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,
In one of the biggest bombshells of the entire winter season, earlier this week the Washington Nationals signed former Detroit Tiger pitcher Max Scherzer to a seven-year contract worth $210 million. That includes an incredible $50 million signing bonus for the man who had been the object of much speculation since becoming a free agent in October. Today Scherzer was formally introduced to the media in Washington, with grinning General Manager Mike Rizzo and Manager Matt Williams at his side.
After being traded to the Detroit Tigers by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009, Scherzer won 82 games over five seasons, and received the American League Cy Young Award in 2013. (See MLB.com.) There's no doubt that he will make a huge impact wherever he plays, so it's mainly a question of whether he will stay healthy.
As a perpetual skeptic, I confess to having mixed feelings about the Scherzer acquisition. Is he really worth that much?Washington Post columnists Barry Svrluga and Adam Kilgore think so. The Nats' starting rotation was already one of the best in baseball already, merely lacking a superstar of Scherzer's caliber. Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, and Stephen Strasburg are potential superstars who could yet achieve that status, and if Gio Gonzalez gets back in the groove he showed in 2012, the same for him. Even the fifth pitcher, Tanner Roark, abounds with talent and competitive spirit. For me, keeping Jordan Zimmermann as part of the Nats' rotation should be a top priority.
This mega-deal raised immediate questions about whether the Nats could afford to keep their current star players whose contracts are nearing expiration. But the front office on South Capitol Street says they are planning to keep their core starting pitchers, as well as shortstop Ian Desmond. Owner Ted Lerner obviously has deep pockets, and at age 89 he be motivated to win a World Series while he's still alive. Hmmm... See MLB.com. If so, they really are in "World Series or bust" mode. This is shaping up to be one heck of a year for the Nationals, but the future is far less certain...
Other deals by the Nationals
With a deep, well-balanced roster full of (mostly) young talent, the Washington Nationals have only one clear need: a top-notch second baseman. Asdrubal Cabrera (acquired in August to fill the void when Anthony Rendon replaced Ryan Zimmerman at third base) was OK, but he was clearly not the best choice for a long-term contract. But I was as surprised as anybody that rock-solid relief pitcher Tyler Clippard was traded away last week, for a fair but not stellar Yunel Escobar. (See MLB.com) Was that really the best deal they could get?? Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell wondered what General Manager Mike Rizzo was thinking. Maybe this was part of a brilliant scheme by Rizzo to reshape the pitching staff, anticipating the Scherzer deal, but if he thinks Tanner Roark is going to accept a demotion from the pitching rotation to the bullpen, look at how the once-promising pitcher Ross Detwiler took that treatment last year. Human beings crave respect as much as money, and sometimes more so.
With his goofy goggles and unique delivery style, Clippard was a popular player in Washington, and kids at Nationals Park were delighted to get the bobblehead doll in his likeness last fall. Now that "Clip" is gone, there are lots of sad faces in Nats Town.
Earlier this month, the Nats signed former Marlin infielder Dan Uggla to a minor league contract, apparently taking a chance that he might regain his former slugging prowess. He's been declining for the past couple years, so that was another puzzle.
In a complicated multi-team trade last month, the Tampa Bay Rays got former Nationals rookie outfielder Steven Souza Jr., the guy who saved Jordan Zimmermann's no-hitter last September 29. (Have I mentioned that before?) In return, the Nationals got right-hand pitcher Joe Ross and a "player to be named" (Trea Turner) from the Padres. See MLB.com.
Werth gets surgery on shoulder
Two weeks ago, Jayson Werth had surgery to repair on his right (throwing arm) shoulder, which started ailing him last August. It was feared that it might take him until mid-April or May to fully recover, but he says he'll be ready by Opening Day. I sure hope so. See MLB.com. Werth is 35 years old, and has three years left on his contract.
Get well soon, Jayson!
