong westerly wind, the weather was fine, with clear skies and mild temperatures. The view of the Philadelphia skyline was truly awe-inspiring. I was impressed by the large number of Washington fans who made the trek up there for their new team's first game; I would guess there were at least 500. Since both teams have red caps, however, it was hard to tell them apart. While strolling near the bullpen area behind center field I gave a "Go Washington!" cheer to encourage the Nats relief pitchers, which elicited immediate responses of "Washington sucks!" A warm welcome to the National League from the City of Brotherly Love! Many, many thanks to Phil Faranda for scoring the tickets and for treating me to a tasty Geno's cheese steak. He and his friend Keith made the historic game an even more enjoyable occasion.
I've heard from two folks who went to Sunday's exhibition game at RFK, one of whom, Rudy Riet, posted a photo on his Random Duck blog. Also present, according to the Washington Post (scroll down), was D.C. Statehood Party loudmouth Adam Eidinger, who disrupted the unveiling of the Nationals logo last November to protest public funding of the new stadium.
UPDATE: I meant to mention that I saw one fan at the game in Philadelphia who was wearing a Expos jersey. If I hadn't been otherwise occupied, I would have stopped to chat with him. There is no joy in Montreal this "silent spring," and the Washington Post quotes some former Expos fans who are extremely bitter.
April 5, 2005 [LINK]
Besides getting revenge against the Red Sox for the humiliating collapse last October, the best part of the Sunday night opening game in the Bronx was the thunderous applause for Tino Martinez, who has returned to the Bronx after being traded off to the Cardinals a few years ago. So now there are four Yankee players who were on the team during the glory days of the late 1990s.
I noticed that Adam Dunn hit two homers, helping the Reds beat the visiting Mets at Great American Ballpark. Just think, if he keeps up this pace, he'll rack up 324 home runs for the season!
CORRECTION: I just learned from Matt, who does updates on the ballparkconstruction.com Web site, that the new version of Busch Stadium will open next year, not in 2007 as I originally wrote on my March 29 posting, which has been corrected.
April 3, 2005 [LINK]
At last: Opening Day!
Today I hit the road to see the Washington Nationals play at Philadelphia's Citizen's Bank Park, at 3:00 Monday, joining Phil Faranda, one of the earliest and most regular visitors to this Web site. Along the way I'll pass by RFK Stadium, where the Nats are at this very moment playing their first game in their "new" home. It's just an exhibition game, serving as a charity fund raiser and practice for the ground crew, concessionaires, etc.
The big remaining mystery for the history books is, Who will be the first-ever batter for the Nationals? Endy Chavez was sent back to the minors, so it will probably be either Nick Johnson (first baseman and former Yankee who resembles Babe Ruth) or Brad Wilkerson (versatile fielder and slugger, whom I just saw on a brand new television ad for Chevy Chase Bank). See mlb.com. The Nats' lineup is still up in the air, while their batting performance in spring training has lagged behind their pitching, to everyone's surprise. So how will they do this year? I have no idea, but at the very least I expect the team to show a lot of spunk, trying hard to please their new fans on the Potomac. Like most baseball analysts, David Pinto figures that the Nats will finish their inaugural season in last place in the NL East, but he doesn't rule out a third place finish. Me neither!
"After further review," it now appears that Peter Angelos got himself one heck of a sweetheart deal. The Nats will get a mere ten percent of the new "Mid-Atlantic" broadcast joint venture's profits in the first year, gradually climbing to a peak of 33 percent after twenty years! Thomas Boswell tried to put an upbeat spin on this outcome. He is right to say that teams that get used to plush comforts and safety cushions tend to get lazy and lose, and that Washington's wealth, population, and vitality will more than make up for the handicap, but to me it's like the Nationals are being forced to play with one arm tied behind their back for the indefinite future. I guess this lousy bargain goes to show how ineffective large groups (in this case, the other 28 MLB owners) are in a negotiation with an individual counterpart who is as determined and crafty as Mr. Angelos is. I can't wait till the O's and Nats play each other next year!
March 31, 2005 [LINK]
Broadcast deal: NO ! ?
Details are still lacking, but it appears that Peter Angelos got most of what he wanted in the deal over broadcast rights that was reached with MLB officials today. Once again, I'm appalled but not surprised. The Orioles will control an unspecified majority of the new network:
Under the agreement, sources had said yesterday, newly created Mid-Atlantic Sports would pay the Nationals a rights fee and distribute 76 of the club's games to WTTG-5 and WDCA-20, two Fox-owned broadcast stations in Washington. SOURCE: Washington Post
On the bright side, broadcasting that many games on the open air waves will help to promote greater public interest in the Nationals, about which many people in Virginia and the Capital Region are still only vaguely aware. Unfortunately, Commissioner Selig raised new doubts about his capacity to enforce discipline and fair play on the MLB owners with this comment:
I also want to commend my friend, Peter Angelos. He was relentless in his desire to preserve and protect the Baltimore Orioles franchise now, and for future generations. His concerns, which he expressed often and well, were not about himself or his ownership interest, but rather to establish a means by which to ensure the future viability of the Orioles franchise. I don't know many other people who would have fought so vigorously for such purposes. SOURCE: mlb.com
Ugh. What a lame excuse for blatant monopolistic behavior. This broadcast agreement, which does not fully go into effect until next year, is supposedly modeled after existing arrangements in mega-cities with overlapping team areas. In the case of New York, however, there seems to be no interaction between the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network ("YES") and the Mets, whose games are broadcast locally by Fox Sports New York, WPIX-TV, and "Madison Square Garden Network." Speaking of YES, here's a suggested alternative name for the new Baltimore-Washington baseball network: just use the initials of the two teams, Nationals and Orioles, to create the acronym "NO."
March 30, 2005 [LINK]
Let the cost overruns begin!
The total price tag for the new baseball stadium in Washington "could rise another $46 million to a total of approximately $580 million, according to a study ... by Natwar M. Gandhi, the city's chief financial officer." This updated figure falls within the parameters stipulated when the funding bill was passed in December, and D.C. council member Jack Evans said, "This is a go." Mr. Gandhi says that estimate is conservative, meaning it could be lower than that. See washingtonpost.com. Maybe they could save a few bucks by outsourcing some of the ... Nah. Frankly, any government-funded project in the bureaucrats' paradise known as the District of Columbia is almost guaranteed to run at least 10-20 percent over budget.
The Nationals have sent underachieving outfielder Endy Chavez, who had been slated to be the leadoff hitter, back to the minors -- to the New Orleans AAA club, to be precise. Now their whole lineup is messed up, and manager Frank Robinson is not pleased.
MLB owners approved the sale of the Oakland A's to Lewis Wolff, for $180 million. His top priority will be to get public funding for a new stadium in Oakland, or perhaps further south in the Bay Area -- How about the San Jose Athletics? See mlb.com.
Many thanks to Rudy Riet for his warm praise of my Proposed new D.C. stadium design on his Random Duck blog.
March 29, 2005 [LINK]
New name for RFK???
I was appalled when I read that D.C. officials are trying to raise some cash by leasing the naming rights of RFK Stadium. They are hoping for $2 million per year, for the next three years. This seems like a travesty, but "RFK Stadium" will remain part of the name, much as "Mile High Stadium" remains part of the name of Denver's new football venue, but with a corporate appendage (Invesco). In addition, Bobby Kennedy's widow Ethel apparently agreed to the change, because the funds are supposedly being earmarked for children's programs in the District. We'll see... Response from corporate bidders has been slower than anticipated, and rumors are that a local telecommunicatons company has an inside track. (Is it Verizon? Since their spokesperson James Earl Jones co-starred in Field of Dreams, I suppose that is appropriate.) See washingtonpost.com.
"Dr. Evil" digs in heels
Peter Angelos is still haggling over terms for compensation and broadcast rights, with less than a week to go before Opening Day. (The first Nationals home game is still more than two weeks away, however.) Today's Washington Post editorialized on this situation:
In fact, such a deal is a rip-off that would deflate the Nationals' value and imperil the task of finding a buyer for the franchise -- an orphan that is now the collective property of baseball's 29 team owners. What prospective Nationals' owner would cede control of broadcasting rights to a rival -- to say nothing of a rival as truculent as Mr. Angelos? Might as well trade away the team's best sluggers and star pitchers.
Orioles' ticket sales have apparently declined by at least ten percent compared to a year ago. That is in line with what most people expected, but much less than Angelos had claimed. (He used to say that one fourth of Orioles' fans came from the Washington area.) Meanwhile, some tickets for Opening Day at RFK Stadium (which quickly sold out) are going for over $1000!
For what it's worth,
I've come up with a design for a Proposed new D.C. stadium. (Yes, folks, that is one of the main things that has occupying my time in the last few days.) What do you think? Too wacky? Too symmetrical? Tell me what features you think the new stadium should have.
