May, 2014 X
November, 2013 X
December 3, 2011 [LINK / comment]
Moneyball, the A's, and Billy Beane
I finally saw the movie Moneyball last month, and not only enjoyed it, I learned a lot about baseball. As most fans know, it's all about the fiercely iconoclastic general manager of the Oakland Athletics, Billy Beane. Brad Pitt plays the starring role, supported by Phillip Seymour Hoffman as manager Art Howe, and Jonah Hill, as the Ivy-League number cruncher Peter Brand, who was supposedly behind the "sabermetric" approach to filling baseball rosters. Hill is better known as a chubby nerd in such teenage flicks as Superbad. For all the details, see the Moneyball movie Web site and/or imdb.com. The movie is based on the acclaimed book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis, which I am going to try to read over Christmas break.
I really liked how the movie emphasizes the personal experiences that fueled Beane's burning ambition to win. I was unaware that he was once a minor league player trying to crack into the big leagues, but had a run of dirty rotten luck. With four different teams from 1984 through 1989, he had 66 hits in 301 at bats, a measly .219 average. He was hired by the A's (with whom he had played in 1989) as a scout and became their general manager after the 1997 season. (See the biography page at MLB.com.)
There's a somber scene where Brad Pitt arrives at Oakland Coliseum, in back of the new "Mount Davis" section, and sees workers taking down banners of Jason Giambi and other stars who got signed by richer teams. I learned from the movie that the players reach the respective dugouts by walking alongside the "cut out" behind home plate, rather than going downstairs and through a tunnel, as is the case at nearly all other major league stadiums. That reflects how the Coliseum was built into a (bulldozed) hill side.
One of the best scenes in the movie is when Brad Pitt tries to convince a guy that he could switch from catcher to first base: "It's not that hard." Whereupon the guy who plays Ron Washington (who is now the manager of the Texas Rangers!) says in a laconic tone, "It's incredibly hard." Beane repeatedly clashes with the cynical, hard-bitten scouts and team executives, who go with the tried and true methods of the past, and scoff at the fancy-schmancy computerized analyses that Beane throws at them. Those must have been genuine, real-life baseball scouts in the movie. I was really impressed with the way they talked in those closed-door meetings.
It's interesting to compare and contrast this movie with the inspirational Jerry Maguire (starring Tom Cruise), as far as the earnest good guys who triumph over the jaded, greedy bastards who usually win in pro sports. For anyone (like me) who grew up in a small town, the movie's main theme of getting over the inherent disadvantages of lesser size, making do with what you've got, and finding ingenious ways to overcome the "big boys" really hits home. I wonder what Charlie Finley would have thought about that? Or for that matter, Peter Angelos? Quit'cher complainin' and hustle, for Pete's sake!
I was curious about one of the dramatic scenes in the movie, where Scott Hatteburg hits a game-winng home run to help the A's win their record-setting 20th consecutive game, so I went to baseball-reference.com and verified from the historical box score that that is exactly how it happened in real life: September 4, 2002.
For a more in-depth analysis of Beane's role as Athletics GM, read Darrell Horowitz at bleacherreport.com. Horowitz downplays Beane's vaunted success, noting that the A's won only one postseason series while Beane was in charge, and that the main reason the A's kept making it into the playoffs was their pitching rotation, which was not really Beane's doing.
Personally, I'm a little skeptical of taking quantitative analysis that far in the sporting world, which is dominated by innumerable contingencies and personality issues. Be that as it may, I have added Moneyball to the Baseball Movies page.
Oakland (?) Coliseum update
Inspired by all those movie scenes, I updated the Oakland Coliseum diagram. (Call it "o.co Coliseum" if you like.) Having had good cinematic looks both inside and outside the stadium, the profile is more accurate than before, and a few details in the grandstand and peripheral structures are enhanced as well. For example, the lower portion of the outfield bleachers (pre-1996) were rectangular in shape, or else they could not have been removed. The positions of the "cut-out" seating sections which were moved back and forth between baseball and football games, as well as the light towers, exterior scoreboards, access ramps, etc. have all been corrected.
Finally, I went with a single proposed future renovated football-only version of Oakland Coliseum, taking my idea of replicating "Mount Davis" (the huge, towering grandstand built in 1997 for the Raiders) and incorporating T.J. Zmina's suggestion of retaining the original curved portions of the grandstand next to the end zones, for the sake of economy. Previously, I had shown both my own idea and T.J.'s modification of it, but I think the his suggestion is better.
And one more thing...
