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Andrew Clem archives
December 31, 2004 [LINK]
2004: A truly amazing year!
So what was the biggest baseball story in 2004? As if there is any doubt: The Curse was Reversed! (Or "eclipsed," that is, if you recall the lunar phenomenon that night.) The steroid scandal and the relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington probably rank a close second and third behind the Red Sox long-awaited World Series triumph. Among individual player accomplishments, Randy Johnson's perfect game against Atlanta in May stands out, as well as Ken Griffey Jr.'s 500th home run and Barry Bonds' 700th.* Other milestones that may soon be forgotten include the publication of Pete Rose's autobiography and the passing away of former Reds owner Marge Schott. As for stadiums, the opening of Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia and PETCO Park in San Diego turned out to be great successes, certainly more so than Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark debut in 2003. Don't forget about the upper-deck truncation and re-roofing of U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, a commendable effort to make up for poor original design work. Construction of the new ballpark in St. Louis (Busch Stadium III) got into full swing, while politicians in Miami and Minneapolis kept haggling over financing of new stadiums in their downtowns. On the grim side, the Yankees announced plans to replace Yankee Stadium with a smaller, luxury-oriented venue next door. Boooo!!!
Done deals in D.C. & N.Y.?
On Wednesday D.C. Mayor Tony Williams signed the bill authorizing $535 million in bonds for the construction of the new baseball stadium in Washington. This supposedly marks an end to the long and perilous process of laying the groundwork for the relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington, but you never know what surprises some of the key players may have in store.
Arizona has tentatively agreed to terms with the Yankees by which Randy Johnson will finish his career pitching in The Bronx. Just like Roger Clemens -- or so we thought! Their front office is still studying the terms to make sure they get their money's worth, and Commissioner Selig must approve the deal, since it involves so much money.
Has anyone noticed there were games being in two baseball stadiums in the last few days? Navy beat New Mexico in the Emerald Bowl at SBC Park in San Francisco (formerly Pac Bell Park), and Oregon State defeated Notre Dame in the Insight.com Bowl at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix.
Andrew Clem archives
December 24, 2004 [LINK]
Merry Christmas in D.C.!
Thanks to common sense and perhaps just a bit of goodwill shown by D.C. political leaders toward each other, baseball fans in Washington and Virginia will enjoy glad tidings this Yuletide for the first time in a generation. But what about the New Year? Well, that's another matter. You may notice that the "current likelihood" of baseball in D.C. (displayed in the upper left of the Baseball page is only 98 percent. Why isn't it 100 percent? Just ask Peter Angelos, who is still haggling over distribution of revenues from broadcasts and would not hesitate to file an injunction to get his way, and Marion Barry, who is about to take a seat on the D.C. Council and no doubt relishes the prospect of throwing his weight around once again. The passage of the stadium funding bill supposedly contained ironclad procedural safeguards to prevent it being reversed, but anything is possible in Our Nation's Capital, especially with a crafty politician like Barry. Indeed, according to Thursday's Washington Post,
[Councilman Vincent] Orange said that the maneuver effectively tabled a reconsideration of the legislation forever because no date was attached to the motion.
But, according to Phyllis Jones, the council's secretary, such a maneuver is meaningless. Jones said that a simple majority of the 13-member council could vote to undo the tabling.
Even though chances that the Nationals won't play in D.C. are negligible, there are sure to be all sorts of polemical fireworks, scary showdowns, work stoppages, and assorted mayhem as this l-o-n-g overdue relocation and construction of the new stadium go forward.
December 24, 2004 [LINK]
The D.C. United soccer team will play its first game in RFK Stadium next year on April 9, five days before the Washington Nationals do. The plan is to cover the baseball infield with a layer of grass with a special clay backing that enables it to be rolled up and stored for a few days. According to the Washington Post, "It will take two days to transform the playing surface from baseball to soccer and three days from soccer to baseball." This should be interesting... Stay tuned for a soccer version of the diagram on the RFK Stadium page.
Web site updates...
The Baseball in D.C. page has been partly updated (the chronology is still lacking) and now includes the table listing the D.C. Council members and their votes on the stadium bill, with a "racial profile." Contrary to the presumption that baseball boosters are white folks, five of the six African-American council members voted "yes" on the stadium bill, while only two of the seven white members did. On the Baseball page, the list of stadiums in the left hand column is now arranged in alphabetical order of the city in which they are located, rather than by franchise, in the respective leagues and divisions.
