January 4, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Happy New Year! Now, back to work...
As usual, the old year came to an end in a flurry of hectic activity (grading exams, Christmas travels, etc.) and in terms of my diagram work, I just couldn't quite "get 'r done." That will soon change, as you can see below and in the days and weeks to come...
I saw two baseball stadiums on my way out west ("All aboard AMTRAK!"), one in Cincinnati at night and one in Chicago the next day:
U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox, on the day before Christmas.
I took a similar photo while passing by on a train in October 2008, and I saw a game there for the first time last July.
There's much to be said about player transactions involving the Washington Nationals and other teams, but that will have to wait until tomorrow...
Jack Murphy Stadium update
After a "false start" or two in December, I made some further corrections and finished work on the Jack Murphy Stadium diagrams. My original main objective was simply to render the upper deck lateral walkways more accurately, showing the small steps between each of the entry portals. (Offhand, I can't recall any other stadiums with that specific arrangement.) But while I was doing that, I realized that the lower portion of the lower deck (the part that is movable) extended a few feet forward compared to what my diagrams had indicated before. Then I realized that the diagonal portion of the lower deck near the dugouts was closer to home plate than I had thought, so I corrected those things. As a result, my estimate of foul territory has been reduced from 31,900 to 28,900 square feet. (That pertains to 1998 but does not take into account the reduction in foul territory in the last four or so years when two rows of seats were added between the dugouts.) I also corrected the diagram profiles, after realizing that the second deck is a bit steeper, with entry portals that occupy the last four of five rows. (I may add a separate second-deck diagram later on.) Other changes include a new lower-deck diagram, an expanded "full" diagram showing the peripheral barriers, a new 1988 football diagram showing the configuration for Super Bowl XXII in 1988 (when the Redskins* won), the usual bullpen details, scoreboard refinements, etc.
* Speaking of the Redskins, guess who's in the NFL playoffs for the first time in three years?!! Super Bowl L (50) will be held on February 7 in Levi's Stadium, home of the Santa Clara (San Francisco) 49ers.
I should thank Marc Myers once again for the photos of Jack Murphy Stadium which he submitted, as one of them shows the position of dugouts more clearly than any other photo I have seen. That was very useful.
Next month, or by the end of March at the latest, I plan to finish estimates of fair and foul territory in all MLB stadiums, past and present.
And speaking of corrections, wikipedia still indicates the erroneous backstop distances from Green Cathedrals: "80 feet (1969), 75 (1982)." Not even close! It was way back in July 2008 that I announced my estimate of about 55 feet, plus or minus a couple.
Adios, San Diego!
This just in: The San Diego Chargers have officially begun the process for petitioning relocation of their franchise, and are expected to move to Los Angeles during the off season. (Rose Bowl?) See csnmidatlantic.com. Jack Murphy Stadium will thus enter Stadium "Limbo", without a professional sports tenant but yet lingering on perhaps for years in a semi-dormant state. It will also leave only Oakland ("o.co") Coliseum and Sun Life (Dolphin) Stadium among the current NFL stadiums that have also housed an MLB team. (See the Football use page.)
January 10, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Cooperstown calls Griffey, Piazza
Late Wednesday afternoon it was announced that Ken Griffey, Jr. and Mike Piazza were selected by the Baseball Writers Association of America to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Over his 22-year career [(12+ years with the Mariners, and 8+ years with the Reds), Griffey had 630 home runs, 2781 hits, and a .284 average. Piazza had 427 home runs, 2127 hits, and a .308 batting average during his 16-year career -- about six with the Dodgers and eight with the Mets. That's only half as many new HOF members] as last year, when Piazza barely missed the 75% cutoff.
I saw Piazza play in Washington on April 30, 2005, the very first Nationals home game that I attended. (I was at the Nats' inaugural game in Philadelphia on April 4.) He became a free agent at the end of that season, played for a year with the San Diego Padres, and then likewise with the Oakland A's to end his career in 2007. (baseball-reference.com)
I saw the Reds play twice during the years that Griffey was with them: in Cincinnati on August 15, 2004 (losing to San Diego, 7-2), when he was on the DL, replaced by Wily Mo Peña, and in Washington on August 2, 2008 (the Nats won, 10-6), two days after he was traded to the Chicago White Sox. (MLB.com, baseball-reference.com) Darn!
Among the fifteen candidates whose eligibility has now expired are Mark McGwire and Alan Trammell, who played his whole career with the Detroit Tigers. McGwire has only himself to blame, whereas Trammell probably deserved the honor. The other strong candidate from last year, Curt Schilling, received 52.3% of the vote this year, and is thus still in the running for next year at least. See the complete vote totals at MLB.com.
The name of one other ineligible retired player surfaced in the news last month: Pete Rose. He appeared at the All-Star Game in Cincinnati last July, raising questions about whether he might be given a
second third fourth chance. Not very likely, as MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred recently made it clear that the lifetime ban on Rose remains in effect. What's more, Rose has been implicated in even more betting activities, showing he never really changed. As Bob Nightengale wrote for USA Today (and affiliated newspapers), Rose is now officially "dead to baseball."
Rizzo wheels, deals, revamps Nats' roster
The Washington Nationals' General Manager Mike Rizzo has been quite busy over the past four weeks, perhaps feeling the heat for the big disappointment of last year. During the first half of December, the trades and deals with free agents that he sought failed to materialize. In particular, relief pitcher Darren O'Day, switch-hitter Ben Zobrist, and outfielder Justin Heyward all ended up elsewhere. Heyward signed instead with the Cubs, Rizzo also sought to make a trades for pitcher Mike Leake and second-baseman Brandon Phillips with the Cincinnati Reds, but those fell through. It was thought that Phillips' familiarity with ex-Reds manager Dusty Baker would have worked out well. Altogether, those misfires were a possible sign of concern about the team's prospects. Nats fans were starting to worry. And then on the proverbial "Night Before Christmas," something really big came to pass...
Hello, Daniel Murphy!
'Twas the 24th of December, when all through the house, that Mike Rizzo got free agent Daniel Murphy to sign a three-year contract worth $37.5 million. Whoa! The deal was contingent upon the usual physical exam, etc., and not until January 6 was the transaction completed, celebrated with a live televised press conference from Nationals Park. With the Mets last October, Murphy set a record with home runs in six consecutive postseason games, which was unusual because he only had 14 homers in the entire regular season. What's more, he committed errors in World Series Games 4 and 5 that proved critical in the Mets' loss to the Royals.
