January 21, 2006
Under pressure from the White House (the First Fan in particular), the Treasury Department has granted the necessary license to the Cuban national baseball team, exempting them from the normal prohibitions on commercial activity with the communist regime in Havana. The team's players will still have to obtain visas, however, but that is just a formality. The Cuban exile community is outraged that their protests were ignored. If Cuba had been excluded, however, some feared that the World Baseball Classic might have collapsed, which would have made the United States look spiteful. See Washington Post. It is interesting to note that, given the resurgence of radical leftist politics in Latin America over the past few years, most recently the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Fidel Castro is enjoying the highest prestige he has in many years. Mixing politics and baseball is just like mixing politics and religion...
In an attempt to save enough on construction costs to get the D.C. Council to approve the final stadium financing bill, the future home of the Washington Nationals will be a bit plainer than had been originally planned. The biggest change is that there will be fewer large panes of glass on the exterior, which was supposed to be a key design feature. The biggest booster on the Council, Jack Evans, said there's no need for costly "Taj Mahal." He would have preferred a more traditional, brick-faced "retro" design, anyway. The other major economizing proposal is to give full responsibility for adhering to the cost cap to the construction company via a "guaranteed maximum price"; the Clark Company of Bethesda has already been selected. Presumably they would get some kind of incentive for finishing the project under cost. See Washington Post. Well, it's about time some common-sense solutions are getting offered. Just build the thing. It seems very strange, however, that they still haven't released artists renderings to the public. Isn't that what you call buying a "pig in the poke"? I reiterate my suggestion I made in a letter to Mrs. Cropp just over a year ago: Build as much of the stadium as you can until the money runs out, and get around to finishing the bleacher areas or other external parts of the stadium when more money becomes available in the succeeding years. You know, like they used to do in the old days.
Major league Baseball quickly approved the sale of the Cincinnati Reds franchise from Carl Lindner to Robert Castellini, who will have a 70 percent stake in the enterprise. I thought it was interesting what Commissioner Bud Selig said:
Everybody raves about [Castellini]. He's very personable. He's a Cincinnati man. It's local ownership. I think this is great. In fact, this was an easy one. It was quick and true. (Emphasis added; SOURCE: MLB.com)
It's good that Mr. Selig puts a priority on local ownership. Let's hope he sticks to that criterion when the Nationals are sold. If the stadium deal goes ahead as expected next month, the team may finally have a real owner by Opening Day!
The Dolphins Stadium page has been updated with a new diagram that conforms to the new standard, as well as revised text, taking into account the Marlins' problems in getting funding for a new stadium. The existing "sideways" diagrams have been tweaked slightly, as well. Of particular note is the newly revised estimate of the (straightaway) center field distance: only 394 feet, give or take a couple. That puts it at the second shortest among current major league ballparks, after Fenway Park. I still think that 434 sign overstates the distance to the far corner by at least 15 feet.
Speaking of such inconsistencies, I was asked about the discrepancy between left center field dimension in the diagram (378) and the data table (389) on the PNC Park page. This happened because the distance marker was moved at the beginning of last season, to make room for an advertising sign. I have added an explanatory footnote. To clarify the new practice I adopted last month, from now on, the diagrams will display the distance markers that are actually posted on the outfield fences in the real stadiums, whether or not they are accurately placed. The data in the tables will show the actual distances to straightaway center field and the "true" power alleys, following a line mid-way between the bases. In coming weeks, I plan to create a new table summarizing all the cases of such discrepancies in outfield dimensions .
Baseball and politics may not mix, but baseball and sex sure do! I saw Bull Durham for the first time in a few years this week, and noticed that the final scene where Tim Robbins was being interviewed was filmed in Arlington Stadium. Most recently, he played the deranged survivalist in War of the Worlds.