Seattle stadia mass update
As a tribute to the Seattle Seahawks, the defending Super Bowl champions who hosted the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game last Sunday,* I updated the diagrams on the Sicks' Stadium, the Kingdome, and Safeco Field pages. I managed to finish the first two before the game, but as usual, it took longer than expected to make all the necessary corrections to Safeco Field. So the actual updates to both Sicks' Stadium and the Kingdome were on January 18, four days ago.
* Was that an amazing fourth-quarter comeback by the Seahawks, or what? The Packers seemed to have it all wrapped up with less than five minutes to play, and then their defense melted away.
Sicks' Stadium update
The Sicks' Stadium diagrams include more detail in the outfield seating areas, where a wide lateral walkway was punctuated by stairs between each section. They also show the peripheral buildings, presumably housing maintenance equipment and/or offices, as well as the adjacent streets. But the most interesting enhancement is the the new "roofless" diagram, showing where the entry portals and support beams were located in the main grandstand. Also, the grandstand is about eight feet deeper than I previously estimated.
Yep, it's the same old story: less than a month after I made some minor corrections to the Kingdome diagrams, I noticed a small discrepancy on one of them (the removable seating sections near the right and left field corners), fixed that, and soon found other small " the wrinkles" and got carried away until I ironed them out all. The only significant change was that the upper deck in the basketball version does not extend as far toward the east (left field) as before. When the Seattle Supersonics played there the Kingdome was in the original (1976) configuration. But I figured while I was at it, I should offer a "hypothetical alternative" layout, with home plate moved straight back 15 feet. That would have yielded a more "normal" sized outfield, while putting fans closer to the action.
Safeco Field BIG update
Over a year and a half after a "premature" diagram update that left several issues unresolved, I finally completed revisions to the Safeco Field diagrams. For the first time, there are multiple diagram versions that vividly show how the retractable roof operates, including a "transparent roof" version. Compared to the July 2013 version, the upper deck extends about ten feet less toward left field, while the bend near the right field corner is a few feet deeper. The small staircases on either side of the entry portals are depicted more clearly than before, with gray shading to distinguish them from the flat balconies. Other details: The small upper deck behind the bullpens in left field are a few feet shallower, as is the similar upper deck in center field. Finally, the bends in the grandstand are depicted by gray lines. Reconciling those bends in the upper deck vis-a-vis the lower deck was perhaps the biggest headache I faced in getting everything right.
My prior haste was due to a desire to account for parts of the outfield fences being moved in several feet prior to the 2013 season.) For an explanation of the changes in outfield dimensions that year, see MLB.com. Except for left-center field, it really didn't shrink much.
Jacqueline and I drove up to Bridgewater yesterday, and we stopped at the North River to see if any of the interesting waterfowl reported there recently were present. There were just the usual Mallards, plus some Coots and Pied-bill Grebes the first time we stopped there, but as we were crossing the bridge on the way back home, I caught a glimpse of a Northern Pintail and yelled "STOP!" I got out of the car, walked back over to the bridge, which has sidewalks for pedestrians. I managed to get close enough to get some very nice photos, which made my day. At Silver Lake in nearby Dayton, there were a dozen or more Gadwalls, some Redheads, a Canvasback, a Mute Swan, and all the usual Mallards and Canada Geese.
Northern Pintails are elegant birds that are more abundant in western states. They are "dabbling ducks," like Mallards, and are related to Gadwalls. When I took that photo, I didn't realize that it was in breeding plumage, an added bonus. Their non-breeding plumage is rather dull, as is the case with many other birds.
Northern Pintail (male), in Bridgewater, January 15.
The above photo and others can be seen on the Wild birds yearly photo gallery page. I thought the Pintail might have been a life bird for me, since I knew I hadn't seen that species in years. In fact, the last two times were January 2009 and February 2007, on the (private) farm pond on Bell's Lane in both cases.