Because of his defensive shortcomings, Murphy will no doubt play at second base. That means that Anthony Rendon will stay at third base on a regular basis (rather than move back to second base, where he had been in 2014. It also leaves Danny Espinosa as the presumable shortstop, but he will have to compete for the spot with Stephen Drew, who was also signed as a free agent. Drew is expected to play as a backup infielder.
Welcome, Ben Revere!
Just this past Friday, slugging outfielder Ben Revere was acquired (along with a "player to be named later") from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Drew Storen and cash. Revere had been traded from the Phillies to the Blue Jays in July. This was a huge move, as he is fast (31 stolen bases) and a high-percentage hitter, and thus ideal as an leadoff batter, replacing Denard Span. His arm isn't that strong, however, so that may detract from his effectiveness on defense. See MLB.com. The deal was mutually beneficial, as Storen made it clear he wanted to be traded after being replaced as closer by Jonathan Papelbon in July, and the subsequent meltdown of which we would just as soon forget. Now the question is whether Papelbon can be traded on terms that don't impose too much financial sacrifice on the Nats' owners.
It's a bittersweet parting of ways for Drew Storen, a fine, gutsy pitcher who literally came within inches of championship-caliber glory in both the 2012 and 2014 National League Division Series, but Fate was not on his side. I have the greatest respect and admiration for him, and wish him all the best in Toronto.
Adios, Yunel Escobar
The Washington Nationals traded third baseman Yunel Escobar to the L.A. Angels for relief pitchers Trevor Gott and Michael Brady. Gott had a 3.02 ERA last year, and is expected to be the backbone of the Nats' bullpen, which was in dire need of reinforcement. See MLB.com. Escobar did fine at the plate last year (.314 average), but he wasn't that good in clutch situations, and his fielding ability left much to be desired. The trade was in great part a reflection of just how desperate the Nationals were to bolster their bullpen.
So, basically, Ben Revere is replacing Denard Span, and Daniel Murphy is replacing Yunel Escobar, with a modest improvement in relief pitching. All in all, not too bad.
For a complete run-down on the Nationals' recent player transactions, see MLB.com.
Nats' pitching staff
Besides Trevor Gott and Michael Brady, who were acquired via trade (see above), the Nationals signed free agent pitchers Yusmeiro Petit, Shawn Kelley, and Oliver Perez in December. The Nationals will no doubt keep Felipe Rivero, a possible future closing pitcher, and probably Blake Treinin, who showed promise but was inconsistent. Aaron Barrett, A.J. Cole, and Matt Grace are big question marks.
Some people think that the Nats need to acquire another starting pitcher to make it to the postseason, but I disagree. I still think getting another top-notch reliever is more important. Their most likely pitching rotation for this year includes three of the original starters from last year, the others being Jordan Zimmermann (who signed with the Detroit Tigers) and Doug Fister (still a free agent):
- Max Scherzer
- Stephen Strasburg
- Gio Gonzalez
- Tanner Roark*
- Joe Ross*
*Roark was a starter in 2014, earning a superb 15-10 record and 2.85 ERA, but was relegated to relief duty in 2015 after the acquisition of Max Scherzer. Ross was called up from the minors last June, more or less replacing Doug Fister, and chalked up some very respectable numbers in his rookie year, with a 5-5 record and 3.64 ERA.
Finally, closing pitcher (?) Jonathan Papelbon filed a lawsuit against the Nationals for not paying him for the final four games of the season during which he was suspended. Is that chutzpah for bargaining purposes, or is the guy just sick in the head? I'm inclined toward the latter hypothesis.
In other Washington sports news, the Redskins squandered an early 11-0 lead and lost to the Green Bay Packers this evening, 35-18. A couple missed opportunities set the stage for an adverse momentum shift, and the Washington defense just couldn't contain veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers. It's a tough loss to take, but at least the Redskins surpassed expectations this year. Next year, they'll do even better. HTTR!
All four home teams in the first round NFL playoffs lost this year, the first time that has ever happened, and in two of those cases (Minnesota and Cincinnati) it was because of totally inexcusable gaffes in the last couple minutes.
Tomorrow night, the Clemson Tigers will take on the Alabama Crimson Tide at the NCAA National Championship Game in Phoenix. Guess who I'm rooting for?
Veterans Stadium update
The Veterans Stadium diagrams have been revised, and as with Jack Murphy Stadium (the other "octorad" stadium), the main objective was to render the lateral walkways and entry portals in the upper deck more accurately. And once again, that led me to make further corrections and enhancements, though not as many. (Thank goodness!) The upper deck is one row (about three feet) bigger than before, with the entry portals correspondingly higher up. The difference stems from the (previously-neglected) stairs from the lateral walkways, which occupy a single row for most of the circumference. Also, the bullpens and the concourses in the lower deck are now rendered more accurately.
Another newly-included detail is the "ribbed" roof, with prominent structural beams visible from the air. Other stadiums with such a ribbed roof are Angel Stadium (of Anaheim), Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Riverfront Stadium (Cincinnati), Exhibition Stadium (Toronto), Olympic Stadium (Montreal), and Hiram Bithorn Stadium (Puerto Rico); diagram updates for some of those are pending...
R.I.P. Phil Pepe
Long-time New York sports journalist and author Phil Pepe passed away last month. Among his many books is one that I bought in Yankee Stadium twelve and a half years ago: The Yankees: An Authorized History of the New York Yankees (centennial edition, 2003). See the obituary in the Washington Post.
I had previously reported a total home attendance in 2015 for the Washington Nationals of 2,620,443 (or 32,351 per game), but I noticed on a Washington Post page from September 30 that that was 600 more than the official figure of 2,619,843 (or 32,344 per game). So, I checked my daily attendance figures against those on baseball-reference.com, and pinpointed the discrepancy on the April 18 game, which was 35,330 rather than 35,930. I was fortunate that my mistake did not occur much later in the season. My Washington Nationals page has now been duly corrected.
January 11, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Zimmerman, Howard sue Al Jazeera
Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals and Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies (both first basemen) both filed a libel lawsuit against the Arab news organization Al Jazeera, in response to allegations of using a performance-enhancing hormone supplement known as Delta 2. The "documentary" TV broadcast also claimed that Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning used the banned drug. Ryan and Howard deny that they have ever used that specific drug or any other PED. The source used in that program, Charles Sly, has since recanted his accusations. Such a legal step is almost unprecedented in professional sports, and given the high evidentiary requirements for public figures to claim malicious defamation, it may be difficult for them to win the case. See Washington Post.
