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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,

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August 19, 2014 [LINK / comment]

Rob Manfred to replace Bud Selig

Rob Manfred was elected last week as a replacement for MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, beating the main rival, Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner. A three-quarters majority was needed for election. Manfred is currently chief operating officer for Major League Baseball, where he has worked since 1998. Before that, he was an attorney in Washington, D.C. (Did he yearn for baseball back then?) See www.washingtonpost.com. Manfred's selection is widely seen as an endorsement of Bud Selig's tenure as commissioner. Several years ago, I would have scoffed at that suggestion, but I'll have to give Selig credit for taking a firm stand on the steroid issue, and for making innovations aimed at expanding baseball's fan base.

This happens as MLB is embroiled in yet another legal battle involving the baseball franchises in Baltimore and Washington. More on that soon...

Royals lead the AL Central!

The Kansas City Royals are overcoming skeptics, determined to prove that they deserve to lead the American League Central Division. Ever since climbing a half game ahead of the Detroit Tigers last week, they have managed to stay ahead. They now enjoy a two-game margin, with a record of 69-55. I'll bet the Tigers are really regretting that trade with Washington for Doug Fister...

Oh, oh: Sports Illustrated just put the Royals on the cover of the Midwest edition of SI. I hope the jinx effect doesn't happen.

Nationals' win streak up to seven!

Somehow or other, the Washington Nationals keep finding ways to win games, even after horrible miscues make defeat seem almost inevitable. Last night, fresh off of two series sweeps (see below), they welcomed the Arizona Diamondbacks to town, and for a while the Nats' bats were cold. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, Wilson Ramos fired up the crowd with a line drive home run that just cleared the center field fence, taking a 2-1 lead. But then Jordan Zimmermann uncharacteristically walked another batter and gave up a home run to Didi Gregorious, so the D-backs were ahead once again, 3-2. But wait! The Nats came right back with two more runs in the bottom of the eighth, taking a 4-3 lead. The back-and-forth carnival continued in the ninth inning when David Peralta hit a solo homer off of closing pitcher Tyler Clippard, who was replacing Rafael Soriano. Oops! That's a shame for Clip, who has been a reliable part of the Nats' bullpen for years. So the game went into extra innings. Craig Stammen took the mound in the 11th inning, and before you knew it the bases were loaded with nobody out. Most pitchers in that situation would wilt under the pressure, but Stammen buckled down, got his sinker ball where he wanted it, and escaped the inning with two strikeouts and a ground ball out. Whew!!! In the bottom of the 11th, the D-backs got two quick outs, and then Adam LaRoche hit a massive walk-off home run of the edge of the middle deck! Game over, Nats win, 5-4! THREE WALK-OFF WINS IN THREE DAYS!!! Surprisingly, that was the first walk-off homer in LaRoche's career. It came just eleven days after Bryce Harper did likewise. For more juicy details and video clips, see www.masnsports.com.

Man, am I beat! This race for the postseason is going to take a lot out of me, I'm afraid. The Washington Nationals page has been duly updated, adding LaRoche to the list of walk-off home runs. Last night's game makes the fifth consecutive extra-inning win for the Nationals, another clear sign of improvement. Overall this year they are 7-8 in that department.

The Nationals now have a seven-game winning streak, their longest so far this year. So, even though the Braves are doing much better [than before], they are still six full games behind the Nats. As long as they stay healthy, it's hard to see what could stop the Nationals' momentum. It's beginning to look a lot like 2012 all over again! Much depends on Jayson Werth healing his shoulder and Ryan Zimmerman healing his strained hamstring. Also, there is a looming question of who will be the Nats' regular closing pitcher as this season nears a climax. Manager Matt Williams expressed confidence in Rafael Soriano, which is what he's supposed to do, but the current situation can't continue like this for much longer.

Nats sweep the Mets

After coming up short in Atlanta (August 8-10), where the Braves finally ended their awful slump and began surging back, the Nationals were eager to finish their road trip on a positive note. The first game against the Mets in Citi Field was a near-blowout (7-1), as the Nats' batters finally woke up, with four (4) home runs. Most impressive was Michael Taylor, just called up from the minor leagues, hitting a single and then a home run in his very first big league game! It just doesn't get any better than that for a rookie. Taylor has struggled at the plate since then, but has played fine defense in right field, replacing the ailing Jayson Werth.