Other recent bird outings
Jacqueline and I celebrated New Year's Day by taking a drive through the countryside, passing through Waynesboro along the way. The highlight of the day was at the Eagles Nest Airport pond west of Waynesboro, where we saw a male Canvasback and a pair of Ruddy Ducks. Otherwise, not much going on.
Canvasback (male), Eagles Nest Airport pond, January 1.
On Christmas Day, Jacqueline and I went looking for a Cackling Goose that had been reported on Heston's Pond south of Waynesboro, to no avail. But we did see a few Hooded Mergansers on the Invista (formerly DuPont) pond in Waynesboro. There wasn't much activity in the Bell's Lane area in December, but that may reflect my busy exam schedule and being "under the weather" for about a week. I saw a Northern Harrier on Bell's Lane on December 8 and 21, but none since then. On December 5 I went to Lake Shenandoah, and saw a pair of Common Loons, as well as some Coots and a Kestrel. The previous day I went to the water treatment pond in Stuarts Draft, and some several Ruddy Ducks, a Coot, and a Kestrel. On December 1 I drove out to Swoope in hopes of seeing unusual sparrows, but failed in that endeavor. I did see an adult Bald Eagle, however, as well as some Kestrels. And finally, on November 25, the day after my last blog post about birds, I saw several Kinglets of both species, and got a nice photo of Ruby-crowned Kinglet.
Life bird list recount
At the end of my November 24 blog post, I noted that I had already tied my second-best year in terms of seeing new birds: 1997, when I saw 47 (including one in Peru). I was hoping to do one better, but as noted above I was too busy (or sick) in December to do much birding. Just today I went over my records again, and discovered that I had actually seen 48 new species last year (including a probable Hooded Oriole in Arizona), so I have revised my Life bird list to show that 2014 was indeed my second-best (birding) year ever! [Obviously, my big trip to the desert southwest last June accounted for the vast majority of those species. I saw three life birds in the early winter months, a nice side-effect of the "polar vortex," and three life birds in the Virginia Beach area in November.] My current lifetime total now stands at 456 bird species.
Just in time for the AFC playoff game last Sunday,* but without having the desired good luck effect, I updated the diagrams for Mile High Stadium, home of the Colorado Rockies and Denver Broncos. There are two noticeable differences compared to the last revision in September 2011: first, the entry portals are now shown (that greatly enhances accuracy); and second, the bleachers on the south side are much bigger than before. Since it's a pretty basic rounded rectangle shape, you'd think the revisions would be easy, and so did I. Wrong!
Note that there are now two early-era baseball configuration diagrams (1948 and 1965), along with a new 1968 football configuration diagram. That was the year that the grandstand was triple-decked (but on the west side only), and when what used to called "Bears Stadium" assumed the new name. Previously, I had thought that that only the second deck was built in 1968, and that the third deck was added in 1976-1977. Wrong!
The "combined" version diagram has side notes that explain exactly when which parts of the stadium were built, and has a profile that pertains to the east (movable) grandstand, where the ground was at field level (or vice versa). On the north and west sides, in contrast, the rear of the grandstand lower deck was at ground level. That is why the profile of the other Mile High diagrams show just the slab of the lower deck without any suggestion of subterranean structures. Other than the dugouts, clubhouses, and tunnels, I'm pretty sure there weren't any. (I did the same thing for Dodger Stadium last month, and may do likewise for other stadiums, where appropriate, in the future.)
* The Indianapolis Colts beat the host Denver Broncos in what might have been Peyton Manning's last game in the NFL. If so, it's too bad he couldn't go out on a more upbeat note. Ironically, the Colts were his team until his contract was allowed to expire three years ago, and the new quarterback seems to have had more Luck.
Diagram progress report
Ironically, the relative paucity of my blog posts this month is a reflection of how much time I have spent on revising ballpark diagrams. It's a lot easier to do the ones I have actually been to, since I always take lots of detailed photos that reveal the mysterious "innards" of baseball stadiums. Would you believe I have had to make some significant changes to the Comerica Park diagrams? Of course you would. In the next few days, I plan to release a major "State of the Diagrams" report, to coincide with the President's "State of the Union" address.
