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April 16, 2019 [LINK / comment]

Nats rally one day, falter the next

The Washington Nationals are still getting their footing as the 2019 season gets underway, and while they definitely show the potential for championship-level performance, they have also shown a regrettable tendency (like last year) to choke and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. In the weekend home series against Pittsburgh, they easily could have won all three games, but such was not to be. On Wednesday, their new starting pitcher Patrick Corbin did his best to prove he was worth the $140 million the owners committed to him when he was signed last December. In one of the best outings by a Nats pitcher this year, he struck out eleven batters over seven innings, while only giving up one run. Then in the eighth inning, once again the bullpen threw away a lead. Tony Sipp and Kyle Barraclough gave up two runs, but in the bottom of the inning Anthony Rendon homered for a second time to tie the game, 3-3. The game went to the tenth inning, whereupon Matt Grace and Justin Miller combined to give up three runs (one unearned), and the Pirates won it, 6-3.

The Saturday afternoon game was a pretty good pitchers' duel between the Nats' Anibal Sanchez and the Pirates' Chris Archer, whom I remember seeing pitch for the Tampa Bay Rays in Toronto in 2015. Both pitchers went seven innings, but the visitors were ahead 2-1 going into the eighth inning. That's when Adam Eaton and Howie Kendrick all of a sudden hit back-to-back home runs to give the Nats a 3-2 lead. Sean Doolittle got through the ninth inning allowing just one hit and one walk, thus earning his first save of the year.

On Sunday, Max Scherzer gave up two runs in the first inning, but got back in control and went eight full innings with only one more run by the opponent. The game was tied going into the ninth inning, but relief pitcher Wander Suero gave up an RBI ground rule double to Jason Martin. Behind 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, the Nats loaded the bases with only one out, but Howie Kendrick was called out on strikes, and Anthony Rendon flew out to end the game. What an awful letdown.

After resting on Monday, the Nats welcomed the San Francisco Giants to town tonight. The Nats scored a run in the second inning, and starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg was doing just fine until the fifth inning, when the Pirates hit two home runs to take a 3-1 lead. They tacked on three more against the relief pitchers before Matt Adams hit a pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the seventh, after which Anthony Rendon hit an RBI single. But that didn't matter, as the Giants ended up with a 7-3 victory. It was the first time since the opening series of the season that the Nationals lost two games in a row. They now have a 7-8 record, and are 2 1/2 games behind the Phillies, who retook first place from the Mets tonight. (Ten runs in the first inning??!!)

Opening day in Korea

You gotta hand it to those Koreans, they really know how to use ultra-modern technology to heighten the excitement at a sporting event. An animated flying dragon swooping around a baseball stadium??!! See the video yourself at MLB.com; hat tip to Bruce Orser.

Riverfront Stadium

Riverfront Stadium update

(Stop me if you've heard this one before.) I recently realized that one critical detail was missing from my Riverfront Stadium diagrams, which I had revised last October: the "ribs" that divide the sections of the roof from each other. That was a fairly easy task, but then I noticed a few anomalies that had to be fixed, so I ended up making a few more revisions to the Riverfront Stadium diagrams than I had planned. The bullpens are now shown in detail; the only real correction per se was that the lateral walkway in the upper deck was moved back a couple feet. The upper-deck diagram now shows where the twelve access tunnels were, underneath the seats. The entry portals were not visible from above (assuming you could see through the roof), as normal entry portals are.

I also added two other stadiums with similarly distinctive roofs to my "Coming Attractions" list: Busch Stadium II and Candlestick Park, as well as Three Rivers Stadium.


