November 29, 2015
The ace pitchers for two of this year's "Cinderella" teams -- the Chicago Cubs and the Houston Astros -- won baseball's highest honor for their position. On November 18 it was announced that Jake Arrieta (Cubs) and Dallas Keuchel (Astros) had won the 2015 Cy Young Awards. With a 22-6 record this year (and the final 11 decisions all wins), Arrieta prevailed by a comfortable margin over two Dodger pitchers: Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. The last Cubs pitcher to win the Cy Young Award was Greg Maddux in 1992.
On the American League* side, Dallas Keuchel easily beat David Price (Tigers until late July, then with the Blue Jays) and Sonny Gray (of the Oakland A's). He threw 301 strikeouts, the most in the major leagues since 2002. See nydailynews.com. Dallas Keuchel must have a confusing identity problem, since his first name is that of Houston's rival MLB city in Texas.
* I'm still having a hard time thinking of the Astros as being in the American League...
Over Thanksgiving break, I put a lot of effort into diagram revisions, some of which are done or nearly done. The first fruit of my ceaseless labor is a rendering of Minute Maid Park, where the Houston Astros' Dallas Keuchel pitched so well this past summer. The grandstand is notably smaller than I had previously estimated, while changes to the field itself were negligible.
In contrast to most stadium diagram revisions that I do, the entry portals per se in Minute Maid Park are not visible (from above) in the diagrams, because of the big vertical discontinuity (about eight feet) between the upper and lower portions of the upper deck. This, in turn, is a reflection of the unusually large balconies which were built into the upper deck, in every other section of the grandstand, more or less. The diagrams do show the stairs (in medium gray) to the upper part of the upper deck. Whereas most such staircases are about three feet wide, in Minute Maid Park they are about six feet wide.
In addition to multiple diagrams for various degrees of roof closure (and translucent vs. opaque renderings), there is a brand new lower-deck version which shows the visitors' bullpen in left center field. It also shows the support pillars between the big stone (?) arches overlooking left field, mimicking a railroad bridge. (I thought about including that faux locomotive and the tracks in one of the diagrams, and may add that whimsical detail later.) If the Astros go ahead with the plans to remove "Tal's Hill" in center field and add more seats out there (not until after 2016 at least), I'll have to revise that diagram again.
This was one of the most-overdue diagram revisions among all current MLB stadiums. (I could have sworn I had done a diagram update for that one in 2012, but as often happens, I never finished it.) The previous (2010 edition) "dynamic diagram" for Minute Maid Park had a sideways orientation, so as to occupy less space in the computer window. Now all of the diagrams are oriented with center field at the top. That was the last of the (ten) stadium pages for teams that made it to the postseason this year.
I should mention that two of the photos on that page were taken by my friend Dave Givens, who saw a ball game in Houston last summer.
The update of the Minute Maid Park diagrams means that all six current MLB ballparks with retractable roofs are now fully "up to par," with dynamic diagrams that show the roofs in open, closed, and (sometimes) partly-open positions, following the conventional center-field up orientation. In alphabetical order:
Since the Twins left the Metrodome after the 2009 season, there is now just one MLB ballpark that is permanently enclosed: Tropicana Field. Among MLB stadiums of the past, Olympic Stadium in Montreal was supposed to have a retractable roof, but it didn't work, so they just left it permanently closed. The other three fully enclosed MLB stadiums were: the Astrodome, the Kingdome, and the Metrodome.
Earlier this month, New York State Supreme Court judge Lawrence Marks voided an arbitration decision by Major League Baseball, which would have favored the Washington Nationals. According to the Washington Post, "The Nationals will receive $40 million in TV rights fees from MASN per year, nearly $20 million less than the amount awarded by the MLB panel in June 2014." Strangely, the judge's ruling seemed to be based on his suspicions of the law firms associated with the teams, rather than the merits of the decision per se. A few days later, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said he and his staff are studying the ruling to see what the next step should be. (Washington Post)
How many of you folks remember what MASN really stands for? Click on the camera icon below for a surprise. (Photo taken in September 2005.)
Mr. Angelos Screws the Nationals!
Mike Zurawski let me know about the ongoing renovations to Wrigley Field. Most notably, the exterior walls around the main entrance have been removed, making it look like the entire stadium is being demolished. The same thing for the walls behind the bleachers as well. The bleacher renovations earlier this year were only about "70 percent complete," as new restrooms and viewing terraces are being built. Also, the bullpens will be moved underneath the bleachers in time for the 2017 season, and light towers are planned for the outfield, perhaps in that year as well. Finally, the dugouts are going to be shifted several feet down the left-field line, to accommodate expansion of club houses, etc. under the grandstand. See bleedcubbieblue.com. (Check out the related links at the bottom of that page for some construction photos.)
Bruce Orser sent me a link to a Web site about baseball (or beisbol) down in Cuba: cubanbeisbol.com. It features a piece on "El Gran Stadium de la Habana." (Why not "Estadio"?) Now that travel restrictions on U.S. citizens are being removed, I may seize the opportunity to visit Havana in the next year or two.
Also, Brandon Henderson alerted me to the news that the Cactus Bowl will be played at Chase Field for the next three seasons due to construction at Sun Devil Stadium. This event was held at Chase Field from 2000 to 2005, when it was called the Insight Bowl. See azcentral.com. Also, Miller Park [hosted] a friendly international soccer match [last] July 14, pitting Club Atlas (Mexican), against Newcastle United F.C. (English). See MLB.com. Another soccer diagram to do... [CORRECTED]
Speaking of lesser-known bowl games, the Virginia Tech Hokies qualified for a spot in a bowl game by beating the UVa Cavaliers 23-20 in Charlottesville yesterday. Otherwise, retiring Coach Frank Beamer would have ended his truly legendary career on a sour note. Today UVa Coach Mike London resigned his position, probably the best thing for everyone concerned. He's a good guy, but has made some very questionable on-field decisions over the past couple seasons.
I fell so far behind on e-mail correspondence this year, that it wasn't even funny. For all of you folks who tried in vain to contact me, please accept my apologies. I'll try my best in the weeks to come to get caught up, while I also put more effort into finishing the diagram revisions.