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December 4, 2010 [LINK / comment]

White Sox sign Adam Dunn frown

Apparently, someone in Chicago has been listening to all those Washington Nationals baseball fans who have been crying out: "sign Adam Dunn!" The White Sox offered Dunn a four-year contract, which is what he had been asking from the Nationals. For some reason, the owners hesitated and only offered him a three-year deal. [In Chicago, Dunn will get paid a cool $56 million.] Because the Nationals offered Dunn arbitration last week -- which he declined, of course -- they will get a couple draft picks as compensation. For long-suffering baseball fans in Washington, this is bleak news indeed. I was glad that Dunn expressed deep appreciation to all the Washington fans, making a classy departure. He will probably become the designated hitter for the White Sox, though he jokingly said he'd be willing to play as catcher if they wanted him to. As the Washington Post noted, "Dunn wanted to make his home in Washington, wanted to play for the Washington Nationals for the rest of his career." They elaborated:

Dunn's departure leaves a massive hole in their lineup and a scar for fans and teammates, who cherished not only his production but his affable presence in the clubhouse. Dunn's durability was often overlooked; since 2004, only Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki has appeared in more games. At Nationals Park late in the season, every Dunn at-bat was met with chants of "Sign Adam Dunn!"

What a dirty rotten shame that the team owners did not appreciate his full worth to the team. Evidently they paid more attention to Dunn's strikeouts and (arguable) defensive shortcomings than to the energy that his presence added to the team. He was one of the main attractions, and often drew national (!) attention for his tape-measure home runs. Given the team's losing record in recent years, Dunn's departure does not bode well for future attendance at baseball games in Our Nation's Capital.

Dunn's former team mate Ryan Zimmerman expressed deep disappointment that Dunn was not given a better offer by the Nationals front office. Zimmerman said he hopes the front office has a plan to acquire more top-quality free agents, but isn't sure. He compared Dunn to the Phillies' Ryan Howard, who actually had one more error than Dunn last year. See MLB.com.

Adam Dunn

I'll miss watching the mighty Adam Dunn swinging for the fence. Taken on September 25, when the Braves beat the Nationals, 5-0.

More transaction news

Elsewhere in the big leagues, the Colorado Rockies made a big statement of commitment to winning by extending the contract of their star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki for seven years, with $134 million total compensation. That's a sharp contrast to the Washington Nationals; the Rockies probably regret letting go of their former outfielder, Matt Holliday, who now plays for the Cardinals. Tulowitzki made the All-Star Game for the first time this year, and had 27 home runs, with a .315 batting average. See MLB.com.

The San Diego Padres, who led the NL West for much of the 2010 season but failed to make the playoffs, traded Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox for several younger prospects. See MLB.com.

The biggest uncertainty right now is whether the Yankees will come to a prompt agreement with Derek Jeter. Apparently, negotiations are moving ahead quickly all of a sudden; see MLB.com.

R.I.P. Ron Santo

In the first major league game I ever saw, back in the mid-1960s, the two players I distinctly recall seeing were Cubs' outfielder Ernie Banks and their third baseman Ron Santo. The latter passed away at the age of 70, after suffering from diabetes that resulted in his legs being amputated. He was chosen for the All-Star game nine times. During his 14 years with the Cubs and one year with the White Sox, Santo had 2,254 hits, including 354 home runs. See MLB.com. In today's Washington Post, historian David Maraniss had fond memories of how his father's spirits were lifted by Santo's ironic shtick as a broadcast commentator for the Cubs, helping to "ease the pain" of fans who were used to their team blowing big leads. Only a Cubs fan or a relative of a Cubs fan would understand.