Then on Wednesday, August 13, Asdrubal Cabrera hit his first home run as a National, [helping defeat] the home team, 3-2. Closing pitcher Rafael Soriano got the save, but gave up a run in the bottom of the ninth, barely avoiding an ugly blown save and/or loss.

On Thursday the Nats completed the series sweep with a 4-1 win, thanks to solid pitching by Stephen Strasburg (often shaky on the road) and home runs by Adam LaRoche and Bryce Harper.

Nats sweep the Pirates

With a 4-2 road trip under their belts, the Nationals returned to Washington on Friday full of confidence, facing the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the very first inning, the Nats scored three runs. Nats pitcher Tanner Roark started off with his usual solid command, but was relieved during the sixth inning, when the Pirates scored three runs to make it a 5-3 game. It stayed that way until the top of the ninth, when Rafael Soriano gave up a run on three hits, once again nearly blowing a save opportunity.

On Saturday, Gio Gonzalez struggled on the mound, giving up three runs to the Pirates in the third inning. The score was 3-0 until the eighth inning, when the Nats staged a sudden three-run rally, capped by an Adam LaRoche home run. In the bottom of the ninth, Bryce Harper walked, got to second base on a wild pitch, and then scored on a walk-off ground-rule double by Wilson Ramos. And the crowd went wild!

The game on Sunday was an amazing marathon featuring defensive blunders by both sides. The Nats came back and had a 4-2 lead going into the ninth inning, whereupon Rafael Soriano not only blew another save opportunity, but left his team a run behind after Gregory Polanco knocked in two runs with a double to right-center field. ARGH-H-H-H! Fortunately, Jayson Werth (who missed several days with a sore shoulder) came in as a pinch-hitter and reached base on a leadoff walk, and then scored on an RBI single by Asdrubal Cabrera. Anthony Rendon then nearly ended the game with a ball hit to the left field gap, by center fielder Starling Marte somehow caught it, sending the game into extra innings. In the eleventh inning, Jayson Werth hit a double that almost cleared the left field fence, advanced to third base on a hard ground ball hit by Denard Span, and finally scored the winning run on a fly ball to left field hit by pinch hitter Scott Hairston. Nats 6, Pirates 5: two walk-off wins in a row, and a second consecutive series sweep!

Chase Field update

Since the Arizona Diamondbacks are visiting Our Nation's Capital this week, I thought it would be appropriate to finish the revisions to my diagrams for their ballpark (Chase Field) based on my recent visit to Phoenix, on June 25. Once again, my first-hand observations paid off handsomely. For one thing, just like with Globe Life Park, I badly underestimated the amount of first-deck overhang: It's about 30%, rather than 10% as I previously indicated. The upper-deck overhang (about 75%) is inherently difficult to assess in stadiums with retractable roofs. For the time being, I'm going to estimate how much of the upper deck is covered when the roof is open, indicating that modified estimation technique with parentheses on the Stadium statistics page (newly updated). The position of the entry portals in the upper deck has been corrected, a few minor details in the center field wall and the fence in the right field corner have been refined, and the grandstand profile has been altered significantly.

Chase Field is much more attractive than I expected, and the outside view is especially impressive. Here is one of the ten (10) new photos I added to that page:

Chase Field, from the northeast corner, just before game time.

One final note: Having spent nearly a week in 100-plus-degree temperatures out there in late June, I fully understand the need for an air-conditioned baseball stadium in Phoenix!

Native American protests

On my way into Chase Field, I passed by a group of Native Americans who were protesting against the Cleveland Indians' grinning mascot. The Indians have been minimizing their use of that rather tacky and archaic logo for the past couple years, replacing it with a bland red letter "C," which is rather hard to distinguish from the logo of the other team in Ohio -- Cincinnati Reds. I hope they settle on a new team logo before too long...

Protest by Native American Indians at Chase Field.

The protests were a reflection of the state's ethnic composition: 4.0% of Arizona's 2010 Census population was American Indian, the seventh-highest concentration in the United States. As noted on the Chase Field, one of the Diamondbacks' main sponsors is Gila River Gaming Enterprises, which runs the casinos on the Gila River Indian Reservation. See www.gilariver.org.

