Commentary and musings on a diverse but well-defined set of topics, from a critical-minded conservative point of view, featuring a veritable library of original graphics and statistical information. Hence,
Not long after getting a Best Buy gift card from an appreciative Jordan Zimmermann, Steven Souza Jr. was honored to get the GIBBY (Greatness in Baseball Yearly) "Play of the Year" award [for that amazing game-ending, no-hitter-saving catch at Nationals Park on September 28]. See MLB.com. I'm still dumbfounded at how lucky I was not just to be at that game, but to get a photo of that historic play. I just showed that photo on November 29 for a second time, so instead of showing it for a third time, I incorporated it into a montage of some of the Nationals' other great moments of the past three seasons:
Some of the Washington Nationals' "great moments" I have had the privilege to witness -- and photograph! At top left, the Nationals mob Jordan Zimmermann after Steven Souza Jr. (top right) made the diving catch to preserve the no-hitter last September 28. Bottom middle, Ian Desmond homers to get the only run scored in that game. Bottom left, Ryan Zimmerman hits a home run into the "Red Porch" on September 22, 2013. Bottom right, on September 8, 2012, Jayson Werth homers in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the game, which the Nationals won one inning later.
You can also see a larger-size version of the Nationals mobbing Jordan Zimmermann, in the top left of that montage.
What about "great moments" of players from other teams which I have seen? Well, I saw then New York Met Julio Franco's home run on September 2006; the following year he hit one more to top his own record. And last July in Kansas City I saw and photographed Billy Butler hitting a home run that proved to be the Royals' margin of victory over the Cleveland Indians.
Winter GM meetings commence
In beautiful, balmy San Diego, MLB general managers have begun their annual winter meetings. On the first day, the Chicago White Sox picked up two first-class pitchers: Jeff Samardzija (who has played for the Cubs and Athletics in recent years) and David Robertson (who has been with the Yankees). For a full recap, see MLB.com.
This event is the "swan song" for outgoing MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, who officially retires at the end of the month. I hope he gets a suitable sendoff to reward him for leading the sport through some exciting but often trying times over the past two decades.
Nats free agents get offers
All Washington Nationals free agents received qualifying offers from the management, which is good news but not exactly a surprise. Can the franchise keep both Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann on the roster? They will both expect big raises, and they're probably worth it.
On the other hand, Ken Rosenthal (foxsports.com) says the Nationals should avoid getting into a contract squabble with Bryce Harper.
Werth: "2 Fast, 2 Furious"
Washington Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth was convicted of reckless driving by a judge in Fairfax County last week, and was sentenced to ten days in jail. He is trying to cut the actual time served behind bars to only five days, however. Always the rebellious kind, he was driving his Porsche at over 100 miles per hour on the Beltway, and the cops nabbed him. (Washington Post)
Three Rivers Stadium update
For the second time in three days, I have finished updating diagrams that were over five years old -- in this case, for Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Aside from the obvious inclusion of new details such as the entry portals, the biggest change since the 2009 version is that the overall shape is slightly more of an oval, with more pronounced bends behind home plate and beyond center field. It's rather like a football, in fact, reminding me of how the old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore had a sharp bend behind home plate. This finding is based on a closer inspection of some aerial photos, and helps to resolve one of the nagging discrepancies in the oval-shaped stadiums with "paired swivelable circular section lower deck" (PSCSLD) configuration. (The other is Busch Stadium II.) For such a dual-use arrangement to work, the curvature of the rear of the movable portion of the grandstand must match the curvature of the rest of the grandstand. In a typical, more blunt oval, consisting of four circular (fixed-radius) curves, the range of movement would be too restricted. I'll have to figure out how to explain that more clearly.
Several weeks behind schedule, the diagrams for Dodger Stadium are now up to my highest standards in terms of accuracy and inclusion of details. As for accuracy, the biggest change is that the angle of the grandstand as a whole is slightly more acute. I determined this by carefully inspecting photographs to see where the line marked by the front row of seats extends. (Getting photographs taken from the right perspective makes all the difference.) In addition, the profile is much more accurate than before, and attempts to be more realistic in showing the lower deck as a slab embedded in the earth, rather than as a schematic wedge, as nearly all of my diagrams presently do. It's hard to know exactly how deep the foundations of most stadiums are, but in this case, there are plenty of photographs showing the excavation when most of the lower deck was rebuilt in early 2013.