Andrew Clem Archives
December 22, 2004 [LINK]
The "Nats" become a reality
The Washington Nationals' team jerseys went on sale this morning, one week after they were supposed to be put on display for the first time. I have to say, I really admire the artwork. Regular visitor Steven Poppe suggests that the new owners go back to using the "Senators" name after the franchise is sold, but I think that would be a bit awkward. Besides, as he mentions, the Texas Rangers apparently retain residual rights to that name since they used to be the Senators! Weird.
In the Washington Post, Thomas Boswell interprets the strange way the relocation deal has come about:
Washington and baseball are now locked in a bizarre marriage of inconvenience. The sport finds itself in the novel position of bestowing a team on a town that has responded with a distrustful, lukewarm embrace and a demand for prenuptial agreements.
While the District wonders whether baseball is worth all the expense, baseball wonders if Washington is worth such a headache.
Looking ahead, he casts doubt on the three-year construction timetable that is generally assumed for the new stadium:
... according to one of the people most involved in researching the timeline for building the District's new ballpark, "Getting the stadium done for '08 is already out of the question. It can't be done and it won't be close. I'd put a ballpark opening in '09 at 50-50." If that pessimistic view proves true, Cropp may save the District $15 to $30 million.
Trades and near-trades
Back in the real world of baseball, the Yankees welcomed ex-Marlins pitcher Carl Pavano to their roster but failed to acquire Randy Johnson from the Diamondbacks. This was part of a three-way deal in which Dodger Shawn Green would have gone to Phoenix, but it apparently fell through because Yankee Javier Vazquez refused to go play for Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the Red Sox have picked up David Wells, Matt Clement, and Edgar Renteria, gaining an advantage on the Yanks during the winter trades, according to mlb.com. Finally, Orlando Hernandez -- who I saw pitch a shutout in the Bronx last July -- is about to sign with with White Sox.
Andrew Clem Archives
December 21, 2004 [LINK]
Stadium Deal Approved!
After two critical amendments were added by Chairman Linda Cropp, the D.C. Council just voted 7-6 in favor of the revised stadium funding bill. The first amendment
calls for the city and Major League Baseball to share the cost for insurance, which would limit the city's liability on cost overruns or completion delays.
It also waives compensatory damages for the first year if the stadium is finished late. Instead, the Washington Nationals would not have to pay rent for RFK Stadium if the new ballpark is not ready for the 2008 season.
The second amendment, approved 10-3, deletes the sunset provision that cancels the deal if there is no private financing. [SOURCE: WTOP News]
Since MLB President Bob DuPuy was involved in telephone negotiations last night, these provisions presumably meet with MLB approval. Resumed sales of Nationals tickets and merchandise should begin right away. There are a couple of stipulations, such as certification of the proposed private financing schemes, and some unforeseeable $nag$ may yet emerge, but we can now call the Ex-Expos / Nationals move to D.C. a virtual certainty: 98 percent. (Hence the image of RFK Stadium in the baseball page banner is now clear once again.) PLAY BALL!
A poll by the Washington Post indicated that most D.C. residents favored Mrs. Cropp's insistence on private funding for the new stadium, even if it means losing the team altogether. It's hard to gauge the meaning or intensity of such sentiments, however. In any case, people would do well to read Steven Pearlstein's column in the Post Business section today, in which he laments the "screwball logic" used by many in this debate. As he explained,
Council Chairman Linda Cropp and other critics often confuse "financing" with "pay for."
Should we care who finances the stadium? Well, if our interest is in holding down the total cost of the project, it's pretty clear we should be pushing for as much public financing as possible. The reason is simple: Cities can borrow money more cheaply.
He concludes by admitting some unease over the bargain (which I share), but makes it clear that
[U]ntil Congress repeals baseball's antitrust exemption, or until all major cities are willing to sign a pact that none of them will buy into baseball's Ponzi scheme, our choices are either to play by the rules laid down by Major League Baseball or not play at all. Another round of "tough negotiating" won't change that basic reality.
Or, as Don Rumsfeld might put it, you go into negotiations with the Major League you have, not the one you wish you had.