Meanwhile in Washington, the Redskins are under continual pressure to change their team's name. More on that controversy when the football season gets underway...



August 10, 2014 [LINK / comment]

Kansas City: Hey, hey, hey, hey! *

Has anyone noticed that the Kansas City Royals are on a seven-game winning streak, putting them just a half game behind the Tigers in the AL Central race? They swept both the Arizona Diamondbacks and the San Francisco Giants, as the visiting team in both series. Now they face a four-game series (at home) against the Oakland A's, who have the best record in the majors. Last weekend in Oakland, the Royals won two out of three games, so who's to say they can't keep it up?

* That was the title of a song recorded by The Beatles in 1964, which they in fact played in Kansas City that same year. It's one of those twangy, rockabilly tunes with lots of seventh chords, written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

Kauffman Stadium

Kauffman Stadium visit + update!

The game I saw at Kauffman Stadium on July 25 was plenty exciting (Royals 6, Indians 4), and the closeup view I had made it even better. For some purposes, a photograph from field level is more useful than a standard elevated view. So, I just had to take a closer look at my diagrams, and sure enough I found a few minor flaws. For one thing, I realized for the first time that there are additional entry portals midway down the lower deck not far from the foul poles. In the corrected version, the lateral aisle in the lower deck is about five feet toward the rear. The handicapped seating platforms are now rendered more accurately, and the profile has been tweaked as well. Finally, there is a new "transparent roof" version diagram, showing the entry portals in the upper deck more clearly.

Kauffman Stadium

Fans at Kauffman Stadium cheer as Billy Butler heads for home on a two-run pinch-hit home run that ended up deciding the game.

K.C. Municipal Stadium

Municipal Stadium visit + update!

But wait, there's more! The last time I was in Kansas City (August 2011) I couldn't find the old Municipal Stadium historical marker, and I wasn't even 100% sure about the site because the neighborhood had been totally rebuilt and I didn't recognize it. This time I found the marker right away, and learned about the neighborhood redevelopment plan called "Monarch Manor" that apparently caused the marker to be temporarily put away for a while. (See kcmo.gov.) So, once again, I checked my diagrams on the K.C. Municipal Stadium page, and made a few corrections. In the new and improved version, the roof extends ten feet forward from where it used to, and the upper deck extends five feet forward.

K.C. Municipal Stadium sign

The K.C. Municipal Stadium historical marker; roll mouse over to see Monarch Plaza.

At the southeast corner of Monarch Manor is brand-new Monarch Plaza, a nicely landscaped area that is a vast improvement compared to the simple sign and bench that was there before. It features tributes to Satchel Paige (A's 1965), Buck O'Neill (Monarchs 1938-1943 and 1946-1955, with three years of military service during World War II), John Wyatt (A's 1961-1966), Amos Otis (Royals 1970-1983). John Mayberry (Royals 1972-1977), as well as to three black Kansas City Chiefs football players.

I was curious about the big old brick school on the west side of that long-vacant plot of land, and learned that it is Lincoln Preparatory School, which was founded in 1865. See www.kcpublicschools.org.

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

Less than a mile from Monarch Plaza is the historic 18th & Vine District of Kansas City, and that's where the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is located. It shares a beautiful new building with the American Jazz Museum. It is chock full of professional-quality graphical displays and relic mementos from the glory days of African-American baseball. I learned a lot about the personal hardships endured by the Black players in the days of segregation, and I also learned that the first-ever Negro World Series, in 1924, was played (in part) in Philadelphia's old Baker Bowl. (The Monarchs were "World Colored Champions.") Those who are curious about this vital aspect of baseball history should definitely take a look at www.nlbm.com. I added this photo to the Negro Leagues page:

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

For anyone who is planning a trip through Missouri and is considering a stop in Kansas City, here is an amusing lightning-fast "tour" of highlights in that fair city: youtube.com; hat tip to Dan Clem.

Amazing extra-inning games!!!