(That's how Steve Jobs used to end his dramatic presentation at Apple conventions. ) Lately I have been doing a number of "behind-the-scenes" Web site upgrades, including the Baseball introduction / navigation page. I recently realized that it did not render properly when viewed with Microsot Internet Explorer. (Any of you who know about CSS issues can relate to that.) I hope it is fixed now, but if anyone encounters difficulties in using that page, please let me know.
December 3, 2011 [LINK / comment]
Cain suspends his campaign
Republican candidate Herman Cain came close to formally dropping out of the presidential race today, saying he is "suspending" his campaign. (See the Washington Post.) He still clings to a shred of hope for a comeback, which is not unthinkable, given the less-than-satisfactory alternatives that are currently available. (See below.) Cain says he will continue to fight for his issues, such as tax reform and simplification. From what I can tell, however, his "9-9-9" tax plan is just not ready for prime time. I am all in favor of radical simplification of the U.S. Tax Code, but the consequences of such drastic changes need to be studied carefully first.
With all the accusations against him, it's hard to believe that Cain's personal life is straight and narrow. It is entirely possible that at least some of the women were paid by Cain's political opponents -- either Republican or Democrat -- especially since most of those women have some kind of financial problem that might make them susceptible to such inducements. It is also possible that Cain himself sought out such women precisely because they were vulnerable to wealthy, powerful men such as he.
Will bad-mouths GOP
I make no secret of my scant regard for the current field of Republican presidential candidates. I should have learned by now that the way the party is organized leaves little room for any candidate who is serious about addressing real-world issues, as opposed to various feigned grievances that seem to excite The Base. Washington Post columnist George Will raises big questions about the two front-runners, imploring the GOP not to prematurely "coronate" a victor before they have been thoroughly scrutinized. After ridiculing the hyperactive managerialism of Mitt Romney, Will skewers Newt Gingrich, who holds himself out as the thinking man's Republican:
Gingrich, however, embodies the vanity and rapacity that make modern Washington repulsive. And there is his anti-conservative confidence that he has a comprehensive explanation of, and plan to perfect, everything.
Will goes on to write that Gingrich "would have made a marvelous Marxist" (Ouch!), and makes it clear why Ginrich's credentials as a conservative are so shaky, though not for the reasons that many "conservative activists" might imagine:
Conservatism inoculates against the hubristic volatility that Gingrich exemplifies and Genesis deplores: "Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel."
Translation for folks who live in Rio Linda: A true conservative is cautious and low-key, not brash and bold.
Challenge to Goodlatte
Thanks to Chris Graham on Facebook, I learned that there will be a challenger to Congressman Bob Goodlatte next year, a retired Air Force officer named Karen Kwiatkowski. She is libertarian in orientation, but without evident political experience. Well, that's a refreshing change of pace. Read the interview at augustafreepress.com, and see her own Web site at karenkforcongress.com. This could be very interesting.
Virginia's Sixth Congressional District leans so strongly toward the right that Democrats rarely contest that seat in recent years. In the 2010 election, another libertarian candidate, Stuart Bain, picked up 9.2% of the vote. (See Nov. 3, 2010.) Bob Goodlatte is a good person, but he has been in Washington a long time, and may be out of touch with what has been happening in his party at the local level. I was not very impressed by his recent push for a balanced budget amendment, which was not going to pass a Democrat-controlled Senate in any case.
December 7, 2011 [LINK / comment]
Will they move the A's to San Jose?
(Sung to the tune of "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?") As the winter baseball meetings get underway, one of the biggest questions is whether the Oakland Athletics will be allowed to relocate to San Jose, which is in the territory of the San Francisco Giants. According to Ken Rosenthal (hat tip to Mike Zurawski), the decision time frame is being accelerated; see foxsports.com. Hopes are rising once again, but until a decision on that is made, the A's general manager Billy Beane will be biding his time, hearing trade offers from other teams, but not seeking out experienced players. See sfgate.com and MLB.com.
The city of Oakland deserves one last chance, but there just doesn't seem to be much political will or fan support to keep the A's there. After four full decades in Oakland, and four World Series championships, that's a real shame. More than likely, they will become the San Jose Athletics within the next few years. But unless an announcement is made soon, it would hurt the A's ability to sign top-quality players. Competitive balance would be adversely affected. As of 2013, the American League Western Division will expand from four to five teams, adding the Houston Astros. It's time for Commissioner Bud Selig to use what clout he has one last time before he steps down. Clearing the way for relocation of the A's would be another nice feather in his cap.
For a look at a possible San Jose stadium design, see sanjose.com; hat tip to Bruce Orser. It would be squeezed in by surrounding streets, with several unique design features.
