July 22, 2011
In all of Major League Baseball, only one team with a record over .500 has lost more home games than they have won: the Tampa Bay Rays, who are 24-25 at home and 28-20 on the road. They have been the victims of some ill twists of fate recently, such as on Sunday night (ESPN!) when the Boston Red Sox beat them 1-0 in a 16-inning marathon in St. Petersburg; see MLB.com. (Get it? Boston ... marathon? Actually, I once visited a town in Florida called Marathon, but I digress...) The next day, Tampa Bay gave up a lead to the visiting Yankees on a bases-loaded walk in the top of the ninth inning, losing 5-4. Ouch. They did end up salvaging a 2-2 series split, at least.
Obviously, a big part of the Rays' problem is with the stadium where they play their home games, Tropicana Field. It's dark and depressing, and in dire need of some kind of refurbishment. [Even the Rays' manager, Joe Maddon, is heaping scorn on it: "This ballpark is improper for Major League Baseball. ... It served its purpose. And now it's time to move on." See fieldofschemes.com. But where to???] Ultimately, the problem may stem from simple demographic and geographic realities: there just isn't a big enough fan base of families to support a major league franchise in either St. Petersburg or Tampa, and it's too hard driving from one city to another for a quick trip to the ballpark. Attendance is abysmal, averaging in the teens, even though the team has been amazingly successful over the past few years. Anyway, Rays' owner Stuart Sternberg is complaining about his franchise's woes once again (see MLB.com), and while I'm a little sympathetic, he's a grownup investor and should have known what he was getting into.
On the first day of their series in Houston [this week], the Washington Nationals played solid baseball, capped by a three-run ninth inning rally sparked by Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse that gave them a 5-2 win over the Astros. That put them back into third place, an encouraging sign as the second half of the 2011 gets underway. But then the home team bounced back on [Tuesday and Wednesday], winning by a single run both times. In the rubber match game, Livan Hernandez had his best outing in over a month, giving up just two runs in six-plus innings while reaching base on a single. Even better, Jayson Werth finally broke out of his horrible slump, knocking a home run and two doubles, including one that rolled up Tal's Hill in center field at Minute Maid Park, in the top of the eleventh inning. (I was hoping somebody would do that!) Unfortunately, the next two batters were out, stranding Jayson on second base. In the bottom of that inning, the Astros got three hits off relief pitcher Todd Coffey and won the game. DRAT! It was their first series win in more than a month, about the same amount of time that had elapsed since Jayson Werth's last home run. Until Sunday, his batting average was dropping dangerously close to the .200 mark. See Washington Post. The Astros are better than their 33-65 record would indicate, but the same is true of other teams, I suppose. Perhaps the question is, are the Nationals as good as their 48-50 record would indicate? [The series against the fifth-place (43-55) Los Angeles Dodgers of Chavez Ravine, which begins tonight, may provide us with some answers.]
A few months ago, Bruce Orser sent me some intriguing, very detailed photos and diagrams of mysterious, little-known Roosevelt Stadium, and for some reason I got motivated to do the necessary corrections and enhancements to the diagram thereof, including a new football version. One of the things I learned in the process is that the odd, widely-curved bleacher sections in the left and right field corners were actually part of a huge circle, much like the cookie-cutter stadiums that proliferated during the 1960s and 1970s. The diagram now includes the brick perimeter wall that extended from those bleachers and stretched around the outfield, interrupted by a straight section beyond center field.
For you non-hardcore stadium geeks, Roosevelt Stadium served as temporary home field for the Brooklyn Dodgers in fifteen games during 1956 and 1957, when they were threatening to leave Ebbets Field. The rest is (tragic) history.
And lest you think I'm wasting time with trivial diversions, just you wait until tomorrow!
Thanks to fellow Yankee fan Brian Vangor for sharing this photo taken by his friend Vinnie Coulehan of the historic moment when Derek Jeter got his 3000th career hit, in New Yankee Stadium* last July 9. Unlike the character played by Bernie Mack (rest in peace) in the movie Mr. 3000, there is no doubt about whether Derek Jeter actually crossed that numerical milestone.
* I suppose I'll get used to saying just plain "Yankee Stadium" (without the "New") one of these days, but it's going to take some effort.