Baseball blog plug
Take a look at Timeless Baseball, which features occasional articles by George Case related to baseball during the World War II era. You can also get a DVD full of rare images of games, players, and stadiums from that long-ago time.
Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Craig Biggio were chosen by the Baseball Writers Association of America for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. They received 97.3%, 91.1%, 82.9%, and 82.7% of the 412 votes, respectively. (A player needs to get 75% to be accepted into the HOF.) According to MLB.com, "It was the first time in 60 years that the BBWAA has elected four players from the same ballot and the first time three pitchers were elected in the same year." The three pitchers were elected in their first year of eligibility, while Biggio was elected in his third year.
Johnson ("The Big Unit") spent most of his career with the Seattle Mariners and then moved to Arizona, helping the Diamondbacks win the 2001 World Series, sharing the World Series MVP award with Curt Schilling. Johnson retired as a Giant, which was appropriate for his height. (!) He received the Cy Young Award five times, striking out 4,875 batters in his career. Martinez played for the Montreal Expos, and then of course the Boston Red Sox (1998-2004), helping them win the 2003 World Series. He won three Cy Young Awards. Smoltz was part of the famed Atlanta Braves trio (with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, who entered the HOF last year), helping his team win the 1995 World Series. Unlike them, Smoltz played a full 20 seasons for the Braves, who went to the playoffs in 14 times during his tenure. Biggio (the only non-pitcher) is the first-ever Houston Astro player in the Hall of Fame; he played his entire 20-year career there, amassing 3,060 hits. He was a key factor in the Astros' first-ever World Series appearance in 2005. As for the other two "Killer B's" (famed Astros sluggers of the last decade), Jeff Bagwell received enough BBWAA votes to remain eligible for future HOF consideration, and Lance Berkman was not listed.
Mike Piazza missed the 75% cutoff by a small margin, and is all but assured of getting in next year. Several big stars who were tainted by the doping scandal were well below the needed threshhold, and probably will never make it.
Curt Schilling was reportedly miffed at not being chosen, blaming media bias against his conservative political activity. Or maybe he was just kidding! See Rob Neyer at foxsports.com. Schilling's a pretty classy, sensible guy, and grousing like that would seem out of character.
The four HOF-members-to-be appeared on David Letterman's "Late Show," doing the Top Ten list. For those (like me) who missed it, watch the replay at CBS.com. The induction ceremonies will take place next July 26 in Cooperstown. That will be one heck of an occasion!
Congratulations, Randy, Pedro, John, and Craig!
PNC Park major update(s)
I took care of another glaring deficiency in my lineup of stadium diagrams yesterday*, with a set of new exquisitely detailed renderings of PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. It's not for nothing that they call it "The Best Ballpark in America." Once again, the inclusion of entry portals and structural members between the grandstand sections led to significant revisions in angles and positions. Going through my copious stock of photographs which I took there in August 2009 made possible a vast improvement in accuracy. One obvious difference compared to the old version (December 2010) is that there is no lateral walkway in the upper deck. There are, instead, a series of wide open flat areas, connected by a barrier between the upper and lower parts of the upper deck. Rigid "segregation" of fans is enforced in Pittsburgh!
I actually uploaded the newly revised images on Thursday night, and then discovered a few minor glitches during Friday, necessitating a series of fixes and uploads. Then in the late afternoon I came upon a significant discrepancy involving the scoreboard and adjacent seating sections. For example, by closely scrutinizing the photos I took there in 2009, I learned that the 2-3 rows of seats in the third level behind left field are directly beneath the scoreboard, and hang slightly over the second level. One thing led to another, until I finally got everything just right -- or so I thought. Today (Saturday) I found a discrepancy relating to the profiles, and had to change all of those. The key clue? The circularheptagonal (!) rotunda pedestrian ramp near the left field corner. Each level is the same height, which meant that the height of the lower deck equals the vertical distance between the main concourse and the [lower-] upper concourse [-- as opposed to the upper-upper concourse]. That raised the total height of the stadium by about eight feet. So everything is perfect -- for the time being, at least. Am I a perfectionist? Guilty as charged.