Thanks to Bruce Orser for the following links to images of two under-construction stadiums: ballparkconstruction.com, about the future Busch Stadium, scheduled to open in , and ballpark.org, about Safeco Field in Seattle, which opened in 1999. And thanks to Mike Zurawski for alerting me to a small mistake in the diagram for the newly renovated version of Dodger Stadium, which has now been fixed. Finally, I have recalibrated the "countdown clock" for Opening Day in D.C., which is presently 16 days away (not 14).
March 23, 2005 [LINK]
Red Sox commit to Fenway
Great news from Beantown: The Red Sox announced a long-term renovation program at Fenway Park, meaning it will be their home "for the foreseeable future." I would guess that means at least 15 more years. No specifics were given, but they must be planning on bringing the capacity up to 40,000 or more, ultimately, which would mean building a sizable upper deck. Renovations during the winter have been inside the grandstand, involving concourses, training rooms, etc. (Renovations planned for next year were described here on Feb. 10, when the long-term prospects were still up in the air.) Team President Larry Lucchino talked about the Red Sox' three years under the ownership of John Henry, when stadium options were being carefully evaluated, and announced:
It's time to culminate this courtship with a loud, clear, long-term public commitment. We are proud that Fenway Park will be our home for years to come, and we are confident it will generate the revenue we need to be successful. ...
We will now begin to plan the Fenway Park Centennial, in 2012, sure to be a great celebration and an historic achievement.
That thought kinda puts a lump in your throat doesn't it? See mlb.com. A photo on that page shows a bulldozer on the field, indicating that they have replaced the turf at Fenway Park. The folks at savefenwaypark.com must be tickled
pink red about all this. Now, will Mr. Steinbrenner wise up in time so that they can have such a centennial celebration in the Bronx in 2023?
Andrew Clem Archives
March 22, 2005 [LINK]
Frank Robinson in SI
Sports Illustrated had an interview last week with Nats' manager Frank Robinson, who shared his thoughts on the return of baseball to D.C. He was hired on a stopgap basis after Jeffrey Loria sold the Expos to MLB in 2001, and he never expected to stay in that position for more than a year or two. He has become an indispensible part of the franchise organization, however. Aside from being one of the sport's greatest sluggers and fielders, he is truly a class act who exudes calm, patience, and wisdom. That's exactly what his young team needs as the former Expos (remember them?) get psyched up for their historic Grand Opening under a new identity. Robinson left no doubt what he thinks of the extent of the steroid problem, but he refrained from making any direct accusations. He has every right to be bitter over his career home run record getting stomped on by the artificially enhanced younger generation. Sports Illustrated was going to make that piece the cover story last week, which would have been great fanfare for the upcoming blissful event in Washington, but it got bumped by writer Tom Verducci's tale of taking the field with the Toronto Blue Jays in spring training. Well, given the famous SI Cover "jinx," perhaps that was all for the best...
Nationals get ready
With less than two weeks left in spring training, the Nationals seem to have put together a fairly balanced team, including a surprisingly effective pitching rotation. (Their bullpen is another matter.) They have stayed above the .500 mark throughout March, showing glimmers of excellence in batting, pitching, and fielding. One youngster has grabbed a lot of attention as a possible rising star: Ian Desmond, a "non-roster invitee" who has made some spectacular plays at shortstop. Given his tender age (19), however, he is not expected to serve as Cristian Guzman's backup, and will probably spend a year in the minors.
Bonds out for season?
Barry Bonds got rather nasty with reporters after getting knee surgery, blaming the media frenzy for making his family life miserable. Physical pains and mental exhaustion may keep him out of the game until at least mid-season. "You finally brought me and my family down. ... So now go pick a different person." See si.com. That's the kind of bitter comment someone like Richard Nixon would be expected to say. I'm not encouraged.
Andrew Clem Archives
March 21, 2005 [LINK]
Open Letter from Orioles
One of the items I meant to talk about last week was the unusual full-page ad in the sports section of the Washington Post from two Sundays ago: "An Open Letter to All Fans of Baseball from the Orioles." It took sharp issue with news reports and editorials in the Post, claiming that for the last 30 years their franchise has had exlusive rights to territory "as far south as Charlotte, North Carolina." (Huh? Do those folks know that?) It also claimed that the above assumption was figured into the sales price when Mr. Angelos bought the team for $173 million in 1993. That was a gamble that Mr. Angelos took, and under normal business practices he should bear the risk. (Of course, as we all know, baseball is not a "normal business," it is a curious cartel whose dubious dealings are kept from the public eye by all the goodwill and nostalgia that the sport built up over the decades. Like Mr. Potter in A Wonderful Life, Peter Angelos is simply trumpeting to the world the universal arrogance exhibited by all monopolists.) It is as though Washington was never even considered for an expansion franchise or a relocation deal (Astros?) in the 1990s. Most outrageous, perhaps, is the demand that the Nationals games be broadcast exclusively by the television network controlled by the Orioles. That network was created in 2001, however, by which time it was becoming very clear that the Expos might relocate to Washington at any time. Recouping the millions of dollars in sunk costs for that enterprise is his responsibility, and cannot be forced upon Washington. I've always felt that some reasonable compensation to the Orioles would be appropriate, but Angelos has infuriated other franchise owners by his no-compromise position, forfeiting millions of dollars in lost revenues. He has created his own mess, and his old pal Commissioner Selig has too many other things to worry about right now to try to placate or woo Angelos. As usual, Thomas Boswell aptly dissects the perverse logic behind Angelos's arguments. Suffice it to say that he is not winning the hearts and minds of many potential fans in Washington. I was really looking forward to finally seeing a game at Camden Yards this spring, but it looks like I'll have to prolong my boycott a little longer...
The Dodger Stadium page has a new dynamic diagram that reflects the nearly-complete renovations, which will radically change its character.
Andrew Clem Archives
March 20, 2005 [LINK]
Green, green grass of home
There were a number of developments on the Washington baseball front last week, of which perhaps the most vivid imagewise was the sod being laid at RFK Stadium. It's really coming to pass! Saturday's Washington Post had several photos of the sod-laying process, in a time-lapse fashion. You can see a big hole where the retractable hydraulic pitcher's mound is. I just hope it warms up enough for the sod to take take root in the dirt prior to opening day. A week-by-week renovation photo-update is found on the Nationals' Web site. I decided to hold off on making a 2005 version diagram revision of RFK Stadium, pending a first-hand on-the-scene inspection. Getting tickets for Opening Day may take a lot of luck...
In response to the intense criticism on Capitol Hill, Commissioner Selig announced on Sunday that a loophole in the penalties for steroid use has been closed, so that the suspensions are now automatic. It's still "five strikes" before you're called out, however... See mlb.com.
Andrew Clem Archives
March 18, 2005 [LINK]
Clash of titans (70*, 66*, 73*, ...)
Wow! Yesterday's eleven-hour hearings on the baseball steroid problem more than lived up to expectations of high drama. What a memorable scene: the titans of the political world versus the (formerly) pumped-up titans of the sports world, in a fierce contest to determine who is more righteous, or perhaps less corrupt. Not having C-SPAN3 where we live, I only saw the last three hours of the hearings live after regular C-SPAN switched from the House floor to the committee chambers, and I stayed glued to the tube as the earlier highlights of the day were rebroadcast later in the evening. There weren't many surprises in terms of what was said, since the principal figures had already let their positions be known. What I found intriguing was the wide array of emotions and attitudes displayed by the inquisitors and the witnesses. Curt Schilling was on top of his game, making a long, thoughtful statement and answering questions in a forthright, sincere manner. He is right that the drug problem and the attitude of winning at all costs is society-wide, not restricted to baseball or the sports world. Baseball's new black sheep Jose Canseco, in contrast, was subdued and apologetic. Inconsistencies in his story undermined his credibility somewhat, but not many people seriously doubt the general thrust of the charges made in his book. As for one of the most off-the-wall particular misdeeds he alleged, ABC later replayed a recent Jimmy Kimmel show with an extremely tacky skit reenacting the supposed Canseco-McGwire buttocks injection, while the hapless guest Canseco watched, quite red-faced. (No such thing as bad publicity?) Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro, now Orioles teammates, issued flat, grim denials reminiscent of Bill Clinton.
But it was Big Mac himself who made the biggest scene, getting teary eyed as he lamented the problem and straining to explain why he could not answer the question. This recalls the memorable line by Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own: "There's no crying in baseball!" (David Pinto cited that line in regard to weeping by Canseco.) It was embarrassing to hear McGwire rehash ad nauseam the trite cliche of wanting to focus on the positive and not worry about the past. I really think he was sincere, though I'm not sure exactly which aspect of this tragedy troubles him the most: The teenage boys who committed suicide or ruined their health because of steroid abuse, the disappointment felt by his family and fans, or the mortal peril to his legacy this scandal has wrought? His predicament is eerily similar to that of Pete Rose: whatever he says or does from now on, he is damned. Selig's position that the batting records of recent years will stand without asterisks or other qualifications is not convincing. There has to be some kind of accounting for artificially enhanced performance. Fallen heroes are tragic.