This weekend featured some rather extraordinary extra-inning games, some of which had big implications for the divisional races. In Anaheim on Saturday night, the Angels beat the Red Sox 5-4 in 19 innings, thanks to a home run by Albert Pujols. Both teams scored a single run in the 14th inning. In Atlanta, meanwhile, the Nationals beat the Braves 4-1 in 11 innings, thanks to a single by Wilson Ramos and then a double by Kevin Frandsen with the bases loaded. That brought the Nats' lead in the NL East back up to 4 1/2 games. Then today the Blue Jays beat the visiting Tigers 6-5 in 19 innings on an RBI single by Jose Bautista. Toronto tied it 5-5 with a run in the bottom of the ninth, and then neither team scored for the next nine innings! Melky Cabrera (Blue Jays) got three hits and five walks, becoming the first person to reach base eight times in one game since Rod Carew did so (against the Brewers) in 1972. Perhaps also worth mentioning is that the Cubs beat the Rays 3-2 in 12 innings today, on an RBI single by Anthony Rizzo. (No relation to Nats' GM Mike Rizzo, as far as I know.) The Cubs barely avoided being swept at home.

Derek Jeter is #6 in all-time hits

Congratulations to Derek Jeter, who got his 3,431st career base hit on a soft ground ball to shortstop yesterday, passing Honus Wagner on the all-time hits list. See MLB.com. One almanac source I have says Wagner had 3,415 hits, and another source says 3,418. With only seven weeks left to go in his career, there is only a small chance that Jeter will surpass #5, Tris Speaker, who had 3,514 lifetime hits. Jeter's hit did not affect the game's outcome, as the visiting Cleveland Indians won, 3-0.

While looking up those records, I came across an interesting factoid: Asdrubal Cabrera (recently acquired by the Nationals from Cleveland) made an unassisted triple play on May 12, 2008 against the Toronto Blue Jays.



August 8, 2014 [LINK / comment]

Bryce Harper hits walk-off homer!

Bryce Harper has been quite frustrated with his slow recovery since returning from the disabled list in late June. The way he threw down his helmet after a near-home run he hit was caught by the Mets' left fielder on Tuesday exposed his inner rage for all the world to see. When reporters asked if Harper might be sent down to the minors to refine his swing, manager Matt Williams angrily denied that was even being considered. That incident only added to the swirling clouds of doubt, as Washington Post columnist Adam Kilgore discussed in Thursday's paper.

But all that came to end on Friday night when Harper came out of his slump in dramatic fashion, hitting a two-run homer in the bottom of the 13th inning to give the Nationals a series win over the Mets. See MLB.com. The Nats used almost their whole bullpen in that marathon game, which became necessary because of the two runs given up after Drew Storen replaced Jordan Zimmerman on the mound during the seventh inning. That was the Nationals' first extra-inning win at home this year.

Harper thus becomes only the second Washington Nationals player ever to hit more than one walk-off home run. The other one, of course, is Ryan Zimmerman, who has hit nine of them! See the newly-updated Washington Nationals page.

I read that the Nationals have the highest run differential in the National League, and the second highest in the majors. My data show their aggregate score this year (including tonight's game in Atlanta*) is 480 to 401.

* Tonight in Atlanta, Stephen Strasburg had a horrible outing, giving up three home runs in the first two innings, and leaving after the fifth inning with his team behind 7-0. Then in the sixth inning, the Nats staged a four-run rally capped by Anthony Rendon's three-run homer, and then got two more runs in the seventh. The Braves were on the verge of catastrophically blowing a seven-run lead and thereby extending their eight-game losing streak, but barely hung on to win, 7-6.

Matt Thornton joins Nats

The Nationals claimed Matt Thornton off waivers; the Yankees had released him last month. He's a left-hander, something the Nationals are lacking, and so far has been pretty solid on the mound.

Cubs' new star: Javier Baez

Maybe the phrase "Wait 'till next year!" really means something for the Chicago Cubs. A rookie player named Javier Baez who was just called up from the minors hit the go-ahead home run in the 12th inning against the Rockies in Denver -- in his very first game in the majors! Then on Thursday, he hit two more home runs to help the Cubs win again. That must be some kind of rookie record. In his first game at Wrigley Field tonight, he roused the home crowd by getting a hit and scoring a run in the first inning, but Cubs lost in extra innings. See MLB.com. Like I said, "Wait 'till next year!"

