Monthly links this year:
Culture & Travel
Science & Technology
February, 2012 *
November 1, 2010 [LINK / comment]
Giants put Rangers on the brink
The home teams won the first three games of the 2010 World Series, the first time since 2001 (Yankees vs. Diamondbacks) that that has happened. In Game 2, Giants' pitcher Matt Cain threw 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball, and the game was actually very close -- 2-0 until the Giants staged a seven-run rally in the eighth inning. The trip back "home on the range" proved very helpful to the Rangers, as they won Game 3 on Saturday night. A three-run home run by rookie first baseman Mitch Moreland was all they needed. This time the bullpen held together, thus overcoming the Giants, 4-2.
But then last night the Rangers simply failed to muster any kind offense, as the Giants shut them out for a second time, with only three hits. (!) Who the heck is this young starting pitcher named Madison Bumgarner, anyway??? He just turned 21 in August, for Pete's sake. One would think that the noise created by the capacity crowd of 51,920 might get the Rangers going, but no such luck. There were two bad calls by the umpire at first base, both of them going against the Rangers, but it probably wouldn't have mattered. Even the presence of both former presidents Bush (the latter being a former part owner, of course) failed to inspire them. The other prominent figure in the front row, former pitching star and current part owner Nolan Ryan, did not look happy at all.
And so, the Giants have a commanding lead, 3 games to 1. So what is the secret of their success, thus far? Darned if I know. They are renowned for having very good pitching, but their batting prowess has surprised just about everybody. Their whole lineup seems capable of punching hits in clutch situations, and such above-expectations performance must stem from that undefinable team spirit / synergy.
In Game 5 tonight, Cliff Lee will attempt to redeem himself as the starting pitcher for the Rangers, facing off against Tim Lincecum once again. Odds are, he and the Rangers will prevail, but they have an awfully steep hill to climb if they manage to extend the series to a Game 6 back in San Francisco. The Giants would no doubt rather win the final game at home, and give the long-suffering Frisco fans something to really cheer about: the city's very first World Series trophy! No team since the 1985 Kansas City Royals has won the World Series after falling into a 3-games-to-1 deficit.
Rangers Ballpark update
Tonight's Game 5 will be the final ballgame to be played this year at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. So, I thought it would be fitting to do a diagram update, based in part on observations I've made while watching TV. For one thing, the upper decks in the right field corner extend about ten feet farther than I previously estimate, aligning with the foul line. Just like in Sportsman's Park! The dirt layout of the diamond is more precise than before, as are the dugouts. The biggest difference, however, is in the profile, and I have estimated that the grandstand is about ten feet taller than I thought before. For the sake of comparison, I have left the sideways version diagram intact for the time being. I will update it over the next couple weeks or so.
Nats keep Riggleman
As expected, Jim Riggleman has been renewed as the Nationals' manager for the 2011 season. Even though his win-loss record has been less than desirable, it's probably best to maintain stability as the Nationals beef up their pitching rotation and lineup for next year. He has a calm, patient style much like Joe Torre, who sometimes is not appreciated as much as he should be. If the Nationals don't come close to .500 next year, then it's probably time for Riggleman to go.
November 1, 2010 [LINK / comment]
Campaign 2010: home stretch
As the campaign activity winds down, the frequency of television ads has skyrocketed to absurd proportions. Will any of it resonate with the voters? I tend to doubt it, but a record amount of money has been raised this campaign cycle, and that's probably the best way to spend it for immediate impact. In Virginia's 5th District, incumbent Tom Perriello came out with an ad in which he is a punching bag, taking his licks from those "mean Republicans," but always bouncing back. It's a bit too self-pitying and/or self-congratulatory for my tastes, but he does at least make a convincing pitch at the end: He fights for what he believes in, refusing to cave into pressure. I happen to disagree vehemently with what he believes in, but I respect his attitude.
I was in the Blacksburg area yesterday, and saw quite a few campaign signs for the two candidates in the 9th Congressional District, incumbent Rick Boucher (D) and challenger Morgan Griffith (R). Griffith seems to be closing the gap, and both this race and the 5th District race are probably too close to call. Spine-tingling excitement on Election Eve!
Campaign sign for challenging candidate, Republican Morgan Griffith, along Prices Fork Road, west of Blacksburg.
Campaign sign for the incumbent, Democrat Rick Boucher, near the same place.
Krauthammer on elites
A few weeks ago I put a link to a fine Washington Post column by Charles Krauthammer on my Facebook page: "The last refuge of a liberal." I fully share his disgust with the arrogant attitudes expressed by many if not most of the mainstream media commentators, toward the Tea Party and some of its leaders. Even though I am quite wary of the populist tendencies on the Republican side these days, I have enough respect for the opinions of average citizens to resist the urge to disparage them -- most of the time, at least. Money quote:
It is a measure of the corruption of liberal thought and the collapse of its self-confidence that, finding itself so widely repudiated, it resorts reflexively to the cheapest race-baiting (in a colorful variety of forms).
Problems in academia
Speaking of elite pathologies, Bruce Bartlett raised a point (on Facebook) about the irrelevance of political science advanced degrees these days, something that hits home with me, of course. He clarified to say that the same sort of problem exists throughout academia, and I agreed in the following comment:
There is much painful truth in that video and above comments, as I know all too well, BUT ... It seems to me that everyone is lamenting the downward spiral of civic, historical, and geographical knowledge in this country and/or bewailing the ever-escalating costs of higher education. And yet the bleak academic career prospects imply that there is a surplus, so something just doesn't add up. Could it be that academia has become a cartel, artificially jacking up prices by peddling rank sophistry?
November 3, 2010 [LINK / comment]
Decision 2010: two cheers for the GOP
November is HERE!
The ominous warning to the Democratic incumbents posed by those big black signs -- "November is Coming" -- proved all too accurate in yesterday's midterm elections. It will take a while to digest and analyze all the election data and exit poll findings to derive what the voters were trying to say. For now, however, it is clear at least that most American people strongly oppose the general policy thrust of the Obama administration, and have lost confidence in their elected representatives. Whether they know what kind of alternative policies they would like to be adopted instead is very hard to say. Elitists will no doubt bemoan the fickleness, impatience, and/or gullibility of "swing" voters, but what happened in the polling booths was not just a mindless backlash stemming from fear.
In the Washington Post, Dan Balz rightly observes that the "major rebuff of President Obama and the Democrats" reflected an "electorate worried about the economy and the size of the government." (Emphasis added; President Obama would have you think it's only the former, and not the latter.)
Personally, I was happy that Republicans made such big gains in both chambers of Congress, but I have very mixed feelings about what may come over the next two years. The recent past does not reflect well on the Republicans' ability to govern effectively, and the rise of the populist element (a.k.a. "Tea Party") raises further doubts. A column in USA Today by Jonah Goldberg (hat tip to Andrew Murphy) foresees "a lot of disarray on the right." And of course, he's right. Republicans these days agree on many things in principle, but very few things in practice. Goldberg noted that much of the press coverage focused on dubious Republican candidates like Christine O'Donnell (Delaware Senate) or Carl Paladino (New York governor's race). This diverted attention from serious, worthy candidates such as Ron Johnson, who defeated incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold in Wisconsin. So, while the "GOP brand remains deeply tarnished," there are bright spots in the party yet to gain broad public attention.