I added a "new" photo to that page, taken from the lower deck behind home plate, toward left field. It was a cloudy day, which is why the image is only so-so, but it vividly depicts the incomparably awesome scenery of the ballpark and the urban backdrop. I hope it's sunnier the next time I go there.
As a fitting way to observe the Happy New Year, the 2015 edition of the National Hockey League's Winter Classic is about to get underway at Nationals Park. The Washington Capitals are hosting the Chicago Black Hawks, with the game starting at 1:00 P.M. So, of course I had to make a new hockey diagram, which happens to be the fifth such diagram I have done. It's based on photos I've seen in the Washington Post.
Other than Dodger Stadium, all stadiums listed above were hosting the Winter Classic. The inaugural (2008) Winter Classic was played at Ralph Wilson Stadium in suburban Buffalo, New York, the 2011 Winter Classic was played at Heinz Field in Philadelphia, and the 2014 Winter Classic was played at Michigan Stadium (football capacity 102,000) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. There was no such event in 2013 due to the NHL lockout. (See wikipedia.org.) This all got started in 2003 when the Edmonton Oilers hosted Montreal Canadiens in the Heritage Classic played at Commonwealth Stadium (football capacity 56,000) in Edmonton, Alberta. That's 300 miles north of Montana: br-r-r-r!!! The Heritage Classic was revived in 2014 and may renew Canadian interest in outdoor hockey.
In addition, there was a hockey match at Progressive Field in January 2012, with Ohio State hosting the University of Michigan, so I'll probably get around to doing a hockey version of that as well.
Dude, where's the bowl games?
Has anyone else noticed how few bowl games there are on TV today? It used to be that New Year's Day was chock full of such collegiate football extravanzas, but today all I see scheduled are the Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the Citrus Bowl and the Outback Bowl. (Corporate sponsor names are omitted in the interests of brevity.) I don't understand why they have been spreading out bowl games throughout late December and early January. For what it's worth, the very first official, bona fide College National Championship football game will be held on January 12, between the winners of the Sugar Bowl and the Rose Bowl. Good riddance to the FBS!
COMMENT by: Ian Cypes, of So. Burlington, VT on Jan 01, 2015 15:55 PM If it helps, The new Yankee Stadium hosted TWO NHL games last season with my Rangers being hosted by the Islanders and New Jersey (Madison Square Garden doesn't allow any Rangers home games outside of the Garden).
Also, FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) is every Division 1 school that can play for a bowl. You meant to say BCS
COMMENT by: Andrew Clem, of Staunton, VA on Jan 01, 2015 16:32 PM Thanks again, Ian. Yes, I meant BCS. More importantly, the Capitals scored a goal in the final minute of the match which just ended, winning 3-2! Too good to be true.
I have finally completed the 2014 Nationals' day-to-day winning percentage chart, which is now on the Washington Nationals page. Even though the end-of-season winning percentage (.593) was about the same as in 2012 (.605), the month-to-month trends were markedly different. (Roll your mouse over the chart to compare the two years.) In 2012, the Nats started hot right out of the gate, in spite of multiple injuries, and cooled off somewhat in May. Nevertheless, they stayed close to .600 for through mid-summer, and then surged again in August. In September the Braves stayed close behind, while the Nats coasted. They finally clinched the division title in the last few days of the season.
In 2014, in contrast, the early part of the season was anything but auspicious. This time injuries undermined their competitiveness, as Ryan Zimmerman, Doug Fister, and Bryce Harper missed several weeks each. May was just terrible, but gradually they improved in June, and by late July they claimed first place in the NL East. An amazing ten-game winnin streak (with six walk-off victories) propelled them into a big lead over the Braves, and in September their advantage only widened. They clinched the division title by September 16, and finished the season 17 games ahead of the Braves and Marlins. And then the crushing disappointment of the postseason followed, which was quite similar to what had transpired in 2012. Wait till next year!!!