That is an appropriately realistic assessment. Predictably, in contrast, the folks at Field of Schemes complained,
In short, everybody blinked, resulting in a deal that dissident councilmember Adrian Fenty accurately summed up as "materially the exact same thing the mayor sent over. It's a publicly financed stadium with less risk, but still a publicly financed stadium."
Well, of course. Was there any other plausible outcome, besides no stadium at all? They should at least credit Mrs. Cropp for her daring (if not duplicitous) last-minute maneuver that -- she claims -- will end up saving the city $193 million or more. I suppose that much money is worth causing a few thousand cases of heartburn, plus a heart attack or two. As for Fenty, his opposition is starting to seem more like politically motivated deadset rejection than principled reason.
Details on how Mayor Williams and Chairman Cropp reached the compromise last night are in the Washington Post. Mrs. Cropp seems to have come out slightly on top in this monumental showdown, though perhaps not quite to the extent Tony Kornheiser suggested yesterday. This is not the time to pick winners and losers, however. Let's make sure this stadium project serves its proper purpose of restoring a sense of community in our nation's capital, bridging the gap between the city and its wealthy suburbs.
Andrew Clem archives
December 20, 2004 [LINK]
Down to the wire talks
Chances that the D.C. Council will approve the stadium package increased substantially this evening. The FOX television station in Washington, Channel 5, reported at 11:10 PM EST that negotiations among Linda Cropp, Mayor Williams, and MLB officials had resolved all the differences. Channel 9 reported likewise a little later, via a telephone interview with Council member Harold Brazil. It is so obvious that all parties stand to gain significantly from this transaction that success would seem very likely. But since some of the key actors in this drama have different time frames and agendas, a total collapse is still very much possible. I've raised my estimation of the chances of success from 55 percent to 75 percent.
Hundreds of baseball fans turned out for a rally this evening, a much more upbeat amd polite expression of public sentiment than has been waged by most stadium opponents. Some anti-baseball activists screamed during the last Council meeting and had to be removed, and of course we all remember Adam Eidinger's disruptive stunt on November 22. Yesterday MLB President Bob DuPuy had said, "We have no intention of extending the deadline. We have a few options [referring to putting the Ex-Expos in some other city, apparently], but we're not even going to look at that until the deadline comes and goes." See mlb.com
Whatever the outcome, years from now people will look back on this strange episode and marvel that one woman had an entire professional sports league tied up in knots. The indignity! One can only imagine the heartburn that Bud Selig must be suffering right now, after years of dragging his heels over the D.C. question, fearing exactly this kind of mess. Who knows, maybe the Lords of Baseball deserve it... In today's Washington Post, sports columnist Tony Kornheiser expressed this situation in very graphic terms, for mature audiences only:
... I hold her primarily responsible for this fiasco. I'd like to see her head on a stick. But let me give Cropp this: She has made herself The Key Player in this game. All baseball roads go through Linda Cropp now, and not the mayor. When you see the mayor squirming, it's because she's got his, um, onions, in her hand, and she is squeezing the Charmin right now. It's hard to believe a smart big-city mayor like Tony Williams could have been punked like this. Marion Barry wouldn't have been.
Mrs. Cropp may not grasp all the tangible and intangible benefits that baseball would bring to her city, but she seems smart enough and politically astute enough to reach a reasonable compromise. The alternative would be a total disaster for which thousands would hate her for years to come, and it would be very hard for her to govern as mayor, if that indeed is her plan. If she can deliver a deal that includes substantial revisions from what Mayor Williams and the MLB agreed to in September, on the other hand, her prestige and electability will soar. The D.C. Council will meet tomorrow, presumably for the last time this year, unless an emergency session is called.
Just came across a new Web site: www.dcbaseballpac.com
Andrew Clem archives
December 19, 2004 [LINK]
Sunday's Washington Post provided a detailed review of each of the 13 D.C. council members' positions on the stadium funding issue. Some members, notably Carol Schwartz and Jim Graham, were previously open to the idea but disliked a provision in the letter from MLB officials, which was supposed to address council members' concerns about the project's financing, but which might actually put D.C. in a money trap. Specifically,
Item 7: If the city failed to build a ballpark for the former Montreal Expos by March 2008, it would have to pay the team as much as $19 million a year to cover lost profits.
From Major League Baseball's perspective, that was a big concession to the city. The stadium agreement places no limit on the city's liability if the ballpark isn't ready by 2008.