As an example of new detail, mainly for aesthetic purposes, you can see the trademark zig-zag roof that partly covers the outfield pavilions, as well as the trees beyond. (I decided not to worry about the exact number or position of trees for the time being.) Other new details include the small staircases in front of the bleacher sections, and the scoreboards that protrude a few feet in front of the lights behind those same bleachers. Aside from the sides of the bleachers, the only entry portals are in the upper deck, for which there is a new "no-roof" version diagram. There is also a new 2014 version diagram, which differs from the 2005 version mainly in displaying the newly-built peripheral buildings: team stores, eateries, restrooms, etc. To provide enough room to show those additions, I created a new "full-view" diagram. Finally, there is a hockey version diagram.
As often happens, there were several points over the past couple weeks at which I thought I had Dodger Stadium all wrapped up. For nearly a day I was stumped because I could not reconcile the position of the light towers and the roofs with number of seats in the third and fourth decks. Finally, I realized that the ten-foot discrepancy was the result of the roof supports being in front of the third row from the back of the third deck. Yes, there are some obstructed seats there! (Supposedly some of those upper-deck seats have been closed off in recent years, but I couldn't figure out exactly which sections were affected.) I also had some trouble trying to figure out how many rows there are in the third deck in the segment underneath the fourth deck, and likewise in how much overhang there is.
One minor correction just a couple days ago stemmed from a chance look at a photograph showing the alignment of the end of the grandstand just beyond the foul pole(s). Previously, I had those ends pointing toward the vicinity of second base, when in fact they point toward at least 20 feet beyond the infield dirt. As a result, the furthest point in the rear corner of the grandstand (near the foul poles) is now about ten feet closer to home than it used to be. Another vexing headache was trying to reconcile the front edge of the grandstand in the original configuration (1962-1999) with the area covered by the extended infield seating sections built in 2005. I finally realized that the back row of the new seats occupies space where the original first row used to be, i.e., they overlap. Small differences like that often yield huge differences in the overall diagram.
Finishing Dodger Stadium was one of the biggest remaining hurdles toward my goal of estimating the total playing area of all current and past MLB stadiums. From 1969 until 2000 it had about 33,500 square feet foul territory, one of the biggest in the majors. (It's now only about 19,300 square feet.) Fair territory was originally (1962-1968) about 115,800 square feet, which is quite spacious, and since 1969 it has been about 110,500 square feet feet, which is just a bit above average. I'm fairly confident in my fair and foul territory estimates for nearly all remaining stadiums on my "to-do" list, but some double-checking will be necessary.
Dodger Stadium was featured in several movies, including The Satan Bug (1965), Superman Returns (2006), in which Superman prevents a jetliner that is carrying a Space Shuttle from crashing, and The Core (2003), in the scene where the Space Shuttle Endeavour flew over during a Colorado Rockies-Los Angeles Dodgers game and (if I understand correctly) makes an emergency crash landing. (Thanks to Daley Holder for that tip.)
Among the sources in getting all the features of the 2013-2014 renovations correct were latimes.com and MLB.com. Of course, the fine photographs in the books Ballparks Yesterday and Today (John Pastier et al.), Green Cathedrals (Phil Lowry), and Blue Skies Green Fields (Ira Rosen) proved very useful in getting everything just right.
In case you haven't figured it out by now, this is a major revision to the diagrams of a very important stadium, and represents one of the biggest landmarks in my diagramming endeavors of the past few years. It's a good thing the Dodgers didn't make it to the World Series in October, as that would have put almost unbearable pressure on me to get an accurate diagram out on time!
My last update to the Dodger Stadium diagrams was in January 2009 -- nearly six years ago! It once again reminds me how badly other diagrams need to be updated. In particular, I have realized that the upper deck in my PNC Park diagram is about ten feet too shallow, so I have gotten to work fixing that. Otherwise, nearly all of my other current MLB stadium diagrams are pretty accurate, with relatively minor corrections or enhancements to make ... I hope!
I'll report some news on soccer in D.C., Steven Souza Jr., Jayson Werth, and others tomorrow...
It's halftime at the Canadian Football League's championship game, a.k.a the Grey Cup. The Calgary Stampeders lead the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 17-7, and the Imagine Dragons are playing! (Live scores at nationalpost.com.) This year the Grey Cup is being played in Vancouver's BC Place, which was thoroughly renovated with a new suspended (rather than air-inflated) roof a couple years ago. Why is that relevant for baseball fans? Because the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners have played a few exhibition games there over the years. I mentioned that in February 2010. Perhaps next year I'll finally do a diagram of BC Place...