Here's a useful item: At natsinsider.com Mark Zuckerman presented "The Nats' all-time stats leaders after 10 seasons."
The Washington Nationals have now existed, believe it or not, for 10 full baseball seasons. Opening Day 2015 will mark the actual tenth anniversary of the team's existence. It might be a good occasion for me to see another Opening Day game, since I was there in Philadelphia (along with my friend from New York Phil Faranda) for the very first Washington Nationals game: April 4, 2005.
I'll have to wait until tomorrow (again!) to get to all the Nationals transactions...
The Cubs sign Jon Lester
Cubs showed they are serious about winning again, having signed former Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester to a fat, juicy contract worth $155 million over six years. See MLB.com. It's by far the biggest contract in franchise history. Hopefully it will work out better than the Alfonso Soriano contract did...
K.C. Municipal Stadium update
It's the same old story: I got started making some minor tweaks on my K.C. Municipal Stadium diagrams, and before you knew it, I got bogged down in a variety of uncertainties. But it was all worth it, as I made a few significant changes to the peripheral parts of the stadium and adjacent facilities. The diagrams have been revised, with much new detail.
I scoured through baseball-fever.com archives looking at all the photos to unlock various mysteries of K.C. Municipal Stadium. One thing that struck me: There is a photo of the rear exterior of the stadium (the southwest corner), the only one I have ever seen, and it's easy to know why. It was UGLY! No bricks, no big sign, no architectural trimming, just bare steel beams and corrugated steel sheets.
Kingdome minor tweak
Prompted by the desire to finish soccer diagrams (as mentioned four days ago), I made some unplanned minor revisions to the Kingdome diagrams. I realized that the entry portals needed to be reduced in size and repositioned slightly. While I was at it, I went ahead and included the lower-deck entry portals in all of the Kingdome diagrams; previously they were only shown in the lower-deck diagram. Nothing else changed in those diagrams.
Coincidentally, the last update to the Kingdome diagrams was exactly two years ago. Seeing that blog post reminded me that the Washington Redskins actually made it to the postseason in 2012. How times have changed. This year they were 4-12.
More soccer diagrams!
Thanks to Ian Cypes for the tip about soccer in Yankee Stadium II, which hosted Liverpool vs. Manchester City last July 30. (There were other such events as well.) According to worldsoccertalk.com, preparations for that match were inadequate, and the temporary sod laid over the infield dirt was not smooth at all. The soccer field fit very nicely inside the confines of New Yankee Stadium, however. Note that my soccer diagram is based on a photo of some other match, when the soccer field was laid out at more of an angle, overlapping most of the pitcher's mound.
Likewise, I found a great photo of a Seattle Sounders soccer match in the Kingdome (in 1980), at seattlemag.com. I was almost done with the Safeco Field revisions anyway, so it was easy to do a soccer version of it. From doing that diagram, I realized they had to reduce the size of the soccer field to avoid having to overlap too much dirt area, which had to be sodded.
So, there are now three (3) new soccer diagram which you can see on the Soccer use (of baseball stadiums) page. At least in terms of stadiums (if not matches), it is now complete -- as far as I know. The respective stadium pages will be updated to include those soccer version diagrams soon.
Stadium chronology fixup
The Stadium chronology, annual page has been updated to include the impending demolition of Candlestick Park next month, and the indefinitely postponed demolition of the Astrodome. It also lists the major renovations that took place at Dodger Stadium and Coors Field this year, and the ongoing renovations at Progressive Field and Wrigley Field, which should be done by April.
Opening Day will be Sunday April 5 as the Cardinals visit the Cubs at Wrigley Field, while all other teams start the season on April 6. The "countdown" will start on the Baseball blog page at midnight, New Years Eve!