To certain council members, however, Item 7 looked like a hoax -- a big, fat thumb in the eye of an unsuspecting city.
A reasonable person might well agree that this provision puts an unfair burden on the city for eventualities that are largely beyond its control, but if you read the entire paragraph in that document, it is clear that the terms are markedly better than before. Nevertheless, Mrs. Cropp did not give any indiation that Item 7 in the letter bothered her in the least until the fateful meeting last Tuesday was well underway; indeed, she had said the letter was very positive. Did she actually read the whole document before making that earlier statement?
December 19, 2004 [LINK]
A modest proposal
In a letter to D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp, I proposed an unorthodox solution to the problem of cost overruns and delays: Have the city commit to a fixed amount of funding at the low end of the range of cost estimates ($440 million), and build as much of the stadium as can be done until the money runs out. If some of the outfield seating sections or fancy adornments have to left out when the Nationals are supposed to begin play in the new stadium in 2008, don't worry about it! Let private investors into the action, with naming rights for seating sections, or whatever it takes. If the new ballpark looks a little funky for the first couple years, so much the better! That's where unique character comes from. If MLB officials are wise enough accept this awkward compromise, meeting Mrs. Cropp's demand half-way, it would actually accomplish two goals. It would make sure the stadium gets built, with a real incentive on the contractors to stay within budget (since they won't get any money for parts of the stadium that don't get built), and it creates a sort of nostalgic throwback to the days when major league ballparks were built in incremental stages over the years, especially in the 1920s. Indeed, only one stadium built between 1909 and 1923 was not significantly expanded several years after the initial construction: League Park in Cleveland. Some were expanded more than once. See Baseball Stadiums by Class for more.
December 19, 2004 [LINK]
The race card vs. civic unity
Two columnists in the Post illustrated the ultrasensitive, seldom-mentioned racial undercurrent behind this controversy. Colbert King played the "race card" with unabashed zest, reprinting a viciously racist e-mail message sent to Linda Cropp. Does King mean to imply that such views are typical of stadium backers, or is he just throwing a rhetorical bomb without considering the damage to racial relations it might cause? The way he compares the D.C. Council's belated and Quixotic challenge to MLB to the way Frederick Douglass bravely defied plantation owners suggests the latter. King ridiculed Mayor Williams ("when it comes to the D.C. Council, he can't deliver diddly squat") and the "yahoos" who want the new stadium, while giving heaping praise to Mrs. Cropp. He blithely ignores the essential point: that Mrs. Cropp's last-minute change was a cheap, underhanded bait-and-switch tactic that did grave damage to the city's credibility.
In contrast, Marc Fisher recalled the old days when the Senators served as a bridge between whites and blacks in Washington.
[B]lack Washington repeatedly rose above the racism of baseball's owners to embrace the team as a point of civic pride.
That's the choice Linda Cropp, the D.C. Council chairman who stands between Washington and baseball, faces right now: Ride to higher office on a wave of spite or bring us together. History teaches the right answer.
Call me crazy, call me deluded, but I'm cautiously inclined to think that such uplifting voices of reason and reconciliation as Fisher exemplifies will prevail over the fear and demagoguery expounded by Colbert King in this debate. As for the deal Mayor Williams offered to MLB last June, call it a giveaway, call it extortion, call it whatever you want, but it was almost certainly the only way the other 28 baseball owners would ever override Peter Angelos's objections to putting baseball back where in belongs in Washington. In an imperfect world, sometimes you have to swallow a better pill or two. I know the deal with MLB makes a mockery of the principles of private enterprise, but that wrong will be more than offset, I believe, by the huge amounts of money that are likely to pour into Washington as a result of the new stadium.
Town Hall Meeting
The Washington Baseball Club (a prospective franchise ownership group) wants all area baseball fans to attend a Town Hall Meeting, on Monday at 6pm, featuring Mayor Williams, members of the D.C. City Council, and others. Brand new Web site: www.dropcropp.com. (link via Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo) blog.
Andrew Clem archives
December 17, 2004 [LINK]
Utter disgrace: aftershocks in D.C.
The ugly repercussions of the D.C. Council's vote on Tuesday continue. (I would have posted baseball updates yesterday had I not been busy with War of the Worlds.) Since unleashing her little cataclysm three days ago, Linda Cropp has alternated between posturing as a tough negotiator and a meek conciliator. At a news conference, she asked MLB officials to
"give us a few months." ...