Since I had low expectations of the publicity-seeking politicians on Capitol Hill to begin with, I was prepared for all the crowd-pleasing rhetoric they spouted. Amidst all the hoopla and pious cacaphony, however, a lot of good points were actually made. For example, Rep. Charles Dent (R-PA) rose to the occasion by pointing out what I have long insisted is the basic structural problem with baseball: The way franchise owners exploit baseball's exemption from anti-trust statutes to blackmail their host cities into funding new stadiums, the "field of schemes" problem. (Did D.C. have any other choice? No.) This huge unwarranted subsidy works against the public interest by facilitating unchecked inflation of players' salaries and ticket prices. Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) harshly attacked Commissioner Selig and other MLB officials for allowing the problem to get out of control. Some of that criticism is fitting, I think, but as at least one member noted, hindsight is 20-20. Thus, I came away from the hearings with a slightly more sympathetic view of Rep. Tom Davis and his House subcommittee than I originally had. Baseball needed to be chastened if there is to be any hope for "self-policing." There are serious loopholes in the drug testing procedures, and the "graduated" penalties so strongly defended by Players' Assocation head Donald Fehr seem pretty lame. Five strikes and you're out? Much was made of the Commissioner's new powers of discretion to enforce the doping rules during the hearings, but it is precisely the low-key, consensus-seeking style of Mr. Selig that raises questions about having his office shoulder such a big share of the burden.
In the end, the doping problem will not be fixed by tighter rules, tougher penalties, greater scrutiny, or more appropriate mechanisms so much as by a renewed spirit of sportsmanship. No legislation or collective bargaining agreement can accomplish that; it will require leadership on the part of the star players. How many of our beloved overpaid egomaniacs will "step up to the plate" and do what must be done?
Many thanks to David Pinto (Mr. Baseball Musings) for plugging this site, which is perpetually "under construction." I've just made a thorough revamping of the links to blogs and other Web sites on throughout this site, aiming for consistent format and functionality. Through my bleary eyes I think I see the light of an actual guestbook at the end of the tunnel...
Andrew Clem Archives
March 17, 2005 [LINK]
Showtime on Capitol Hill
The "steroid hearings" in Congress just got underway, and lest there be any doubt about their function as a platform for "grandstanding" politicians, it took over an hour for committee members to make their opening statements. (Live audio is available via C-SPAN Radio.) Hall of Fame pitcher Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) is one of the few members of Congress qualified to make judgments about this matter. (He just barely won reelection in November.) He set the proper tone in his introductory remarks, reminding everyone that the government should not meddle in sports unless there is a compelling public interest. I do not underestimate the gravity of this problem and am not making excuses for the dopehead sluggers or for Selig's past foot-dragging. I merely want to point out that the power of Congress to put public pressure on institutions can be abused. I think MLB and the Players' Assocation got the message, and I don't think much more browbeating in the public arena is necessary. If Davis's committee is out to wrench shamed confessions from Sammy, Rafael, and the rest, the only thing it will accomplish is leave a bad taste in our mouths, at the very moment when we should be celebrating baseball's long-overdue return to Washington.
David Pinto scolded Chairman Tom Davis for "bastardizing" Casey at the Bat in his opening remarks. Which makes me wonder, When will someone produce a satirical version of Terry Cashman's "Willie, Mickey, and The Duke (Talkin' Baseball)" -- something like "Barry, Sammy, and Big Mac"?
Andrew Clem Archives
March 17, 2005 [LINK]
Minor league parks in the movies
Thanks to new visitor C.J. from Texas for letting me know that the movie Eight Men Out was filmed in (Owen) Bush Memorial Stadium in Indianapolis. I had read about that in Lowry's book Green Cathedrals, but later forgot. Speaking of the cinema, among the many "in progress" enhancements to this site is an expanded treatment of the stadiums used as settings in movies about baseball. A few weeks ago a visitor to this site asked me about War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo, that funky old football venue where the movie The Natural (1983) was filmed, and I just came across two very good Web sites with plenty of photos and information on it: frontiernet.net and buffalonet.org. Neither those sites nor others I browsed, however, indicate the right field dimensions, which couldn't have been more than 250 feet.
Andrew Clem Archives
March 17, 2005 [LINK]
Unless you are crazy, you don't come to this particular Web site for the latest, best-informed commentary about what's going on in the baseball world. My "blog" comments about baseball news are a secondary aspect of this Web site, which (obviously) focuses on ballparks. If you are smart, you probably go to Baseball Crank or David Pinto's Baseball Musings. David is having a "pledge month," and like me (!), he could use a show of $upport for all the number-crunching and writing efforts he puts in. For the time being, I've decided not to solicit ads like I did last year...
Andrew Clem Archives
March 12, 2005 [LINK]
Congress investigates steroids
Congressman Tom Davis, known as an avid fan who lobbied for baseball's return to Washington, ruffled some feathers in MLB this week by announcing that Jason Giambi, Sammy Sosa, and other suspected steroid users would be subpoenaed to testify before the House Government Reform Committee, which he chairs. Somehow Barry Bonds did not make the "cut." See the Washington Post. Congressman Davis has a superb reputation for his knowledge, ability, and ethics, but this action raises some questions. For one thing, the timing of this seems unfortunate, just as the regular season is about to begin. Baseball is already taking strong steps to address the problem, and while it is too early to say whether the new testing measures will be effective or not, they should at least be given a chance. Commissioner Selig has had a lot of headaches lately, and though he has often been slow to act in the past, he seems to have gotten the message about the seriousness of the problem. As in other scandals investigated by Congress, these public hearings may complicate any criminal trials that may come about. Interestingly, Mike Schmidt declined to blame steroids for the fact that four steroid-suspected sluggers have passed him on the all-time home run list over the last four years. He says the increased number of homers is due to smaller ballparks, harder bats, and harder balls.
Estadio Dennis Martinez
For the first time, I've added a page for a stadium in Latin America, complete with a diagram and photos: Estadio Dennis Martinez, formerly known as "Estadio Nacional," located a mile west of downtown Managua, Nicaragua. Because I was not allowed to take photos inside, however, the diagram is subject to greater error than I usually tolerate.
Andrew Clem Archives
March 7, 2005 [LINK]
Nationals play (practice) ball!
History will record that the Washington Nationals won their first-ever competitive event, edging the Mets at their spring training home field at Space Coast Stadium by a score of 5-3. (History will omit the fact that I was in the vicinity of this practice game while it was being played, about six miles above in a United Airlines jet, returning home from Costa Rica.) Seeing the Nationals on the field in uniform is still almost too fantastic to believe... Even though their inaugural win means virtually nothing, it was still a nice way to start. Even nicer was when they beat the Orioles, who will become the "natural" interleague rival club. MLB just announced that the Nats and O's will play at least three games against each other during the 2006 season.
To the surprise of no one, Peter Angelos is still refusing to budge in negotiations with MLB over compensation and broadcast rights issues. This is causing further delays in the process of selling the Nationals to private investors, which in turn will make it hard for the team to expand its salary budget until very late in the season. There goes our chances for the postseason! Thomas Boswell wrote about all this in the Washington Post:
Perhaps out of malice because D.C. finally dared to get a team, or simply to wangle the best deal for his Orioles, Angelos has filibustered all spring in marathon reparation negotiations. Before Opening Day, all this will be settled. Top officials are furious at Angelos for refusing what they consider generous, if not excessive, offers. The call-his-bluff stage is coming soon.
All of which made the Nats' televised victory even tastier.
Scorched-earth tactics by Mr. Angelos notwithstanding, any remaining legal contingencies that might have thwarted the start of baseball in Washington have now effectively vanished, so I've officially raised the likelihood of the Nationals playing in D.C. as scheduled to 100 percent.
March 7, 2005 [LINK]
Stadium updates: D.C., L.A., etc.
The D.C. government has chosen three architectural firms as finalists in the bid to design the new stadium near the Anacostia River: the renowned Hellmuth, Obata, & Kassabaum (HOK) of Kansas City; Harwood K. Smith of Dallas; and Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill. A final decision is expected by the end of the week. The architectural proposes submitted at this stage do not include specific design plans, just broad parameters. It is reassuring that D.C. officials don't want just another ultra-nostalgic retro stadium, a once-laudable trend that was, unfortunately, taken to extremes in recent years. They want something unique. For more, see washingtonpost.com.