Oakland Coliseum tweak
"After further review," I made a few more changes to the Oakland Coliseum diagrams. Almost all of the tweaks were in the "Mount Davis" grandstand, built in 1996. In addition, I added a new football version, with the gridiron aligned from home plate to center field. That's how the Raiders do it in practice games in August, and perhaps on a few rare occasions in September.
FedEx Field has shrunk!
Speaking of football, the Washington Redskins made a major change to FedEx Field before this season began, tearing out large sections of the upper deck behind each end zone. That has reduced capacity from 91,704 to about 85,000, which is still pretty big. The new Cowboys Stadium in Dallas has about 80,000 seats, but can be expanded to over 100,000 -- or so they say. At last year's Super Bowl, they had to close several temporary seating sections for safety reasons. See the Washington Post.
December 7, 2011 [LINK / comment]
Obama invokes Teddy Roosevelt
President Obama in effect launched his 2012 reelection campaign yesterday, with a speech in the town of Osawatomie, Kansas, where Teddy Roosevelt unveiled his "New Nationalism" theme a century ago. See whitehouse.gov. One of the key rhetorical highlights was this:
"This country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, and when everyone plays by the same rules. These aren't Democratic values or Republican values. These aren't 1 percent values or 99 percent values. They're American values. And we have to reclaim them."
As he so often does in his speeches, the President resorted to lame red herring catch phrases, like "trickle down." At one point, Obama noted that some people called Teddy Roosevelt a socialist, just because he wanted to enact some reforms. He was obviously mocking those who say he (Obama) is a socialist, using a silly face -- not very presidential. According to Washington Post writer Glenn Kessler, moreover, Obama's Kansas speech had a few "suspect facts," such as his chronology of tax policy changes and economic growth under the Bush administration.
In any event, it was definitely a clever move, appealing to moderates who want a pro-business leader but are appalled at the Republicans' lurch toward the far right. It also gives Obama and the Democrats a perfect opportunity to use the label "progressive" in a positive way, since T.R. was a "progressive." But on the other hand, Obama has to keep his allies in the "Occupy Wall Street" happy. (Hence his allusion to the 1% and the 99%.) After all, it was soon after he admonished frustrated Democratic activists to stop moping around and put on their "marching shoes" back in September that those protests got started. Coincidence? I think not. So the big question for next year is whether Obama can draw support from left-wing "Occupiers" as well as moderates on Main Street USA. Can he pull off such a political feat? It gives me no pleasure to say:
Yes, he can!
Two cheers for Newt
On Facebook yesterday I put in a good word for Newt Gingrich, who seems to be as likely as anyone to win the GOP presidential nomination next year. Bruce Bartlett sees Newt as hopelessly cynical and opportunistic, but I think that's a bit harsh. So I responded:
I freely acknowledge all of Newt's leadership shortcomings, his character flaws, and his need to pander to a Republican Base that is in a perpetual fever or derangement, and I still say the country would be better off with him in the White House than with Obama. But I'll have plenty of time to reflect and reconsider that as this marathon campaign continues...
December 8, 2011 [LINK / comment]
Pearl Harbor, 70 years later
Most people know that yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the devastating surprise attack by Japanese forces on Pearl Harbor. That provoked a ferocious violent response that culminated in the obliteration of two Japanese cities less than four years later. But how many people are aware that today is the 70th anniversary of the last time the United States Congress exercised its constitutional power to declare war? President Franklin Roosevelt made a speech before a joint session of Congress, calling December 7, 1941 a "day of infamy," asking for and receiving a formal declaration of war.
Why does such a formality matter? Clause 11 of Section 8 of Article I of the U.S. states that Congress shall have the power
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
I know it has become fashionable in contemporary America to minimize the literal meaning of the Constitution, but there is a very good reason why those words must be taken at face value, above all in this particular situation. Going to war is a profoundly solemn decision, and winning in a war usually requires a preponderance of national willpower. For example, our intervention in Korea was hamstrung by the limited objectives of the "police action" declared by President Truman. Likewise, in Vietnam, the United States simply did not have the broad commitment of its people to the cause, and LBJ ended up squandering vast human and material resources against an enemy that was so committed. In Desert Storm (1991) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003), the respective President Bushes took it upon themselves to make the final decision about war or peace, after securing "blank check" authorizations from Congress. In the latter instance, failure to secure an explicit national endorsement via a congressional declaration of war weakened national resolve, and when things started to go badly in 2004, divisions in our body politic began to grow.