Citi Field update

Actually, it's just a minor tweak. I made some changes to the Citi Field diagram, including the change in the bullpens made prior to the 2010 season. During the inaugural 2009 season, the bullpens were parallel to the right field fence, with the rear one tucked beneath the bridge, but now they are diagonal, with both of them extending beneath that bridge. Another notable change to the diagram is the depiction of the upper deck, which is now considered as a single deck even though the upper and lower portions are separated by stairways. It's the same situation in most of the new stadiums, in which the upper-level concourses are open to the field. Because there is no overhang and easy access from the upper level to the lower level of the upper deck at Citi Field, I think it is more appropriate to consider them as one deck, but I have retained a solid black line to denote the height discontinuity, and a broad pale strip to denote the lateral aisle. One new feature (not yet displayed on the Citi Field page) is the "full size" (i.e., not truncated) diagram, which in this case is humongous. Click on the thumbnail image below to see what I mean:

Citi Field

Several other "minor tweaks" are in the works, as well as some major revisions...

The mail bag

Mike Zurawski informs me that there probably won't be a [referendum on the] stadium proposal in the March 8 elections in San Jose, because the Oakland Athletics have not yet been granted permission to relocate there. (The city has been considered Giants' territory, raising issues of compensation, much like what happened when they were trying to relocate the Montreal Expos to Washington.) It sounds to me like the grand poobahs of MLB are stalling, as usual. [In Oakland,] meanwhile, about 200 Athletics fans showed up for meeting of the city planning commission, which is considering a possible stadium near Jack London Square on the waterfront. See sfgate.com.

Bruce Orser came across some old newspaper articles that clear up some of the mysteries surrounding some of the early modifications to Griffith Stadium, where the Washington Senators (a.k.a. Nationals) used to play. With his help, I have also narrowed down some of the remaining discrepancies on Wrigley Field, and I hope to get those diagrams finalized in the near future as well.

Eddie Rossman asked me to identify the stadium in the background of a 1959 Topps Al Kaline baseball card that he recently obtained. I could tell right away that it was Yankee Stadium, but like him, I was surprised that the seats were green when the photo was taken. There just aren't many old color photos of Yankee Stadium.

I've had a few other inquiries and am doing my best to keep up with answering them. I've been under the proverbial weather recently, but am doing better now. Thanks to everyone for your continued interest!


December 6, 2010 [LINK / comment]

Nationals sign Jayson Werth smile

Now, that's more like it! In a move that rocked the baseball world, the Washington Nationals have just signed free agent Jayson Werth to a seven-year contract werth worth $126 million. That's enormous! The Washington Post notes that the $18 million annual salary is the 13th-largest contract in baseball history. It was notable that this took place even before the winter meeting of baseball general managers began. This is a big feather in the cap for General Manager Mike Rizzo, who is trying to fill the void in the front office left by the departure of Stan Kasten. Obviously, any doubts about the Lerner family's commitment to fielding a winning baseball team have been laid to rest. For Werth, however, it's not just about the money:

"The team gave me assurances that they are going to go out and get the type of talent that we are going to need to be competitive and to win. That was one important thing that is very important to me -- winning." (MLB.com)

I'm not questioning that Werth is worth more than Adam Dunn, but the huge, long-term commitment does make me wonder. His durability during this past season may have been a factor; several of his Phillies team mates missed several weeks due to injuries. the Philadelphia Phillies Werth has played in two World Series, and was on the winning side in 2008. You can't beat that kind of post-season experience. He will be 38 when the contract expires.

I'm going to have to remember how to spell "Jayson" correctly from now on. And I may have to start worrying about inflated players' salaries once again... Anyway,

Welcome to Washington, Jayson Werth!

The Nationals are still looking for a first baseman to replace Adam Dunn, and they are in pursuit of the Rays' Carlos Peña, as are the Orioles and Cubs. Now all the Nationals need are a couple first-rate pitchers, and they could be in shape to break the .500 mark for the first time since they were "reborn" in Washington nearly six years ago.

Yankees sign Derek Jeter

To no one's surprise, the New York Yankees reached an agreement with veteran shortstop Derek Jeter, who will get a new three-year contract worth worth at least $51 million. It's not yet official, because Jeter must pass a physical, but it's all but done deal. See MLB.com. But why only three years???