House: historic reversal
The Republicans gained roughly 60 seats in the House, even more than most people (including me) expected. It was an even bigger landslide than in 1994, when the GOP gained 54 seats. They went from 178 seats to 238, whereas the Democrats dropped from 255 to about 195. Larry Sabato forecast a net GOP gain of 55 seats in the House, and 8 seats in the Senate, and that was pretty close. On his show yesterday, Rush Limbaugh talked about how the Democrats needed a very high turnout rate to have any hope at all, and suggested that the GOP might gain as many as 90 seats. Not quite.
Speaker-to-be Rep. John Boehner got uncharacteristically emotional in his victory speech, recalling the hardships he endured working his way through college. I didn't realize what a tough life he had growing up, and I bet a lot of other people didn't either. Maybe it will serve to deflect criticism that Boehner is one of those elitist "country club Republicans." (Do such people still exist?) Very little has been said by Boehner or anyone else about the vague, watered-down "Pledge to America." That's probably just as well.
For her part, Speaker Nancy Pelosi seemed quite traumatized during her interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer this evening. Politics is a rough business, and the way she bullied her way through her own party's caucus to get the health care legislation passed made it inevitable that she would get her comeuppance in due course. Sincerely motivated or not, the policies she forced upon the American public will have awful consequences in the years to come, and in my opinion, she got what was coming to her.
Senate: close, but no cigar
As most analysts expected, the GOP fell short of a majority in the U.S. Senate, gaining six seats. (See the table below.) As soon as Republican candidate Linda McMahon lost in Connecticut and John Raese lost in West Virginia, it was clear that there was almost no way they were going to get to 51 seats. In these cases, the Tea Party movement obviously did more harm than good. Likewise, it appears that Sen. Lisa Murkowski will win the three-way race in Alaska with a write-in campaign. That would be a huge blow to Tea Party candidate Joe Miller, who beat Murkowski in the GOP primary, with strong support from Sarah Palin. In this case, at least, it won't matter for purposes of getting a Republican majority, because Murkowski would certainly caucus with the GOP.
Among the Republican Senate victories, the ones that really stood out were Rand Paul in Kentucky, and Marco Rubio in Florida; both are solid Tea Partiers. The GOP victories that will probably make the most difference in the Senate during the next term were those of Ron Johnson in Wisconsin (against Russ Feingold), Mark Kirk in Illinois (against Alexi Giannoulias), and Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania (against Rep. Joe Sestak). The Democrats being replaced in Arkansas, North Dakota, and Indiana were relative moderates; the incumbents in the latter two states didn't even run for reelection.
As for the most notable defeats in Senate races, Tea Partier Sharron Angle finished several points behind Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He was vulnerable, and not very articulate, and there was no excuse for letting that opportunity slip through the Republicans' grasp. With a couple of exceptions, candidates endorsed by Sarah Palin did not fare well at all. I try to avoid bringing up her name, because she is such a polarizing figure, but I will say that we would all be much better off if she does not run for president in 2012.
|New Republican senators
||New Democratic senators
|Mike Lee (UT)
||Richard Blumenthal (CT)
|Rob Portman (OH)
||Joe Manchin (WV)
|Jerry Moran (KS)
||Christopher Coons (DE)
|Roy Blunt (MO)
||Michael Bennet (CO)
|Rand Paul (KY)
denotes change of party control.)
|Kelly Ayotte (NH)
|Marco Rubio (FL)
|John Boozman (AR)
|Ron Johnson (WI)
|Mark Kirk (IL)
|Dan Coats (IN)
|John Hoeven (ND)
|Pat Toomey (PA)
Big red shift in Virginia
The Old Dominion led the way, as the GOP recouped the loss of three House seats in 2006, bringing the balance back to eight Republicans and three Democrats.
The biggest race was in the 5th District, where GOP candidate Robert Hurt beat incumbent Tom Perriello, despite a major last-minute media campaign on behalf of the incumbent, including a visit to Charlottesville by President Obama himself. Perriello did close the gap toward the end, and lost by less than four percent. Hurt played it safe throughout the campaign, almost as though he were the incumbent. The third party candidate Jeffrey Clark received only about two percent of the votes, not enough to affect the outcome. One odd concluding note: Perriello's campaign office in Charlottesville was burglarized in the early morning hours on Election Day, and some voter instruction materials were taken; see nbc29.com.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was in the 9th District, where Morgan Griffith defeated long-time Rep. Rick Boucher. The incumbent was vulnerable because of his support for Obama's cap and trade clean energy proposal, which would severely hurt the coal country of southwestern Virginia. For many weeks, nevertheless, Boucher seemed to enjoy a clear lead over Griffith, which left me puzzled. Somehow or other, Griffith closed the gap in the last couple weeks and ended up with a substantial margin of victory, 51% to 46%. Griffith is articulate and ambitious, and if he plays his cards right, he could become a leading voice in the House of Representatives some day.
In the 2nd District, the victory of Scott Rigell over incumbent Democrat Glenn Nye was no surprise. In the 11th District, Keith Fimian fell votes short of defeating incumbent Democrat Gerald Connolly. If another thousand or so voters had switched, the GOP would have picked up one more seat and would have their biggest edge ever in Virginia, 9 seats to 2. (In 1981-1982, back when the state only had ten House members, Virginia Republicans enjoyed an 8-2 edge over Democrats.) See the newly-updated Virginia politics page.
Here in the 6th District, incumbent Rep. Bob Goodlatte won reelection easily, with 76.3% of the vote. Moderate independent Jeffrey Vanke (13.0%) probably received most of the Democratic votes, while Libertarian Stuart Bain (bainforcongress.org, with 9.2%) probably siphoned off a certain proportion of votes from Goodlatte. The two minor candidates appeared at a public forum/debate in Harrisonburg last week, but Rep. Goodlatte did not participate. That's too bad.
So even though the pickup of three House seats was a great accomplishment, Republicans shouldn't pat themselves on the back too much. The party is right back where it was three years ago.
Darker red areas are the districts in which Republicans won a higher percentage of the vote, and darker blue areas correspond to higher Democratic voting. Roll mouse over the image to compare the 2010 results with those from 2008.
Based on his press conference this afternoon, I'd say President Obama probably does not "get it". He said many of the right words, admitting he had been "shellacked," but the lack of emotion on his face suggest to me that he remains convinced that he did "the right thing" and didn't deserve such repudiation. Whether it is his ample-sized ego or his relative youth and lack of experience on the national stage, he just doesn't seem to have the capacity to respond to negative warning signs and make the necessary adaptations. Unless he gets the White House staff reorganized with top-notch professionals in the near future, his presidency is at risk of totally losing touch with the American people.
Undoubtedly, the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court ruling from earlier this year created a big advantage for the Republicans, allowing money to be spent on advertisements virtually without limit. My only complaint is that organizations should be required to publicize who all of their individual donors are. The implication from that ruling that corporations have First Amendment rights still strikes me as bizarre.
One lesson from Decision 2010 is that rich Republicans (or Democrats) shouldn't squander the family fortune in pursuit of political glory. In the Connecticut Senate race, Linda McMahon spent about $50 million of her own money, and in the California governor's race, Meg Whitman spent about $160 million. Even so, both of them lost by several percentage points. Attorney General Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown (a former governor) will somehow lead California in the midst of the worst fiscal crisis of its history. As the pressure to raise tax revenues becomes unbearable, and as state services continue to decline, I forsee a massive exodus of upper-class Californians in the years to come. Perhaps they will migrate to Oklahoma, in a reversal of the dust-bowl exodus of the 1930s!