Exhibition Stadium update
In the mean time, to mark the big day Up North, I have revised the Exhibition Stadium diagrams. They now show the entry portals and the wire suspensions that hold up the massive roof over the pavilion that used to sit beyond left field. Also a few critical details such as the seating sections with benches rather than individual seats, etc.
As noted on that page, Exhibition Stadium hosted the Grey Cup a number of times, the last of which was in 1982, in the midst of miserable freezing-rain conditions. That may have boosted support for constructing what became the Skydome, now known as Rogers Centre. (cfl.ca)
I've been on a roll during this Thanksgiving break, and just updated the diagrams on the U.S. Cellular Field page. The most obvious change is the inclusion of entry portals in the upper deck and in the small mezzanine deck, which has five rows, not four as I had thought. Since those entry portals define the structural members (and thus the seating sections), I was able to get the position of the light towers much more accurate. Less obvious is the corrected positioning of the grandstand, which spreads out slightly more than before, i.e., the angle is less acute. The curved portions near the foul poles are now about ten feet further to the left and to the right, respectively.
For the moment, I'm prioritizing current MLB stadiums, and expect to have Dodger Stadium done any day now. Those diagrams were last updated in 2009, very out of date, but by no means the out-of-datest. (?) Meanwhile, Safeco Field continues to bedevil me with minor uncertainties...
Red Sox get Sandoval, Ramirez
Eager to rebound from their mediocre year, the Boston Red Sox announced that they have signed former Giant Pablo Sandoval and former Dodger Hanley Ramirez. "The Panda" (age 28) will get $95 million over five years, plus options, and is expected to replace David Ortiz as designated hitter once he retires. Meanwhile, Ramirez (age 30) is getting $88 million over four years, plus a vesting option. Ramirez was traded (while still a minor league prospect) by the Red Sox to the Marlins in exchange for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. (ESPN) Wow, whatever happened to those guys? I could have sworn Sandoval was older than Ramirez.
J-Zimm gives thanks to Souza
As a token of appreciation for that no-hitter-saving catch last September 28, Nats pitcher Jordan Zimmermann gave right fielder Steven Souza Jr. a Best Buy gift card, for an amount that was not disclosed. Souza said it was "not necessary" and "incredibly generous." There had been talk about a BMW, but that was a bit extreme. (Washington Post) Well, it's the thought that counts!
Steven Souza's highlight reel catch, previously posted on September 29 -- exactly two months ago!
Josh Willingham retires
Former Nationals slugger Josh "The Hammer" Willingham announced his retirement last week, joining fellow former Nationals slugger Adam Dunn. He is 35, and played 11 years in the major leagues. He had played with the Minnesota Twins for the past couple years, and was traded to the Kansas City Royals in August, but didn't get many at bats. He went 1 for 4 pinch-hitting in postseason games. (ESPN)
Jacqueline and I went for a weekend trip to Virginia Beach, and did some birding at various places in the vicinity. We knew we were off to a good start when we took a wrong turn in Newport News, looking for a place to eat lunch, and saw a Bald Eagle being chased by some crows. That was amusing, and a great photo op!
We stopped at the Norfolk visitor's center soon after crossing the Hampton-Norfolk Tunnel, and I saw at least a dozen Yellow-rumped Warblers flying all around, along with some Field Sparrows and Juncos, I believe. There is an adjacent wetland, but the trail passing through it has been closed for security reasons. Our first major stop was the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (CBBT), which I had not visited for several years. As expected, there were gulls on top of many of the light poles along the way, many of which were Great Black-backed Gulls. At the first island, where the fishing pier, restaurant, and gift shop are located, we saw at least 30 Dunlins feeding on the algae-covered rocks. Then I saw three birds that I thought were Ruddy Ducks, but it turns out I was wrong. A woman on the pier who belongs to the local bird club there told me she thought they were Black Scoters, and after I compared my photos to the field guide later on, I realized she was right. She also pointed out a Gannet flying in the distance, and I took a couple mediocre photos that just barely serve to confirm the species identification. Life bird! There was also a Double-crested Cormorant right next to the pier, basking in the bright sunlight.