Span joins Giants
Denard Span signed a $31-million, three-year contract with the San Francisco Giants, where he will replace Angel Pagan as the regular center fielder. This represents a risky move for the Giants, since Span's recovery from the injuries he suffered last year is uncertain. That's why the Nationals were reluctant to give him more than a one-year contract rewnewal. See the Washington Post.
Globe Life Park update
The Globe Life Park diagrams have been revised, based on a more careful inspection of photos. The biggest change is that the upper decks near the left field foul pole are several feet farther out than before, and the angles are a bit different. In addition, there is a new-upper-deck diagram that shows the support beams and entry portals in the double-decked right field grandstand. Also, the grandstand "creases" are shown for the first time, [and the bullpens and main concourse area are rendered in greater detail.]
I feel compelled to mention that Globe Life Park ranks near the top of excessive-capacity stadiums, based on local population and attendance. I hope the Rangers are considering downsizing moves similar to what the Cleveland Indians and Colorado Rockies have done in recent years.
Obstructing support beams
Getting the support beams just right brought to my mind the fact that other current baseball stadiums have partially obstructed fans views due to support beams:
- Fenway Park: old fashioned
- Wrigley Field: old fashioned
- U.S. Cellular Field: "retro" fashioned (since 2003)
- Rangers Ballpark in Arlington: "retro" fashioned (especially right field)
- Coors Field: "retro" fashioned (right field, partial)
- Minute Maid Park (upper deck on first base side)
- Miller Park (upper deck behind home plate)
- Marlins Park (concrete pillars in open areas of upper deck)
Other stadiums of the not-too-distant past (back to the early 1990s) with support beams include the Metrodome (rear of upper deck), Memorial Stadium, Tiger Stadium, Candlestick Park, Cleveland Stadium, and Milwaukee County Stadium. In addition, the original Yankee Stadium (1923-2008) had support beams until it was rebuilt in 1976. See the Stadiums by class page. One could argue that Rogers Centre, Dodger Stadium, and Angel Stadium of Anaheim fit in that category, since they have support columns between the rear seats of certain levels, but those don't really obstruct the view of the field.
Rams, Raiders seek return to L.A.
The owners of the St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders joined the San Diego Chargers in applying to the NFL for relocation of the franchise back to Los Angeles, where it had been from 1946 until 1994. The Chargers and Raiders have jointly proposed a new stadium in Carson, about 15 miles south, close to the port of Long Beach. Meanwhile, the Rams want to build a new football stadium in Inglewood, which is about eight miles southwest of downtown L.A. (and not far from Memorial Coliseum). See ESPN. In an unusual twist, Rams owner Stan Kroenke claimed in the application that the city of St. Louis is in such bad economic shape that it can no longer support three professional sports teams. The city had offered $400 million toward the construction of a new stadium on the Mississippi River, so Kroenke's reaction was something of a slap in the face. See ESPN. The issue will be decided when NFL owners meet next month.
Call me old-fashioned, but I still think it's crazy to be replacing a football stadium that is in fine condition, and barely two decades old. (See the photo of the Edward Jones Dome which I posted on September 28.)
I don't think more than one team in a given professional sport has ever simultaneously moved to a given new city, but that may happen with Los Angeles this year. It would be ironic, because L.A. suffered the indignity of losing two NFL teams (the Rams and the Raiders) after the 1994 season.
More stadium news updates from Mike Zurawski and others are coming soon...
January 17, 2016 [LINK / comment]
ABC field trip to Highland (& Bath!) County
Yesterday I joined Allen Larner and John Pancake on the Augusta Bird Club's semi-annual field trip to Highland County. The weather was chilly and breezy, with occasional sleet or drizzle, frequently shifting between overcast and partly sunny skies. Those rough conditions probably accounted for the absence of any hoped-for Golden Eagles, although we did come across many Ravens and Juncos in several locations, as well as a nice mixture of songbirds at various backyard feeders. Overall, however, it was a big disappointment.
So, late in the morning we gave up on Highland County and headed south to Bath County, where things immediately got busy. At some ponds along Route 220, we saw several Hooded Merganser and about 100 Ring-necked Ducks, along with several other species. Driving along Back Creek toward the reservoir, we finally saw some Bald Eagles. Approaching Lake Moomaw, we were startled by a Ruffed Grouse which flushed just a few feet away from the car. Once we arrived at the lake, we were even more surprised to see a Double-crested Cormorant, far from its normal wintering grounds along the Atlantic coast. Along the upstream portion of the lake we saw two groups of Common Mergansers, numbering eleven altogether. There were quite a few woodpeckers and songbirds in the trees and bushes in that area, most notably a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and a Fox Sparrow. All those sightings made the venture quite worthwhile.
On the way back to Staunton, we checked out the Swoope area, hoping (in vain) to find some Short-eared Owls. We did see a pair of Bald Eagles near Smith Pond, however, presumably the same ones which have raised young ones there in recent years.
The following list (not necessarily complete) includes 44 species altogether, four of which were heard only. Many thanks to Allen Larner for leading this trip!
- Canada Goose
- American Wigeon
- American Black Duck
- Ring-necked Duck
- Hooded Merganser
- Common Merganser
- Ruffed Grouse
- Horned Grebe
- Double-crested Cormorant
- Turkey Vulture
- Bald Eagle
- Red-tailed Hawk
- American Kestrel
- Ring-billed Gull
- Rock Pigeon
- Mourning Dove
- Belted Kingfisher
- Red-bellied Woodpecker
- Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
- Downy Woodpecker
- Hairy Woodpecker
- Northern Flicker
- Pileated Woodpecker*
- Blue Jay
- American Crow
- Common Raven
- Carolina Chickadee
- Black-capped Chickadee
- Tufted Titmouse
- White-breasted Nuthatch
- Carolina Wren*
- Golden-crowned Kinglet*
- Eastern Bluebird*
- European Starling
- Fox Sparrow
- White-throated Sparrow
- Dark-eyed Junco
- Northern Cardinal
- House Finch
- Pine Siskin
- American Goldfinch
- House Sparrow
* = Heard only.
Clockwise from top left: Goldfinch, Red-tailed Hawk (J), White-breasted Nuthatch, Common Merganasers (M), Ring-necked Ducks (M & F), Pine Siskin, Bald Eagles (M & F), Double-crested Cormorant, Fox Sparrow, Black-capped Chickadee, and in center, Hooded Merganser (M).
