December 31, 2011
While normal folks across the Fruited Plain are singing Happy Holidays, for us hardcore baseball fans, this is definitely not the "Most Wonderful Time of the Year." I know, it wouldn't be nearly as much fun if baseball were played throughout the year, such as, for example, basketball is. (At least when there is no strike, that is.) Down in the Caribbean, Venezuela, and Mexico, baseball games are being played right now, and one of these years I'll make it down to see it for myself. But we need to try to keep in mind that "To everything there is a season" -- (Ecclesiastes 3:1; I knew that, but Google helped me remember it). According to my Bible, the author was probably Solomon. Most people know that phrase from the Byrds' song "Turn, Turn, Turn."
Anyway, what with grading final exams, Christmas shopping, and related holiday tasks, I just haven't had much time for blogging or diagram updating lately. As you will see below, however, I have made a lot of progress over the past couple days, and I also got (re-)started on several diagrams that have been "works in progress." There will be further updates in the near future. [I hope this clears up the "Mystery of the Holiday Blog Hiatus."]
And speaking of seasonal changes, at the stroke of midnight, the Baseball blog page will automatically cease displaying the 2011 postseason scores at the bottom, and will begin displaying a countdown clock to Opening Day 2012. For most teams, that will be April 5, and that's what I'm using, but the situation is a bit complicated this year. On March 28-29, the Mariners will face the Athletics in the Japan Opening Series, being held once again at the Tokyo Dome. Apparently, those two games will be official, not just practice. The last time such a series was played in Japan was March 25, 2008. And on April 4, the Miami (!) Marlins will formally inaugurate their new ballpark (yet to be named) by hosting the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. There will be a "dress rehearsal" exhibition series against the Yankees during the preceding weekend. Hmmm...
Now to get caught up on baseball news: At the winter meetings in Dallas, there were a few blockbuster deals, with the Los Angeles Angels and the
Florida Miami (!) Marlins leading the way. Both teams have blown the bank, signing superstars to mega-bucks contracts.
As many had feared, Albert Pujols got a better deal elsewhere, signing a ten-year contract with the L.A. Angels, with total compensation of about a quarter billion (with a b) dollars. That's more than the Gross Domestic Product of Tuvalu and several other Pacific Island nations! (Seriously.) See MLB.com. To me it's really a shame that Pujols didn't stay with the Cardinals, as he was on track to become the equal of the Cardinals' all-time greatest star, Stan "The Man" Musial. He will definitely be dearly missed in St. Louis; it remains to be seen how popular he becomes in L.A./Anaheim. The Angels also acquired pitcher C.J. Wilson, formerly of the Texas Rangers. Franchise owner Arturo Moreno must have very deep pockets.
The Miami Marlins signed former Met Jose Reyes to a signing a six-year, $106 million contract. His triple-producing combination of hitting and speed seem well-suited to wide-open spaces in the Marlins' afore-mentioned new ballpark. See MLB.com. The Fish also acquired free-agent pitcher Mark Buehrle, who was also sought by other teams. The Marlins finished in last place this year, so these deals radically change the complexion of the National League Eastern Division. I can't help but wonder what effect the new stadium had on their payroll. It's like when the Texas Rangers signed Alex Rodriguez soon after the Ballpark in Arlington was built, almost as if the taxpayer subsidies for stadium construction was in effect inflating the teams' payrolls. That ought to be worth a research study or two.
(Who?) Sorry, I don't keep up with West Coast baseball as much as I should. But apparently, the Washington Nationals picked up a very promising pitcher in a trade with the Oakland Athletics, Gio Gonzalez. He is 26 years old, and had a 16-12 record this year. Some say his effectiveness was magnified by the huge foul territory at Oakland Coliseum, which is quite a contrast to Nationals Park. In exchange, the Nationals gave up four prospects, including Tommy Milone, the guy who hit a home run on his very first pitch in the major leagues last September. See MLB.com and bleacherreport.com; hat tip to Dave Givens. It sounds like a good deal for both teams: the Nats need a better pitching rotation as they endeavor to compete for a postseason slot, and the bargain-basement A's need fresh young talent to rebuild their depleted roster. The Nationals had been focused on free-agent pitchers Mark Buehrle and aging veteran Roy Oswalt, but neither one came to terms. The Nationals traded one of their up-and-coming pitchers, Collin Balester, to the Detroit Tigers for Ryan Perry.
Whither Prince Fielder? There were rumors that the Nationals might be pursuing him, but his weight and his father's (Cecil Fielder) career trajectory are caution flags. I don't think the Nats need a flashy, big veteran slugger like him, so I'm glad that Mike Rizzo has focused his bargaining attention elsewhere. I haven't been able to figure out if Fielder is close to a deal with some other team yet.
[UPDATE: But wait, there's more! I just learned that the Nats have signed journeyman infielder/outfielder Mark DeRosa to a one-year contract. For the past two years, DeRosa (age 36) has played for the San Francisco Giants. Apparently he will be filling the role of utility player that the young Chris Marrero has been doing; Marrero has an injured hamstring, and may not be available to play on Opening Day. See MLB.com. I saw DeRosa play for the Richmond Braves in September 1999, when he was a young prospect for the Atlanta farm system. How time flies...]