"I want baseball here, but not at any cost," Cropp said, and not by giving "a blank check" to Major League Baseball.
Cropp said she would not put the stadium deal on the agenda for next Tuesday's D.C. Council meeting "if there is no resolution" of the current impasse, and she called the Dec. 31 deadline "artificial." Three new council members opposed to Williams's stadium financing deal are scheduled to take office Jan. 3. (SOURCE: washingtonpost.com)
Such chilling words are not what one would expect to hear from a political leader who is tuned into reality, and it raises the awful possibility of doom. (Steven Poppe, you may be right after all.) If Mrs. Cropp does not believe that it really is now or never for baseball in D.C., she is either deceiving herself, her constituents, or both. Seldom has my standard of maintaining a respectful, dignified tone in Web discourse been tested as sorely as now. I would like to think she is just mistaken in judgment on this matter, but I fear she has deliberately taken a crowd-pleasing position that puts herself in a hole from which she cannot crawl out without ruining her political reputation, thereby forfeiting her probable mayoral aspirations. On WTOP Radio's morning call-in show today, she admitted that Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin gets huge (implicit) public subsidies from the District via the special tax breaks on the MCI Center. So why not the same treatment for baseball, Linda?? Let her know how you feel by calling (202) 724-8032, or sending e-mail at email@example.com. As Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell wrote, it is perfectly acceptable to vote yes or no on a given issue, as I myself have said. But
What is utterly and absolutely not acceptable is the current behavior of Council Chairman Linda Cropp and nine of her colleagues who want to bait-and-switch baseball into a radically altered deal than the one which Williams negotiated exhaustively -- as his city's official representative -- over a two-year period.
In business, a deal is a deal, something Cropp refuses to understand. For her any deals, those made by others or even ones she has agreed to herself in recent days, are not deals at all. They are just a starting point for her next demand.
Note that I have redone the "countdown" at the top left of the Baseball page to reflect the increased uncertainty, which will fluctuate from day to day. Likewise, I have also changed the title of the RFK Stadium page, but have left the Anomalous stadiums page untouched for the time being, since it includes the caveat phrase "barring some unforeseeable catastrophe," which would seem to be a fitting description of Mrs. Cropp.
Andrew Clem archives
December 15, 2004 [LINK]
Chaos: Cropp throws a spitball
Well, she's done it again! Five weeks ago, D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp "threw a curveball" that threatened to derail the process of relocating the Expos to Washington. Then last night,
Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) shocked her colleagues after 11 hours of debate on a stadium package by offering the private financing amendment about 10 p.m., saying she was disappointed by recent talks with Major League Baseball.
(SOURCE: Washington Post) According to MLB officials, this vote "might leave baseball with little choice but to reopen the search for a long-term home for the franchise." (See mlb.com.) This second stunning about-face by Cropp came only one day after she responded favorably to a letter in which baseball officials offered concessions aimed at benefiting the community such as more free tickets for kids and more days of usage by D.C. According to the Washington Post,
Cropp (D) said the letter means she probably will support the legislation today. "I am very positive," she said. "We have things in writing from Major League Baseball."
Is Mrs. Cropp suffering from schizophrenia, or does her inability to maintain a consistent position reflect an affliction of a moral nature? Or was she just misquoted by the Post, perhaps? As far as I'm concerned, there is nothing inherently wrong with taking a principled stand against public subsidies, as Adrian Fenty has done. I myself have urged political leaders to resist the tide of "stadium socialism," or corporate welfare, if you wish. (See Nov. 10 and July 10 postings in the Baseball 2004 archives, and March 20 and June 25 in the Baseball 2003 archives.). I think there is little doubt that a new stadium in southeast D.C. would yield vast net benefits to the city, but in the end, it is leaders in D.C. who must make that decision. Given contemporary realities (baseball's legal status as a monopoly), opposing subsidies while pretending to support baseball in Washington is nothing more than two-faced political "grandstanding." Repeatedly playing both sides of the issue in a way that causes doubts about the city's credibility, as Mrs. Cropp has done, is not only amateurish, but highly destructive. I would call such a classless posture "bleachering."