Enlarged versions of most of the photos in the montage above can be seen on the Wild Birds, yearly photo gallery page.
January 19, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Rams will move back to L.A.
Last week,* the National Football League announced that the Saint Louis Rams would relocate to their previous home in Los Angeles. The San Diego Chargers were given an option to relocate to Los Angeles as well, subject to an agreement over sharing a stadium with the Rams, and if they don't exercise that option, the Oakland Raiders will receive the option. For the next three seasons, while a new stadium is built in the suburb of Inglewood, the Rams will play in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which had been their home from 1946 until 1979. In the announcement, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hailed the move as a boon for Los Angeles and for the NFL. He said the new stadium in Inglewood would set a new standard; see NFL.com. Rams owner Stan Kroenke spoke at length about reasons, acknowledging that there will be hard feelings in St. Louis, as well as legal challenges.
This news puts a definitive end to any hopes of renovating L.A. Memorial Coliseum with an upper deck inside the existing bowl, much like what Chicago did with Soldier Field. The Rose Bowl in Pasadena had been considered a more likely temporary for an NFL team in L.A. In 2010 a proposal was unveiled to build a new football stadium in the City of Industry, located several miles east of downtown L.A., and in the fall of 2012, the Los Angeles city council gave preliminary approval to a proposed new football stadium which would be located in downtown L.A. None of those proposals came to fruition, however. Fortunately, no one seems to have suggested moving the Rams back to Angels / Anaheim Stadium, where the Rams played from 1980 to 1994.
The sketches of the Inglewood stadium indicate a multi-level behemoth similar to AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, but with a massive glass dome similar to the new stadium being constructed for the Minnesotas Vikings. With the beautiful climate in Los Angeles, why do they need to play football inside?? Yesterday the Chargers and Rams began discussing the Inglewood stadium issue; see ESPN. Inglewood is home to a casino / horse track complex.
* On January 11 I wrote, "The issue will be decided when NFL owners meet next month." Obviously, the meeting occurred earlier than I expected.
And so, the text on the Memorial Coliseum page has been updated to reflect this news. Also, as was the case on the Jack Murphy Stadium page recently, I deleted the link to www.stadiumsofnfl.com, which is now defunct.
Football at Turner Field (+ update)
Just before Christmas, it was announced that Turner Field would be sold (pending negotiated terms), so that Georgia State University could convert the stadium into a venue for football. See ballparkdigest.com; hat tip to Mike Zurawski. So that means it won't be "in Limbo" after all.
And of course, that also meant I had to do a new diagram variant for Turner Field, which in turn led me to make "a few minor repairs." The upper deck entry portals are smaller than before, the roof is a bit thinner, and the peripheral structure which contains ramps and elevators on the south side of the stadium is now angled properly.
Adios, Al Jazeera
Only a week after Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals and Ryan Howard filed a libel lawsuit against Al Jazeera America for its dubious report that they had used performance-enhancing drugs, the Qatar-based news organization announced it will shut down operations of its U.S. branch. Coincidence? The closure could simply be a side-effect of declining oil prices. See the Christian Science Monitor. The whole idea of a news organization having a strong affiliation with a particular religion was unsettling to some people.
Web page upgrades
As I was getting started on some long-overdue upgrades to my Web pages (transitioning from HTML 4 to HTML 5, more specifically) this afternoon, I inadvertently caused the Stadiums superimposed page to become non-functional. Eegads! After a couple hours of trouble-shooting, I fixed the glitch, and I hope it will be smooth sailing from here...
January 21, 2016 [LINK / comment]
R.I.P. Glenn Frey
While driving home on Monday afternoon, I heard on the radio that Glenn Frey of the Eagles had passed away, and I'm still in a state of disbelief and deep sadness. Frey was my favorite Eagle, and I always figured I'd have a chance to see the group in concert again. (The last time was May 2008, in Charlottesville.) "The cause was complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia..." according to the Eagles' Web site, which has a special tribute to Frey, signed by Frey's family members, and by band mates Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmit, as well as former band mate Bernie Leadon and manager Irving Azoff. It also showed the lyrics to the Eagles' song "It's Your World Now," which has some haunting lines hinting of mortality.
Frey mostly played rhythm acoustic guitar, but also played piano on "Desperado," and perhaps other songs. His distinctive voice was clear, reaching fairly high notes with plenty of power. You could tell he still a bit of a Michigan accent (he was born in Detroit), with exaggerated r sounds. It all started when he moved to Los Angeles and met Texas-born Don Henley in 1971, becoming part of a music scene full of folk/country-rockers such as Jackson Browne. Soon they formed a backup group for Linda Ronstadt, and that was the origin of the Eagles. It would be hard to deny that the Eagles defined the dominant musical style of the 1970s, the later plague of disco notwithstanding. Frey's song-writing partnership with Don Henley produced some of the most creative music output since John Lennon and Paul McCartney. In both cases, there was a contrast in personalities that complemented each other perfectly for creative purposes, but which led to constant friction. Lennon and Henley were the serious ones with a Higher Moral Purpose, while McCartney and Frey were the fun-loving melody-smiths. What would the world be like if neither of those pairs of guys had ever met? That's a scary thought.
Tragically, Frey was scheduled to receive a special award at the Kennedy Center with the other Eagles in December, but his ill health made it impossible for the group to attend. Aside from his career as a musician, Frey was an actor in a few episodes of Miami Vice, and played a small role in Jerry Maguire, an excellent movie. For more, see the Washington Post. (I learned from that obituary that the phrase "warm smell of colitas" in the song "Hotel California" referred to the smoke from marijuana buds.)
Frey's death came barely a week after British glam-rocker David Bowie passed away after a bout with cancer. That was likewise a big shock, and reminds us baby boomers that life doesn't last forever, and must be cherished. The Eagles were fortunate that their often-hedonistic life style never had fatal consequences, as so often happens with rock groups. The iconic song "Life In the Fast Lane" may have been autobiographical in part, but they matured and became adults later in life.