After years and years of waiting, fans of the D.C. United soccer team are rejoicing that the city government has finally approved funding for a new soccer stadium. The D.C. Council voted unanimously (12-0) in favor of the proposal on December 17. The agreement specifies that the city will provide $140 million in financing, $106 million of which will be borrowed, while the D.C. United owners will pay for the rest. Acquisition of land is the only remaining hurdle.
The new stadium will have 20,000 seats, mostly covered by a roof, in a plain rectangular shape typical of soccer stadiums, with a curved protrusion on the east side. It will be located three blocks southwest of Nationals Park, in the "Buzzard Point" area. That's basically an industrial wasteland similar to what the land occupied by Nationals Park used to be like. Once again, some local businesses and residents are objecting to being disrupted or displaced, and there may be some eminent domain proceedings in court. Read all about it in the Washington Post.
This photo of the Buzzard Point section of Washington, which I took on September 28 from Nationals Park, is nearly identical to the one published in the Washington Post. The new soccer stadium will lie approximately between that big gravel pile and the conical storage building. In the distance you can see the Potomac River, Fort McNair, and (on the right) Reagan National Airport. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)
I wonder what the wishy-washy former D.C. Council Chairwoman Linda Cropp would have said about this deal? (See December 2005, when the deal to build a new baseball stadium for the Washington Nationals almost collapsed.) Or what about former Mayor and Councilman Marion Barry? He opposed the bill to fund what became Nationals Park when the final vote was made in February 2006, and passed away a few weeks ago, after battling a variety of health problems.
This deal means that D.C. United might leave RFK Stadium as soon as 2017. Will demolition soon follow? The last time I was there, on September 28, I noticed that the paint is badly peeling on it. The D.C. Government is pushing to be chosen as hosts of the 2024 Olympic Games, in which case a big new stadium would no doubt be built where RFK Stadium currently stands. Such a new stadium would no doubt become the new home of the Washington Redskins -- or whatever the team may be called in the future.
The deal also signifies belated appreciation for D.C. United, which has to compete against teams that play in stadiums designed for soccer. (A few MLS teams still play in football stadiums.) D.C. United won the MLS Cup four times: 1996, 1997, 1999, and 2004. They have not done as well in recent years, but 2014 they showed a marked improvement, with the best record in the Eastern Conference of Major League Soccer, with 17 wins, 9 losses, and 8 ties. Unfortunately, they lost to the New York Red Bulls in the playoffs. (Much like the Nationals lost to the wild card Giants in the NLDS this year.) In the championship match held at StubHub Center in Carson, California on December 7, L.A. Galaxy beat the New England Revolution 2-1 in extra time to win the 2014 MLS Cup. (See mlssoccer.com.)
Soccer in baseball stadiums
Speaking of soccer, Zach LaFleur informs me via the "Stadium impressions" feature that soccer was played at Dodger Stadium last year. So I checked, and learned that there were two soccer matches there in August 2013: Real Madrid vs. Everton, and the MLS L.A. Galaxy vs. Juventus. (See latimes.com.) And coincidentally, while going through my stacks of unopened e-mail messages, I found that Mark London had called to my attention several months ago that a soccer match was (to be) played at Miller Park last July. (See onmilwaukee.com.) So, of course I just had to create soccer version diagrams of Dodger Stadium and Miller Park, which you can see -- along with all the other soccer version diagrams -- by rolling your mouse over the stadium names in the list below:
In the process of doing the new diagrams, I learned that the soccer "pitch" (field) at Dodger Stadium was significantly undersized. A normal-sized soccer field would have fit just fine in Dodger Stadium before they added all those extra rows of box seats in 2005. Among the stadiums in the above list, only RFK Stadium and Yankee Stadium had soccer matches on a routine basis, concurrently with baseball games. For all the rest, from what I can tell, it was just special exhibition matches, in most cases one time only. In the course of some research, I learned that at least two other baseball stadiums have hosted a soccer match for which I have not done such a diagram: the Kingdome and Safeco Field.
