February 13, 2013 [LINK / comment]

Spring training gets underway

In sunny Florida and southern Arizona, the pitchers and catchers are assembling as spring training 2013 begins. Yes, baseball fans, the glorious renewal of Our National Pastime is drawing nigh! This year, for a change, the Washington Nationals are widely recognized as one of the best if not the best team in baseball. "They could ... go ... all ... the ... way!"

Eager excitement among the Nats players and fans has been marred, if only slightly, by the news that their star pitcher Gio Gonzalez has been linked to a doping scandal. The Miami New Times reported that he was among the players connected to Anthony Bosch, who allegedly supplied performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes from Miami. Nats manager Davey Johnson is sticking by Gio, and that's appropriate. There is a chance, however, that Gonzalez could be suspended for 50 games, the penalty for a first offence with PEDs. Gonzalez announced he will play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, starting March 10. See MLB.com.

Starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann says that he is getting closer to a new contract with the front office. He wants $5.8 million, while the Nationals have offered $4.6 million. He is the only Nationals player still eligible for arbitration. If they can't agree to terms, there will be a hearing on February 19. See MLB.com. I assume a deal will be made in time.

Two big question marks for the upcoming year are whether third baseman Ryan Zimmerman's shoulder has fully healed after getting surgery in late October, and whether second baseman Danny Espinosa's shoulder is in good shape. We need a solid bunch of infielders.

Good news for Nationals fans with limited or no cable TV service: MASN and WUSA Channel 9 have agreed to simulcast 20 Nationals games this year. That means real, honest-to-God broadcasting over the air, the way things used to be! See masnsports.com. Everybody loves a winner, and as the team's popularity soars, all of a sudden they are a hot commodity in the broadcast market. Ka-ching!

Super Super Bowl in the Superdome

The football season ended with a bang, as Super Bowl XLVII turned out to have one of the most exciting finishes in many years. The game was interrupted by a   power blackout   that lasted about 34 minutes, leaving fans, players, and sportscasters bewildered and befuddled. After the lights came back on, the momentum shifted in favor of the 49ers, who came within seven yards of scoring what would have been the game-winning touchdown in the final minute. It was indeed a "super" game. [Congratulations to the Baltimore Ravens on their second world championship!]

This was the seventh Super Bowl held in the Superdome, two more than any other stadium. Tied for second place are the Orange Bowl and Sun Life Stadium (a.k.a. Joe Robbie / Pro Player / Dolphin / Landshark Stadium); in other words, the Miami Dolphins have hosted the Super Bowl ten times, in effect. In none of those particular games did they play, however. The Dolphins won two of the five Super Bowls in which they have played, the last of which was in 1985. They are even more "overdue" for a return than the Redskins!

Superdome update

Just in time One week late for the Superbowl, I finally finished the updates to the Superdome Superdome diagrams. (The changes were actually made a few days ago, but I didn't have time to announce them.) As usual, the main changes are the inclusion of entry portals, but there is also a new second-deck version. Note that a second set of entry portals were built in the late 1990s, appropriate for the very large size of the upper deck: it ranged from 20 to 43 rows.

By the way, the new data on fair and foul territory, and number of seating rows, is also now shown on the Kingdome, Jack Murphy Stadium, and Candlestick Park pages. [Note that I have decided to round the territory data to the nearest 100 feet, hence the new numbers on the Oakland Coliseum page. Remember learning about significant digits in high school? The percentages upon which those territory figures are based are accurate to a hundredth of a percent, which is only 3 or 4 significant digits.] I'll be adding such data to many more stadium pages in the weeks to come...

Don't worry, the black background in the adjacent image is just making fun of the blackout, not part of the actual diagrams. smile

Dual-use stadiums, and the subsequent "divorces"

Building stadiums for both baseball and football was all the rage in the "groovy" 1960s and early 1970s, but just like with American society in general, the casual cohabitations ultimately led to "divorces," sometimes with messy disputes over money and building new "homes" (stadiums). For some time now, I've been meaning to compile data on the timing and duration of use by the respective football and baseball teams, and which team came out ahead in getting a new stadium built, but it took a long time before I could figure out how to display it neatly and consistently.

Well, that information is now shown on the Football Use (of Baseball Stadiums) page. For the dual-use stadiums, rolling the mouse over the names not only shows the thumbnail version of the football diagram, but also the data on timing and duration. Later on I may do the same thing for the rest of the stadiums listed on that page: those built mainly for baseball, and those built mainly for football.

The mail bag

Once again, sadly, I've fallen behind on the ballpark news that Mike Zurawski has been sending me. Just for starters, he tells me the Padres are adding seats above the new fence in right field of Petco Park, where the fences are being moved 10 feet inward. It will be like the seats installed atop the Green Monster at Fenway Park in Boston, with four-seat clusters and tables. There will be 50 - 60 such tables total. See utsandiego.com.

John Corradin has been wondering how often ballpark dimensions change. He has a hunch that many teams make minor changes almost every year. That would be news to me. I'm aware of recent changes at the Mets' Citi Field, and the changes at the Mariners' Safeco Field and the Padres' Petco Park this year, but nothing else comes to mind. Still, it's worth looking into, and I may come up with a table listing dimension changes on a year-by-year basis some time in the future.

Also, a fan named Cristian Mendiuc asked me whether the playing field at Fenway Park is below the street level. I replied that my estimate is five feet below the street level, more or less. Coincidentally, I bought a new book, Fenway 1912 by Glenn Stout recently, and it may be provide more information on that.