April 10, 2019 [LINK / comment]

Robles & Soto save the Nats' day

The Nationals' two young slugging pals from the Dominican Republic, Victor Robles and Juan Soto, combined to turn another disheartening loss yesterday into a dramatic and memorable triumph. Stephen Strasburg gave up a three-run home run to Bryce Harper in the third inning, and Strasburg left the game after four innings with his team behind, 6-1. With all the bad vibes from the repeated bullpen meltdowns, the Nationals were on the verge of a very disheartening trajectory. Then the Nats started to put a few runs on the board, including home runs by Yan Gomes in the seventh inning and Howie Kendrick in the eighth inning. But the Nats were still one run behind in the top of the ninth with two outs and two strikes on Victor Robles. Things looked bleak. But just then Robles swung at a low pitch and knocked that ball into the left field seats to tie the game! In the tenth inning, Juan Soto crushed a ball into the middle deck down the right field line for a three-run homer. Robles doubled in another run after that, and the Nats won the game, 10-6! Would it be too much to suggest that Robles and Soto may have saved the Nationals' year? So I added that bit of info to the Washington Nationals page.

Tonight, the Nats got on the board three times in the first inning, and they just kept pounding the ball inning after inning. Even without a home run, the scored 15 runs and were on the verge of their biggest shutout score ever, when shaky relief pitcher Trevor Rosenthal took the mound in the bottom of the ninth. It was a perfect situation for the hurler with an ERA of infinity. Once again, Rosenthal had lousy command, and he walked the bases loaded but managed to get three outs while only giving up one run, so now his ERA is "just" 72.

And so, amazingly enough, the Nationals have now won consecutive series against the Mets and the Phillies, and are now just one game behind those two (and the Braves) in the NL East.

Nats' bullpen stabilizes

In both their wins in Philadelphia, the Nationals' bullpen managed to avoid any further catastrophes, putting multiple zeros on the board. In my recent lament about the bullpen, I left out the closing pitcher Sean Doolittle, whose ERA is zero even though three runs scored thanks to hits he allowed last week. But he helped big time last night, getting the last two outs of the ninth inning, and all three outs of the tenth.

Healing and injury

Soon after joining active roster, Howie Kendrick hit a home run, the first pinch-hit home run of his career. Michael A. Taylor is also back in the lineup, but has not yet had a hit.

Another piece of bad news for the Nationals, which I should have mentioned before: Their speedy and versatile shortstop Trea Turner suffered a broken finger while trying to bunt last week, and he will probably be on the "Injured List" (formerly called the "Disabled List") until June.

Early team performance

With an 6-5 record thus far, the Nationals have exactly matched their performance up to the same point last year. The following table (updated from the one I posted on April 21, 2016, when I also noted the passing of my father, Alan L. Clem), compares the Nationals' record during the first ten games for each season since they relocated to Washington from Montreal in 2005:

Year First ten games (W-L) Season total (%)
2005 6-4 .500
2006 2-8 .438
2007 2-8 .451
2008 3-7 .366
2009 1-9 .364
2010 5-5 .426
2011 5-5 .497
2012 7-3 .605
2013 7-3 .531
2014 7-3 .593
2015 4-6 .512
2016 9-1 .586
2017 6-4 .599
2018 5-5 .506
2019 5-5 ???

Sick's Stadium

Sick's Stadium update

Since I recently updated the Kingdome diagrams with some small corrections, I figured I ought to do likewise for the Sick's Stadium (a.k.a. "Sicks' Stadium") diagrams. That is the stadium where the ill-fated Seattle Pilots played in 1969, before going bankrupt and being relocated to Milwaukee as the "Brewers" in 1970. It was supposed to be a temporary stadium during construction of the Kingdome, but that didn't get started until several years later. (The last diagram update for Sick's Stadium was Jan. 22, 2015.) Most of the changes in the diagram per se involved the shape and size of the bleacher sections that were added in 1969. Also, the steps leading up from the concourse between the upper and lower portions of the bleachers are now rendered more accurately than before, and likewise for the steps from the concourse in the grandstand. In addition, the warning tracks in foul territory are thinner than before, and finally, the access ramps to the bleachers in right field are now more accurate, with "UP" labels for clarity.


