December 8, 2012 [LINK / comment]
The Washington Nationals took another big step toward consolidating a championship-caliber roster for next year, signing free agent pitcher Dan Haren. After passing his physical exam, the formal contract ($13 million for one year) was signed on Friday. He has been selected for the All-Star Game three times, but he was out with a strained back for part of this year. I assume the reason they didn't offer him a multi-year contract was questions about his health. (Remember how the Nats' owners got burned by Chien-Ming Wang and Jason Marquis?) Indeed, there is cause for concern, as reported by MLB.com: "The Angels declined Haren's 2013 option and bought him out for $3.5 million after trying to trade him to the Cubs last month for Carlos Marmol a deal that was reportedly called off because Chicago did not like the medical reports on Haren's hip." Less desirable than Carlos Marmol??!! OMG! Assuming he's OK next spring, Haren will fill in the fifth slot in the starting rotation, vacated by Edwin Jackson.
The departure of Jackson means that the Nationals will only have one African-American among their starting pitchers and position players: newcomer Denard Span. That's a rather awkward situation for a team located in a city that is mostly African in terms of ancestry. Span was born in D.C., but the other black Nationals are from Latin America and the Caribbean. Chief among them is Roger Bernadina, a talented outfielder with hustle who was born in Curacao. He was a semi-regular backup player this past year, and is expected back next year.
I just checked Denard Span's stats and learned that his real first name is Keiunta.
Washington Post columnist Adam Kilgore says that Dan Haren's eagerness to sign with Washington shows that the Nationals have become a desirable place for ambitious players to seek. That is probably the case, but Haren will remain an unknown quantity until next April.
Tonight was the world "broadcast" premier (on the USA cable channel) of the movie How Do You Know? (2010), starring Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, and Jack Nicholson. Why do I mention that? Because the character played by Owen Wilson is a Washington Nationals pitcher, and there is a scene filmed in Nationals Park! The movie only has a 5.3 rating out of 9 on imdb.com, lower than I would have figured. I guess people expected more from all those top-notch actors, and I agree that there wasn't much personal chemistry between them. The writer and director was James Brooks, who has had some great cinematic successes in his career. Someone caught the obvious (to me) error in which the Nationals relief pitchers were sitting in the visitors' bullpen at Nationals Park. The left-center field location is sunnier and therefore more conducive to movie-making.
The movie title comes from a hilarious bit of dialogue in that bullpen scene. There are no game action sequences, however, and that was a disappointment to me. Maybe Owen Wison can't throw.
Partly because I recently redid the Camden Yards diagrams, and partly in recognition of the big football showdown between the Washington Redskins and the Baltimore Ravens tomorrow, I have updated the Memorial Stadium diagrams, with two brand-new versions: one for 1950 (when Memorial Stadium was still just a single-decker) and one for 1996-1997, when the Ravens (ex-Cleveland Browns) played there. Compared to the previous "edition" (July 26, 2009), the two "forks" of the grandstand do not extend as far toward the north, and there a sharper bend behind home plate.
Those who are familiar with my work will quickly notice some of the detail enhancements. The entry portals are now depicted, and the ones in the upper deck happn to coincide with the ones in the lower deck. There is really no need for a separate lower-deck diagram because the new 1950 version (single deck) serves that purpose. Likewise, the lack of a roof means there is no need for a separate upper-deck diagram, such as I recently did for RFK Stadium. The grass slope beyond center field is now shown, and the bullpen, small bleachers, light towers, scoreboards, etc. are now much more accurate than before.
There are still a few lingering questions, such as when the red-brick annex on the southwest side of the stadium was built. (It is shown only in the 1996 football version, when the Ravens played Memorial Stadium, but I know it was there at least as early as 1991, the Orioles' final season there.) It's located where the Orioles players would enter, so it could be a fancy new clubhouse facility. Or it could be once of those posh restaurants geared towards fans with fat wallets. A quick check at baseball-fever.com yielded nothing, so I'll have to raise that question there.
I learned from SABR member Kevin Johnson that the Negro American League Baltimore Elite Giants played four home games at Memorial Stadium in 1950, when it was brand new. The league folded that very same year.