Most recently, President Obama ordered U.S. jets to bomb targets in Libya earlier this year, as part of a mission that was aimed at removing a dictator (Muammar Qaddafi) from power. While there was ample justification for taking armed action against Libya, it would have been much better to "go by the book," declaring war. But the President did not even bother to fulfill the modest requirements of the 1973 War Powers Resolution, under which Congress must be notified about the reasons for any armed action within 48 hours, and any such action must be authorized by congressional vote within 60 days, or else the action must cease. The White House refused to comply with those clear requirements, with the excuse that the mission was merely to provide air cover to the rebels and did not constitute an actual war per se. It was a paper-thin, bogus rationale that undermined, once again, the constitutional norms upon which our republic was founded. It was one more step toward becoming an imperial form of government in which there are no effective limits on the exercise of power.
In sum, the idea that the president can invoke his power as commander in chief to initiate war at his own discretion is deeply subversive to our political system. If we don't stop that practice from being repeated in the future, our status as a free people will become increasingly doubtful. I hope that the anniversary of Pearl Harbor will serve to remind Americans of the principles for which our service men and women of generations past sacrificed their lives.
December 14, 2011 [LINK / comment]
Libertarians don't get no respect *
In Sunday's News Leader, my friend and colleague Matthew Poteat warned about candidate Ron Paul (R-TX) pushing the Republican Party in what he (Matthew) believes to be a dangerous, libertarian direction. His statement that Rep. Paul "won't win the Republican nomination" elicited an avalanche of hostile comments from Ron Paul supporters across the country. Some of those supporters are absolutely certain that Ron Paul will win! Yikes. Clearly, those people are well organized, if not always well disciplined. I felt compelled to weigh in, with my usual "fair and balanced" approach:
I have a fair amount of sympathy for Ron Paul and agree with parts of his agenda, and I don't think Prof. Poteat gave a fair treatment of either the candidate or his philosophy. Hayek, von Mises, and the Austrian School deserve more intellectual respect than they usually get. On the other hand, I have big reservations about Ron Paul's occasional off-the-wall comments and his lack of executive experience (like BHO). I don't see why the GOP should "worry" about him, however. I would not write him (or anyone) off this early in the campaign. Anything can happen in the primaries, as Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Obama all proved. I'm surprised none of the commenters mentioned Gary Johnson, the libertarian ex-governor of New Mexico. He may not have the passionate supporters that Ron Paul has mobilized, but he would a greater chance of appealing to a majority of voters, if he could only get media attention. What worries me, as a thoroughly disenchanted Republican, is not the candidate himself, but rather the virulent nature of the movement he has spawned. The caustic or even menacing tone of many of the commenters on this article is not likely to win new converts to the cause of liberty.
I think the trouble comes from confusing libertarian thought with the libertarian Party or with libertarian political action, which tends toward anarchism sometimes. Indeed, the anarchists in the Spanish Civil War were also called libertarios.
Sullivan endorses Ron Paul
Now here's a real surprise: old-school British conservative Andrew Sullivan has endorsed libertarian Ron Paul, in an article on The Daily Beast. Frankly, I have not been following Sullivan very much for the past year or so; too much of what he has written in recent years has had a bitter, angry tone. Apparently, the Ron Paul candidacy has given him a more upbeat outlook on politics in the U.S.A. Here is the (excerpted) core of his rationale, which resonates pretty strongly with me:
I am, like many others these days, politically homeless. A moderate, restrained limited government conservatism that seeks to amend, not to revolt, to reform, not to revolutionize, is unavailable.
But Paul's libertarianism may be the next best thing available in the GOP.
I regard this primary campaign as the beginning of a process to save conservatism from itself.
Talk about a noble crusade! "To dream the impossible dream..." Hat tip to Bruce Bartlett on Facebook. My comment on Bruce's page:
Ron Paul is flawed in many ways, and would be prone to saying something impolitic that would doom his chances in the general election, IF he were nominated somehow, but we live in extremely uncertain times, and anything can happen. Someone like him with a long-standing, consistent record that clearly points to where this country went astray just might work some magic. He has a passionate base of supporters which Gary Johnson lacks. I'm a little surprised that a classical conservative like Sullivan would endorse a firebrand iconoclastic candidate like Ron Paul, but that too may be a sign of the desperate times we're in.