Black Scoter (female), at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
Double-crested Cormorant, at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
The next day we got up before dawn to watch the sun rise (beautiful colors), and then walked out to the beach to see all the birds. There were various kinds of Gulls, Cormorants in the distance, Brown Pelicans, and even some Dolphins! What I initially thought were Great Black-backed Gulls turned out to be Lesser Black-backed Gulls, based on the size and leg color: yellow, not pink. Yet another life bird for me!
Dolphin, about 75 yards from the shore at Virginia Beach.
[But the best part on the beach came just as I was about to head back to the hotel. I took a look through the binoculars at some of the birds that had just landed among all the gulls, and noticed several with bright orange beaks. Terns! I didn't know which species they were until I looked at my field guide. I determined that most of them (a dozen or so) were Royal Terns, and a few others were Forster's Terns -- a third life bird for me! Unfortunately, I couldn't persuade Jacqueline to come back and see for herself, but she did get a look at the Terns later on from inside the hotel, using the binoculars. I also saw a few Brown Pelicans flying along the shore, and one flew directly overhead for a nice photo op.]
Royal Tern, at Virginia Beach.
Forster's Tern, at Virginia Beach.
After breakfast, we went to First Landing State Park, which has miles of trails leading through a varied habitat. I was amazed to see all the Spanish Moss hanging from the trees as we hiked along. On the bay, I saw a few Buffleheads, and in the trees I saw many Yellow-rumped Warblers. None of the hoped-for Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrows, unfortunately. I was thrilled when I first heard a Brown-headed Nuthatch, but I had a hard time getting any good looks, much less a photo. Finally, just before we left, I zoomed in on one that was up in a tree about 30 yards away. The photos I took were rather blurry, but good enough.
Next we went to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, where we had visited in August 2008. (Six years ago? Gracious.) There were at least a hundred ducks on the water, but the only ones close enough to identify were a few Gadwalls. In the trees were many Yellow-rumped Warblers, in the grasses were various sparrows, and in the marshes there was a -- Marsh Wren!!! I could hear its scratchy call, and caught glimpses as it moved around in the reeds just a few feet away, but never did get a good look. I also had a glimpse of a very small olive-colored bird that I thought was a Kinglet, but the photo I took clearly indicates otherwise. Based on the habitat (leafy bushes), location, and time of year, I'm pretty sure that it was a Orange-crowned Warbler. That's a very uncommon species, and I have only seen them -- probably -- once or twice before.
Sadly, time was short, and we had to hurry home to beat the forecast rain showers. After a lightning-quick tour of downtown Norfolk, seeing the ships in dry dock across the Elizabeth River, as well as the battleship Wisconsin, we headed home. The photographs I took of Brown Pelicans, the Gannet, and the Brown-headed Nuthatch weren't that great, but the Tern and Gull photos were very good. You can see all the new photos on my Wild birds yearly photo gallery page.
I have added Gannet, Lesser Black-backed Gull, and Forster's Tern to my Life bird list, which now totals 455. With 47 new birds so far this year, I have already tied my second-best year ever, 1997.
For the second time in its brief six-year lifetime, Citi Field's dimensions are being reduced. The distance to the right-center fence will be 380 feet rather than 390 feet, in hopes that it will be easier for David Wright to hit home runs out there. It was originally 415 feet to the deep corner out there. I'm glad the fence is being straightened out, since the bend that was put there in 2012 was arbitrary and served no purpose. But frequent changes such as this seem tacky and almost desperate. It reminds me of how many times the Boston Braves changed the fences (and/or diamond position) at Braves Field. See ESPN and the New York Post. Hat tips to Mike Zurawski, Terry Wallace, and Glenn Simpkins.
And so, I made some provisional modifications to the Citi Field diagram, along with the previous (2012) and original (2009) diagrams, but since I'm yet not sure where the bullpens are going to be, I put "WORK IN PROGRESS" and question marks in the (purely conjectural) bullpens. So, this doesn't count as an official "update."
And speaking of stadium shrinkage, I mentioned that many seats in the right field upper deck at Progressive Field are being removed to make room for fancy watering holes, etc. They did the same thing at Coors Field last year, but I failed to make note of it. In both cases, I have begun making the necessary diagram revisions.
And of course, the "daddy of them all" when it comes to (baseball) stadium shrinkage is U.S. Cellular Field. In that case, the revised diagrams are nearly completed.
