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December 22, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Winter trades rock big leagues

While the eastern United States digs out from one of the heaviest and most widespread snowfalls in living memory, thoughts of hard-core baseball fans turn to deals made around the proverbial "hot stove." And what a month it has been!

The Washington Nationals signed right-hand pitcher Jason Marquis, a free agent, to a two-year contract worth $15 million, soon after he passed a physical exam. He had a record of 15-13 playing for the Colorado Rockies last year, and went to the All-Star Game. Besides his intrinsic value to the team, he is supposed to serve as a mentor to the many youthful pitchers on Washington's roster. That role was filled in past years by Livan Hernandez. See Another coveted pitcher, Matt Capp, will apparently sign either with the Cubs or Nationals. On top of the acquisition of Pudge Rodriguez and Brian Bruney, this means the Nationals are in position to be a competitive force in the NL East next year -- for the first time since their 2005 inaugural season!

But for most baseball fans, the really big trading news involves the trade of Roy Holladay from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Philadelphia Phillies, who in turn traded Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners. Since being called up in 1998, Halladay had spent his entire career with the Blue Jays, and felt obliged to post a full-page newspaper ad with a letter thanking Blue Jays fans: "Toronto will forever have a special place in my heart." See That's a commendable gesture by Holladay, and it's too bad more professional athletes don't take the trouble to express their appreciation for fans more often. As for the departure of Lee, that's a puzzle, and some Philadelphia fans aren't too happy about it either; see Yahoo sports. (Hat tip to Bruce Orser.)

The Yankees traded outfielder Melky Cabrera (and two other players) to Atlanta for two pitcher -- Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan. Vazquez pitched for the Yankees in 2004. That may keep a place for Johnny Damon, whose possible shift to the DH slot was made less likely by the tentative deal with Nick Johnson, a former Yankee and National. See Boy, is this getting complicated...

And finally, the Los Angeles Angels signed free agent Hideki Matsui to a one-year contract worth about $6.5 million. His health was too shaky to warrant another contract with the Yankees, and at least he left New York on a positive note, earning the 2009 World Series MVP award. [LINK UPDATE: See]

Zurawski's ballpark news

Mike Zurawski is on top of the complicated stadium situation on the west coast. It seems that Oakland may be back in the running as a permanent home for the A's. Three sites for a new stadium on the waterfront are being explored, while the Oakland Coliseum site is on the back burner. Mayor Ron Dellums insists that the city is making a bona fide effort, but federal assistance may be required to make this happen. (Can you say "stimulus package"?) Hey, don't laugh, many minor league stadiums were built with National Recovery Act money in the 1930s Depression. The Major League Baseball stadium committee will issue a report in January. See the San Jose Mercury News.

Across the Bay, the Santa Clara city council approved an environmental report on a proposed new stadium for the San Francisco 49ers. They will hold a public vote on the measure next June 8. Owners of the "Great America" amusement park that currently occupies the land in question are trying to block the deal, but the Kelo court case (June 2005) undermines their property rights claims. See The NFL is putting pressure on the 49ers and Raiders to share in building a new stadium, like they are doing in New York Jersey; see

Further south, the San Diego Chargers are getting tired of QualComm (Jack Murphy) Stadium and are asking for public money for a new stadium to be built downtown. The total cost would be about $700 million to $800 million, way above the city's budget. This makes a relocation to the franchise's original home in L.A. more likely. See The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Back east in The Bronx, meanwhile, the entire lower deck of Old Yankee Stadium and much of the second deck (loge level) have been removed. Yikes -- "The End Is Near." frown See as well as It may not be much longer before the upper deck comes down, which I assume will come about by simultaneously cutting the support cables that keep the upper deck suspended as if by magic. Ka-boom!!!

Another batch of ballpark news to come very soon...

The mail bag

In case you're wondering about my lack of recent diagram updates, this time of year means I'm swamped with exam grading chores. I do expect to post several revised diagrams over the holiday break, however, so please check back.

James Simmons wrote to say that he appreciates my diagrams that show how multipurpose stadiums converted and wonders if I'll ever do football stadiums or arenas. Maybe on a limited scale for stadiums I've been to, but I won't get around to "tackling" such a large-scale diagram project any time soon, I'm afraid.

Likewise, Brennan Mense reminded me that they used to play football in Ebbets Field, and you know what that means...

Chuck Freedman pointed out that my list of baseball movies on the Civic Religion page is woefully incomplete. I'll have to get that fixed over the holidays as well.

I was asked by a fan whether high-resolution versions of my ballpark photos are available. Some of them will be for sale for a small price some time next year, subject to certain (very reasonable) conditions.

Finally, Nicole Adams was kind enough to include this blog as among the "Top 25 Blogs for Baseball Fans" at

25. Clem's Baseball : Stadiums frequently flaunt just as much - if not more - character than the baseball organizations themselves. An exhaustive resource on current, former, and upcoming constructs, prolific blogger Andrew Clem analyzes the architecture of the buildings from an artistic and sociopolitical perspective. He writes extensively on how the stadiums may affect the surrounding community in positive and negative manners, offering some exceedingly insightful and intelligent reading for those who find the subject fascinating. In addition, numerous other articles and photos on elements of baseball beyond its homes abound throughout the site. Keep a keen eye out for news, statistics, and histories as well.

Most of us are well aware of David Pinto's superlative Baseball Musings, but there are a lot of other interesting sites listed there as well, so go check 'em out! (But don't forget to come back here!)

Posted (or last updated or commented upon): 22 Dec 2009, 6: 58 PM

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