As a result of the vote by the council last night, MLB has postponed the unveiling of the Nationals' uniform that had been scheduled for this afternoon. Likewise, we may expect the sale of the franchise to be suspended indefinitely, making it difficult if not impossible for the team to acquire top-notch talent prior to spring training. Fenty wants to play "chicken" and call MLB's bluff, thinking they have no serious alternative. I doubt MLB officials would want to reopen the agonizing relocation process once again, as they have threatened, but it can't be ruled out. Here is regular visitor T. J. Zmina's take on the fiasco:
It would appear as though too many cooks still spoil the dorm food, as Linda Cropp may have just cost Washington it's franchise. Then again, all may still work itself out. On the other hand (how many hands is that now, five?) the Expos situation has not been resolved, but simply picked up, repainted, and put back down in a different location. It's as if they took a rusted out K car on blocks, spray painted it, duct taped some inner tubes on the rims, and put it on display as a state of the art vehicle. If you want to call the current Nationals situtation state of the art, it must make Rhode Island look like a continent.
December 15, 2004 [LINK]
There was a photo of Adam Eidinger (the hot-headed stadium opponent who disrupted the unveiling of the Nationals logo last month) in the Post article cited above, along with his young daughter Arundhati. Where did that name come from, you wonder? It almost certainly refers to Arundhati Roy, a young, highly articulate Marxist writer from Kerala, India, who has bitterly denounced the Bush administration over its policies in the war against terrorism. Could such people even fathom what Our National Pastime really means?
MLB has suspended all promotional activities connected to the Nationals team: no tickets, no logo merchandise. That's what we would expect. Nevertheless, Councilman Jack Evans remains confident that a compromise will yet save the day, but Mayor Williams disgustedly warned the whole thing is in jeopardy. Will he and Linda Cropp ever again speak to one another in cordial terms? Another article in Washington Post called attention to "a delicate, chicken-and-the-egg balance that may have reappeared last night. Which should come first? A new owner, who might not provide a new stadium, or a new city, with no committed buyer?" That aptly illustrates the strange, wary "courtship" between D.C. and MLB, which is hard for outsiders to understand. The article also quoted an unnamed MLB official as saying, "I think they just killed baseball in Washington." That could be negotiating rhetoric, however. An online survey included in that article asked, "Does this latest amendment on stadium financing kill the chances of the Expos relocating to Washington?" Of the 4902 responses, 72 percent said "yes." I put "no." Meanwhile, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who just attended baseball's winter meetings, was quick to declare that his city could arrange for a quick relocation if need be. Norfolk, Virginia and Portland, Oregon officials are also busily dusting off their contingency plans. (Further details are found in yahoo.com; thanks to Steven Poppe for the link.)
It's a dirty rotten shame that the ballpark alternative near Dulles Airport is so pathetically lame; if leaders in Arlington or Alexandria were at all amenable right now, Northern Virginia would be in a prime position to snatch the team away. Aware of the clashing interests at stake, I've prepared myself for such last-minute $nag$. Risking death-defying head-on collisions as negotiating deadlines approach is how businessmen, politicians, and even some diplomats advance their careers. (Remember Clinton vs. Gingrich in November 1995?) That is why, in my estimation, the situation is not as bleak as some people think. Generally speaking, rational self-interest prevails over stupidity and short-sightedness. Nevertheless, with the egos and reputations of the key players in this anguishing saga on the line, absolutely anything is possible now. Stay tuned...
Andrew Clem archives
December 13, 2004 [LINK]
Winter meetings: Few trades
The annual winter meeting of baseball owners, being held in Anaheim, yielded little big news in the way of trades. Perhaps the steroid controversy took all their time. The Orioles signed up veteran nice guy B. J. Surhoff for another year, but are otherwise frustrated. The Yankees signed Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright, both ace pitchers eagerly sought by the Washington Nationals. (Isn't it amazing how easily that name rolls off your tongue after only a few weeks?) The Yankees' deal with Wright mentioned in the last posting had been temporarily put on hold because medical exams showed his arm has not fully healed. After he passed a second exam, the contract was signed.
The Nationals just signed utility player Wil Cordero, who played with the Marlins this year (though he was injured most of the summer), and used to play with the Expos. Interim General Manager Jim Bowden is negotiating with the Cubs over Sammy Sosa, a hopelessly unrealistic prospect given the D.C. team's limited budget for this year. Bowden has done well to pick up Cristian Guzman, Vinny Castilla, and Jose Guillen, but what the Nats really need is more pitching! (Just like the Yankees do.) Other players seem wary of signing with the Nationals until the team's status becomes more clear.