Facebook friend Bruce Bartlett was cited in an article at economicprincipals.com, along with Pete Peterson, a passionate advocate for fiscal sanity and co-founder of the Concord Coalition. The article described the coming war within the Republican Party as it prepares to assume power in the House of Representatives. It's the conservatives pitted against the radicals: "Conservatives are those in both parties searching for a durable agreement on levels of spending, taxing and borrowing; radicals are those who have no use for compromise." On that count, I am clearly a conservative. But then they write: "Radical Republicans think that they can roll back the welfare state." In that sense, I am quite radical. Go figure.
As the battles within the Republican Party rage on, it is unlikely that a clear consensus on priorities will emerge during the next two years. While the populist rabble-rousers and the "establishment" insiders duke it out, public policy will remain subject to arbitrary whims, creating confusion for investors as well as consumers. The United States is in peril both in terms of the economy and national security, and this is no time for partisan squabbling, or intra-partisan squabbling, to drag us all down. The process of defining the Republican Party's identity is bound to drag on and on and on, until some new articulate leader surges to the forefront. What potential leader could fulfill such a vital role? I suppose we will find out during the 2012 primary campaign.
November 4, 2010 [LINK / comment]
Tea Party vs. the Republican Party
It doesn't matter whether the Republicans win or lose, there is bound to be another round of intra-party sniping after every election. (For some examples, see my blog posts of Dec. 2006, Nov. 2007, Nov. 2008, and Dec 2009.) What makes this year unique is the role being played by the Tea Party movement, which got started as a protest against Obama's big government agenda, but which has now morphed into a faction that is seeking to take over the Republican Party from within. Having witnessed first-hand such "grassroots insurgencies," and being quite familiar with their ugly tactics and phony pretenses, I am inclined to be more skeptical of the Tea Partiers, the more they focus on party politics.
Nevertheless, I remain generally sympathetic with the goals of the movement, so I try to keep an open mind about them. Sometimes I wonder whether I am the only person on the face of the Earth who is capable of discerning positive as well as negative aspects of the Tea Party movement. Since the election on Tuesday, there has been a lot of arguing about the Tea Partiers, and for the record, here is a quick roundup of Facebook comments I've made in the past couple days:
Many of the above characterizations of the Tea Party are apt, with respect to at least some of the movement's members: assimilation-prone, reactionary, noise-making, P.O.'d at the status quo, finicky, genuine populist, bankrolled, and gullible. The point it is that is a complex, amorphous phenomenon that represents a groundswell of deep sentiment, as yet not well articulated, and to which various sinister establishment factions and professional agitators will attach themselves and attempt to subvert and control, if they can. No simple narrative, folks.
Andrew Murphy thinks Republicans must be rueing the nominations of Tea Party candidates Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle, both of whom lost eminently winnable races against (respectively) Mike Castle and Harry Reid. Or maybe not, I responded:
For pseudo-conservatives, losing an election is often even better than winning, if it validates their bizarre standards of purity and/or paranoid fears of betrayal. Just watch, the usual suspects in the right wing will spin this in such a way to blame the "RINOs" once again.
The perfect example of this line of thinking, of course, is Richard Viguerie, who just proclaimed:
The next stage of the Tea Party movement -- Tea Party 2.0 -- means taking over the GOP at every level from precinct captain to state chairman, and nominating one of our own for president.
"[T]aking over the GOP" -- well, isn't that special? Been there, done that...
Finally, I joined a Facebook argument over Senator-elect Rand Paul's chilly relationship with "establishment Republicans." He told MSNBC's Joe Scarborough "You think they're going to listen to me, Joe?" See dailycaller.com. In response to the widespread (faulty) notion that the basic problem in the GOP is that the head honchos have sabotaged the cause of conservatism by ignoring their members, I wrote:
Well, Boehner is certainly listening. It seems to me the party leaders have been bending over backwards to keep the Tea Partiers happy. I was pleased that Paul won, but I'm not encouraged that he immediately expressed doubts about the leadership before they even had a chance to sit down and talk.
In sum, we're in for a bumpy ride over the next few months, as the Tea Partiers flex their muscles in the GOP. I will try to keep closer track of what they are doing, including at the local level: shenvalleyteaparty.com. In particular, I will be scrutinizing the Tea Party movement to see whether its members exhibit the pathological traits of pseudo-conservatism. Stay tuned, sports fans...
November 5, 2010 [LINK / comment]
San Francisco Giants: world champions!
And they said it couldn't be done! For the very first time since they moved to San Francisco in 1958, the Giants have won the World Series. They had won the National League pennant three times before this year, but each time they were then defeated by the American League pennant winner. In 1962, they lost to the Yankees 4 games to 3, in 1989 (earthquake!), they were swept by the Athletics 4 games straight, and in 2002 they lost to the Angels 4 games to 3. But this year was different: They won the first two games, taking advantage of the National League's home field advantage (the first time this has happened since 2001), and took two of the three games that were played in Texas.
In Game 5, Cliff Lee again Faced Tim Lincecum for a second time, but unlike Game 1, this time the game went according to the "pitchers' duel" script: neither team scored a run for the first six innings. But in the seventh inning, Edgar Renteria hit a home run with two men on base, and those three runs were all the Giants needed. Texas came back with a home run by Nelson Cruz in the bottom of the inning, but neither team scored after that. Cliff Lee finished the inning, with a fairly respectable outing compared to Game 1, but Tim Lincecum was better. He struck out 10 batters in eight innings, and gave up only three hits. Black-bearded closing pitcher Brian Wilson did his job in the ninth inning, striking out two batters, and getting Vladimir Guerrero to ground out. The Giants ran onto the diamond for a jubliant group hug, but there was no joy for the 52,000+ fans at the Rangers Ballpark. For a full wrap-up, see MLB.com. On Wednesday, the city of San Francisco honored the Giants with a parade through downtown. Congratulations to the Giants!
For his clutch hitting performance, veteran shorstop Edgar Renteria was named World Series MVP. The Giants were the fourth team Renteria has played with during the postseason. With the Marlins in 1997, he batted in what proved to be the game winning run. The only other players ever to have done so in two World Series games were Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra. At age 35, Renteria is considering retiring after this season.
This year the managers for both teams were fairly low key. For Texas, Joe Washington exuded cool confidence as his team battled their way up through the playoffs. For San Francisco, Bruce Bochy had to overcome his former team, the San Diego Padres, in the divisional race at the tail end of the regular season. (See a photo of Bochy at Jack Murphy Stadium in the 1980s.)
As shown on the newly-updated MLB franchises page, among all franchises that have relocated to other cities, the Giants were among the fastest to reach the postseason. In only their fifth year in San Francisco, they made it to the 1962 World Series. But in terms of how fast they won their first World Series after relocation, they are the slowest of all: 53 years of "torture." To put things in a historical context, when the Giants last won the World Series, in 1954, Elvis Presley was still an unknown, Rosa Parks had not yet challenged the "back-of-the-bus" custom, and the guns in Korea were still warm from the war that had been suspended only a year before. In the world of baseball, the Athletics were still playing in Philadelphia, and California was still a far-off dream. The only teams now that have had to endure longer periods of "torture" without a championship are the Cubs (102 years) and the Indians (62 years). The Indians probably would have won in 1954 were it not for Willie Mays' amazing catch of the long fly ball hit by Vic Wertz in deep center field at the Polo Grounds. That totally reversed the momentum in that World Series, and the rest is history.
Another positive aspect of this year's World Series is that it was the ninth different winning team in the last ten years. Only the Red Sox won more than once between 2001 and 2010. It was also the fifth year in a row that the world championship alternated from one league to the other. (This happened six years in a row from 1986 to 1991, and eight years in a row from 1940 to 1947; see the Annual chronology page, also updated.) It seems to be evidence in support of Commissioner Bud Selig's claim that, thanks to the system of "enhanced revenue sharing," which he pushed, baseball now has a better overall competitive balance than in any time in the past. He says the recent success of the small-market Tampa Bay Rays are clear evidence of that. (See tampabay.com; hat tip to Mike Zurawski.) Maybe.