Two cheers for Huntsman
When you look at the Republican field of candidates, diversity of thought is not the first quality that stands out. Cut taxes? Me too! Support Israel? Me too!! Repeal Obamacare? Me too!!! Fortunately, there is an alternative candidate who is not afraid to say what he really thinks about the issues, which is why he has less than a zero chance of winning the nomination: former Utah governor Jon Huntsman. For example, Huntsman has said that he is open-minded about global warming, whereas the orthodox GOP position is that there is no such problem. See the Washington Post (article from September). As I mentioned Nov. 21, Huntsman's policy proposals are more moderate than I would prefer. (See his Web site, jon2012.com.) He may be the last of the "RINO's," a political species that is fast heading toward extinction. But, hey, somebody's got to do it!
Most Republicans of a libertarian inclination (such as moi) look with favor on former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson as a presidential candidate. To my surprise, there is a group of "Libertarian Republicans for Huntsman"; see www.unitedliberty.org. Hat tip to Doug Mataconis.
But it may be too late: Johnson is hinting that he will run for president as a Libertarian. He declared "The party left me. ... The Republican Party hung me out to dry. See the Miami Herald.
CATO & higher education
On the general topic of libertarianism, the CATO Institute has a new program aimed at collegiate education: learnliberty.org.
Two cheers for Santorum
Speaking in Le Mars, Iowa, on Tuesday, Rick Santorum asked "If hunger is a problem in America, then why do we have an obesity problem among the people who we say have a hunger problem?" See lemarssentinel.com; hat tip to Clifford Garstang. It's one of the only times I have agreed with Rick Santorum during this campaign. Usually I am repulsed by his narrow-minded, theocratic social conservative agenda. The point Santorum raised reminds me of the line in Elton John's song "The Bitch Is Back."
Times are changing, now the poor get fat
But the fever's gonna catch you when the bitch gets back
On Nov. 28 I wrote, "But the first thing that needs to be done is get everyone who is already here illegally registered, as a prerequisite to any future chance at getting long-term legalized status." Obviously, I did not mean that such people should be "illegally registered" (which makes no sense), but rather that there should be registration of all people who are here illegally.
I saw this bumper sticker on a car at the Green Valley Book Fair last week, making me wonder if the "grassroots" faction of the GOP has gone completely berserk:
Then I realized there was also an Obama 2012 sticker on the same car. Very funny.
* The title of this post is an allusion in fond memory of the late, great standup comedian Rodney Dangerfield.
December 31, 2011 [LINK / comment]
Those wintertime no-baseball blues
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...
Angels, Marlins go on spending sprees
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.
Nats sign Gio Gonzalez
(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...]
Other big deals
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.
Braun faces dope charge
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."
Reinsdorf favors A's move
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.
Rogers Centre update
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.
Yankee Stadium II update
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.
More football news
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.
A few more tiny tweaks
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!
Monthly links this year:
Culture & Travel
Science & Technology
March 9, 2011 ~ Life bird: (un-) Common Redpoll
March 31, 2011 ~ Batter UP!!! Opening Day 2011 is here!
April 3, 2011 ~
Legislators seek redistricting input (?)
April 18, 2011 ~
Tea Party Tax Day rally
May 1, 2011 ~ Confirmed: Osama bin Laden is dead!
May 25, 2011 ~ Governor visits Staunton
May 30, 2011 ~ Nationals WIN, then resume plunge
June 2, 2011 ~ Republicans declare candidacies
June 14, 2011 ~ Anti-tax dogma vs. fiscal sanity
June 23, 2011 ~ Nationals sweep Mariners; Riggleman quits
June 26, 2011 ~ Two extraordinary extra-inning games
July 8, 2011 ~ Nationals sweep the Cubs (almost)
July 26, 2011 ~ Debt ceiling showdown: farce majeur
August 1, 2011 ~ Leaders compromise on debt ceiling
August 20, 2011 ~ Baseball road trip 2011: Missouri
August 31, 2011 ~ Is Obama getting desperate?
September 11, 2011 ~ 9/11: Ten years later
October 1, 2011 ~ THREE "shots heard around the world"
October 3, 2011 ~ Hundreds of hawks, dozens of warblers, and three bears!!
October 10, 2011 ~ Kansas performs in concert at JMU
October 10, 2011 ~ R.I.P. Steve Jobs (1955 - 2011)
October 29, 2011 ~ The Cardinals are world champions again
November 5, 2011 ~ Washington Nationals: year in review
November 9, 2011 ~ Republicans gain, State Senate is tied (?)
November 28, 2011 ~ Newt gets real (?) on immigration
December 3, 2011 ~ Moneyball, the A's, and Billy Beane
December 14, 2011 ~ Libertarians don't get no respect *
December 31, 2011 ~ Those wintertime no-baseball blues