I was vaguely aware of the Eagles' early hits at the time (I was in high school), recalling "Outlaw Man" in particular. I would say they became one of my favorite groups after "Already Gone" (from the album On the Border) came out in 1974. With the release of the album One of These Nights in 1975, they became a true super group. I vividly recall waiting for Hotel California to come out at the end of 1976; I bought the vinyl LP record immediately, and still have it! I confess that I was such a fan of the Eagles that I took the messages in their songs (especially "Take It Easy") to heart. In 2013 there was video documentary, "History of the Eagles," which I have seen in recorded form two or three times. It is excellent, an honest portrayal of the group's genius -- and their human foibles. It's a shame that they had to endure so many personality conflicts over the years. They split up in 1980 (which I recall bitterly), seeming so permanent that when the five of them (including former lead guitarist Don Felder) finally got back together for a reunion tour in 1994, the album was titled Hell Freezes Over. Unfortunately, Felder later parted ways and still remains estranged from the group. For more discography information on the Eagles (and other of my favorite groups), see my Music page.
I've seen a few lists of his (supposed) best songs on CNN, etc., but some of them feature Don Henley as lead vocalist. So, I went through all the Eagles songs I have, and came up with the following preliminary list:
Glenn Frey's best songs as the Eagles' lead vocalist
- Tequila Sunrise
- Already Gone
- New Kid In Town
- Take It Easy
- Lyin' Eyes
- Peaceful, Easy Feeling
- Outlaw Man
- After The Thrill Is Gone
- How Long
- It's Your World Now
I may reconsider some of those rankings later on. Today I bought Glenn Frey's album Solo Collection from Apple's iTunes Store, from which I came up with the following list:
Glenn Frey's best solo songs
- You Belong to the City
- Smuggler's Blues
- The Heat Is On
- Part of Me, Part of You
- True Love
I spent some time this afternoon learning to play "You Belong to the City" on my guitar, using the harmonica (G) in place of the saxophone. It's a "work in progress."
CNN ran an online poll to gauge people's opinions about which American rock band is the greatest. Can there be any doubt? The last I checked, the Eagles were in the lead with about 30% of the vote, which doesn't mean much, of course. I was surprised the Doobie Brothers were not on that list. It seems that some people just don't like the Eagles, but of course there's no accounting for taste. Unlike many other rock groups, there were never any negative vibes from the Eagles, just excellent tunes and good times.
Farewell and thank you, Glenn!
You gave us all quite a thrill!
January 24, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Mets keep Yoenis Cespedes
After a flurry of rumors last week about the Washington Nationals trying to get free agent Yoenis Cespedes, he signed a three-year contract with the Mets for $75 million, with an opt-out clause after the 2016 season. Cespedes was without a doubt the key factor behind the Mets' big surge during the last two and a half months of the 2015 season, overtaking the Nationals in the NL East and making it all the way to the World Series. See MLB.com.
Obviously, the Cespedes deal will help the Mets in the 2016 NL East race. They still have that awesome trio of pitchers this year (Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard), and it will likely be a tough struggle for the divisional title once again.
From my perspective, that announcement was a bit of a relief, as a contract between the Nats and Cespedes would have put veteran Jayson Werth's job in left field in jeopardy. At present, it's Bryce Harper in right field, Ben Revere in center field, with Michael Taylor as the backup outfielder. Who would be the odd man out? On Facebook I remarked that acquiring Cespedes could have had the same disastrous, morale-depressing effect on the clubhouse that acquiring Jonathan Papelbon did last year. Werth has two more years on his contract, which has a no-trade clause, and he will be paid a cool $42 million. He's got plenty of slugging ability left, and as long as he stays healthy (unlike last year), he can be expected to lead the Nats toward another postseason appearance.
AT&T Park update
For some time, I've been aware that the AT&T Park diagrams were lacking [the last diagram update was in 2012], so I spent some time today making some corrections. As usual, what was supposed to be a minor "tweak" ended up taking more time than planned. There is new detail in the upper deck entry portals, such as the stairs between the upper and lower portions of the upper deck, and correcting the lower deck entry portals. I also added gray lines which represent the "creases" in the grandstand, and corrected the dugouts (smaller than before) and the light towers along the first and third base sides (longer than before). I also noticed that the big entry tunnel which used to be near the home dugout on the third base side was removed several years ago, perhaps to make room for more seats. (The tunnel on the right side is still there.) Later on I may add a second-deck diagram.
Let me thank Glenn Simpkins once again for the photos of AT&T Park he shared, which proved very useful in getting the upper deck entry portals and stairs just right. (I combined them into an "extreme" panorama, shown on that page.)
By the way, it appears that the "San Francisco Bowl" (or various name variations thereof) has not been played at AT&T Park since 2013, now that Levi's Stadium (home of the 49ers) is available for use. That will be the site of Super Bowl L (I know, it has officially been designated "Super Bowl 50"), in which the Denver Broncos will take on the Carolina Panthers. It's experienced Peyton Manning against the youthful Cam Newton. Should be a lot of fun.
Also by the way, notwithstanding the massive blizzard we just had here in the east, baseball spring training begins next month, and Opening Day (April 4) is just ten weeks away!
The mail bag
Mike Zurawski wrote to express great satisfaction in the way the Rams relocation back to Los Angeles was handled. He noted that St. Louis has had mediocre football attendance for many years, and the city was just not able to afford building a replacement stadium. Mike also explained some of the cut-throat negotiations behind the scenes, putting the Chargers ahead of the Raiders as far as partnering with the Rams to build a new stadium in Inglewood. Mike says the Raiders'-Chargers' stadium plan in Carson, California was fatally flawed. This New York Times article explains why St. Louis is probably better off without a football team.
A guy representing a group of musicians in San Francisco asked to use my Candlestick Park diagram as part of the art work for a music CD which they intend to publish this year, commemorating the Beatles' last concert in 1966. Cool!
A baseball fan and relics collector named Ken Finnigan is trying to acquire a authenticated brick from Griffith Stadium. He has checked the usual online sources, but thought someone who follows this Web site might know.
Finally, here's a heart-warming story involving baseball fans of the opposing teams in the Windy City of Chicago. A young White Sox fans named Drew Duszynski (age 5) was in urgent need of a kidney transplant, because of a life-threatening congenital disease. A Cubs fan named Chris White (age 35) happened to be a perfect match, so they went ahead with the transplant operation in December. Both are now doing fine, and the urban community as a whole is a little bit stronger than before. Read all about it at redeyechicago.com.
January 26, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Sweet Briar College is saved!
As the spring semester gets underway, and I struggle to get caught up with various tasks, it's high time for me to write a few lines about a topic that is dear to my heart: the saving of Sweet Briar College! I mentioned that Sweet Briar had closed down in my blog post of June 30, 2015, when I was explaining my unusual three-job situation in the spring semester of last year: Bridgewater College, Sweet Briar College, and Central Virginia Community College. Only a week or two later it was announced that Sweet Briar would not close after all, thanks to a wonderful, spontaneous movement of alumni called Save Sweet Briar, to which I had pledged and donated a bit of money.