All systems are go at RFK Stadium, including the new self-propelled seating rotation mechanism that will make it possible for baseball and soccer to co-exist in perfect harmony -- or so they say. It's never been done before. Single-game Nationals tickets go on sale this Saturday, but tickets for Opening Day won't be sold until March 26...
In spite of the apocalyptic floods that have plagued the Los Angeles area for the last several weeks -- Repent, Hollywood! The End is near!? -- renovations at Dodger Stadium are somehow on schedule. New dugouts are being built about 15 feet closer to the diamond, and several rows of "Baseline Field Box seats" (very l-o-w) are being installed along the foul lines. Will the 1,600 new seats add to Dodger Stadium's "permanent" capacity of 56,000? The extra rows will create a very long "notch" in each corner, much like at Yankee Stadium but even longer. To restore authenticity, real dirt will replace that fake rubber surface on the warning tracks. For more, see mlb.com.
The Cubs have announced that the bleachers at Wrigley Field will be expanded prior to the 2006 season, adding 1,970 to the capacity. No word from Detroit on how the process of moving the bullpens from right field to left field is going... The Cardinals' new ballpark, Busch Stadium III, is assuming recognizable form with much of the steel superstructure and brick exterior on the south end already completed. Yet uncertain is whether partial demolition on Busch Stadium II can be avoided until the end of the 2006 season in order to give enough time for completing the new stadium, which overlaps the "footprint" of the current one.
March 7, 2005 [LINK]
Back from vacation
Fear not, sports fans, I've returned safe and sound from the jungles of Central America, and I'm raring to go as the new season gets underway. I do plan to make continual revisions and enhancements to the baseball pages, which I've spelled out more explicitly in the left column. Can I guarantee that I will proceed in that precise order. No, but that is my general plan. I've been in touch with Bruce Orser about what the original Wrigley Field was like, and we are both stumped for the moment. I may end up doing a "best guess" version for the 1914-1922 period.
February 26, 2005 [LINK]
Baseball in Nicaragua
My first tourist destination in Managua was the Estadio Nacional Dennis Martinez, named for the retired pitcher who won more major league games (245) than any other pitcher from Latin America. He played for the Montreal Expos (Nationals fans, take note!), the Baltimore Orioles, the L.A. Dodgers, and other clubs. I had to use a lot of persuasion to get inside to see the field, but they would not let me take any pictures because of all the trash that had been left there by a big crowd at an evangelical revival on the previous night. So I had to make mental notes of the field dimensions, numbers of rows, etc., etc. from which I will eventually derive a diagram for that "green cathedral" -- which actually was used for religious purposes! It was 330 feet to the corners and 400 feet to center field (or so they told me; I saw no such sign). Oddly, the shape was oval, with a huge arc behind the diamond rather like the Polo Grounds, though with 12 or so extra rows squeezed in behind the dugouts. In the large empty space beyond the outfield fence you can see wooden corrals, which are used when they hold bullfights here. Now there's a unique multiple-use stadium!
Nicaragua's deep poverty makes it very hard to run a professional ball club on a profitable basis, so baseball has had a rather precarious status there is recent years. For the 2004-2005 winter season, there have been four teams in the Nicaraguan League: Managua (the "Boers"!), Leon, Chinandega, and Masaya. Somehow Granada failed to qualify for a franchise. The sports pages here are full of news about Vincente Padilla, who pitches for the Phillies. The stadium in Masaya is named for Roberto Clemente, who died in a plane crash while en route to Nicaragua, planning to help with the recovery efforts after the 1972 earthquake.
Andrew Clem Archives
February 12, 2005 [LINK]
Costa Rica trip
Jacqueline and I will be traveling to explore the exotic rain forests and volcanoes of Costa Rica next week, and I will (hopefully) spend a few days in Nicaragua after she returns. If all goes well, I plan to update this blog every couple days or so while we're down there. Costa Rica is probably the number one eco-tourism destination on the entire planet, and is a paradise for bird watchers. If I don't spot at least fifty new bird species while I'm down there, I will be quite disappointed. I should be back in the States by March 3 or so...
I'm posting this on the baseball page for the benefit of the majority of folks who visit that portion of my Web site / blog. Baseball is not nearly as popular in Costa Rica as it is in most other countries in that region, probably because U.S. military forces never occupied it.
Andrew Clem Archives
February 12, 2005 [LINK]
Development schemes in D.C.
The legislation authorizing funding for a new stadium on the Anacostia waterfront in D.C. stipulated that alternative private sources of capital be explored. One such proposal has come from Washington developer Herbert S. Miller, who wants to build a $1.4 billion retail-residential complex anchored by a Wal-Mart or Costco mega-store. Seven other private financing schemes were submitted to the District government in January. "You need something to make this part of town come alive," Miller said. "This can be more than just building a baseball stadium. We can create a real sense of place." See the Washington Post. Yes, but will such a project welcome existing residents of that neighborhood and help rebuild a genuine community, or will it run roughshod over them?
Also in Friday's Washington Post, Thomas Boswell waxed poetic about the imminent start of spring training for the Washington Nationals, and the team's impact on the psyche of Our Nation's Capital: "It's the Start Of a Beautiful Friendship." As he writes, "Countless people in this area have no clue what's about to arrive in their life." Boy, are they in for a a new experience!
Odds 'n Ends
At a press conference next to Yankee Stadium yesterday, a leaner and "cleaner" Jason Giambi apologized to his team and fans for the "distraction" he has caused. For obvious legal reasons, he didn't get into specifics. See mlb.com. Unlike other fallen sports heroes, including some with literary pretensions, Jason's contrition seems sincere and unreserved. He deserves a second chance. Speaking of which, I saw the movie Eight Men Out for the first time yesterday, and it really dramatizes the enormous toll on human lives when athletes cut ethical corners. "Say it ain't so, Joe!" From the arches that were visible behind the lower deck, it appeared to have been filmed in old Comiskey Park, but the movie credits did not say so. It's too bad the outfield scenes were not as realistic as they could have been. The Minnesota Twins are still pushing for public support to build a new retractable-roof stadium in downtown Minneapolis. Since the state legislature remains very reluctant, some are suggesting tapping into gambling revenues from Indian reservation. (But I thought baseball and gambling don't mix...) See mlb.com for details. I have ranked the books listed in the Sources section of the Baseball page, on a scale of one ball (fair) to four balls (excellent).
Andrew Clem Archives
February 10, 2005 [LINK]
Home improvement at Fenway
By amazing coincidence, just after the Fenway Park page on this site was "renovated," the Red Sox announced plans for further renovation and expansion of the real structure itself. The glass-enclosed elite "406 Club" behind home plate, built in 1989, will be opened and expanded to two tiers. Wade Boggs and other former Red Sox players believe that that structure altered wind currents in a way that made it harder to hit home runs. (I find that hard to believe.) By the 2006 season, the total capacity will be nearly 39,000, including (minimal) standing room. This does not necessarily mean the Red Sox have decided to stay at their old home indefinitely, however:
"The interim steps taken from 2002 to 2006 are not to be construed as part of a 'master plan' to renovate or redevelop Fenway Park," they wrote, "but rather are part of an ongoing commitment to improve the fan experience and neighborhood presence while evaluating the long-term options for renovation and Fenway Park's ultimate future." [SOURCE: Boston Globe]
For a more ambitious alternative, based on a solid long-term commitment to preserving the historic structure, see charleshagenah.com. Save Fenway Park! Hat tip to Bruce Orser.
Rather belatedly, yet another stadium name change has come to my attention: Oakland Coliseum, a.k.a "Network Associates Coliseum," has been renamed "McAfee Coliseum." It's an unusual circumstance in that the corporation itself was renamed, somewhat like the Pac Bell - SBC transition. This was announced last April and apparently took effect late in the year. It confirms, once again, my hesitation to adopt new stadium names, especially when they are based on deals with ephemeral, fly-by-night high-tech corporations. Hat tip to Mike Zurawski.
All Star Game at SBC
Commissioner Selig appeared in San Francisco to announce that SBC Park has been awarded the 2007 All-Star Game. It's clearly among the very best of the neoclassical stadiums, and some have speculated that the delay in getting an All Star game there reflected the grumblings among MLB owners that the Giants' owners financed their new home almost entirely on their own, undercutting other owners who are seeking to get public funds for such purposes. Question: Will the stadium still be called SBC Park by then? Afterwards, Selig was queried about Jose Canseco's forthcoming book Juiced, about the steroid/doping plague, and the suggestion that owners -- including George W. Bush, former co-owner of the Texas Rangers -- knew about the problem back in the 1990s. Selig called the charges "nonsense." See mlb.com.
Andrew Clem Archives
February 9, 2005 [LINK]
Nats lack radio
With only a week to go before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, the Nationals still have not reached a deal with any radio broadcasters, nor any television stations either. Since Peter Angelos is still haggling over compensation issues, no one knows what the Nationals will be able to pay, so why should anyone make a deal with them? This situaton is truly disgusting. "Mini"-season tickets will go on sale next week, and I'm starting to worry that there won't be enough individual game tickets for good seats left for Opening Day on April 14. See Washington Post.