A bit of baseball news

The people in Houston are still trying to figure out what to do with the Astrodome. One idea is to demolish everything but the main structural beams and build a miniature version inside the ring. "The ribs of the (original) stadium would be preserved, forming a sort of skeletal Stonehenge..." See www.citylab.com. Hat tip to Mario Vara. Frankly, that seems kind of dumb to me.

But at least the Astrodome will be around for another year or more, giving me another chance to see it, whereas Candlestick Park isn't expected to be around much longer. Just as the Beatles gave their final concert there in 1966, Sir Paul McCartney is going to give that venue's final concert there next week, August 14. See sfgate.com. I think that means no more public events there, but we'll see. That article notes that "McCartney did this once before -- at Shea Stadium, just before it was demolished in 2009." Hm-m.

Back in the Eastern Time Zone, meanwhile, the Cincinnati Reds unveiled the official logo for the 2015 All-Star Game which they will host at Great American Ball Park; see MLB.com.

Hopefully, I'll get caught up with news and fan mail in the next couple weeks...



August 6, 2014 [LINK / comment]

Nats get whacked, then fight back

Every time the Washington Nationals seem to gain some momentum with consecutive wins this year, they seem to get a rude setback almost immediately. Then they bounce right back with a convincing victory, and the whole cycle starts all over again. Last week this happened with the Miami Marlins and the Philadelphia Phillies, and this week it was with the New York Mets. All three teams (NL East Division rivals) played better than their humble below-.500 records might suggest.

In Miami, the Nats lost the first two games of the series [...]. On July 28, the Nats jumped to a 6-0 lead and were still ahead 6-3 in the ninth inning, whereupon closing pitcher Rafael Soriano fell apart and allowed the Marlins to score four runs to win in dramatic walk-off fashion. Perhaps stunned by this turn of events, the Nats failed to score at all the next day and lost 3-0. In game three they finally pulled themselves together and took the lead with a three-run rally in the eighth inning. But in the bottom of the ninth Drew Storen (backup closer?) gave up two runs, one of which was a solo shot by the amazing Giancarlo Stanton. Then they got the third out, so the Nats just barely avoided being swept. Whew! That concluded the road trip on an upbeat note, winning five of nine games.

Back in Washington, the Nats lost the first two games to the Phillies. On July 31, Gio Gonzalez gave up five earned runs and was pulled out in the fourth inning, one of his worst outings ever. The next day, the new ace pitcher Doug Fister only gave up two runs over seven innings but was still tagged with the loss as the Nats just couldn't get hits. On Saturday, the Nats woke up all of a sudden and won by a lopsided 11-0 margin, boosted by Anthony Rendon's homer and new Nat Asdrubal Cabrera's triple. On Sunday they evened the four-game series with a 4-0 victory. Stephen Strasburg pitched like his old self again, a reassuring sign.

On Monday the Nats welcomed the neighboring Orioles to town, in a makeup game originally scheduled for July 8. Wilson Ramos homered, and the Nats had a 3-2 lead going into the seventh inning, when Nats pitcher Tanner Roark lost his command and the O's staged a three-run rally to take the lead. Two more in the eighth made the final score 7-3.

On Tuesday the Mets arrived in D.C. The Nats wasted several run-scoring opportunities, most notably when Jayson Werth was waved past third base on a single hit by Adam LaRoche, and was then tagged out at the plate on a perfect throw by left fielder Eric Campbell. The video review upheld the umpire's call. With no outs, it seemed like a dumb risk to take, but manager Matt Williams insisted that his team will keep playing aggressive ball. In the next inning, Gio Gonzalez got shaky on the mound again, and the Mets scored three more runs, going on to win, 6-1. Then tonight the tables were turned once again, as Adam LaRoche hit two home runs and Danny Espinosa (!) hit another one, and so the Nats won, 6-1. It was the first game this year in which a Nationals player has hit more than one home run. Doug Fister pitched another great game, earning his 11th win of the season.

So, it's been a frustrating two weeks as the pennant races heat up and the Nationals brace themselves for another postseason push. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Braves have been slumping badly, losing eight consecutive games, so the Nationals remain four games ahead in the National League East. I have posted the June and July win-loss records, attendance, etc. on the Washington Nationals page, which no longer includes the detailed roster and monthly data for previous years. That page was getting way too cumbersome to load, so I decided to simplify things. The detailed historical data are now found [one year at a time] on the new Washington Nationals Annual History page. Enjoy!