But wait, there's more! I also created a brand-new Soccer use (of baseball stadiums) page to go along with the existing Football use (of baseball stadiums) page. It describes the various circumstances by which soccer was played at those stadiums, along with the dates. The new page is, of course, a "work in progress." It will be updated to show soccer diagrams of Kingdome and Safeco Field (and perhaps others) at some time in the future.
By the way, if anyone knows of other baseball stadiums used for soccer, please let me know, either by e-mail or just by commenting on this blog post.
OK, I'll get to the actual baseball news tomorrow...
COMMENT by: Ian Cypes, of So. Burlington, VT on Dec 28, 2014 11:42 AM The New Yankee Stadium Has hosted soccer exhibition games before and is scheduled to be the temporary home of the MLS expansion team NYCFC
Just in time for Christmas (!), I updated the Coors Field diagrams, showing for the first time the platform seating areas and access stairs in the upper deck. I added new versions for the second and third decks, which show the structural beams that demarcate each section of the stadium. That proved invaluable to getting certain details right, such as the position of the grandstand near the right-field corner. Among the changes are: the scoreboard on the right field wall extends about ten feet further toward center field, "pushing" the bullpens in that direction. I may add a lower-deck version as well eventually.
This update rectifies a glaring omission that I belatedly mentioned in November: the major renovation to the right field upper deck which Coors Field underwent one year ago. All of the seats above where the entry portals used to be were removed in the process of that renovation. One obvious question stemming from this is how much was the capacity reduced. Wanna guess? ZERO! At least that's the official story: "Coors Field's capacity remains at 50,398, including standing room only tickets." (denverpost.com) Talk about bogus! Given that there were eight and a half sections with 16 rows and 24 seats per row, plus a couple hundred more in the three rows situated on the "balcony," I estimate that there were 3,450 seats taken out, so that's an awful lot of SRO.
Note that the Coors Field page features enhanced block-style "dynamic diagram" links, making it easier to compare different diagram versions. After tweaking that new format, I'll probably incorporate that into all my stadium pages eventually, along with other enhancements.
I also updated the text on that page, calling attention to Todd Helton's retirement at the end of the 2013 season. He had spent his entire career (17 years) with the Rockies, amassing 2,519 hits, 369 home runs, and a .316 batting average. [See MLB.com.] He's certainly worthy of consideration for the Hall of Fame.
Ballparks in the news
For many weeks, I have been curious about plans to begin demolition on Candlestick Park. According to a recent story at Yahoo sports, crews will begin tearing it down early next year, perhaps within a month. That story includes photos taken by an amateur drone aircraft that show the "eerie" insides of Candlestick Park, with most of the seats already removed. For your amusement, take a look at the whimsical proposal to turn Candlestick Park into a giant community greenouse: sfgate.com.
On a brighter note, folks in Houston are doing their best to keep the Astrodome in good physical condition, in hopes of making it a permanent historic landmark. Mark London tells me that a local group is planning a massive exterior "bath" that will cost about $63,800. See click2houston.com. So, chances are still good that I'll get to see the Astrodome one of these days, but alas not Candlestick Park.
In Chicago, work continues on rebuilding the bleachers at Wrigley Field, and thanks to Mike Zurawski, you can see some renderings of what the completed project will look like at curbed.com.
Mike also drew my attention to some new renderings of the Atlanta Braves' future home, Sun Trust Park, at MLB.com. My initial impression is that it resembles Target Field, with distinct "postmodernist" stylings. We'll see if my skeptical attitude can be overcome.
I'll have to wait until tomorrow to get caught up with news about trades involving Jon Lester, Stephen Souza, etc. In the mean time,
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, baseball fans!
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.
Complete blog entries for the current month:
January 2015 (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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