R.I.P. Sparky Anderson...
George Lee "Sparky" Anderson, who was the manager of World Series-winning teams three times, passed away on Thursday at the age of 76. Anderson began managing the Cincinnati Reds in 1970, and had quick success, leading his team to the World Series that year and two years later. The Reds won in 1975 (against the Red Sox) and in 1976 (against the Yankees). He deserved as much credit as anyone for creating the "Big Red Machine." Eight years later, he led the Detroit Tigers to a world championship. Although a disciplinarian, Anderson was flexible enough to adapt his approach to the particular strengths of the team his was leading. He led the way in relying more on relief pitchers than old-style managers had done, often yanking the starting pitchers out in abrupt fashion. Anderson born in Bridgewater, South Dakota in 1934 and moved with his family to California nine years later. See the Washington Post.
Also of interest to the baseball world was the passing of baseball historian Bill Shannon in New Jersey last week. He served as official scorekeeper for the New York Yankees and Mets, and compiled statistics for the AFL/NFL New York Titans / Jets. He also authored The Ballparks, a history of major league baseball stadiums. See the Washington Post.
November 8, 2010 [LINK / comment]
The mail bag: overflowing again
Now that the 2010 baseball season has ended, I can start getting caught up with various tasks, such as responding to e-mail inquiries. As usual, Mike Zurawski has sent me a steady stream of stadium-related news items. Last month, he brought to my attention news that a decision on the never-ending saga of a new stadium for the Athletics in San Jose may be coming soon. No word on that yet, but there is a report at fieldofschemes.com which suggests that the World Series victory by the San Francisco Giants may make it easier for the Athletics to move into the Giants' own territory.
A few miles to the northwest, the San Francisco 49ers say that, because of uncertainties over the NFL labor contract, their proposed stadium in Santa Clara is not expected to open until 2015, a year later than previously planned. See ESPN. Sounds like a lame excuse to me. As Mike says, everything will depend on getting the 49ers and Raiders to collaborate on a new stadium, as the New York Giants and Jets have done. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell recently met with Raiders owner Al Davis, evidently trying to persuade him to cooperate. A new stadium at the current site of the Coliseum is being strongly considered; see mercurynews.com. (Can you say "Oakland 49ers"?) Speaking of the Raiders, they sold out Oakland Coliseum yesterday, and fans were able to watch a Raiders home game on TV with no blackout for the first time this year.
Further south in California, there is continued talk of getting an NFL team in Los Angeles. AEG is offering to manage the Los Angeles Convention Center, as part of a deal in which it would invest $1 billion to construct a new stadium that would also serve as a convention venue. See sportsillustrated.cnn.com. The most likely scenario for this to happen is the relocation of one of the six struggling medium-market NFL franchises; see dailynews.com.
And still further south, Mike tells me, the Chargers' hopes for a new stadium in downtown San Diego are rising again, thanks to a provision in the California legislature's budget agreement, which lifts a cap on downtown redevelopment funding. See signonsandiego.com.
Back north across the 49th Parallel, it seems that enthusiasm among Canadians for American football is not that strong. Prospects that an NFL franchise may move to Toronto are just about zilch. In Canada, football is a sport, not a multi-billion dollar business; see suntimes.com. Across the Atlantic Ocean, the 49ers beat the Denver Broncos at London's famouse Wembley Stadium. Does this portend a new NFL franchise in London, or perhaps even some city in Germany? I certainly hope not. See skysports.com.
Thanks as always to Mike Zurawski for his relentless news gathering efforts.
Señor Donald Hector Estes, MD wants to make sure that the deepest point in New Yankee Stadium is slightly to the left of center field, and I confirmed that. I estimate that it's about 410 feet. He also made an intriguing suggestion for a new stadium comparison page, and I'm already working on it. Stay tuned...
Paul Dimitre created some extreme panoramic montages of AT&T Park, Candlestick Park, and a number of other notable sporting venues around the world. I'll be posting some of them on the above pages in the near future.
Finally, Charles Butler recently wrote just to say how much he enjoys this "awesome" Web site. Thank you, Charles, and thanks to all the rest of you fans out there.
50th anniversary in Pittsburgh
Among other long-time fans (and sponsor!) of this site, Mark London wants everybody to know that October 13 was the 50th anniversary of the dramatic walk-off home run by Bill Mazeroski in Forbes Field, as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the heavily favored New York Yankees in the 1960 World Series, four games to three. For some older fans who were actually there to witness the event, it "still feels like it happened yesterday." On October 13, Mazeroski and nine other members of the 1960 Pirates team were present for a ceremony in which a historical plaque in his honor was unveiled at the site where Forbes Field once stood. About 1,000 fans were in attendance. On Sept. 5, a statue of Mazeroski was dedicated outside PNC Park, on the occasion of his 74th birthday. See www.post-gazette.com; also see the video from that historic game. Thank you for sharing that, Mark! Speaking of which, Forbes Field is high on my "to-do" list of stadium diagram revisions.
Page revisions continue
I have made minor revisions to the Stadiums by class page, which now conforms to the new layout/navigation system. The layout of the rest of the baseball reference pages and stadium pages should be updated by the end of the year.
Wrigley Field reality TV
If I hadn't been watching Sunday Night Football last night (poor Cowboys!), I probably would have seen the entire episode of the CBS reality show, "Undercover Boss." (Unlike most other "reality TV" shows, this one seems to have some social merit.) Anyway, Todd Ricketts, one of the new owners of the Chicago Cubs, was posing as a simple worker, being filmed by a fictitious reality TV show. The ending was full of feel-good moments, and it was great PR for the Cubs. See CBS.com.
Speaking of which, Mike Zurawski also sent a news item about possible future renovations at Wrigley Field: see bleedcubbieblue.com.
November 10, 2010 [LINK / comment]
NL Golden Gloves awarded
The National League NL Golden Gloves awards were announced today, and three players from the Cincinnati Reds received top honors for their defensive performances this year: third baseman Scott Rolen, second baseman Brandon Phillips, and pitcher Bronson Arroyo. Two players each from the Rockies and Cardinals earned such awards, leaving just two other teams. See MLB.com. It's rather odd that NO players from the World Champion San Francisco Giants received Golden Gloves.
Personally, I was a bit surprised that Ryan Zimmerman didn't receive the Golden Glove, which he won last year. He routinely makes spectacular diving catches and off-balance throws to first base, and is a frequent object of ESPN's "Web gems." But Zimmerman does make errors, 17 this year, and that may have made the difference. Nats blogger Mark Zuckerman wrote yesterday that Zimmerman has "established a reputation as the best defensive player at his position," expecting him to win the award once again. Wait till next year!
New Nersey Nationals???
Don't worry, the Washington Nationals are not relocating to Newark or anywhere else in the Garden State. What happened today, rather, is that the Nationals unveiled their new jerseys, as in uniforms. Most significantly, the name Nationals with the gold-embossed block letters has been removed from their home jerseys, replaced by the "Curly W." I'm not sure I like that change, but we'll see. Jordan Zimmermann, John Lannan, and Ryan Zimmerman modeled the team's brand-new sporting wear to the public. See MLB.com.
Whither Adam Dunn?