Zimmerman is injured again

It's been a tough year for Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who missed several weeks in May and June with a broken thumb, and was injured again late last month. He has a "Grade 3" hamstring injury, meaning that the muscle tissue is torn, so it will take weeks of rehabilitation (using a water treadmill, for example) before he is ready to play again. See MLB.com. The best the Nats can hope for is that he can pinch hit or maybe play first base by early September, but it's possible he may miss the rest of the season. What dirty, rotten luck. frown

Nats acquire Asdrubal Cabrera

The injury to Ryan Zimmerman created a big void in the Nats' lineup, and even though backup second baseman Danny Espinosa has been improving at the plate in recent weeks, Mike Rizzo decided more was needed. So, just before the July 31 deadline, he made a trade with the Cleveland Indians, getting shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (who will play at second) in exchange for hot minor league prospect Zach Walters. See MLB.com. Thus far Cabrera has done well enough, hitting a triple and making some great plays at second base. I wondered whether he could adapt after being a regular short stop, but he seems just fine in his new position.

It was quite a coincidence that I saw Cabrera play during my road trip earlier this summer, during the Indians-Diamondbacks game in Phoenix on June 25. (He went 0 for 4 that night, but got a sac fly RBI.) In fact, I would have seen him twice had he not missed a few days two weeks ago. In the Indians-Royals game I saw in Kansas City on July 25, he was replaced by Jose Ramirez, who seems to be their regular at that position now. Unfortunately, the only photo I took of Cabrera was in a less-than-heroic situation:

Asdrubal Cabrera foul ball

With the bases loaded in the top of the fourth inning at Chase Field, Asdrubal Cabrera, then with the Cleveland Indians, hits a pop foul ball that was caught for the third out. (June 25, 2014)

Globe Life Park update

Based on my recent visit, I made a few corrections to the diagrams of Globe Life Park (a.k.a. Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, etc.). Most significantly, there are 40 rows of seats in most of the lower deck, not 32 as I had previously estimated. Consequently, my estimate of the amount of lower-deck overhang / shade doubled from 15% to 30%. (I wonder how many other stadiums I have underestimated the number of lower deck rows that badly?) Globe Life Park resembles Orioles Park in Camden Yards in that access to the lower deck seats is almost exclusively via entry portals. Except for the portion near home plate, where there are some glass-enclosed luxury suites, there is nothing behind the back row of seats but a big drop-off. There will be a first-deck-only (lower level) diagram version on that page in the near future. To clarify exactly what changed in the diagram, I made this before-and-after profile comparison:

The other change of note involves the position of the seating sections between the bullpens in center field. When that area was rebuilt in 2012, the old-fashioned bleacher benches were replaced by individual seats. (Too bad.)

Globe Life Park.

Prior baseball road trips

I that it might be fun to create an interactive graphic showing each of the stadium photo montages that I made after my baseball road trips in five of the last seven years. In 2011 I only visited two stadiums (in Missouri), so I didn't bother to do a montage, and last year I didn't even make a road trip. (Shame!) Each of the links below the photo takes you to the original blog post.

2008 (October): New York and Chicago

2009 (August): Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Denver, Kansas City, St. Louis, and Cincinnati

2010 (August): Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Chicago

2011 (August): Kansas City and St. Louis (no montage)

2012 (August): Chicago and Cleveland

2014 (July): Arlington (Texas), Phoenix, Omaha, Kansas City, and Cincinnati

So what are my future plans? Obviously I need to get back to the northeast and finally see a game in Fenway Park, in addition to Yankee Stadium II and/or Citi Field. Time permitting, I might try to combine that with visits to Toronto (a city I have never seen) and Detroit (only one past visit). That would leave just the six stadiums along the Pacific coast (hopefully all during the same trip), and then the four remaining stadiums in the old "Confederacy." With any luck, I'll complete my lifetime goal of seeing all (current) Major League Baseball stadiums by 2017.