One could argue that FedEx Field has shrunk more than any other in terms of seating capacity, but with the Redskins doing so poorly lately, I'd rather not go there.
There is more news about stadiums yet to come...
A clock for baseball?
To save time in a sport that seems to drag on longer and longer each year, the Arizona Fall League is using a clock in baseball. In today's Washington Post, James Wagner wrote that the average length of nine-inning games in 2014 was 3 hours 2 minutes, compared to 2 hours 33 minutes in 1981. Indeed, something has to be done to attract more potential fans.
I agree with Nationals prospect Spencer Kieboom (!), who said "I don't like the idea of a clock in baseball..." I would restrict conferences on the mound, etc. (as they are doing in Arizona), but I would penalize pitchers throwing the ball to first base too often, charging them with a ball on every second throw. I would also charge batters a strike if they step out of the batter's box more than once in an at-bat.
Stanton gets $325 M deal
The rumors were true! The Miami Marlins owners (mainly Jeffrey Loria) are so desperate to prove they are committed to fielding a good team that they agreed to pay their young slugger Giancarlo Stanton $325 million over the course of a 13-year contract. That's nearly a third of a billion dollars, and perhaps over half of what Marlins Park cost to build. (Estimates vary widely; see bleacherreport.com and nbcsports.com.) That's just unheard-of, and more than a little ridiculous, I think. Team President David Samson hailed the deal as a big boost to ticket sales, and Miami fans are obviously in need of some kind of motivation. Stanton, whose name is spelled "Staunton" here in Virginia (!), hit 37 home runs in 2014, the most in the National League. See MLB.com, which also notes that the Marlins made an offer to a certain former National...
LaRoche joins White Sox
ESPN reports that the Chicago White Sox signed former Washington National first baseman Adam LaRoche to a two-year contract worth $25 million. The red-headed lefty (and hunting enthusiast) hit 26 home runs this year, and 243 during his career. He is 35 years old. He thus becomes the second former Nationals slugger named Adam to be acquired by the White Sox. The other was Adam Dunn, who was traded to the Oakland A's this year and announced he would then retire.
COMMENT by: Chris Knight, of Kansas City, KS on Nov 26, 2014 17:54 PM Since I can't comment on the old post. I can comment here about the New KC Stadium Article had a great pre renovation picture of Kauffman showing all the old entrances to the old dugout concourse before it was renovated. There used to be multiple entrances to get down there with plenty of bathroom space for the Box seats. Take note of where all the entrances are when redoing your pre 1998 Kauffman Diagrams (There was not entry behind home plate like there is now.) The way they have the Dugout Concourse now is one of my big pet peeve's of the renovation. They only got 1 entrance on both sides now to go in there so everybody in the lower deck not seated near that entrance overcrowds the Plaza Concourse when getting concessions or using the restrooms while the Dugout concourse never really has a crowd. (I know all about the Dugout Concourse so I go to it many sections away just because I know it's not crowded at all, I even go from the upper deck to use it sometimes) Well anyway the article is here with the nice photo http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/yael-t-abouhalkah/article3895704.html
COMMENT by: Andrew Clem, of Staunton, VA on Nov 30, 2014 01:09 AM I think I know what you're talking about, and will take a closer look. However, the link you provided seems to be to the same column about the possibility of a downtown K.C. stadium which I mentioned a couple weeks ago. I'll try to do some searching for the photo in question.
Trading season is about to get underway, which means that teams are frantically trying to keep their best free agents and players with only one more year on their contracts.
The St. Louis Cardinals signed Adam Wainwright to a five-year contract extension worth approximately $97.5 million. That's the most ever for a Cardinals pitcher. Wainwright has played in St. Louis since his rookie year of 2005, and has grown attached to the city. See MLB.com.
Victor Martinez signed a renewed contract with the Detroit Tigers, worth $68 million over four years. The terms include strong protection against unwanted trades. As a designated hitter, he hit .335 with 32 home runs and 103 RBIs this year. See ESPN.
Following up on an optional contract extension for Denard Span earlier this month, the Washington Nationals have signed outfielder Kevin Frandsen to a one-year renewed contract worth $1 million plus incentives. He was one of the real standouts on the Nationals' bench this year, and the lack of quality backup players hurt the team more than once, so this is good news. See MLB.com.
Rather surprisingly, the Miami Marlins seem serious about keeping Giancarlo Stanton on the team, apparently offering him in the neighborhood of $300 million. If so, that's quite a switch from the franchise owners' frequent "fire sale" approach to cutting payroll costs. I think that would be going too far toward the opposite extreme.