As of Sunday, when the Nationals' rights to him expired, Adam Dunn has been free to negotiate a contract with any baseball team. "According to a baseball source, the Nationals have had a three-year deal on the table for three months, but Dunn and his agent, Greg Genske, have not accepted the offer." See MLB.com. Something just doesn't sound right about that situation. I have heard that Dunn would be willing to sign an equivalent four-year contract, and I can't see why the Nationals front office would hesitate over a relatively minor difference like that. Some people say that Dunn has limited defensive abilities and strikes out too often, but you could say the same thing about a lot of superstars who have made more money than Dunn. He brings a lot to the team besides his slugging performance alone.
Sign Adam Dunn!
Coors Field update
Mike Zurawski pointed out a few details that were missing on the Coors Field diagram, so I took care of that. For example, the water feature beyond center field is now indicated, and the trees are more accurately depicted as well. While I was at it, I also got rid of the old sideways version diagram, which was intended to show the entire stadium within the confines of the standard-sized 500 x 480 pixel box. I replaced it with a new full-size (non-truncated) version diagram, similar to the ones for Sun Life (Dolphin) Stadium and Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Other full-size diagrams are yet to come, including a certain stadium in Denver that no longer exists...
November 10, 2010 [LINK / comment]
Bipartisan budget compromise?
In an era of extreme polarization and partisanship, the mere suggestion of Left and Right coming together for the sake of the national interest may seem a little strange. But politics is often like that, as leaders take advantage of opportunities. The rock-solid conservative National Taxpayers Union and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group have released a joint report, "Toward Common Ground: Bridging the Political Divide to Reduce Spending." Hopefully, this will start the ball rolling and get both sides to set aside their bitter animosity and tackle the massive budget deficit that threatens to undermine our entire economy.
Speaking of fiscal policy, it would probably help matters if more Republicans would pay heed to David Stockman, who appeared on the Sunday morning talk shows and is bashing the Republican Party for failing to articulate a serious budget proposal. Many Republicans still resent Stockman for speaking candidly about the soaring budget deficits under the Reagan Administration. Make up your own mind by watching the "David Stockman: Heretic or truth-teller?" clip from the new CNN Parker-Spitzer show at youtube.com. (Hat tip to Facebook friend Andrew Murphy.) Kathleen Parker is one of the smartest and most gracious commentators on the national scene today, and I happen to agree with her almost all the time. So what's a nice girl like her doing on a show with a sleaze bucket like Elliott Spitzer?
And if you don't like David Stockman, maybe the TV ads by Pete Peterson's group will move you: OweNo.com. It features a faux political candidate making big promises, all of which are to be funded by running up the national debt and letting the next generation worry about it. Here's the tagline:
Hugh Jidette is running for President on a platform of increasing spending and cutting taxes without paying for them. How? One word. Debt.
Does that sound like a familiar agenda? Well, it should. Coincidentally, former President George. W. Bush's autobiography, Decision Points, is being published this week, and he has been making the talk show circuit, appearing with Matt Lauer on NBC's Today Show. I heard "W" conversing with El Rushbo on the radio on Tuesday, and he sounds relaxed and focused. Whether he has reflected on his administration's failures in fiscal policy remains to be seen.
Election 2010 update
Eight House races are technically still too close to call, but in some of those cases it's basically all over. In Virginia's 11th District, Republican Keith Fimian conceded to Democratic incumbent Gerald Connolly. At present, the Republicans have won at least 239, which is 21 more than the 218 seats they needed to take a majority. That is a net gain of 60 seats. The Democrats, meanwhile, have fallen from 255 seats to only 186. But apparently the Democrats have not noticed the huge reversal of fortune, because it looks like their caucus leader, Nancy Pelosi, has rounded up enough support to retain that position. So, instead of Speaker of the House she will be House Minority Leader.
On the Republican side, there was drama over Rep. Michelle Bachman's bid to become of of the party leaders. She just decided to drop her challenge to Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling (see MS-NBC), and House GOP leader John Boehner will be glad to have that headache gone. Bachman is known for saying some bizarre things, and there is even a Web site (Democratic, of course) devoted to that subject: michelebachmannsaidwhat.com.
I've updated the Congressional leaders table (which appears on the Politics blog page and elsewhere) with the tentative election results. I also replaced Robert Byrd's name as President Pro Tem of the Senate, about six months after the fact. After he died in late June, he was replaced by the ranking member of the majority (Democratic) party, Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii. Inouye gained national attention while serving on the Watergate committee under good ol' Senator Sam Irvin back in 1973-1974.
Is Obama a Keynesian?
Here's one of the funniest videos I've seen in a long time: youtube.com. No, folks, the question has nothing to do with the President's birth certificate.
November 11, 2010 [LINK / comment]
Fabulous fall foliage photos
It seemed like this year's fall foliage season lasted longer than usual, possibly due to the optimal sequence of rainy weather in late summer followed by (mostly) dry weather since then. (Virginia experienced near-drought conditions from mid-June through mid-August, more or less.) The colors of the leaves are already past their peak, but you can still find places where the combination of red, orange, and green just makes your mouth drop open. It's one of the special benefits of living in a temperate climate in the middle latitudes; people from the tropical areas of Latin America never get to enjoy it. For them, the change of seasons basically means going from rainy to dry and back again.
Anyway, I've been trying to photograph some of the most vivid fall foliage scenes for the past several weeks, sometimes getting it just right, as in the photo of the Blue Ridge below, or in the bright yellow Maple tree that Jacqueline and I saw near Beverley Manor Elementary School yesterday. I've been spoiled with all the days of bright sun and clear blue skies, just perfect for picture-taking. Quite often, however, I've been frustrated by the suboptimal lighting conditions, or what have you. I have noticed that the colors of the leaves often look even more intense on overcast days, as if they were glowing, but that may just be a subjective impression. Take a look at the new photos from recent weeks on the Autumn 2010 photo gallery page. Enjoy!
Fall foliage on the Blue Ridge, east of Waynesboro, on Oct. 29. This view is looking toward the north from Interstate 64, about a mile from the peak at Rockfish Gap. Click on the image to see a larger-size version.
November 11, 2010 [LINK / comment]
Honor our veterans: cut military $
On Veterans Day 2010, the United States finds itself in an unsettled domestic situation in which the balance of political power is shifting toward the Republican side, as various economic indicators suggest that the nation's fiscal integrity is in peril. Our armed forces remain engaged in a difficult and costly counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan, while the occupation of Iraq rapidly winds down. (Finally: "Mission Accomplished!") As the human toll from those wars becomes increasingly evident, we need to think about two things: First, how much commitment should be made to help the Afghan government pacify the countryside and root out the Taliban forces. And second, whether the veterans who served their country so well in those wars will get the support and benefits that they need to become reintegrated into civilian life. For those former soldiers and Marines with missing limbs, brain injuries, or other debilitating conditions, we the American people owe them the highest level of care and treatment.
Yesterday the bipartisan deficit commission named by President Obama called for cutting more than $200 billion a year from the budget of the Pentagon and other federal agencies. Even with large cuts in entitlement programs and various tax increases, the plan would not lead to a balanced budget until 2040. In other words, it's a huge amount of sacrifice and effort in order to reach a goal 30 years into the future. That itself conveys the awful situation into which we have fallen. See Washington Post and/or USA Today. The Pentagon is straining to justify a wide range of high-tech weapons programs, very few of which are relevant to the war on terrorism or have a plausible use in the near term, or even the medium term. We should probably cancel or delay the F-35 fighter jet program, and some of the new generation of warships. Unfortunately, however, the Republican "Pledge to America" specifically exempts military spending from budget cuts. That is simply not realistic.