April 8, 2019 [LINK / comment]

Nationals' bullpen: disaster area

Thus far, the Washington Nationals' bullpen has been an unmitigated disaster. Imagine a town devastated by a tsunami, a forest fire, and a hurricane all at once. For the first nine games of the 2019 season, they have an ERA above 10. In four of the Nats' five losses, the deciding runs were scored in the late innings of the game. Of course, most painful have been the unnecessary losses when the Nationals had been leading in the latter innings: March 30 (NYM 11, WSH 8) and April 6 (NYM 6, WSH 5). But even in two of their four wins, the bullpen likewise gave up multiple runs. For example, in yesterday's game against the Mets in New York, the Nats enjoyed a comfortable 12-1 lead going into the bottom of the seventh inning, whereupon the Mets scored five runs. The home team almost pulled off a miracle in the ninth inning, scoring three more runs, but ending up losing, 12-9. Another near-disaster for the Nats: on April 3, the Phillies scored four runs in the eighth inning to tie the game, but the Nats won on a "walk-off walk" with the bases loaded, as rookie Jake Noll refrained from swinging to get his first major league RBI. As a "reward," he was sent down to the minors, making way for Howie Kendrick on the active roster.

So who's to blame? At the top of the list would be Trevor Rosenthal, the former star relief pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, has faced nine batters this year, and every single one of them has reached base. Until yesterday's game, where he walked one batter and hit the other with a pitch, every one of those batters ended up scoring. His ERA is currently infinity, and after he (presumably) gets his first out of the season, his ERA will drop to something like 186. Hard to believe. He is coming off from Tommy John surgery, so it's understandable that he needs a period of adjustment, but still...Other hapless Nats relievers include Joe Ross (81.00 ERA), Tony Sipp (15.43 ERA), Wander Suero (15.00 ERA), and Matt Grace (13.50 ERA). The other Nats relievers, Kyle Barraclough and Justin Miller, have ERAs in the "normal" range.

On the positive side, the Nationals won consecutive games for the first time this year, winning 9-8 on Wednesday and 4-0 on Thursday, bouncing back to .500. They took two out of three games in New York, but with tonight's loss their record is back down to 4-5.

These nine games don't mean all that much, but if the Nats don't end this month at least with a winning record, grumblings about the evident persistent lack of leadership will arise once again. Dave Martinez knows his job is on the line, and it's up to him to make the highly talented pitching staff perform according to expected standards.

Chase Field

Chase Field quick update

Mike Zurawski recently alerted me to some photos of the new artificial turf at Chase Field (see azcentral.com), showing that the thin dirt path between the mound and home plate is gone. But guess what? I noticed a slight discrepancy with my diagrams, as far as the position of the bend in the grandstand near first (and third) base! So I set about fixing that, and while I was at it made a couple other tiny changes to the Chase Field diagrams. One significant consequence is that foul territory has shrunk, but I haven't done a calculation of that just yet.

And just for the record, I made a couple very small corrections to the Kingdome diagrams after the update was announced on April Fool's Day. No foolin'! smile

Virginia championship?

In other sports, the University of Virginia Cavaliers are currently in the NCAA Men's Basketball championship game (at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis) against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, hailing from Lubbock, Texas. Go Cavaliers!!! smile


April 1, 2019 [LINK / comment]

Opening Weekend 2019

There were a few surprises in the first regular season baseball games to be played in North America this year. The Baltimore Orioles took two of three games from the New York Yankees, to the surprise of many. They won again tonight, but remain in second place behind the Tampa Bay Rays. But thanks to their two-game head start in Japan, the Seattle Mariners (see diagram update below) have the best MLB record right now, 5-1.

In Our Nation's Capital, the Washington Nationals stumbled out of the starting gates against the visiting New York Mets. In typical fashion, Max Scherzer threw a brilliant game with a dozen strikouts and only two hits over 7 2/3 innings, but both of those hits resulted in runs scored. In the first inning, former Yankee and Mariner Robinson Cano homered in his very first at bat as a Met. Scherzer just refuses to back down from a challenge, and he paid for it once again. But facing Cy Young Award winner Jacob DeGrom, Scherzer's team failed to give him any run support, and he took the loss in a classic pitchers' duel. Mets 2, Nats 0. It was only the second time the Nats had been shut out on Opening Day, the first being in 2011 against the Braves. The only bright spot for the Nats was Trea Turner, who got two hits and stole three bases.