Fenway finalized ! ? ($$)
The Fenway Park page has been updated with a revised football diagram, based on a photo graciously sent to me by Howard Corday, as well as a 1912 version which is still somewhat conjectural due to unclear photos. It may not be perfect, but it's probably more accurate than you're likely to find than from just about any other online or print source. So, why not do your part to promote the diffusion of historical knowledge of baseball by clicking on that PayPal button? It's safe, easy, and secure.
Andrew Clem Archives
February 8, 2005 [LINK]
Canseco & dope
In today's Washington Post, Thomas Boswell casts doubt on Jose Canseco's allegations about his and others' use of steroids, noting that the former All Star slugger is in a financial pinch and therefore liable to say anything to make a buck: "Whether the claims are true or not, Canseco's motives are so tainted that his charges are doubly suspect." We'll find out the truth eventually.
The Fenway Park page has been updated once again with revised text, two photos kindly shared by new visitor Howard Corday, as well as a 1934 version diagram. (The other diagrams have been tweaked slightly.) Howard told me what I had suspected, that there were temporary bleachers in left field for Patriots football games. Hence, a revised football diagram as well as a 1912 version -- based on photos sent to me from Steven Poppe -- are still pending...
Andrew Clem Archives
February 7, 2005 [LINK]
New D.C. stadium design
Sunday's Washington Post described the process by which the new baseball stadium design will be determined. D.C. officials are eager not to follow the crowd by building a mere clone of Camden Yards, which I think is wise. Some of the neoclassical "retro" stadiums built in recent years have tended to get carried away with cliched design elements that had nothing to do with necessity or functionality.
"We do not want to see just another baseball stadium," said Allen Y. Lew, chief executive of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission. "We want signature architecture. We're not looking to just mimic other cities."
One good sign is that the illustration showed a stadium pointed toward the northeast, so at least the Capitol dome would be visible to most fans, if not the Washington Monument. In all my preliminary stadium designs (unorthodox but amateurish), the diamonds are oriented straight north, so that the Capitol would be just to the left of the "batter's eye" dark background. Given that the site on which the stadium will be built provides plenty of room, with no angled streets, there is really no need to impose asymmetry on the field layout. That does not mean that the design can't be interesting, however. At least a half dozen architectural firms are preparing designs to be submitted, and the city intends to choose a firm this month. Preliminary designs would be subject to major revision, however.
According to a book he wrote which is to be published soon, titled Juiced, Jose Canseco claims to have injected Mark McGwire with steroids while they were teammates in Oakland. He says he become known among MLB players as "The Chemist." How sad that the Washington Nationals' inaugural season will be tainted by dope scandals.
UPDATE: Led by slugger Vinny Castilla, soon to join the Washington Nationals in spring training, the Mexicans won the Caribbean Series being held in Mazatlan, beating the Dominican Republic Aguilas (Eagles) by 4 to 3, to take their fourth and decisive win. This was the first Caribbean Series championship ever held in Mexico. The other teams in the round-robin tournament were Puerto Rico and Venezuela.
Super Bowl? Oh, yeah: I was kind of hoping the Eagles would win, but I'll still wish "congrats to the Pats." Now will this finally ease their pain up in Boston??
Andrew Clem Archives
February 5, 2005 [LINK]
Super Bowl 2005!??
Baseball fans are probably lucky that the climax of their season doesn't escalate to such absurd proportions of glitter and hoopla as the Super Bowl. No $100 million TV ads or "wardrobe malfunctions" allowed in Our National Pastime! Which made me wonder, In how many past and present MLB stadiums has the Super Bowl been played?
I'm tempted to exclude the first one because it wasn't a baseball stadium at all, and I'm tempted to include the Superdome, which hosted six Super Bowls as well as quite a few MLB pre-season exhibition games over the years. It was the only doughnut / cookie-cutter stadium of the '60s and '70s that was home to an NFL team but never home to a major league baseball team. (I don't think that the Silverdome or the more recent football domes with an oblong layout really belong in that category, but the same could be said of the Metrodome, which doesn't fit in any of the other baseball stadium categories.) The Superdome could have become a real baseball stadium if there were enough fan support in New Orleans. To mark the recent successes of the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, the Fenway Park page has been updated with a new football version. That was the Boston Patriots' home from 1963 until 1968. Will Boston (broadly defined) manage to do what Pittsburgh did in 1979-1980 -- win two consecutive Super Bowls with a World Series title in between?
Andrew Clem Archives
February 4, 2005 [LINK]
RFK renovations ahead of schedule
In a heroic effort to make of for lost time resulting from the budget deadlock on the D.C. Council in November and December, work on renovating RFK Stadium is progressing so quickly now that it is actually ahead of schedule. (Hence the increase in probability of baseball at RFK from 99.5% to 99.8%, despite the lack of any territorial compensation agreement with Peter Angelos, who may yet sue.) One of the people involved in the project credited mild weather, which was indeed the case in December, but definitely not in January, when work began. See mlb.com. The photo on that page clearly shows a thick carpet of snow next to RFK; Washington got even more snow than us folks in the hinterlands of Virginia did last week. Less than two months to go until the Nationals play their "dry run" exhibition game versus the Mets at RFK on April 3...
The Rogers Centre (ex-Skydome) page now has updated diagrams, with warning tracks and some minor corrections. [UPDATE: Mike Zurawski provides an additional reason why grass is not practical at this stadium: there is no drainage system underneath the field, and removing the concrete base would make the park unstable. Further improvements at Rogers Centre are in the works, including possible picnic areas in the outfield.] Also, the Cleveland Stadium page has some "new" photos (from 1993, actually) thanks to Mario Vara III. There is a new post-1970 diagram on that page as well. As the season approaches, I'm getting a rising volume of e-mail with tips, corrections, etc. I always appreciate it, but please be understanding if I'm unable to respond right away.
UPDATE #2: The big bucks spent by the Marlins to acquire Carlos Delgado seem to have paid off. An agreement with city of Miami and Miami-Dade County on building a new retractable roof 38,000-seat ballpark next to the Orange Bowl is apparently on the verge of being signed. See mlb.com.
Andrew Clem Archives
February 3, 2005 [LINK]
The Blue Jays' owners, Rogers Communications Inc., announced yesterday that Skydome will be renamed "Rogers Centre." This move had been rumored, and is part of the franchise's long-term program to bring back the excitement of the early 1990s. New high-tech scoreboard, new fake turf, etc. See mlb.com. If you watch the video of the news conference on that page, you'll hear the rationale for FieldTurf: It allows for greater use of the stadium for non-baseball events than grass does. (The Turf page has been updated to reflect this change.) To me it seems odd that the franchise puts accommodating non-baseball tenants ahead of its own team's interests, but they've got to pay for that white colossus somehow. "Privatizing" sports stadiums is a reversal of the trends of the last half century, SBC Park in San Francisco being one of the rare recent exceptions to the rule. I'm not disputing the owners' right to put their own name on the building, but the increasing frequency of stadium name changes is starting to get on my nerves. "Skydome" is such an established name, I'm a little hesitant to instantly adopt the new name, as I did with Dolphins Stadium. We'll see... It will be interesting to see how many former Expos fans in Montreal will adopt the Blue Jays as their home team, as many Washington-area fans did with the Orioles in the 1970s after the Senators left town. One problem: Montreal is over 300 miles away from Toronto. I hope the Nationals franchise makes an effort to welcome Montrealers to games in Washington, and keeps alive the history of that energetic but often-frustrated Expos team.
More on Sammy
According to the Washington Post, the Nationals came very close to signing Slammin' Sammy before the Orioles got him to come on board. Wouldn't that have been interesting? The Ivychat blog has some useful insight on the Sosa debacle, with lots of dollar amounts and this adieu: "Thanks for 12 great years Sammy. Now, get lost." No love lost among the Northside folks, it seems. And David Pinto at Baseball Musings says: "The Orioles got one sweet deal."
Andrew Clem Archives ~ Trying times in Iraq
January 30, 2005 [LINK]
Sammy to Bal'mer!?
There is no official confirmation from the Cubs or Orioles yet, perhaps because he still has to pass a physical exam, but it seems certain that slammin' Sammy Sosa will be wearing orange and black colors this year. That will take some getting used to. The fact that he agreed to void the last year of his contract, meaning that he will become a free agent one year early, leaves no doubt about how badly he wanted to get out of Chi-town. The fact that the Cubs are willing to eat $10 million of his contract salary for this year suggests that the feelings are mutual. What in the world is his problem? Fans in the Windy City adored him, as far as I can tell, but something turned him sour last year, even though the Cubs were in the pennant race until the last week of the regular season. I hope this doesn't mean the Cubs are lowering their expectations for the 2005 season... For their part, the Orioles have shown they are serious about putting together a pennant-contending team after all -- just in time!