July 31, 2014 [LINK / comment]

The Wild, Wild West!   Baseball road trip 2014

I may not have set any records as far as number of stadiums, but I definitely covered more highway miles than in any of my previous baseball-focused road trips. Altogether, I tallied 6,861 miles over the course of six weeks, venturing far into the desert southwest. During these two months, I saw two Major League stadiums for the first time -- Globe Life Park in Arlington and Chase Field in Phoenix -- as well as one new collegiate stadium: TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. I also visited a few small-town ballparks along the way, including one that was just a stone's throw from the Mexican border. Finally, I attended three MLB games, two of which were in stadiums I had previously seen.

The four Major League stadiums I saw in June & July 2014 (clockwise from top left): Globe Life Park, Great American Ballpark (in Cincinnati), Chase Field, Kauffman Stadium (in Kansas City). [Sequence corrected.]

[UPDATE: My visit to the home of the Rangers in Arlington, Texas on June 24 was curtailed because my father was not feeling up to a full-fledged tour, so I just walked around the outside of the fortress-like stadium. Fortunately, that coincided with a special children's event when many people were milling around, so I managed to slip inside the main gates for a few minutes. That saved me some travel bucks, so I felt obliged to buy some souvenirs in the team store. I also photographed the "Dallas" Cowboys' semi-new home, AT&T Stadium, about a half mile away. In Phoenix, Arizona the very next evening (1,077 miles away!), I saw the Cleveland Indians come close to shutting out the Diamondbacks, with the only run for the home team coming in the bottom of the ninth, when Miguel Montero hit an RBI single. Final score: 6-1. See MLB.com. This was one day after the D-backs won 9-8 in spectacular walk-off fashion, getting a run in the bottom of the 14th inning after tying the game with two runs in the bottom of the 11th. Credit for the win goes to Aaron Hill for his clutch RBI drive into the left-center gap. I was lucky to see the dramatic finale of that game on TV in my motel room. The Indians were neck-and-neck with the Royals in late June, on the verge of contending in the AL Central, but have since fallen back.]

Nationals move into first place

Just before I left town in the middle of last month, the Washington Nationals had shown signs of improvement, and by the All-Star break they were sharing first place with the Atlanta Braves. Jordan Zimmermann was supposed to make the trip to [ Minneapolis ] Kansas City (where the American League won the Midsummer Classic), but he had strained his bicep and was replaced on the National League roster by Tyler Clippard. Actually, the two best Nats pitchers this year have been Tanner Roark (now 11-6) and Doug Fister (10-2), who was on the DL until mid-May. His presence has been a huge benefit to the team. Likewise, the return in June of Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper to the active roster (after recovering from thumb injuries) has helped the Nats greatly. With a full, healthy lineup at last, the Nats started to produce runs on a consistent basis, while the bullpen generally held the lead in the late innings of most games. Since the All-Star break, the Nationals have taken sole possession of first place in the NL Eastern Division.

Yours truly enjoying a great game at Great American Ballpark, this past Sunday.

It was in that context that I saw the Nats play in Cincinnati against the Reds last Sunday afternoon. It was only my second game at Great American Ballpark, and the previous time (2004) the team now known as the Nationals was still playing in Montreal, as the Expos. How time flies! The weather that day was threatening, and indeed I had to brave terrible thunderstorms that morning in Kentucky on my way up to Cincinnati. But the sun came out just as the game was scheduled to begin (1:10), and they got the whole nine innings done with barely a sprinkle. It was a pitcher's duel early on, as Doug Fister put on a masterful performance. In the fifth inning a single by Nats' second baseman Danny Espinosa sparked a big rally. Reds' pitcher Mat Latos got shaky, walking two batters and hitting another one with a pitch. The rally was capped when Adam LaRoche hit a two-run single to left field, making it 3-0. The next batter, Ian Desmond hit a towering fly ball to center field that was caught right in front of the fence. A few more feet and it would have been a 6-0 game. In the ninth inning, Anthony Rendon batted in an insurance run that proved to be very useful. In the bottom of the ninth, Aaron Barrett took the mound, but he gave up singles to the first two batters and was immediately replaced by the regular closing pitcher Rafael Soriano. The very next batter, Devin Mesoraco, doubled to deep left-center field, making it a whole new ball game, with the score 4-2. Oh, no, here we go again... Fortunately, Soriano settled down and got the next three batters out to end the game. Whew!