Well, that meager gesture of good faith on my part must have triggered some kind of cosmic karma, because soon I was offered a full-time position to teach at Sweet Briar, just before I left on vacation to Canada and South Dakota. As soon as I returned I got extremely busy preparing for three courses: Intro to Comparative Politics, Theories of Comparative Politics, and Intro to International Politics. The first two I had taught in the spring semester, while the third course I had not taught since my days at James Madison University, over ten years before. (!)
For the International Politics class, I had the students prepare for and conduct a diplomatic simulation, kind of a mock United Nations Security Council meeting, and it went very well. I concocted a fictitious world crisis in which troops from Iran's Revolutionary Guard seized most of the port city of Dharhan, Saudi Arabia, after Shi'ite Muslim dissidents seized two mosques in that city. That hypothetial scenario turned out to be eerily similar to the real-world crisis that happened a few weeks ago: Iran issued blunt threats to Saudi Arabia after the latter executed 47 people accused of terrorism. (See aljazeera.com.) In response, Saudi Arabia and several other Arab nations in the region cut diplomatic ties with Iran, amid fears that tensions might escalate toward war.
Anyway, I relished the experience, and was delighted to get to know quite a few excellent students, including some who are majoring in Government or International Affairs.
Welcome, Pres. Stone!
One of the most positive changes at Sweet Briar has been the new president, Dr. Philip Stone. He is a former president of Bridgewater College, and I am told by my former colleagues there that he is very highly regarded. I heard him speak at the Fall Convocation on August 25, and on Founders' Day, September 25. He made it very clear: Sweet Briar will prevail! (Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the speech to the college which he gave today.)
The new president of Sweet Briar College, Dr. Philip Stone, speaking at the Founders' Day Convocation on September 25.
Regarding the previous president of Sweet Briar College, James F. Jones, Jr., I think the less that is said, the better. Without any warning of impending financial trouble, last March 3, just before spring break, he abruptly announced to the assembled faculty that Sweet Briar would close permanently at the end of the semester. When that was announced by a local TV channel that evening, I could not believe what I had just heard. Sure enough, it was in the newspaper the next day, and when I arrived for my 9:00 class, the students were even more stunned than I was. Some of them didn't even come to class, understandably.
For me, one of the worst parts of this tragic episode is that the lives of colleagues I deeply respect were turned upside down, causing untold family angst. Many of them had no choice but to take teaching positions elsewhere, before the "reopening" was announced. It leaves me with mixed emotions as I embrace the academic challenge with the sobering knowledge that my good fortune came at the expense of others, in effect. To find out what was behind those dastardly deeds, see followthemoneyatsweetbriar.com.
Future enrollment growth
The future looks bright at Sweet Briar, with over 200 students expected to matriculate as freshmen next year -- the Class of 2020. (Understandably, this year's freshman class was miniscule.) There remains some uncertainty over which programs and which majors will be retained at Sweet Briar, and some cost-cutting measures are to be expected. Colleges and universities across the country are in varying degrees of financial stress, while many warn of an impending crisis due to the "balloon" of student debt, similar to the mortgage debt "balloon." In any case, I would love settling down and making a career at Sweet Briar, so we'll see how things go...
"At Sweet Briar, the impossible is just another problem to solve." Roll your mouse over the image to see another such uplifting sign: "It's going to be a legendary year!"
Seth Meyers at Sweet Briar
On Friday, November 6, NBC Late Show host Seth Meyers came to speak at Sweet Briar, being the "prize" for some kind of intercollegiate competition that Sweet Briar won. Seth is a very funny and very bright guy, formerly the chief scriptwriter for Saturday Night Live. He talked to the students about his career path and how he succeeded in a very tough environment. He grew up in New Hampshire, and went to journalism school at Northwestern University, after which he tried his hand at various stand-up comedy acts. He even spent some time working as a comedian in the Netherlands, which must have been different for an English-speaking comic. His message to the students was clear: Whatever situation you are in, produce something original whenever you have time. Don't fret about social networking or getting the highest grades, just establish a track record of effective performance and achievement that will catch the attention of potential employers. Indeed!
The nice folks at NBC (now part of Comcast!) gave everyone who attended the event a tote bag full of goodies such as a frisbee, sunglasses, mini-speakers for iPhones, etc.
Seth Meyers, grinning as he answers a question from one of the students in the audience.
NOTE: I will have to update my Academics page in the very near future.
January 29, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Lynyrd Skynyrd in concert!
CATCHING UP: Jacqueline and I went to see Lynyrd Skynyrd in concert at the Rockingham County Fair last August 19, and it was just great. A group called Whiskey Myers played as the opening act, and as the sun went down around 8:00, the main event got underway. I would estimate a crowd of about 2,500 was present. They were enthusiastic, as was the band. The fact that adult beverages were on sale (in a special, roped-off area to the side) may have helped liven spirits. As the photos below show, we were quite close to the stage.
I remember when "Sweet Home Alabama" came out in 1974, and just as they were reached the peak of success in 1977, three band members died in plane crash, most notably Ronnie Van Zant. The band broke up for ten years, during which surviving members Gary Rossington and Allen Collins formed the core of a new group, the Rossington-Collins band. Collins later died as well. In 1987, a new incarnation of Lynyrd Skynyrd was formed, led by Gary Rossington and Johnny Van Zant, younger brother of Ronnie. For more on the band's changing lineup, see lynyrdskynyrd.com and wikipedia.org.
Here is the unofficial set list from my notes, with three songs (marked with asterisks) that I didn't recognize:
- Workin' for MCA**
- I Ain't the One**
- What's Your Name?
- Saturday Night Special
- Double Trouble
- Gimme Back My Bullets
- That Smell
- The Needle and the Spoon**
- Tuesday's Gone
- Simple Man
- Gimme Three Steps
- Call Me the Breeze
- Sweet Home Alabama
- Free Bird (ENCORE -- of course!)
** Song titles retrieved from setlist.fm. My notes indicated that there was another song, between "Tuesday's Gone" and "Simple Man," but I guess not.