Revisions to the Memorial Coliseum page took longer than expected. (You would think a simple one-deck structure like this would be easy, wouldn't you? Don't try this at home!) It now includes a diagram version for the 1993 renovation, which turned out to be not enough to keep the Raiders in L.A. for very long.
Thanks to new visitor Mike Feldbush for pointing out to me the fact that neither the Pro Player sportswear brand, nor its parent company Fruit of the Loom, are in business anymore. Obviously, the money they spent to promote their brand name didn't have much impact on me; I guess I'm just not as attuned to marketing campaigns as most people are. Anyway, the Dolphins Stadium page has been corrected. Thanks also to Steven Poppe and Bruce Orser for their continued constructive input.
January 30, 2005 [LINK]
¡Los Tigres Ganaron!
Felicitaciones to the Aragua Tigers for winning the Venezuela Winter League Championship, beating the Caracas Lions 7-6 in the seventh and deciding game of the series. The Tigers thus retained the title crown they won two years ago (the season was canceled because of political violence last year), and it is their fifth national championship. The game was played in Maracay, which happens to be the home town of Miguel Cabrera, the star of the Tigers as well as the Florida Marlins. Among the stars of the Lions was Bobby Abreu, better known as a slugger for the Phillies, and Henry Blanco, catcher for the Braves. Perhaps reflecting the tense mood of the country, there was some fan violence in the game in Caracas last Sunday. See mlb.com and lvbp.com. In scanning other team rosters, I noticed that a certain pitcher named John Rocker, who played for the Lara Cardinals this winter, has an ERA of 13.50 on 2 2/3 innings pitched. Ouch!
Andrew Clem Archives
January 27, 2005 [LINK]
Nats act while O's sulk
In today's Washington Post, Thomas Boswell talks about how, thanks largely to Interim General Manager Jim Bowden, the embryonic Nationals franchise is outperforming the Orioles in terms of talent acquisition. This, in turn, is spurring deposits on the Nationals' season ticket packages, totalling 17,830 so far. As far as letting Carlos Delgado slip through his fingers, Peter Angelos said he refuses to pay more than a player is worth to his team, which these days would seem to be an uncommonly sensible attitude. Boswell noted, however, that another Orioles official has a far less upbeat take on his team, then draws some lessons about Angelos's apparent sulking behavior:
His most infuriating and baseless demand is that the Orioles should get more than half the revenues -- perhaps 60 percent -- of any future regional cable TV network.
This offseason's radically opposite results have put such greedy demands in an ugly light.
The Orioles have everything on their side -- profits, tradition, a classic ballpark and a team on the verge of becoming a winner again. Yet they either can't or won't improve their product on the field. Why should they be rewarded by baseball for ineptitude?
Boswell may be a little harsh this time, possibly caught up in all the excitement over the impending Opening Day at RFK, but he has a point. Despite the lack of any agreement between Angelos and MLB over the compensation issue thus far, I'm raising the likelihood of the Nationals playing at RFK Stadium from 99 percent to 99.5 percent.
"Joisey" in big leagues?
For the first time in months, there is a brand new stadium page: Roosevelt Stadium, located in Jersey City. It may or may not still exist, depending on which source you consult.
UPDATE: I just learned from Adam Myers that the confusion over whether Roosevelt Stadium still exists or not stems from the odd fact that there were two stadiums with that name built at about the same time, only a few miles apart. Upshot: the one where the Dodgers once played is long gone. At the suggestion of Brandon Henderson, I've added a fake turf version diagram of Candlestick Park. How's that for quick response?
Andrew Clem Archives
January 26, 2005 [LINK]
Marlins get Delgado
The biggest trading story of the week was the Marlins' winning bid for free agent Carlos Delgado, beating out the Orioles and the Mets. It would appear that the franchise owner, Mr. Loria, is trying to impress Miami city leaders that he is serious about building a top-rate team in order to get the funding for the new stadium his team so desperately needs.
Jays buy Skydome
So, what will the Blue Jays do without Delgado's bat? Well, they're going to purchase Skydome, for one thing, paying just C$25 million for a facility that cost over C$500 million to build. Something tells me taxpayers in Canada are getting hosed royally over the bargain-basement liquidation of this ill-conceived white elephant. They certainly didn't learn the lesson from Olympic Stadium. For this season the Blue Jays plan to spruce up Skydome, putting in a new scoreboard (Jumbotrons are obsolete) and replacing the old Astroturf with the "more natural" FieldTurf. It was the only major league field with Astroturf last year! Now why can't they put in real grass, like at all the other retractable-roof stadiums? Oddly, the CFL Toronto Argonauts plan to move out of Skydome into a smaller, football stadium of their own in the next few years. See mlb.com
Mets get ambitious
Although missing out on their main target, the Mets have definitely not been slouching in the off-season. After acquiring Carlos Beltran from the Astros and Pedro Martinez from the Red Sox, they just picked up another top player: Doug Mientkiewicz, also from Boston. Other than that strange controversy over possession of the game ball from the final out in the 2004 World Series, I don't know why the Red Sox would let him go. He was just traded from the Twins in midseason last year, and barely had time to get settled in to Beantown. Along with the Orioles, the Mets have been one of the biggest disappointments in recent years, in terms of payroll relative to win-loss record. Mike Piazza will be in the last year of his contract, and isn't sure whether he will retire after this year.
There are new diagrams on the Candlestick Park page. (3-Com? Monster??)
Andrew Clem Archives
January 24, 2005 [LINK]
"W" to toss first pitch at RFK (?)
According to Washington Nationals president Tony Tavares, President George W. Bush will throw out the ceremonial first pitch when the Nats play their first regulation game at RFK Stadium on April 14. See mlb.com. The White House has not confirmed this, however. Given the ongoing threat of terrorist attacks, presidential appearances these days are often kept under wraps until the last minute. Presumably, he will wear a bullet-proof vest as he did when he threw out the first pitch in Yankee Stadium for the memorable 2001 World Series. In his honor, all Washington baseball players will wear caps emblazoned with the initial "W." Several players in the Nationals organization are currently playing in Latin American winter leagues: Jose Guillen and Cristian Guzman in the Dominican Winter League, and Luis Ayala, Matt Cepicky, Antonio Osuna, and Claudio Vargas in the Mexican Winter League. See mlb.com. Veteran Vinny Castilla is also from Mexico, the southeastern city of Oaxaca, to be exact.
The Memorial Stadium page has been revised, with new diagrams for the year when the Orioles first played there (1954), and the football configuration. Thanks to new visitor Don Singleton for providing a first-hand tip regarding the location of one of the bullpens in Municipal Stadium in the mid-1960s. (Originally it was behind the center field fence.) Duly corrected.
The fruits of my recent (obsessive?) graphical labors can be seen at a glance on the newly-revised Stadiums by class page. I think those dynamic effects are pretty cool, frankly, but the question is, What's it worth to you?
Andrew Clem Archives
January 21, 2005 [LINK]
Details on the "new" RFK
According to the Washington Post, the outfield dimensions at RFK Stadium will be 336 feet down the foul lines (one foot more than it used to be), 380 feet to the power alleys, and 410 feet to center field. Supposedly it will be neutral in terms of batter-versus-pitcher friendliness. The perfect symmetry implies that there will be no ground-level scoreboard in right field as there was for most of the time when the Senators played there. One unique feature, necessitated by having to share the field with the D.C. United soccer team, is that the pitcher's mound will be removable: the entire thing will be lifted and stored away when the Nationals are out of town. Also, the movable portion of the lower deck will be automated, perhaps with cables and pulleys, so that the reconfiguration from baseball to soccer and back again can be done quickly and routinely. Two extra rows of box seats will be added behind home plate. The plan is to have the new sod put in place by March 1, which is cutting it a bit close to opening day, if you ask me.
Roger Clemens' decision to go for a second "victory lap" in signing another one-year contract with the Houston Astros seems a little strange. Was the tantalizing taste of near-victory in the NLCS against St. Louis too much for him to leave behind forever?
Andrew Clem Archives
January 20, 2005 [LINK]
Bullpens moved at Comerica
Thanks to Steven Poppe for alerting me to great news from Motown: The Tigers are moving the bullpens from right field to the 25-foot wide gap in left field that was created when they moved the outfield fence in three years ago. This reconfiguration will "add about 950 additional seats in homer-friendly right field..." See mlb.com. Is somebody in Detroit reading this Web site? As I wrote on the Comerica Park page, "If they decide to leave that inner fence in place, they should either move the bullpens to the area behind it, or else put in a picnic area, like they used to have at Crosley Field."