The mail bag

Mike Zurawski pointed out to me that the Mets replaced the distance marker near the corner in left center field at Citi Field, with a new one located farther from the foul pole. It now says 371 feet, rather than 364. Based on the angle of the outfield wall and the distance moved (only about 20 feet), the difference should not be more than five feet, however. So, I made the necessary update to the regular version diagram, and changed the "full" version diagram to show the original (2009) layout, including the parallel bullpens. I also drew in the girders of the bridge beyond right field to make it stand out from the surrounding areas. For the record, I'm pretty sure the 415 marker to the right of center field is in the wrong position; it should be at the very deepest corner, which is currently covered by a GEICO sign. The need to accommodate commercial advertisements probably explains the discrepancies in both cases.

Leo Mui recently wrote last week to ask what my reason for including the "hypothetical" version diagram of Fenway Park, with the diamond moved to the right field corner. I originally did that several years ago, as a way to enable to Red Sox to continue playing in Boston while the upper deck was completely rebuilt and expanded, as some people were proposing. Instead, the Red Sox made a smaller-scale enlargement of the upper deck in 2006, obviating the need for massive structural replacement, rendering my suggestion moot. A few months ago, somebody remembered my idea and asked me to put that "hypothetical" version diagram back on that page, so I obliged.

Thomas Clifton wrote several weeks ago to ask where exactly the concrete "BLEACHER" sign from Crosley Field, which he has in his possession, used to be located. He is in the process of restoring the sign, which is about 5' long and 10" high. None of the photos I have are clear enough to show that sign, so if anyone knows where it was located or where a photo of it can be found, please let me know, via e-mail or blog commenting.


December 12, 2010 [LINK / comment]

Snow!! Metrodome roof collapses

Yesterday the big weather-related sports news was that the New York Giants got stranded in Kansas City en route to a planned football game today against the Minnesota Vikings. This morning came news that the game had to be moved elsewhere because the heavy snow caused the fabric roof at Metrodome to collapse. The NFL announced that the Giants-Vikings game will be relocated to Ford Field in Detroit, across the street from Comerica Park. (See NFL.com.) I saw a video replay of the snow falling onto the field while I was watching football on TV this afternoon, and it looked totally awesome! The last time such an event caused a football game to be cancelled at the Metrodome was December 30, 1982. (There were also roof collapses due to snow in 1981 and 1983, but they did not affect any football games. A thunderstorm caused a minor roof tear at a Twins-Angels game in 1986, but the game resumed play after a brief delay.)

The Dakota Dome, etc.

Dakota Dome This minor catastrophe in the Twins Cities provides an opportunity for me to present a rather offbeat stadium page that I started a while back: the Dakota Dome, home of several athletic teams at my alma mater, the University of South Dakota. It was first built in 1979, with an inflatable roof that was later imitated at the Metrodome. In contrast to its "big brother" in Minneapolis, however, the DakotaDome was outfitted with a brand-new, solid roof in 2001. Besides being largely impervious to blizzards, it just looks much better than it used to. As you can tell from the thumbnail diagram, the DakotaDome is small by pro sport standards, with just enough room to house a football gridiron, with about 15 or so feet beyond each end zone.

I know, most of you are probably thinking that this has nothing to do with baseball, but as I learned from plaintalk.net, a "Youth Baseball Classic" was held there last spring. Well, what do you know?!

The only really prominent indoor college football stadium is the Carrier Dome, in Syracuse, New York. It too has a fabric roof and looks a lot like the DakotaDome from the outside. Otherwise, most of the stadiums in this category belong to smaller schools. Interestingly, two of them are in southern states. According to the usually-reliable wikipedia.org, here are the covered stadiums used for college football, listed in chronolgoical order:

  • Holt Arena, Idaho State football (1970)
  • Kibbie Dome, University of Idaho (1971/1975)
  • UNI-Dome, University of Northern Iowa (1976)
  • Memorial Center, East Tennessee State University (1977)*
  • Walkup Skydome, Northern Arizona University (1977)
  • DakotaDome, University of South Dakota (1979)
  • Carrier Dome, Syracuse University (1980)
  • Fargodome, North Dakota State University (1992)
  • Alerus Center, University of North Dakota (2001)

* The football program at ETSU shut down after 2003.

Fear not, loyal fans, other baseball stadium diagram updates will follow shortly.