What better rock 'n roll cliche is there than delirious fans yelling out "Free Bird," asking for an encore? Well, I was finally part of it. I was a little disappointed that they didn't play any songs from the latest Lynyrd Skynyrd album, God 'n Guns. I bought that CD a few years ago, and like the title track as well as "Floyd," and a couple others. "That Ain't My America" veers toward nativism, taking the idea of "We all dig white people, too" (from the song "Sweet Home Alabama") a little too seriously. It's transparently anti-Obama.
My wife and I saw local Alternative Media entrepreneur Chris Graham, and his wife Crystal at the concert. Chris was very impressed by the performance. Other musical acts at the Rockingham County Fair last August included Lady Antebellum and Alabama; see rockinghamcountyfair.com.
We were about six to eight rows from the stage at the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert, pretty close.
In this photo shared by the official Lynyrd Skynyrd Facebook page, a bearded figure wearing an olive green ball cap, looking suspiciously like me, can be seen on the right side, about six to eight rows back.
January 29, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Christmas Bird Count 2015
CATCHING UP: For the first time since 2011 (but not recorded on my blog until June 11, 2012), I participated in the Christmas Bird Count this winter. It was held on Saturday, December 19, while I was in the middle of grading final exams, so I could only devote a couple hours to the "census." As usual, Allen Larner coordinated the count, and assigned me to two locations in Staunton. The first was Montgomery Hall Park, where I began in the early afternoon. I saw a fair number of birds, including quite a few woodpeckers, Carolina Chickadees, and Juncos, but nothing really noteworthy until I spotted a male Golden-crowned Kinglet, and lured him into close range by playing that species' song on my iPod. Bingo!
Golden-crowned Kinglet (male), in Montgomery Hall Park, December 19, 2015. Roll your mouse over the image to see the same bird displaying his bright orange crown feathers, as males do when they are courting females or warning other males away from their territory.
Later I headed over to Betsy Bell Hill, where I saw a couple Pileated Woodpeckers, a Raven, and most importantly, a Brown Creeper. At the dinner at which the bird count participants gathered to share their results that evening, I learned that I was the only one to observe a Brown Creeper that day. That made my efforts seem worthwhile, even though I only tallied 20 species altogether. Altogether, 76 species were seen or heard in this season's Augusta County Christmas Bird Count, plus four more during the count week. Here is my complete count, with subtotals for the two locations:
||Montgomery Hall Park
||Betsy Bell Hill
|TOTAL # OF SPECIES: 20
January 31, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Shibe Park update
After the usual marathon of photo-squinting, pixel-tweaking, and hair-pulling, I finished updates to the Shibe Park page, the first such update since 2011. (Yes, I know, other diagrams are even more outdated than that.) For the first time, that page features not one, not two, but three upper-deck diagrams! That calls attention to the multi-phased expansion of Shibe Park, and for the first time gives one a look at the "insides" of the old stadium, which was torn down in 1976. Among the most outstanding details revealed for the first time: There were two sets of entry portals in the upper deck, one being adjacent to the support beams, and the other being about 20 feet in back. This was only the case in the portion of the grandstand surrounding the infield, not the upper-deck extensions that were built in 1925. For those portions, I think there was a small lateral walkway in back at the very top, accessible via staircases located in the 20-foot-wide gaps between the original upper deck and the extended upper deck. The entry portals in the upper deck were extremely narrow, only about three feet wide. It would have been hard for two people to pass each other, especially if one of them was on the chubby side.
Other new diagram details include the "creases" in the grandstand, the bullpen pitching rubbers and home plates, and even the emergency fire-escape exits behind the upper deck beyond left field. One thing I learned for the first time is that the two dugouts were situated differently, with the home dugout (third base side) being about 15 feet closer to the middle than the visitor's dugout. Apparently this was because there was a tunnel back to the home team locker room, etc. but not for the visitors. Strange.
One change since the previous (2011) edition of the Shibe Park diagrams is that the front edge of the upper deck is about 30 feet above the ground, rather than 25 feet as I had estimated before. That makes a lot of difference. Conversely, the small upper deck in left field is slightly lower than before.
From mid-1938 (when the Phillies moved in after abandoning the nearby Baker Bowl) until end of 1954 (when the Athletics moved to Kansas City), Shibe Park was shared by two teams. In only one other stadium (Sportsman's Park) did two MLB teams share facilities for a longer period. The name was changed to "Connie Mack Stadium" in 1953, just before the team long managed by that revered former player (the A's) moved out.
Obviously, the multiple "under-the-roof" (first second and second deck) diagrams sets the standard for the rest of the "Classical Era" stadium diagrams that are currently in the works. For the first time, you'll get to see the details such as entry portals, support beams, and lateral walkways. I made a lot of progress on Sportsman's Park recently, and expect to release those diagrams in the next week or so.
That takes care of three out of the four MLB stadiums in Philadelphia, since I made updates for Veterans Stadium and Citizens Bank Park in recent months. All that's left to do for that city is the Baker Bowl. (Maybe some day I'll get to the turn-of-the-century wooden ballparks such as Philadelphia's Columbia Park.)
Just say NO to the DH in the NL!
Last week rumors began to circulate that the new (since January last year) MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred may recommend that the National League adopt the Designated Hitter rule, as the American League has done since 1973. No-o-o-oooo!!!! Requiring pitchers to bat gives an advantage to athletes with multiple talents, and it makes watching a ball game more interesting because it forces managers to conserve their utility players and make switches in the lineup based on strategic calculations. The only reason to adopt the DH rule is that it would mean less wear and tear on pitchers, who are often a valuable (and "perishable") team asset.
At ESPN, David Schoenfield lists players who would be better off as designated hitters:
- Pedro Alvarez, unsigned (ex-Pittsburgh Pirates)
- Yasmany Tomas, Arizona Diamondbacks
- David Wright, New York Mets
- Matt Kemp or Wil Myers, San Diego Padres
- Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers
- Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs
- Jayson Werth, Washington Nationals
- Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals
- Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
I have heard some people say that the recent contract negotiations with Yeonis Cespedes may have been affected by an expectation that the National League may start using designated hitters this year or next, in which case Jayson Werth would be a logical choice. The DH rule would raise his value, no doubt.
Baseball and birding in K.C.
Facebook friend and Royals fan Chris Knight asked if anyone could identify the species of the bird used on an "Early Bird" promotion, and it didn't take long for me to figure out that it is a Western Kingbird. Chris says that such birds are often seen swooping after insects at Kauffman Stadium. In fact, I photographed one of those very same birds when I was at a game there two summers ago:
ABOVE: Royals' promotional sign, courtesy of Chris Knight. BELOW: Western Kingbird in Kauffman Stadium, July 25, 2014.