New stadium for K.C.?
NO-O-O-O-O!!!! How does a team celebrate a Cinderella season that includes a razor-close World Series finale in front of the adoring home crowd? By raising the possibility of building a new stadium, apparently. Promoters are using that dumb idea as part of their plan to redevelop ($$$) downtown Kansas City, but don't worry, the Royals fans are not interested. Read what Yael Abouhalkahthe wrote about this at kansascity.com.
Tropicana Field update
As part of my ongoing work on estimating fair and foul territories (see November 8), I made some revisions to the Tropicana Field diagrams. The most significant change is that the grandstand behind home plate bends more sharply than I had previously thought. In this case, fair territory was unchanged, but foul territory was reduced significantly, from about 27,500 to 25,300 square feet. Note that the precise details of the "Rays 360" lower-deck walkway (which supposedly circles the entire field) remain unclear to me, so further revisions may be necessary.
Wrigley Field renovations
More photos of the ongoing bleacher renovations at Wrigley Field can be seen at baseball-fever.com. Hat tip to Bruce Orser. It's really weird to see the brick outfield wall (with the ivy!) but nothing but bare dirt behind it.
Bruce has been sending more more useful information on Griffith Stadium and Tiger Stadium, a.k.a. "Navin Field" in its early years. Diagrams of both those stadiums are in the process of being greatly improved, with more detail and accuracy.
I was supposed to lead a field trip for the Augusta Bird Club on November 1, a Saturday morning, but the weather forecast was bleak, and nobody else showed up. But it really wasn't that bad, so I went ahead anyway, and it proved to be a fairly successful outing. I went to Chimney Hollow, one of my favorite locations, about ten miles west of Staunton, and saw two first-of-season birds: a Brown Creeper, which vanished after just a few seconds, and a Winter Wren, which graciously "posed" for a photo. Their miniature, erect tails are always amusing to behold. Also present were many Golden-crowned Kinglets, some of which came very close. Those tiny things just don't stay put long enough to get a good photo, unfortunately! Later on I went to nearby Braley's Pond, but it was too cold and windy over there, so I went home after a few minutes.
Winter Wren, at Chimney Hollow, on November 1.
Then on November 4, a Tuesday afternoon between classes at CVCC, I went up to Candler's Mountain in Lynchburg. It was the first time I had been there in several months, and I heard a Golden-crowned Kinglet as soon as I stopped my car. I saw it a few times, but as usual didn't get any good photos. But I got lucky with a Brown Creeper, which responded eagerly to the songs of its species in my iPod birding app from Audubon. Bingo!
Brown Creeper, on Candler's Mountain in Lynchburg, on November 4.
Jacqueline and I have been to Bell's Lane and Betsy Bell Hill during the past week, seeing a few good birds such as a Pileated Woodpecker at the latter location, but nothing really spectacular. At Bell's Lane, I saw some Hooded Mergansers at a distance, as well as a probable Green-winged Teal or two, along with all the Canada Geese. White-crowned Sparrows are becoming more numerous there.
Finally, on November 4, another Tuesday afternoon (cue the Moody Blues!), I went to yet another Lynchburg location that I had not seen in many months, and probably more than a year: the Percival Island Nature Area, along the James River near downtown. I saw several Goldfinches, Robins, various woodpeckers, sparrows, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and best of all -- a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker!! It was a first-year male, to be more specific. I had been waiting for a long, long time to get a good closeup photo of that species, and I finally hit pay dirt. I had to digitally edit some of the photos (see the Wild Birds yearly page) because of the difficult lighting conditions (too much or too little), but the results seem to be worth it.
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, in the Percival Island Nature Area, Lynchburg, on November 11.
As many people have been expecting, at least since mid-summer, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw was selected by the Baseball Writers Association of America to receive both the National League Cy Young Award and the Most Valuable Player Award for 2014. It's the same dual honor that Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander was given (for the American League) in 2011, when Kershaw also received the NL Cy Young award. The last such occurrence in the National League was 1968, when Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson achieved that high distinction. Kershaw's ERA was only 1.77, the lowest in the NL since 1995, when Greg Maddux had a 1.63 ERA. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, Kershaw went 0-2 in this year's NLDS.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Angels' center fielder Mike Trout received the American League MVP Award -- the youngest player in history to win by unanimous vote, in fact. He was AL Rookie of the Year in 2012, the year that Bryce Harper won that award on the NL side. The last time a single metropolitan area claimed both leagues' MVP awards was 2002, when Barry Bonds (Giants) and Miguel Tejada (Athletics) did it. See MLB.com.