Random bits of news

I learned from Mike Zurawski that as one consequence of the winter meeting of MLB owners, they plan to recommend that the A's stay in Oakland. They seem to hold out high hopes of building a ballpark on the Oakland waterfront, as I mentioned a few days ago. See ballparkdigest.com. Coincidentally, I was talking to stadium architect and author John Pastier [about that situation] yesterday, and he says that there are multiple problems with the alternative ballpark site in San Jose [clause deleted].

Mike also found an item at tampabay.com about how the city of St. Petersburg is going to have to pay about $7.3 million to sustain baseball at Tropicana Field this year. Estimates of future attendance continue to err on the high side, and the Tampa Bay Rays are not nearly as much of a money-maker as once expected. That's a shame.

Speaking of the Rays, free agent Carlos Peña signed a one-year, $10 million agreement with the Cubs, despite batting only .196 this past year. That deal just makes no sense at all to me. See MLB.com. Peña has played in Tampa Bay since 2007.

Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller has entered hospice care, after being treated at the Cleveland Clinic. The former Cleveland Indians hero has been active this year, and commented on the Washington Nationals rookie pitcher, Stephen Strasburg [, who has been compared to Feller]. See examiner.com.

Finally, I recently came across a list of the "Quirkiest Stadium Naming Rights Deals" at businessweek.com.


December 29, 2010 [LINK / comment]

Extreme weather disrupts sporting events

Perhaps Mother Nature is dropping a hint that winter was not meant for outdoor sports. From coast to coast, blizzards, floods, and are wreaking havoc with football games.

Of course, the biggest problem was in Minneapolis earlier this month, when the roof at the Metrodome collapsed because of excessive snow on top. (You can watch a video of it at youtube.com.) The Minnesota Vikings had to play one "home" game in Detroit, and another such game at TCF Bank Stadium (on the nearby campus of the University of Minnesota) one week later. That required intensive digging and maintenance work to get the facility ready, because the Golden Gophers had already finished their season, and no more games were planned at the stadium. But still, the Vikings lost. Then this weekend the east coast was hit by a blizzard, forcing the Vikings-Eagles game in Philadelphia to be postponed for two days, while snow was removed from Lincoln Financial Field. It was the first time since 1946 that an NFL game was held on Tuesday! Lo and behold, the Vikings pulled out of their nosedive and beat the heavily favored home team, as injured veteran Brett Favre sat on the sidelines.

On the other side of the Keystone State, the NHL's annual outdoor "classic" is scheduled to take place on New Year's Day at Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rain is in the forecast, however, and that would force a delay or postponement. Last year, Fenway Park hosted that outdoor hockey event.

Floods in California

In San Diego, torrential rains resulted in floods and landslides last week, and the field at QualComm Stadium was totally covered with at least a foot of water. The surrounding parking lots were one big lake. It was a minor miracle that they were able to play the Poinsettia Bowl as scheduled last Thursday evening. San Diego State beat Navy, 35-14. That was an appropriate matchup, since the U.S. Navy has a huge presence in San Diego harbor. Heck, they could have have used some of their hovercraft to cope with the flood waters at the stadium! smile

PNC Park update

PNC Park So what other stadiums are at risk of getting flooded out? During the 20th Century, Crosley Field and Milwaukee County Stadium both suffered such a fate, as well as Pittsburgh's Exposition Park in 1902. Right next door to that same spot on the banks of the Allegheny River sits the Pirates' gleaming new home, PNC Park, which is protected by a flood wall. Coincidentally, I recently posted a slightly revised diagram that includes detail on the peripheral buildings and other things, along with a new "super-sized" full-view version diagram. Enjoy!

R.I.P. Bob Feller

Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller succumbed to illness just before Christmas, about a month after entering a hospice facility. See the Washington Post. Once the weather clears up, baseball fans passing through Iowa should make a point to stop at the Bob Feller Museum, which I visited in August 2004. It's in the town of Van Meter, west of Des Moines, just off Interstate 80.