Even though the two issues are often viewed as completely separate, economic solvency is part and parcel of national security. As Paul Kennedy warned in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1987), throughout history nations have risen to global preeminence and then fallen because they undertook strategic commitments that could not be sustained economically. Are we close to that point now? Kennedy "cried wolf" during the first Persian Gulf War of 1991, arguing that the United States was going out on a strategic limb and would not be able to pay for the forces needed to win. Obviously, he was wrong on that occasion, probably not foreseeing the huge "peace dividend" from winning the Cold War, but this time around, his argument holds much more weight.
In sum, we shouldn't run the risk of bankrupting our country by trying to maintain a super-sized military establishment of questionable utility. Being engaged in a protracted war of occupation on the other side of the planet puts a severe limit on what kinds of future security commitments we can make. We should also rethink our policy in Afghanistan, and avoid the trap of seeking to validate the sacrifices that have already been made there. We certainly don't want to put at risk our government's ability to provide the proper attention and services for veterans, so if we really care about our service men and women, we'd better pay heed to the urgency of fiscal reform at home. The best way to honor our veterans is to make substantial cuts in military spending, soon.
November 15, 2010 [LINK / comment]
I've got mail -- even more...
There are a few more e-mail inquiries from baseball fans that I have responded to over the past few days, slowly getting caught up.
Glenn Simpkins tells me that, on the Stadiums by class page, the "Neoclassical" class "seems poorly defined, and lacks a defining characteristic." That's a fair point. It reflects the fact that when I started this Web site several years ago, all of the newer stadiums conformed fairly closely to the "retro" design theme which was pioneered by Orioles Park at Camden Yards. Obviously, some of the newer stadiums such as Target Field or even Nationals Park have very little in common with the "Classical era" ballparks, in terms of the outfield configuration or exterior design. So, I plan to create a new "Postmodern" class, possibly with some stadiums belonging to it as well as the "Neoclassical" class. Stay tuned. Glenn also pointed out some glitches on that page and others, including the the dynamic map at the top of the MLB Franchises page. I fixed the latter glitch by creating a separate text box for the Early 20th Century.
Joe Johnston made an intriguing observation about the new manager of the Baltimore Orioles, Buck Showalter:
Every MLB team Buck Showalter has managed made it to the World Series--but under his immediate successor. I've probably missed it somewhere, and I'm sure others may have noticed it, but I just haven't seen it mentioned somewhere. But look here:
As you can see, he managed the Yankees through 1995, leaving them to get the
expansion DiamondBacks started. Buck's successor, Joe Torre, won the World
Series with the Yankees in 1996. After leaving the D'Backs in 2000, they
won the WS in 2001. Then, after leaving Texas in 2006, he was succeeded by
Ron Washington, but it took them 3 seasons to make it to the World Series,
which they lost.
I suppose if the Orioles were a business I would buy stock in them and then
sell it after Showalter's successor took over. I would make a profit.
OK, sports fans, has anyone else noticed that pattern, or is Joe the first?
Marc Chavez sent me some photos of QualComm Stadium, a.k.a. Jack Murphy Stadium, on a day when the San Diego Chargers were practicing there, and I have added three of them to that page.
Kyle Nagy sent me a photo of Ballpark in Arlington taken from the right field upper deck at a Yankees-Rangers night game on September 11, so I have added it to that page.
Dwight Rounds wrote just to say he enjoys the stadium pages. He laments the fact that Yankee Stadium was "neutered" in 1974, which is certainly a graphic way of putting it. He offers this historical observation: "The safest record in baseball by far is the 36 triples in a season by Chief Wilson. The second best is only 26, and that was in 1914. Forbes Field certainly contributed to the record, as the foul lines were 365 and 376 feet." Dwight is also a sixties music buff, and has a cool Web site of interest to nostalgic baby boomers such as me: AnimalsToZombies.com.
Two college football games will be played at major league baseball stadiums this weekend. Albert Kara reminded me that Northwestern University will play the University of Illinois at Wrigley Field. And Notre Dame will play against Army at New Yankee Stadium. Those two teams used to play a game against each other every year at the original Yankee Stadium. Diagram updates are underway...
Every once in a while, I totally misplace e-mail messages, and fail to reply for several months, or even longer. That is the case with Tim Brulia, who paid friendly compliments way back in August of last year. ( !) He remembers the Kessler's baseball guides from the 1960s, which is how I became fascinated by stadiums. I bought one on eBay a few months ago, and like Tim I was struck by the tiny, poor quality seating diagrams in those guides.
Plus, I've got more stadium news from Mike Zurawski to digest. Finally, I should also mention that Bruce Orser, my indispensible right-hand man when it comes to historical research, has been keeping me abreast of new findings.
Zimmerman: Silver Slugger
Even though he didn't get the Golden Glove award this year, Ryan Zimmerman did get recognized as the best-hitting third baseman in the National League, with the "Silver Slugger" award. It was the second year in a row he was so honored. See MLB.com. I was pleased that Zimmerman took the opportunity to point out that his improved batting is due in part to the fact that he comes right before Adam Dunn in the lineup, and that pitchers are less likely to pitch around Zimmerman knowing that the mighty Dunn is on deck. I hope the Lerners took notice of that.
Stadium comparison page
New! Following up on the suggestion by Donald Hector Estes, MD, which I mentioned a few days ago, I am proud to announce a brand-new stadium comparison page: Stadiums superimposed. It displays two diagrams in perfect alignment one on top of the other, with the top one faded and translucent (semi-transparent). I've tested it enough to be reasonably sure that it will work on most computer platforms, but you never know. Just in case anyone cannot get it to function properly, or the diagrams do not align just right, please let me know, indicating what operating system and browser software you are using. Thanks!
How about that!
Odds 'n ends
Yesterday, I thought I had achieved a big breakthrough in figuring out exactly how Wrigley Field (Weeghman Park) was laid out during the first nine years of its existence (1914-1922). After further review of all the photographic and text evidence, however, no such luck.
I recently came across a photograph of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in the early years (mid 1960s), and discovered to my utter dismay that there was no "cut out" behind home plate back then. The front edge of the grandstand made a perfect circular arc all the way from just beyond third base to just beyond first base. In other words, home plate was originally positioned at least 10-15 feet farther forward than it was in later years, when the first seven rows between the dugouts were removed. (The outfield fences were moved back correspondingly, to keep the distances roughly the same.) As far as I can tell, this change was done in 1973, but none of the ballpark books I have mention this. How can such a significant modification to a major league stadium go unnoticed for all these years??? If anyone knows for sure about this situation, please let me know! Yet another diagram update pending...
November 16, 2010 [LINK / comment]
Life bird: Rufous hummingbird!
On Saturday morning, Jacqueline and I drove up to the Harrisonburg area in hopes of seeing a Rufous hummingbird that has been reported there recently. It may seem very strange, since all of the hummingbirds that breed in eastern North America (the Ruby-throated hummingbirds) migrate south by mid-October, not being able to cope with freezing weather. Yet somehow, a few hummingbirds from out west show up at feeders in the Mid-Atlantic region during the winter months every year, and manage to survive.
Anyway, there were about a half dozen birders gathered at the farm house when we arrived, which was a good sign. I was eager with anticipation as I grabbed my optical equipment from the back seat and walked over to join those who were already there: Brenda Tekin, Diane Holsinger, Greg Moyers, and a couple others. (William Leigh showed up a little later.) We waited patiently, looking toward the back porch feeder, and it didn't take long before the tiny creature zoomed in for a quick snack of nectar. It was a mature male Rufous hummingbird, exactly like the ones you see in the field guides: rusty colored all over except for a bright, iridescent red throat and a white "bib" and collar. No doubt about the identification: life bird #402! For various reasons, I wasn't able to get a decent photograph, so I may want to return up there and try again. This was the second time I have seen a hummingbird in the colder months; in January 2009, for example, I saw a Calliope hummingbird west of Lynchburg. That was pretty amazing.