There is plenty of stadium "action" elsewhere, as well: The Florida Marlins are asking the state of Florida for an additional $60 million to help pay for a new retractable-roof stadium. Negotiations on this issue have been dragging on for over a year, and because of the renovation plans at "Dolphin Stadium" (ex-Pro Player Stadium) that were recently unveiled by the Miami Dolphins, the Marlins will be "homeless" unless a new stadium is built by 2010. See mlb.com. The Kansas City Royals are putting pressure on the [Jackson County] government to help fund major renovations to Kauffman Stadium. The stadium itself is in fine shape and of adequate size for that small market, but it is thought that added amenities and luxury suites will bring in enough extra revenues to enable the team to acquire more first-class players. [There's even talk of building a new stadium in downtown K.C.] See mlb.com. CORRECTION: T. J. Zmina tells me that the close-in box seats at U.S. Cellular Field will soon be upgraded to super-luxury status (the "Scout" seating area") to rake in extra ticket bucks. Also, the sterile blue seats are being gradually replaced with dark green ones, which are all the rage these days. See the White Sox Web site. Sorry for the miscommunication.
The first ballgame hosted by the Washington Nationals at the renovated RFK Stadium will be a charity fund-raising exhibition game against the Mets on April 3. The first real game will be against the Diamondbacks on April 14. Less than three months to go!
The Metropolitan Stadium page has been revised, with yet another dynamic diagram showing the baseball-to-football transformation -- which in this case involved no movable seating sections. That was the stadium that lured the original AL Washington Senators westward, in 1961.
Andrew Clem Archives
January 19, 2005 [LINK]
Nationals sign Loaiza
After a physical exam showed his balky elbow is in good shape, the Washington Nationals just signed former White Sox pitcher Esteban Loaiza to a one-year contract. (Practically the whole team is on a one-year contract!) That's a risky move, given Loaiza's shaky recent health, but it fills in a huge gap in the Nats' pitching staff. If he plays as well as he did before 2004, it would give the Nats at least a reasonable chance to compete in the NL East. I saw the hyperactive Interim General Manager Jim Bowden being interviewed on the Washington FOX-TV affiliate a couple days ago, and his enthusiasm is certainly high. Will the new owners give him a permanent job? Yesterday was the deadline for anyone wishing to submit a private stadium financing proposal to the District of Columbia. With a non-refundable fee of $10,000, there were only a few takers, apparently. Anyone wishing to purchase the Nationals franchise has until the end of the month, putting down a partially refundable deposit of $100,000.
Andrew Clem Archives
January 19, 2005 [LINK]
Winter baseball in Venezuela
One year ago, Venezuela was in the midst of a tense general strike that threatened to boil over into an outright civil war. As a result, the winter baseball season was cancelled. This year, things are back to normal, and the eight-team Venezuela Professional Baseball League is near the end of the semifinal round of the championships, which uses a round-robin format. (Some of these participants' names may be familiar: Luis Gonzalez, Bobby Abreu, Jose Miguel Cabrera, Henry Blanco, ...) The "Tigres de Aragua" have a three game lead going into tonight's final game of the semifinals. The final round will be completed in the last week of January. See the Liga Venezolana de Beisbol Profesional
Andrew Clem Archives
January 18, 2005 [LINK]
Nats' farm system in bad shape
One of the most tragic consequences of the awful "limbo" that the former Montreal Expos franchise has had to endure for the past few years has been the crumbling of its once-proud farm system. Everyone knows about Vladimir Guerrero or Gary Carter, but fewer realize that Randy Johnson, Andres Galarraga, and Larry Walker came up through the Expos' farm system. In the past, the Expos could fritter away their top talent in hopes of bringing up fresh blood from the New Orleans Zephyrs or lower-level minor league clubs, but their younger prospects just ain't what they used to be. That is why the new owners of the Nationals will have to shoulder an extra burden, as the rebuilding of a top-caliber roster with plenty of reserve depth will probably take several years. See Washington Post.
Thanks to some great aerial photos provided by Bruce Orser, I've updated the diagrams on the (K.C.) Municipal Stadium page once again. Also, Adam Myers pointed me to some fine photos of (Milwaukee) County Stadium in the football configuration, indicating flaws in my diagrams, and updates will appear on that page shortly.
Andrew Clem Archives
January 16, 2005 [LINK]
RFK grandstand repositioned
There is a photo of the ongoing renovation work at RFK Stadium in Sunday's Washington Post, showing that the movable portion of the grandstand has been returned to its baseball position for the first time since 1999. (It probably took several gallons of 3-in-1 oil to get those rollers unstuck!) Last week there was just a huge gap on the third base side. The photo also shows the much bigger new dugouts which are under construction. The work is proceeding so quickly that many of the details are being decided with little or no advance planning. For example, "when the chief groundskeeper asked how close the bullpens should be to the outfield wall, [architect Lane Welter replied,]
'Whatever you think is best. I trust your judgment.'" To make room for a modern electronic scoreboard/advertising message board, unfortunately, the "Hall of Stars" -- the signs with names of past Washington sports heroes that ring RFK Stadium at the mezzanine level -- will probably be moved to a less-visible location in the upper deck. Yet unclear is what kind of main scoreboard there will be. Commissioner Bud Selig has already committed to attending the premier game at RFK on April 14, and I wouldn't be surprised if President Bush shows up as well.
January 16, 2005 [LINK]
Nats on the tube?
Saturday's Washington Post reported that the Nationals still do not have a television broadcasting deal for the coming year, because negotiations with Orioles owner Peter Angelos over territorial issues and compensation for anticipate revenue declines continue to drag on, with no end in sight. As things presently stand, FOX will broadcast Saturday games from RFK Stadium in August and September.
In spite of the unresolved Angelos issue, and the remote but non-negligible possibility that the new D.C. Council may rethink the stadium funding bill that was passed last month, I've raised the likelihood of the Nationals playing in Washington from 98 percent to 99 percent. In practical terms, they are now past the point of no return, and the costs of an emergency change of location from D.C. back to Montreal, or to San Juan or Las Vegas, would far outweigh whatever extortion Angelos may demand. It would also throw the entire Major League Baseball schedule into utter turmoil. As for the D.C. Council, new member (and ex-mayor) Marion Barry recently checked into a hospital under an assumed name because of some severe flu-like illness. As a consequence, he probably won't have enough energy to contest the stadium bill until the baseball season is about to begin.
Good news: First baseman Nick Johnson and pitcher Tony Armas (Jr.) have signed short-term contracts with the Washington Nationals, keeping the team formerly known as the Expos virtually intact as they prepare for spring training in Viera, on the "Space Coast" of Florida.
January 16, 2005 [LINK]
Stadium page update marathon
Many thanks to Bruce Orser, a new visitor to this site, for sharing with me ancient blueprints of Yankee Stadium (revisions pending on that page) plus boatloads of great archival photos of several stadiums. The blueprints indicate that in the first year of Yankee Stadium, 1923, the distance down the foul lines was 257.5 feet, only 2.5 feet less than I had previously estimated by eyeballing old photos! I have never seen that figure published before in any book, so that's a major research finding, in my book. Thanks also to all the other regular visitors who keep me on my toes with their sharp eyes and helpful feedback, even if I don't always have time to respond right away.
The (K.C.) Municipal Stadium page has been updated for second time in one day, after I found an inconsistency in the field dimension data in Lowry's Green Cathedrals book. That's one of those stadiums where they kept moving the fence year after year (and even home plate, sometimes), and it becomes hard to maintain accuracy. I believe that makes nine stadium pages I've revised already this month, quite possibly a "personal best."
Which reminds me, those of you who pay regular visits to this site might want to consider making a small contribution to the cause by clicking on the PayPal button above. I have found their service to be very efficient and very fair, but if anyone ever has problems with it, please let me know. I'm not in this for the money, obviously, but nothing says "I appreciate what you're doing!" quite like a crisp five dollar bill, or the electronic equivalent thereof. If your charity/good cause budget has been depleted by donating to the tsunami relief operations, that's perfectly understandable. But if you would like to see further improvements in this site in coming months and years, give some thought to making a small donation. Whatever you think it's worth, I'd be much obliged...
Andrew Clem Archives
January 13, 2005 [LINK]
Getting tough on dope
Commissioner Selig's announcement that MLB and the players' association agreed to terms on a new drug testing policy is at least a step in the right direction. The automatic suspension for the first offense, coupled with the random testing, shows that the problem is finally being regarded as very serious. Such a screening program does cast a pall over the whole sport, but there really wasn't much choice, given the fact that the problem had become so widespread. Otherwise, the problem might get to the point of becoming "contagious," where a wavering clean player finally gives in if he figures that's his only chance to compete. Selig thanked President Bush for drawing public attention to the issue in last year's State of the Union address. (At the time, many people thought it was a strange thing to bring up, but Bush was perhaps a step ahead of the rest in this case.) I hope that these draconian measures don't become permanent, however. If baseball does not revive a culture of good sportsmanship without the necessity of heavy-handed policing, its role in our national culture will become further diminished.