On Saturday, Stephen Strasburg had a shaky start, giving up three runs in the first inning, but then he got in command of the situation. He left after throwing eight strikeouts over six innings [virtually the same numbers as the Mets' pitcher Noah Syndergaard], and the Nats bailed him out by tying the game 4-4 in the bottom of the sixth. But then the Nats bullpen imploded, and dark memories of similar episodes in 2018 came to mind. In his first appearance since returning from Tommy John surgery, relief pitcher Trevor Rosenthal gave up four runs without recording an out in the top of the eighth inning. In the ninth inning, Matt Grace and Wander Suero gave up three more runs, giving the Mets a seven-run lead. The Nats rallied with four runs in the ninth inning, as Ryan Zimmerman came within a few feet of hitting a grand slam to left field, but it was all for nought. Final score: 11-8. frown Worth noting is that Victor Robles hit the first home run of the year for the Nationals, in the third inning.

On Sunday, Patrick Corbin took the mound in his debut appearance as a National, and he pitched pretty well. (Whew!) He gave up just two runs over six innings and was in line for the win, thanks primarily to a three-run homer by Trea Turner in the third inning. But once again, the Nats' bullpen imploded in the eighth inning, as new Nats reliever Tony Sipp gave up two hits while only getting one out, and then Trevor Rosenthal immediately gave up an RBI single to Robinson Cano. Oh-oh. So then manager Dave Martinez sounds the alarm and brings in closing pitcher Sean Doolittle to put the fire out, but the move didn't work. Doolittle gave up three hits and two runs, blowing the save. He got through the top of the ninth with only one hit, and the game went into the bottom of the ninth tied 5-5. After Adam Eaton flied out, Trea Turner came up to bat and got to a full 3-2 count before swinging at a low pitch and just clearing the left field wall for a dramatic and desperately-needed walk-off home run. YES!!! smile I have already added that bit of information to the Washington Nationals page.

On a sad note, former National Daniel Murphy, who signed a contract as a free agent with the Colorado Rockies, broke his finger while making a diving catch. He'll be out of action for several weeks at least.

UVa makes it to NCAA Final Four!

In other sports news, the University of Virginia Cavaliers have advanced to the NCAA Men's Final Four championship for the first time since 1984. They beat the Purdue Boilermakers 80-75 in a very tight game that went into overtime thanks to a miraculous last-second shot by Mamadi Diakite. (I knew he was from west Africa but just learned that he was born in Conakry, Guinea.) The Cavaliers were ranked #2 in the nation for much of the season, much like last year, when they were eliminated in the first round, and three years ago, when they only made it as far as the "Elite Eight" round. The Final Four will be played in Minneapolis at U.S. Bank Stadium, which occupies the same ground where the Metrodome once stood, so in a sense it will be the third Final Four played at that location.

I thought it might be useful to gather information on all the Final Four events held in stadiums that were home to MLB teams, or in which MLB teams have played. Later on, I may add this table to the Other sports use page, which I created last June.

NCAA Men's Final Four championships held in baseball* stadiums

Venue City, state 1st year 2nd year 3rd year 4th year 5th year
Astrodome Houston, TX 1971
Louisiana Superdome * New Orleans, LA 1982 1987 1993 2003 2012
Kingdome Seattle, WA 1984 1989 1995
HHH Metrodome Minneapolis, MN 1992 2001
Alamodome * San Antonio, TX 1998 2004 2008
[ Tropicana Field St. Petersburg, FL 1999 ]

* Including stadiums used by MLB teams in exhibition games.

I may eventually do a diagram of the Alamodome, since it can be (and has been) reconfigured for baseball games. While researching that in my World Almanac and on the often-reliable Wikipedia, I discovered that the "University of Phoenix Stadium" (home of the NFL Arizona Cardinals) is now called "State Farm Stadium."