In a test of skill and determination, Kershaw emerged victorious on September 2 against the Nationals' best pitcher this year, Doug Fister. The Nats won the other two games in that series, however, and that really marked their superb late-season push toward the divisional championship. (See September 5 blog post.)
According to "MASN Dan" Kolko, Anthony Rendon finished fifth in voting for NL MVP, "the highest a Washington Nationals player has ever landed on the NL MVP ballot!" Not bad for a youngster! But if he was regarded so highly, as someone noted, why wasn't he chosen for the All-Star Game? Wait till next year!
In the American League, Cleveland Indians pitcher Cory Kluber won the Cy Young Award, edging Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez, who won that award in 2010. MLB.com. (Perhaps the drubbing Hernandez received at the hands of the Nationals on August 29 was what made the difference.)
Little did I realize when I saw the Indians play the D-Backs in Phoenix on June 25 (see my July 31 blog post, and the box score at baseball-reference.com) that their starting pitcher would end up being the Cy Young winner. Kluber gave up four hits and no runs over seven innings at Chase Field that day, helping the Indians beat the Diamondbacks 7-1. Had I been aware of how good he was, I would have taken a closeup photo of him. D'oh!
The Indians' Cy Young winner Cory Kluber pitching at Chase Field on June 25.
Rookies of the Year
Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets, and Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox, won the NL and AL Rookie of the Year Awards, respectively. DeGrom chalked up a 9-6 record and a 2.69 ERA as a starting pitcher, and has a very promising future. (See MLB.com.) [Abreu won by a landslide on the AL side, though some questioned whether a 27-year old should qualify as a rookie; he previously played in Cuba.] It's good news for both teams, which have struggled in recent years.
Williams: Manager of the Year!
As a testament to his steady, patient leadership, and perhaps to the talent of the team, the Washington Nationals' Matt Williams won NL Manager of the Year. I (and probably others) had raised doubts about his chances after the questionable decisions [he] made in NLDS (see October 11), but the awards are evidently supposed to reflect regular season performances, to make it fair for all teams. [One move by Williams early in the season established his authority in the dugout: He benched Bryce Harper for failing to hustle. Then in August he voiced support for Harper when reporters asked if he might be sent down to the minors during a batting slump. There's little doubt that Williams enjoys strong support from his team, which fully expects another big push toward the postseason next year, and in years after that.]
Manager Matt Williams during the nightcap of a double-header, September 26, after having clinched home field advantage with the best record in the National League that same afternoon.
Two years ago, the Nationals' Davey Johnson won the NL Manager of the Year Award, and he won on the AL side when he managed the Orioles in 1997. For a while in 2005, when the Nationals were leading the NL East Division, it seemed that perhaps Frank Robinson might be up for Manager of the Year.
Here's a nice video montage that summarizes all of the "best" players and managers from this year, including a video clip of Williams' gracious statement: MLB.com.
Golden Glove awards
Baltimore and Kansas City dominated the 2014 American League Golden Glove awards. For the Orioles it was J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis, and for the Royals it was Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, and Salvador Perez. On the National League side, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina earned a Gold Glove for the seventh year in a row. This was the second year that the Gold Gloves have been based on statistics from the Society for American Baseball Research (25 percent) as well as the (traditional) MLB managers and coaches (75 percent). See MLB.com.
Silver Slugger awards
The only top recognitions received by Washington Nationals players this year were the Silver Slugger awards. Shortstop Ian Desmond won his for a third time, and third baseman Anthony Rendon won his for the first time. Desmond hit 24 home runs and 91 RBIs, leading the Nationals in both categories, and has had hit at least 20 home runs and stolen at least 20 bases for a remarkable three years in a row. Rendon was close behind in homers and RBIs, besides excelling defensively. He has become a worthy successor to Ryan Zimmerman at third base. See MLB.com. Not surprisingly, Giants Pitcher Madison Bumgarner won the Silver Slugger at his position, having hit two grand slams this year!