The folks who live in that house maintain an excellent, well-stocked habitat for wild birds, and we saw a nice variety while we there. They were very friendly and gracious hosts who were very accommodating to us bird fanatics, and I am respecting their privacy by not mentioning their name. On the way home, Jacqueline and I stopped briefly at Silver Lake, where we saw a few interesting birds on the water; they are marked with asterisks below. (Ironically, I saw my only other life bird of the current year at that same location, last February: an American Pipit, or rather, a flock of them.) Here is the list of highlights for Saturday:
- Rufous hummingbird (M, LIFE BIRD)
- White-breasted nuthatches
- Downy woodpeckers
- Red-bellied woodpeckers
- Cedar waxwings
- Hooded mergansers (M, F) *
- American coot *
- Mallards *
- Mute swans *
Scenic view of farms and mountains in Rockingham County, near where we saw the Rufous hummingbird. See other new photos on the Autumn 2010 photo gallery page.
On the previous Wednesday, Jacqueline and I drove out to the Swoope area, and saw a large number (50?) of Goldfinches along a country road, as well as Red-tailed hawks, Bluebirds, Field sparrows, and White-crowned sparrows. We were on our way to Polyface Farms to buy some wholesome organic meats, from pasture-grazed animals. No artificial additives or hormones, just the way God intended. Several months ago I saw a PBS television show about that farm and its owner, Joel Salatin, who is a true visionary of the alternative farming movement. They are committed to providing healthy food while restoring and conserving the land. It was our first time there, and I'm sure we will be back many more times in the future.
Otherwise, I haven't done much other birding lately. In our back yard, we are getting a fair number of White-breasted nuthatches, Downy woodpeckers, and Red-bellied woodpeckers. There are usually several Juncos out there, along with occasional White-throated sparrows, and the other usual yard birds.
November 18, 2010 [LINK / comment]
Baseball awards season, 2010
To no one's surprise, the ace pitcher for the Phillies, Roy Halladay, received the 2010 National League Cy Young award. He had a perfect game against the Marlins in May, and threw a no-hitter against the Reds in the NLDS (see October). Plus, his stats were better than any of his rivals. Open and shut case.
On the American League side, Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners won the Cy Young award, with 21 out of 28 first-place votes. I must admit, he's been totally off my radar screen, but he did chalk up some impressive numbers. He had the best ERA in the AL (2.27), and 232 strikeouts, only one behind the league leader. But because the Mariners had such low run production this year, he only had a 13-12 win-loss record.
Both of the players who won the Rookie of the Year Award were in the World Series this year. In the National League, Giants catcher Buster Posey took the prize, and there wasn't much doubt about it. Posey had a .305 batting average and hit 18 home runs, with 67 RBIs. Those are numbers comparable to Ryan Zimmerman's first full year with the Washington Nationals (2006), when he was edged out in the ROY award by Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins.
In the American League, Rangers pitcher Neftali Feliz won the ROY prize, after getting 40 saves during the season. Center fielder Austin Jackson of the Detroit Tigers came in second place in the voting.
Finally, two managers from up-and-coming small-market teams won the Manager of the Year honors: Ron Gardenhire of the Twins and Bud Black of the Padres. Black barely edged Dusty Baker of the Reds, with 16 out of 26 first-place votes, and with 104 total points, compared to 103. For a roundup of all the awards news, see MLB.com. Next week the Most Valuable Player awards will be announced.
More ballpark news
Mike Zurawski informs me that the Boston Red Sox want to widen the bullpens at Fenway Park by about 9 feet, to conform with the ample standard size of modern bullpens. That would, of course, result in a shorter distance to right-center field, which is one of the most distinctive features of Fenway Park. It probably will make left-handed slugger "Big Papi" happy, but not me. Because of Fenway's historical status, the change must be approved by the Boston Landmarks Commission. Right now, the seats near the right field corner are being replaced, while the concrete is repaired in that area. See bostonherald.com.
Boy, does this make me feel old: Orioles Park at Camden Yards is about to mark its 20th Anniversary, and some some major renovations are already underway. Given that the stadium has an excess capacity of several thousand seats (like most of the others built in the 1990s), the Orioles plan to reduce the number of seats from 48,290 to 45,971 by installing wider seats and creating party areas in the upper deck. The various modifications require municipal approval. See Maury Brown's bizofbaseball.com. Thanks again to Mike for this news item, and more to follow...
No deal for Willingham
The Washington Nationals have decided not to offer outfielder/slugger Josh Willingham a multi-year contract, but he says he harbors no ill will toward the team. He was ailing for most of this past season, batting only .268 with 16 home runs, and after it was discovered in mid-August that he needed surgery on his knee, he missed the last six weeks. With recovery uncertain, he is a prime candidate to be traded elsewhere. That would be a dirty rotten shame. See MLB.com.
November 20, 2010 [LINK / comment]
Football in baseball stadiums??!!
Talk about indulging in sports nostalgia! Playing college football games in Wrigley Field and New Yankee Stadium sounded like a great idea when it was first proposed, but in the former case it turned out to be pretty awkward in practice.
In Chicago, Northwestern University (whose campus is on the north edge of Chicago, not far from Wrigley Field) hosted the University of Illinois. There was a lot of hoopla as the game day approached. The football gridiron was laid out along the first-base line, at a slight angle, and it just barely fit within the "friendly confines." Mike Zurawski sent me a relevant news story: chicagotribune.com, and Al Kara from Elkhorn, WI brought this blog to my attention: laketheposts.com; from it, I found these items: sportsgrid.com, a discussion forum at illinoisloyalty.com.
Just yesterday, they decided that, because the brick wall was so close to the end zone, all offensive plays would go toward the home plate side. Kind of like playing half-court basketball -- very weird. And so, all the trouble they took to install goal posts above the brick wall in right field ended up a total waste. (Actually, the far end zone was used during one play, as an Illinois defensive receiver intercepted the ball and ran for a touchdown.) Illinois beat Northwestern by a comfortable margin. For a game wrap-up, including a video showing Wrigley Field, see ESPN. It's too bad the Chicago Bears didn't play in Wrigley Field during 2001-2002, when Soldier Field was under reconstruction. That was before the extra rows of box seats were added, making football extremely problematic. The Bears spent those two years playing at the home field of the University of Illinois, in Champaign.
In the second game, Notre Dame and Army are resuming a matchup that was a tradition in old Yankee Stadium for many years. The football gridiron was laid out from home plate to center field, angled slightly toward the left side, which is deeper. From watching the game on TV, I noticed they installed small bleacher sections in the right field and left field corners, in front of the permanent seating sections. Army scored first, with a field goal, but after that Notre Dame was in control. The Fighting Irish won pretty handily, 27-3. Take a look at the preparations for the football game at sportsgrid.com.
Because of these special games, the Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium II pages will be updated shortly to display the 2010 football versions for both stadiums, shown below. The version of Wrigley Field below includes some corrections and refinements that will soon be incorporated into the rest of the versions. For example, the curvature of the bleachers is a bit broader than before, and the grandstand on the first base side is angled inward about one degree more than I previously estimated.
Wrigley Field in the special football configuration. Roll your mouse over this image to see New Yankee Stadium likewise modified.