Kingdome

Kingdome minor tweak

To commemorate Virginia's last appearance in the Final Four, I decided to make a quick, minor diagram update to the venue where they played in 1984 -- the Kingdome, former home of the Seattle Mariners (and Seahawks, Supersonics, etc.). There is a new middle-deck diagram, since the second deck was entirely covered by the upper deck and therefore not otherwise visible. The only real change involved the position of the entry portals in the upper deck (moved back a couple feet), and showing details of the small stairs on either side of each upper-deck entry portal. In addition, there is now a dark line in back of the lateral walkway in the lower deck, since the grandstand pitch was relatively steep and there was a significant vertical discontinuity, along with a barrier. Those diagrams were last updated in January 2015. I need to find the original photo slide so I can make a better scanned image than the one which is posted on that page. (I passed by the Kingdome while I was in Seattle in 1987.)

R.I.P. Fred Malek

One of the leading contenders seeking to purchase the Washington Nationals franchise 13 years ago, Fred Malek, passed away last week. The Washington Post article about him highlighted his role in the Nixon administration's "hunt" for Jewish officials in the Federal bureaucracy, which was indeed a sorry affair. Malek seemed to be a loyal party man first and foremost, the very epitome of the much-maligned "Washington Establishment," but he was also a big fan of baseball who strove for many years to get the National Pastime back to the Nation's Capital. As far back as March 2002 I was regularly commenting in my blog on his strong efforts to purchase the Montreal Expos in order to bring baseball back to Washington. In contrast, until September 2005 I wasn't even aware of Ted Lerner and his family, who ended up winning the bidding war for the franchise the following May. Here's hoping that Malek is remembered for his involvement in getting baseball back to D.C.


March 25, 2019 [LINK / comment]

Ichiro Suzuki retires in Japan

After the second of two games he played with the Seattle Mariners in Tokyo, Japan (in which the Mariners beat the Oakland A's again), 45-year old Ichiro Suzuki announced that he has retired from Major League Baseball. It was fitting that was able to make a dramatic farewell in his home country before an adoring crowd. For all the details of the memorable, quite moving occasion, see MLB.com.

Suzuki played for nine years with the Orix of the Japanese Pacific League, and then signed with the Seattle Mariners in November 2000. For the next decade, he put up absolutely stupendous offensive figures, with a batting average over .300 in every year from 2001 through 2010. He tallied 3,089 hits during his career in the majors, and could have become the all-time greatest in that category if he had played for seven or eight of his early years in the major leagues. He was a very smart, very efficient and productive player, comparable in some ways to Pete Rose (4,256 lifetime hits) or Ty Cobb (4,191 lifetime hits) -- the big difference being that he was always a perfect gentleman. He was never known as a power hitter, of course, and only reached the double digits in home runs three times. Tragically, the Mariners did not make it to the postseason at all during the 11 1/2 years he played with the Mariners. Suzuki was traded to the Yankees in July 2012, and had his first postseason experience that October. He played with New York through the end of the 2015 season, and then he signed with the Miami Marlins as a free agent, but didn't get much playing time there last year.

I had the pleasure to see the future Hall of Famer in action twice: in a Mariners-Twins game at Target Field on August 1, 2010, and in a Marlins-Nationals game on October 1, 2016.

Ichiro Suzuki, then with the Miami Marlins, at Nationals Park on October 1, 2016

Tokyo Dome

Tokyo Dome MAJOR update

(Stop me if you've heard this one before.) So, I realized I needed to make a few tweaks to the Tokyo Dome diagrams, and before you knew it I got completely carried away in my relentless pursuit of extreme accuracy, yadda, yadda, yadda... Just what has changed? I'm glad you asked!

  • The grandstand has been "stretched" vertically by about 10 feet, making it a rounded diamond shape rather than a rounded square, which is what it looks like in aerial photographs. Previously the air-supported roof cables were depicted as being "attached" to the support columns, but those columns would have to protrude through the upper deck in order to do so, blocking some fans' view, but that is obviously not the case. In fact, the solid portion of the roof inclined about 20 feet over the back part of the grandstand, and the roof cables attached to the front edge of it.
  • As a consequence of the "stretching," the grandstand is now a few rows bigger behind home plate compared to the positions facing first and third base, whereas before the grandstand was the same depth all the way from first to third base.
  • The concourse areas around the entire stadium have been expanded by 15-25 feet outward, and are now shown in all diagram variants.
  • The entry portals to the outfield seats ("bleachers") are much wider than before. They are located behind the big support columns, and extend a couple feet on either side of them.