Busch Stadium II, take 2
Wouldn't you know it, I get a very helpful tip from Jonathan Karberg about certain erroneous details in my Busch Stadium II diagrams, so I made a few tweaks, and before you know it, I had discovered some serious discrepancies. (It was just three weeks ago that I last updated those diagrams.) Most significantly, I had to move the front edge of the grandstand along the foul lines forward by about six feet. Eegads! That reduced foul territory from about 25,100 to 22,700 square feet. Other changes included reducing the size of the upper-deck entry portals (note the small lateral staircases on either side of each one), shrinking the bullpens slightly, rendering the bleachers and table seating areas in center field more accurately, reconciling the profiles with the main (top-down) diagrams, and putting in the row of shrubs in front of the bleachers in the 1997 version.
I also (belatedly) updated the text on the Davenport Field page, calling attention to the success (and near-triumph) of the University of Virginia Cavaliers at the 2014 College World Series in Omaha. I'll do a new page with a diagram of TD Ameritrade in the early months of 2015.
A few odds & ends
Here's a few things I noticed on Facebook recently:
Which MLB team has "the most tortured" fans" -- i.e., those who have suffered prolonged frustration, indignity, and/or bad luck? At sportsonearth.com, Will Leitch does a semi-serious ranking based on a thorough review of each team's (and franchise's) history. Of course, the Chicago Cubs ranked #1, not having won a World Series for the past 106 years. The Washington Nationals and the Seattle Mariners (#10) are the only two MLB franchises with zero World Series appearances, and yet somehow the Washington Nationals are ranked at #17. WTF? Apparently, being robbed of a team for an entire generation doesn't factor into their equation.
Want to know who the "9 Most Hated Players In The MLB" are? Take a look at bluelionsports.com. Spoiler alert: Bryce Harper comes in at #2, just behind A-Rod.
I try to avoid worrying about trade rumors, especially far-fetched ones, but one such rumor this week rattled my nerves. Supposedly, Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann was the subject of discussions over a possible trade with the Chicago Cubs. Nats GM Mike Rizzo denied it, obligatorily. See MLB.com.
Finally, pop star Taylor Swift will perform in concert at Nationals Park on Monday, July 13, 2015. OMG!!! As noted on October 29, there seems to be a correlation between her release of new albums and the San Francisco Giants winning the World Series.
Complete blog entries for the current month:
December 2014 (with links to archives of previous months)
My general practice is to make no more than one blog post per day on any one category. For this reason, some blog posts may address more than one specific issue, as indicated by separate headings. If something important happens during the day after I make a blog post, I may add an updated paragraph or section to it, using the word "UPDATE" and sometimes a horizontal rule to distinguish the new material from the original material. For each successive day, blog posts are listed on the central blog page (which brings together all topics) from top to bottom in the following (reverse alphabetical) order, which may differ from the order in which the posts were originally made:
Wild birds (LAST)
Science & Technology *
Culture & Travel *
Canaries ("Home birds")
* part of "Macintosh & Miscellanous" until Feb. 2007
The date of each blog post refers to when the bulk of it was written, in the Eastern Time Zone. For each blog post, the time and date of the original posting (or the last update or comment thereupon) is displayed on the individual archival blog post page that appears (just before the comments section) when you click the [LINK / comments] link next to the date. Non-trivial corrections and clarifications to original blog entries are indicated by the use of [brackets] and/or strikethroughs, as appropriate so as to accurately convey both the factual truth and my original representation of it. Nobody's perfect, but I strive for continual improvement. That is also why some of the nature photos that appear on the archive pages may differ from the (inferior) ones that were originally posted.
The current "home made" blog organization system that I created, featuring real permalinks, was instituted on November 1, 2004. Prior to that date, blog posts were handled inconsistently, and for that reason the pre-2005 archives pages are something of a mess. Furthermore, my blogging prior to June 1, 2004 was often sporadic in terms of frequency.
This blog is distinguished in many ways from the rest of the "blogosphere." My blog entries cover a rigidly defined set of topics, with varying degrees of intensity according to how much is going on in each area, and how much time I have. Being somewhat of a "do-it-yourselfer," I chose a "home-made" approach rather than conforming to the common blogging systems such as Blogger or WordPress. The blog entries and archives are arranged in a sort of "proprietary" scheme that I have gradually developed over time. Finally, being an old-fashioned, soft-spoken kind of guy, I avoid attention-grabbing sensationalism and strident rhetoric, and strive instead to maintain a reasonable, dignified, respectful tone.
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