Speaking of national culture, I was pleased to learn that Nationals catcher Brian Schneider has a leading role with the player's union. The Nationals are negotiating to acquire pitcher Carlos Loiaza, and are reportedly considering making an offer to ex-Reds infielder Barry Larkin, but only in a backup capacity. The thinking is that the team needs more veterans to guide the youngsters, and Vinny Castilla may need help in that mentoring role.
Sir Sidney no longer?
Sidney Ponson, who was supposed to be the Baltimore Orioles's ace pitcher but has performed below expectations, says he will no longer consider himself a resident of Aruba. That is a small island off the coast of Venezuela that became separated from the rest of the Netherlands Antilles in 1986. He was made a knight as a reward for the recognition he brought to the island, but has not acted like one. He was jailed for several days after assaulting someone in an altercation involving his jet ski. He expressed belated regret over the incident, and said that he was getting tired of all the attention from local folks wherever he went in Aruba. Tough life...
"After further review" of my various reference sources, I've corrected the new diagrams on the Milwaukee County Stadium page, and added a 1954 version.
EVENING UPDATE: Stadium fraud?
The report by Kevin Tibbles about baseball's new drug testing policy on NBC Nightly News tonight contained video clips of Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and several scenes of games being played -- in Milwaukee County Stadium, which NO LONGER EXISTS! (Quite a coincidence with my latest diagram revision, huh?) Pretty sloppy journalism, if you ask me. Not as blatantly bogus as the CBS "60 Minutes" report based on the fake memos last September, perhaps, but still pretty bad. Are NBC's standards eroding in the post-Tom Brokaw era?
The FOX hit TV show "OC" just started, and it reminds me about the Angels' identity crisis. Since Orange County has so much prestige attached to it, why not call the team the "Orange County Angels" instead of the absurd "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim"?
Andrew Clem Archives
January 12, 2005 [LINK]
Trades: Unit arrives in Bronx...
Randy "The Unit" Johnson was formally introduced as a Yankee after all the contractual wrinkles were ironed out. That's great news, though one wonders how such a giant (stature-wise and ability-wise) will fit into a clubhouse already chock full of supersized egos. For me, it was more gratifying to learn that first-baseman Tino Martinez is returning to the Bronx, after being unceremoniously let go a few years ago. He was one of the solid but unspectacular crew that won all those titles in the late 1990s. Jason Giambi is still on the Yanks' roster, but what that means is uncertain. After several days of rumors, Carlos Beltran is going to the Mets, who desperately need help. That will make it harder for the Nationals to fight their way out of the cellar that they inhabited during their last years as the Expos. Shawn Green, who hit four home runs in one game in May 2002, is being traded from the Dodgers to the Diamondbacks. This was expected, but it was originally going to be part of the three-way mega-trade involving Randy Johnson and the Yankees.
But wait, there are even more new football diagrams on the updated Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and Milwaukee County Stadium pages. Finally, the chronology of events on the Baseball in D.C. page has been updated through the end of December, at last.
Andrew Clem Archives ~ Dolphins Stadium!?
January 11, 2005 [LINK]
Thanks to "Stadium Guru" I found out about Monday's announcement by the Miami Dolphins that they are renaming Pro Player Stadium "Dolphins Stadium." (It was originally called Joe Robbie Stadium.) This name change is part of a massive long-term, privately funded renovation program. "Phase II, which could not commence until the relocation of the Marlins [!], would potentially include expansion of the stadium concourses, a permanent or retractable roof, additional seating capacity, ..." See miamidolphins.com Not missing a beat, the Marlins have already updated their own Web site with the new stadium name. I guess I'd better do so too: Dolphins Stadium! (While I was at it, I revised the diagrams on that page to include warning tracks, etc.) This will become, as far as I can tell, the first time a Major League team has ever played in a stadium named after another currently-playing team, reinforcing the Marlins' sense of "homeless" insecurity. The Giants played in Seals Stadium for their first four years in San Francisco, but that was just temporary and the PCL Seals had already folded, of course. Four NFL "tenant" teams have had to put up with this second-class status: the Detroit Lions (at Tiger Stadium), the New York Giants (at Yankee Stadium), the New York Jets (at Giants Stadium), and the Houston Oilers (at the Astrodome).
Andrew Clem Archives ~ Trying times in Iraq
January 10, 2005 [LINK]
D.C. gets RFK fixup in order
Today's Washington Post has an article on Allen Lew, the D.C. government architect who is in charge of overseeing the renovation of RFK Stadium, which is proceeding at a rapid clip. He has proven himself a cool-headed, effective administrator in past projects, so there shouldn't be any problems in getting ready for opening day. The article includes an excellent photo showing a big gap where the northwest side end zone seating sections are positioned for soccer games, and football games in the old days. Behind that gap is just a solid concrete block wall, which makes me wonder, Where do they store that removable section? The old dugout is visible on the left side movable section in that photo; one of the biggest parts of the renovation will be to enlarge the dugouts to modern super-size proportions. Also, the press boxes, bathrooms, and concession stands need to be upgraded. For now, it appears that the field dimensions will be virtually the same as in the old days: 335-385-410. I wish they would add a small bleacher section for kids at ground level. It is not certain whether the big scoreboard will be returned to right field as it was until the Senators left town at the end of 1971. To my surprise, they are bulldozing the entire field at RFK, possibly to add a layer of pea gravel to help the field drain more quickly when it rains.
Nats get lineup in order
The Washington Nationals signed Brad Wilkerson, who played at first base during 2004 but will probably move to the outfield, assuming that Nick Johnson (former Yankee) plays at first. They also retained Brian Schneider (catcher), another free agent enticed into signing a contract. This gives the Nats a fairly solid lineup, with spring training only a month away, and assures them of continuity in the midst of an awkward transition. Are there any good pitchers still available out there???
Are you ready for some football (diagrams)? The Jack Murphy Stadium (QualComm) page has been revised with new diagrams, rendered with the help of the televised San Diego Chargers game against St. Louis on Saturday night. Of all the 1960s & 70s-era stadiums built for both baseball and football use, this is the only one where the football team both began playing before the baseball team played there (in this case, 1967 vs. 1969) and continued to play there after the baseball team left. Actually, the same could be said of RFK Stadium -- until this year! Thanks to Steven Poppe for alerting me to a glitch in the recently-revised Bank One Ballpark page.
Andrew Clem archives
January 5, 2005 [LINK]
Stadium page updates
For those interested in football configurations of baseball stadiums, I've finished diagram revisions on the SBC Park page, host venue of the recent Emerald Bowl, as well as the Mile High Stadium and Cleveland Stadium pages. I'm also getting around to making text revisions on several pages, based on fan e-mail messages that in some cases are several months old. Then I'll add a Guestbook page at long last, and, hopefully, comments links on the blog entries and/or the stadium pages. More to come...
Andrew Clem archives
January 4, 2005 [LINK]
New Hall of Famers
Red Sox slugger Wade Boggs (who also played for the Yankees and other teams) was just elected into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Getting over 90 percent of the vote, there was never any doubt. Career-long Cubs second-baseman Ryne Sandberg also made the cut, on his third attempt, while Bruce Sutter fell short of the required 75 percent of votes by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. He still has another shot in 2006 and possibly in 2007. "If Cooperstown is callin', it's no fluke..."
Commissioner Selig approved the trade by which Randy Johnson will leave the Diamondbacks and join the Bronx Bombers. Look out world: Here we go again! The page for his former home, Bank One Ballpark, has been updated with warning tracks and a football-configuration diagram, partly in recognition of the recent Insight Bowl. I had planned to update the Wrigley Field page first, but I think I'll concentrate on football diagrams since this is the tail end of football season. Less than a hundred days remain until the first Nationals game at RFK Stadium. It's hard to imagine what that long-awaited day will be like...
In a strange, misguided effort to attract a broader fan base, the Anaheim Angels are planning to change their name-affiliation to "The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim." Good grief. This would be their third such change, the others being in 1965 (when they switched from "Los Angeles" to "California") and in 1997. Talk about an identity crisis! Well, what about these possibilities:
- Minnesota Twins of Minneapolis
- Kansas City Royals of Independence
- Texas Rangers of Arlington
- Florida Marlins of (North) Miami
- Colorado Rockies of Denver
- Tampa Bay Devil Rays of St. Petersburg
- Arizona Diamondbacks of Phoenix
Of course, football stadiums are located in the suburbs more often than baseball stadiums are these days, which leads us to:
- Washington Redskins of Landover
- New York Giants of East Rutherford
- and many more!