So, the previous "minor" update (March 20) in effect doesn't even count, since all that changed was a few interior details. And, for the record, I made some minor tweaks to the Olympic Stadium diagrams.

Spring training comes to an end

The Nationals beat the New York Yankees 5-3 at Nationals Park this afternoon, their first game at home in Washington this spring. Unlike the practice games featuring a motley crew of minor league prospects, this time it was an actual contest with all the first-string players in the lineup. Anthony Rendon and Matt Adams both homered for the Nats, who finished spring training with a 17-12 record, third place in the Florida "Grapefruit League." (The Yankees and Astros were first and second.) The Nats are fifth among all MLB teams in terms of power rankings; see MLB. The Astros, Red Sox, Yankees, and Dodgers are the top teams, in that order. Teams will rest for two days and then play the first game of the season on Thursday afternoon. Baseball is almost here!!!!

For a couple days it seemed that maybe outfielder Michael A. Taylor's knee / hip injury might take a few weeks to heal, but he has made a lot of progress and will probably be with the team by the end of next week. Likewise, infielder Howie Kendrick's hamstring pull is thought to be relatively mild, and he should be ready to go during the early part of April.

After giving him one more chance (don't ask me why), the Nationals finally let their young relief pitcher Sammy Solis go. The Baltimore Orioles picked up former Nats second-string catcher Pedro Severino, who had likewise dismissed from the Nationals' roster earlier this spring.







Coming Attractions

(Includes major revisions, minor revisions, pages with additional diagrams, and future stadiums that are under construction. This is only a rough guide; the sequence is subject to change.)


Stadium construction

Between March 2012, when Marlins Park was completed, and September 2014, there were no major league baseball stadiums under construction. It was the first time since September 1986 that this situation existed. But in light of the recent groundbreaking on the future home of the Braves, the table that had been removed from this space is being restored.

Clem's Baseball ~ Stadium construction

Stadium construction
Chronology of the contemporary era: 1986 - present



1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 2020s
1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 2016 2018 2020 2022 2024
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
UC 1989: Skydome (Rogers Centre) (construction finished in early June)
plan. UC 1990: Florida Suncoast Dome (Tropicana Field)
planning UC 1991: Comiskey Park II (U.S. Cellular Field, Guaranteed Rate Field)
- planning UC 1992: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
- planning UC 1994: Jacobs Field (Progressive Field)
- planning UC 1994: Ballpark in Arlington (Globe Life Park, etc.)
- planning UC 1995: Coors Field
- planning UC 1996: (Olympic Stadium) 1997: Turner Field
- planning UC 1998: Chase Field (Bank One Ballpark)
- planning UC 1999: AT&T Park (Pac Bell Park)
- planning UC 1999: Safeco Field
- planning UC 2000: Comerica Park
- planning UC 2000: Minute Maid Park
- planning UC 2001: Miller Park
- planning UC 2001: PNC Park
- planning UC 2003: Great American Ballpark
- planning UC 2004: Citizens Bank Park
- planning UC 2006: Busch Stadium III (construction finished in late May)
- planning UC 2008: Nationals Park
- planning UC 2009: Yankee Stadium II
- planning UC 2009: Citi Field
- planning UC 2010: Target Field
- planning UC 2012: Marlins Park
- planning UC 2017: SunTrust Park
Texas Rangers: Globe Life Park II   UC 2020 opening?
STILL WAITING ... Oakland Athletics: (?)  
STILL WAITING ... Tampa Bay Rays: (?)  
1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 2016 2018 2020 2022 2024
NOTE: For most stadiums, groundbreaking years are mere estimates. For most stadiums, construction continued through March of the year in which they opened. Two exceptions are Skydome / Rogers Centre (construction finished in early June 1989) and Busch Stadium III (construction finished in late May 2006).

Stadium construction montage

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: PNC Park (Pittsburgh, Aug. 2000), Citi Field (Queens, NY, Oct. 2008), Nationals Park (Washington, DC, Aug. 2007)


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