Doug Fister, preparing to pitch.

Before and during the game, I made note of several details that had escaped my notice the last time I was inside GABP ten years ago. For one thing, there is a disjuncture between the lower deck main grandstand and the lower deck in left field, where the "pitch" (slope) is steeper. Also, the upper deck bleachers in left field are shaped slightly irregularly. Minor diagram fixups to come...

Royals climb into contention

One nice surprise of the 2014 season is that the Kansas City Royals have made themselves into a contending team. They're 54-52 right now, just five games behind the AL Central leading Detroit Tigers. I saw the Royals play the Cleveland Indians last Friday night, when it was very hot and muggy. The home team took and early lead, but then the visitors tied it. The crucial play in the game was when the slugging star Billy Butler (who was pinch hitting, after being benched) came through with a dramatic two-run homer deep into the bullpen in left field. And I captured the event on camera! The Royals held on to win, 6-4.

Billy Butler hits the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning.

Virginia makes it to CWS finals

The University of Virginia Cavaliers made a great effort in the 2014 College World Series in Omaha, making it to the final three-game series for the first time, but ended up a close #2. In Game 1 was a blowout victory by Vanderilt, but U.Va. tied the series in Game 2. In the deciding game, the game was tied 2-2 in the eighth inning when Vanderbilt's John Norwood hit a solo home run that proved to be the deciding play. See ncaa.com. The U.Va. Cavalier baseball team deserves great credit for fighting back and going all the way to the final out. "So close, and yet so far!"

I was hoping my travel plans might coincide with the CWS schedule, but it just didn't work out. I made a point on my return trip (en route to Kansas City) to stop at beautiful, modern TD Ameritrade Stadium for the first time. It replaced the venerable Rosenblatt Stadium south of downtown Omaha in 2011. (See blog posts from June 2011 and August 2009, when I stopped there briefly.) Strangely, however, Omaha's minor league team (the Storm Chasers, the AAA affiliate of the K.C. Royals) does not play there but instead at a smaller ballpark several miles southwest of Omaha. Go figure.

TD Ameritrade Park CWS 2014 banners

TD Ameritrade Park, showing the CWS 2014 banners. (July 25, 2014)



July 20, 2014 [LINK / comment]

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Since I won't be having any normal blog updates for the next few weeks, I put this page here as a place to post random thoughts about baseball. Please feel free to do likewise, if you have something important to share. Just click where it says [LINK / comment] above, then follow the directions to register (risk-free, of course), and you will then see a space for entering comments on each blog post, such as this one.

Pre-posted on June 17, 2014.



July 10, 2014 [LINK / comment]

This blog page intentionally left blank

Since I won't be having any normal blog updates for the next few weeks, I put this page here as a place to post random thoughts about baseball. Please feel free to do likewise, if you have something important to share. Just click where it says [LINK / comment] above, then follow the directions to register (risk-free, of course), and you will then see a space for entering comments on each blog post, such as this one.

Pre-posted on June 17, 2014.




 

This month's calendar:

August 2014
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3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31 . . . . . .



Featured Web sites



News links

Newspapers
Radio and TV
News Web sites

 

Blog roll (partial)

(Former) Regular reads:
Blogs I should read:
Virginia blogs (active):

 
 

NOTE: Additional blogs are listed on the respective category pages: Baseball, Politics, etc.


My blog practices

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:

  1. Wild birds (LAST)
  2. War
  3. Science & Technology *
  4. Politics
  5. Latin America
  6. Culture & Travel *
  7. Canaries ("Home birds")
  8. Baseball (FIRST)

* 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.


Compatibility

This page, and all others on this Web site, are designed to be viewed on a monitor with 1024 x 768 pixel resolution, but certain accommodations have been made for the sake of those with 800 x 600 monitors. Most pages require that the user's browser program be JavaScript-enabled in order to function properly. In addition, most of the pages make heavy use of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), and thus may not be compatible with earlier versions of Netscape, Internet Explorer, or other browsers. The greatest degree of compatibility is with Safari and Firefox, followed by Netscape Navigator 6.1 and Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher. (Navigator 4.x is no longer supported by this site.)



 


 

"It's not just a blog, it's an adventure!"

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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