League Park update

League Park As a reminder of that little-known ballpark where Feller's career got started, I have updated the League Park page, with two revised diagrams. Thanks to the research of ballpark expert Ron Selter, I learned that the diamond was rotated about two degrees counter-clockwise, which helps account for some nagging anomolies. Photos sent to me by Bruce Orser were also extremely useful in getting the details just right. For example, I am now almost certain that there were 17 rows (tightly packed) in the upper deck, which had unusually high entry tunnels. I also nailed down several puzzles about the early configuration of League Park, but I'm still not sure when they added the extra rows of box seats.

And speaking of Cleveland, anyone in need of a good laugh should read "The Greatest Letter Ever Printed On NFL Team Letterhead" at deadspin.com. As they say, "Brevity is the soul of wit." smile Hat tip to Facebook friend Bruce Bartlett.

Baseball stadium football

Today the University of Maryland Terrapins football team beat Eastern Carolina in the Military Bowl, held at good old RFK Stadium in Our Nation's Capital. It was good to see a football gridiron on the field where the Redskins used to play.

Sports Illustrated recently had a great two-page panoramic photo of the Notre Dame-Army football game held in New Yankee Stadium on November 20. I noticed a few minor discrepancies with my diagram, so I have updated the New Yankee Stadium page. Speaking of which, the Kansas State Wildcats will face the Syracuse Orange in the inaugural "New Era Pinstripe Bowl."

Finally, speaking of The Bronx, some of you may have noticed that I put a "work in progress" diagram on the (original) Yankee Stadium page; it's the 1952 version. A recent conversation with John Pastier reminded me that my previous estimate of the upper deck slope (about 34 degrees) was not steep enough. After squinting at a variety of photos and drawings found on the Internet, I can tell it was actually more like 37 degrees. Furthermore, I have found that the upper decks in some other Classic Era ballparks were steeper than I had thought, most notably Shibe Park.

Nats trade Willingham, get Ankiel

In the real world of baseball, earlier this month, the Washington Nationals decided to trade outfielder Josh Willingham to the Oakland Athletics, in exchange for outfielder Corey Brown and relief pitcher Henry Rodriguez. And thus ends the power-packed middle-lineup (Zimmerman, Dunn, Willingham) for the Nationals; only the Z-man is left of that trio. Nats general manager Mike Rizzo claims that money was not the issue, but I have my doubts. Willingham will become a free agent after next year, and his poor health this year further reduced his value, as the owners see things. He only played in 114 games this year, batting a disappointing .268 and hitting just 15 home runs. See .

Here's what the issue should be: building a solid cadre of players who perform top-notch and have a winning attitude, and keeping them together long enough to form a tight bond. I'm afraid the Lerner family which owns the Nationals may be following the misguided path of the Washington Redskins, whose wealthy owner Dan Snyder keeps spending gazillions of dollars on big-name players and coaches, dumping those who don't satisfy his expectations, and keeping the organization in perpetual chaos and uncertainty. I suppose the culture of Washington encourages throwing money at problems without thinking in practical terms how to achieve the goal, but that's no way to run a sports team!

More recently, the Nationals signed veteran outfielder (and former pitcher!) Rick Ankiel to a one-year contract. See MLB.com. It seems to be a low-risk move with a big potential payoff, rather like when the Nats signed Dmitri Young back in 2006, or Pudge Rodriguez last year. Ankiel hit a "splash" home run in AT&T Park to help the Braves beat the Giants in the NLDS (see Oct. 9), and even though his best days are probably behind him, he could still surprise us. He played with the Cardinals for almost his whole career, but difficulty in recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2003 caused him to miss all of 2005 and 2006, when the Cards won the World Series!), prior to his "resurrection" as a fine-hitting outfielder in 2007.

Also, Sean Burnett avoided arbitration by signing a two-year, $3.7 million extension contract with the Nats. He was a key part of the Nats' much-improved bullpen this year, and I'm glad he'll be returning in 2011.

Happy (frenetic) Holidays!

Finally, I must apologize for the unusually long holiday hiatus, folks. Between end-of-semester grading chores and Christmas preparations, I have had almost no free time. Well, actually, I have been squeezing in a few hours here and there, burning the proverbial midnight oil with diagram updates. Some of those you'll be seeing very soon...


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