The Minnesota Twins and Jason Marquis reached a three-year contract worth $21 million. Marquis just finished a two-year contract with the Washington Nationals. After missing nearly all of 2010 due to an elbow injury, Marquis slowly healed during 2011 and ended up with a record. The Twins also picked up Josh Willingham, another former National. See MLB.com. I still wish the Nats had kept Josh and Adam Dunn on their roster after 2010.
The Cardinals tried to fill the big void left by Pujols by signing Carlos Beltran, another former the New York Mets. It's a two-year contract worth $26 million. See MLB.com. Apparently it will be a "rebuilding year" for the team from Long Island...
Finally, Cubs exercised their option on Ryan Dempster, but their third baseman Aramis Ramirez signed a contract with the Milwaukee Brewers. I was hoping the Brewers would go to the World Series this year, so maybe this means they're going to make another big push for the postseason next year. For more "hot stove" news, see MLB.com.
Here we go again... Soon after winning the 2011 National League MVP award, Brewers' star Ryan Braun has been sanctioned by MLF for violating the substance abuse policy. It's a weird situation, because the original announcement didn't specify what the substance was, it just referred to the elevated testosterone level. According to MLB.com,"It was not a PED, drug or steroid of any kind," said the source in a text message. "And there has never been a result like this in the history of the [MLB drug testing] program."
There is some good news related to the Oakland Athletics' prolonged search for a new home: One of the big MLB honchos, Jerry Reinsdorf, says "I'm totally supportive of Lew getting a new ballpark and going to San Jose." He's an old friend of A's owner Lew Wolff, and played a key role in stalling, and eventually approving, the relocation of the former Montreal Expos to Washington in 2004-2005. fieldofschemes.com; hat tip to Mike Zurawski.
After many hours of squinting, I have updated the diagrams of Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays. There are quite a number of small but significant corrections, especially in the profile. (Note how the upper deck gets bigger when you roll over the adjacent thumbnail image; that reflects the different portions of the grandstand to which the respective diagram versions pertain.) There is a lower-deck diagram for the first time, showing more clearly how the baseball-to-football conversion is done (the entire lower deck rotates, unlike similar stadiums in the U.S.) and a basketball version as well.
Rogers Centre is also home of the Toronto Argonauts. It is also "home away from home for the Buffalo Bills for one game every fall. I was watching the Washington Redskins play the Bills at Rogers Centre (formerly known as Skydome) on October 30, when they lost 23-0. What an awful year this has been for Redskins fans. I must say, though, that they are showing lots of promise, even if they choke.
In The Bronx, meanwhile, Rutgers beat Iowa State 27-13 in the second annual Pinstripe Bowl. That reminded me I needed to update the Yankee Stadium II diagrams, so I did that one as well. The last update to those diagrams was in 2009. The profile is significantly taller than it was before, and the dugouts and box seat areas are depicted more accurately as well. For the time being, I left the football version thumbnail unchanged, so you can see what changed when you roll your mouse over the adjacent image.
Speaking of football, the Toledo Rockets (not Mud Hens?) beat the Air Force Academy Falcons in the Military Bowl, held at RFK Stadium in Our Nation's Capital. I saw some video clips, and noticed that the field really got chewed up. And the University of Cavaliers are in a significant bowl game for the first time in several years. The Cavs face Auburn this evening in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, being held at the Georgia Dome in beautiful downtown Atlanta. Virginia's head coach Mike London just got a new five-year deal, with a salary raise. That ought to provide some motivation. Go Wahoos! Meanwhile, there are more and more trivial bowl games this year, turning the tradition into a farce. I actually remember when New Year's Day was when all the important bowl games were played, and now none of them are!
In another bizarre case, Qualcomm Stadium was renamed Snap Dragon Stadium for exactly ten days; it's just a promotion by the naming rights holder, QualComm Corp. See sbnation.com. Also, Sun Life Stadium will have to be renamed in the next three years or so, because the Canadian-based insurance company is shutting down its operations in the U.S.; see miamiherald.com. Hat tips to Mike Zurawski.
I also made a few minor alterations to the Oakland Coliseum diagrams, and updated the Tropicana Field diagrams as well. For the latter, I redid my suggested renovation, but I realize that prospects for such a major change in the home of the Rays are meager at best..
I made some revisions on the Stadiums by class page, such as including PETCO Park among the "Postmodern" class of stadiums. It is among the 21st-Century ballparks which bears some "Neoclassical" characteristics, and some "Postmodern" characteristics. I plan to finish the rest of those Stadium comparison pages within the next week or so. Some of them are badly outdated...
I was really hoping to finish Candlestick Park diagram revisions by the end of this year, but with any luck I'll get it done on New Years Day! Note that I made slight changes to the sequence on the "Coming Attactions" list.
Happy New Year!