January 31, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Ridin' the rails out west
CATCHING UP: I actually made it home for Christmas this season, for the first time in several years. But instead of flying, which exposes one to all sorts of weather-related risks, which I have in fact I have suffered the last two times I flew out to South Dakota (!!!), I took AMTRAK and just relaxed. I got lots of reading done on the way out and back, and did some work on my MacBook laptop computer. Some trains have WiFi service, including the eastbound train from Chicago which I rode. See the Winter 2015-2016 Photo gallery, from which this sample was taken:
Chicago train tracks and skyline, on December 31. (Eastbound)
I used to love flying, but the security hassles at the airports and miscellaneous inconveniences have soured me on that option. It happens that where I live (Staunton) has an AMTRAK station, so I don't have to drive to an airport and leave a car parked there for days or weeks. Besides, it's just plain fun watching the passing scenery from ground level, an experience you never get from 30,000 feet up. I should also mention that all four trains I rode (Staunton-Chicago, Chicago-Omaha, and then the reverse) arrived within a half hour of the scheduled time, which is not bad for such a lengthy trip. (My last trip on AMTRAK, in the fall of 2008, was plagued by delays of more than two hours.) So, they are definitely improving. On one hand, taking advantage of a government-subsidized transportation system does give me qualms, but I think there is a public purpose to be served in maintaining long-distance passenger train service. Wanna ride the rails? Go AMTRAK!
Rating popular-price beers
The Washington Post Weekend Section rated popular-price (i.e., cheap) beers, deliberately omitting the Big Three (Budweiser, Miller, and Coors). The rankings are shown in the list below, and I put the brands I like in bold face. I have to say I am surprised they put Yuengling so low. Back in the 1980s, Budweiser was my usual "regular" beer, and I still like it but I just don't think that it is so much better than some of those listed below that it should be priced almost $2 more per six-pack. Something else that bugs me is how the big brands hog almost all the shelf space in retail outlets. For example, National Bohemian was sold at Food Lion for a while last year, but not any more. Instead there are dozens of cases and six-packs of Bud, Miller Lite, etc.
- Genesee Cream Ale
- Schlitz (TIE)
- Stroh's (TIE)
- National Bohemian
- Pabst Blue Ribbon
- Natural Light
On a related note, businessinsider.com Top 10 beer brands in America, most of which were imports or high-quality domestic beers such as Blue Moon. Maybe I'll do my own ranking of favorite beers in the future.
January 31, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Presidential campaign begins
CATCHING UP: I know, the actual presidential campaign began last summer, or even earlier, but I make it a point to ignore the preliminary silliness. So, as the Iowa caucuses are about to begin (tomorrow!), I suppose it's time for me to make a few observations on this blog. (Facebook has largely, but not entirely, superseded my expression of opinions on the Internet.) In my interactions with other politically-minded people, I often ridiculed the idea that Donald Trump might be a serious presidential candidate, but after several months, his lead in the polls appears to be solid. Whether or not he in fact is a serious candidate, Trump has a better chance of winning the Republican nomination than anyone else at this point.
For what it's worth, here are my favorite (Republican) candidates
- John Kasich
- Chris Christie
- Marco Rubio
- Carly Fiorina
- Rand Paul
- Jeb! Bush
There's no point in listing the other candidates, from my point of view. I simply can't see any circumstances under which I would vote for either of the top two Republican candidates, and indeed I am open to the idea of voting for a third party candidate for the first time since 1992. (!) Neither Michael Bloomberg (former New York mayor) nor James Webb (former senator from Virginia) hold any appeal for me, however.
And on the topic of Donald Trump, who has a chronic problem with "verbal diarrhea," I'd just like to point out that Megyn Kelly of Fox News is a top-notch professional journalist. Trump is a jerk, to put it mildly, and there was no reason for Fox to try to persuade him to reconsider boycotting the last GOP candidates' "debate."
In the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer discussed the "three-cornered fight" within the GOP, warning that the party faces a disaster if it succumbs to "the temptation of trading in a century of conservatism for Trumpism." To me, it is so obvious that Trump falls outside the parameters of conservatism that it doesn't need to be said. The fact that so many people on the right nevertheless think that he is a conservative savior in the mold of Ronald Reagan is deeply disturbing to me. Reagan had a solid, length record of responsible public service, while Trump has none at all. He is a loud, foul-mouthed demagogue who could be described as fascist. In Krauthammer's mind (and in mine), Ted Cruz is no better. Indeed, the GOP is on the brink of a meltdown as the dominant "grassroots base" faction pursues its goal of getting rid of the few remaining "RINOs" in the party -- Eric Cantor in 2014 being a perfect example of that.
In a similar vein, The Atlantic Monthly takes a look at the upcoming pivotal South Carolina primary: "Portrait of a Party on the Verge of Coming Apart." In a way it's too bad that the possibility of a brokered convention next summer is regarded by so many people as a bad thing. In my view, negotiations and compromises among the factions that comprise a party are perfectly normal.
Of course, I have unique insights on what went wrong with the Grand Old Party, having served on the Staunton Republican Committee for several years. I think the reasons for my non-involvement should be obvious to everyone who is acquainted with the Virginia political scene. I have made it a point to refrain from calling out the various kooks, extremists, and rogue elements in the party, in hopes that those in a position of responsibility would eventually wise up to what I had been warning them about. Some of them are wising up now, but it may be too late...
Democrats: socialist revolution!
On the Democratic side, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) is mounting a surprisingly effective campaign against the presumptive nominee, Hillary Rodham Clinton. In a refreshing break with the past, he has proudly identified himself as a socialist, and he declines to say anything about his religious beliefs. (I'm fine with keeping politics separate from religion, but I would prefer a candidate who sincerely adheres to Christian beliefs and values.) As long as the Republicans control Congress, there's not much chance that a President Sanders could lead the United States on a course toward socialism. But, as the Trump Phenomenon shows, politics in this country is extremely volatile right now, and any number of big surprises could await us in November.
Every week there are more revelations about the classified information that was stored on her e-mail server, in clear violation of the law. Will she be indicted during the primary campaign? Not if the Obama administration can put enough pressure on middle-level prosecuting attorneys in the Justice Department.
Politics blog hiatus
The last time I wrote a blog post about politics was June 30, 2015: "Emmett Hanger wins GOP primary election." If the long intervening time isn't an indication of my utter disgust and alienation from party politics, I don't know what is.