November 22, 2010 [LINK / comment]
Ballpark news roundup
Mike Zurawski is busy as always keeping up with stadium-related news. The Houston Astros are for sale, but as ballparkdigest.com says, the announcement today by Astros owner Drayton McLane should be no surprise. He has been trying to sell the team for the past three years. "The sale price is expected to be between $700 and $800 million." Meanwhile, McLane announced the first major renovation of
Enron Field Minute Maid Park since it opened in 2000. The Astros will spend $12 million to install the second largest HD video board in the majors, 54 by 124 feet. (Kansas City has the biggest.) The Astros will also move the press box up one level to make room for more luxury suites, and will extend the video ribbon. See myfoxhouston.com.
San Francisco Giants president Larry Baer was recently interviewed by CNBC, and talked about how many seats a baseball stadium should have. Simple answer: not much more than 40,000. Well, I think we already knew that, but we should give credit to the Giants organization for being ahead of the curve as far as seating capacity. "AT&T Park holds 41,915 people. It also uses dynamic pricing -- which alters the cost of seats based on demand -- to facilitate sales." See businessinsider.com. Perhaps there is a connection between the optimum size of AT&T Park and the fact that it was privately financed, and therefore more in tune with market realities.
In Chicago, the principal owner of the Cubs, Tom Ricketts, has submitted plans for the renovation of Wrigley Field.The Cubs want to develop the triangular plot of land on the west side of the stadium, with parking, eateries, etc. Plus, much of the stadium structure itself is in need of refurbishment. See chicagotribune.com. There is a list of specific modifications at bleedcubbieblue.com. It all depends on securing loan guarantees from the city, however. Ricketts says he has no "Plan B" if he doesn't get help in financing. See chicagobreakingbusiness.com. And speaking of Wrigley, the Tribune also has a gallery of photos from Saturday's football game.
And on the subject of football, finally, Mike recommends a video report on the process of getting a new NFL stadium built in Los Angeles; see ESPN. The problem is that two prospective ownership groups have totally different visions; one wants a downtown stadium, and the other wants a stadium in the City of Industry, a far-off suburb. Plus, California and its major cities are in awful financial shape, and the looming NFL labor dispute casts further doubt on any quick action.
Thanks as always to Mike for the latest news.
November 24, 2010 [LINK / comment]
Votto, Hamilton win MVP awards
In both the American and National Leagues, the choice of Most Valuable Player this year was by an overwhelming margin. In the NL, Cincinnati's Joey Votto received 31 first-place votes, compared to just one for Albert Pujols, while in the AL, Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton received 22 first-place votes, compared to 5 for Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera. Votto hit 37 home runs this year, had a .324 batting average and 113 RBIs. He was probably the biggest single reason why the Reds made it to the postseason for the first time since 1995. Hamilton missed a few weeks late in the season due to injury, but likewise played a big part in the Rangers' first-ever World Series appearance. He led the AL in batting average (.359), while racking up very respectable totals in home runs (32) and RBIs (100). Hamilton almost ruined his career by indulging in drugs and alcohol several years ago, but managed an amazing comeback, drawing national attention during the Home Run Derby in July 2008. Of his big achievements he said, "With God, all things are possible." See MLB.com.
In the Washington Post, Adam Kilgore lamented that Ryan Zimmerman finished 16th in MVP voting, even though he ranks in the top ten in most of the statistical measures of batting performance. "It seems Zimmerman was punished by several voters for playing for the Nationals, the sixth-worst team, by record, in the majors."
Arbitration for Dunn?
The Washington Nationals have offered their star slugger Adam Dunn -- now a free agent -- arbitration, keeping hopes alive that somehow a deal may yet be worked out. It's mostly to make sure that if some other team reaches a deal with Dunn, that the Nats will get two draft picks as compensation. See MLB.com.
Sign Adam Dunn!
AT&T Park update
In honor of the World Champion San Francisco Giants (!), I have made some minor corrections and refinements to the diagrams of their home field, AT&T Park. The stadium itself is virtually unchanged, though I did slightly increase the slope of the upper deck in the profile. I even included the iconic Coca-Cola bottle and antique baseball glove that are situated behind the stands in left field. There will soon be a "full" (non-truncated) diagram version on that page, as well as a panoramic photo taken by Paul Dimitre. For the time being, I am leaving the text on that page unchanged, pending an overhaul of the layout of all stadium pages.
November 27, 2010 [LINK / comment]
Goodbye to Luciano, and to Olive
These past two months have been quite sad in our household, as two of our pet canaries suddenly passed away, for reasons that are still not clear. First to go was Olive, whom we had just bought in early September, and then Luciano, to whom we had become quite attached over the past three years.
We bought Olive nearly three months ago, in hopes of providing a more suitable female companion for Luciano. (The other female, Lucy, has been in declining health with some kind of respiratory ailment almost ever since we bought her in late summer 2009.) The name "Olive" came from the new canary's dark greenish color, much like what wild canaries look like. Jacqueline had been to the pet store and seen Olive there several times, sitting on a nest with an egg (sterile, of course), and felt that the poor thing deserved a real home in which her reproductive instincts could be put to good use. Sure enough, within a couple weeks of her arrival, Olive was busy searching for nesting material and built up a nest. She laid late a single egg in September, the first instance of egg laying in our household since Princess did so in December 2006. Olive's egg was abnormally small, however, and she soon showed various signs of ill health.
So, we took Olive to the veterinarian, who prescribed calcium supplements. He recommended that we not encourage her to build any more nests, as she was evidently not in good enough physical condition to lay eggs. Some captive-bred canaries are just that way, apparently. We duly followed the doctor's treatment suggestions, and for a while it seemed that Olive was getting better. Then in late October, Olive passed away, quite suddenly. She showed no warning signs of severe distress, so this came as quite a shock. Olive was with us for less than two months, barely enough time to get acquainted, and she never even learned to fly very well. The Beatles song "Hello, Goodbye" seems rather appropriate.
But we endured a much more painful blow about two weeks ago when our usually vigorous and friendly male canary, Luciano, passed away. Beginning in August, he had been suffering from respiratory problems similar to those of Lucy, so we took him in to see the veterinarian, who prescribed anti-mite medication -- for him and for Lucy. It was the same treatment we had given to Lucy last year. Luciano stopped coughing, but apparently he suffered some kind of reaction to the medicine. He became lethargic and his droppings were loose and watery. (The medicine did not affect Lucy that way.) In early November, Luciano started to improve briefly, and started flying around and vocalizing fairly regularly. We thought he was starting to recover, but then he had a relapse and died during the night. After devoting so much attention to him, for naught, we felt just awful.
Luciano was a very worthy "successor" to George, our first male canary who had died by accident in January 2008. Both George and Luciano were excellent singers, and both were amusingly inquisitive. It was just a couple weeks after George died that we bought Luciano. Very quickly he demonstrated his splendid singing abilities (audio clip!), but his courtship of Princess was too "ardent." Nevertheless, he became very well adapted to us, and even showed signs of self-awareness, as when he became enamored of his own image in the mirror. He grew very fond of greens from our back porch garden (see May 2008), and would even land on my shoulder or head in order to avail himself of those special treats; see last July. That is certainly not typical behavior for a canary. In sum, he was a very well-adjusted, content pet bird, and we fully expected he would be with us for at least another six or seven years. It didn't turn out that way, however. We will miss Luciano very, very much.
Luciano (left) and Olive (right) share some tasty fresh broccoli, while Lucy stands in the background. (Photo taken Sept. 10)