Speaking of which, the D.C. City Council will vote for a second time on the stadium funding bill tomorrow. If it passes, serious negotiating on selling the franchise to one of the bidders will commence, enabling the team to acquire a full roster of top-notch talent at last. If it fails, sheer chaos will descend upon Our Nation's Capital...
Commissioner Bud Selig had a cancerous skin lesion removed from his forehead last week, and the prognosis is good. We wish him all the best.
Andrew Clem archives
December 11, 2004 [LINK]
Was the threat by Senator John McCain the deciding factor in motivating the baseball player's association to cooperate with owners in renegotiating terms of drug testing? Perhaps. It is a sad thing whenever the iron fist of government authority is needed to straighten things out in our National Pastime. Bud Selig has made appropriate stern declarations about getting serious on this problem, but what will come of it? It's too bad that Bud's credibility suffered during the excruciatingly long process to decide on the relocation of the Montreal Expos. Speaking of which, the Yankees nabbed the reliable young pitcher Jaret Wright (a Brave this year), foiling the cash-poor Washington Nationals. Wait till next year! Note the counter at the top left of the Baseball page, indicating how many days remain until the Nats "Play Ball!" in good ol' RFK Stadium, on April 14. I will be there or die trying! If my plans work out, I'll also be present at the first official game the Nationals play, up at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, on April 3.
Web site transitions
The baseball home page is now integrated into this Web site's "home-made" automatic blogging system; note the ".shtml" suffix in the URL, and please adjust your bookmarks accordingly. The "[LINK]" links next to the date take you to the permanent file archive for each blog entry; in other words, they are "permalinks." Putting interactive comments links on this page and others is just around the corner... Also, I've added to the Memorial Stadium page an old photo that I found while digging through my photo albums today. A dynamic diagram will be added to that page, and many other stadiums used for football, in the near future.
Andrew Clem archives
December 3, 2004 [LINK]
Bonds feigns innocence
The steroid scandal turned into a full-blown storm today, as the San Francisco Chroncicle (www.sfgate.com) reported that Bonds "told a federal grand jury that he used a clear substance and a cream supplied by the Burlingame laboratory now enmeshed in a sports doping scandal, but he said he never thought they were steroids." This revelation came one day short of a year after his testimony, and the circumstances by which the information was released remains cloudy. His lawyer Michael Rains complained about this, and tried to portray Bonds as a guileless victim, stretching credulity to the maximum. See sportsillustrated.cnn.com. Hardly anyone expects baseball players to be paragons of virtue, but fans have every reason to expect that they will at least accept responsibilities for their actions in an adult way. Whether baseball's reputation is deeply damaged for years to come, or only lightly scratched for a while, now depends on how the probable dope users respond. Bonds' statements remind me of a certain former president who half-admitted to past drug use by saying, "I didn't inhale." Really.
December 3, 2004 [LINK]
MLB approves Expos relocation
All but one of the 29 Major League franchise owners voted to approve the relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington next year, but this is "subject to all conditions set forth in the Baseball Stadium Agreement" which was signed on September 29. In other words, the D.C. City Council can forget about having Mayor Tony Williams renegotiate the deal. No dice. Who was the lone dissenter in today's vote? Why, none other than Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos. All those lengthy, patient negotiations in which Bob DuPuy tried to placate his fears of a financial loss came to nothing. What is disturbing is that Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich (a Republican) recently hinted that legal action on behalf of the Orioles may be necessary. (Since when did the Democrat Angelos start making friends across party lines, I wonder?) See sportsillustrated.cnn.com. Personally, I thought it was a waste of time for MLB officials to bend over backward so far just to get Angelos to go along with the relocation for the sake of unanimity. He proved long ago beyond any shadow of a doubt how unreasonable he is. In the vicious world of corporate lawyering, however, such a nasty reputation can be used to very good effect, bringing in millions of extra dollars from adversaries who would rather not endure an ugly, drawn-out fight. It looks like that's what the Nationals have in store as they prepare to settle in to Our Nation's Capital. The dead-end rejectionist attitude of Angelos reminds one of George Wallace, Lester Maddux, and other leaders of "massive resistance" to racial desegregation in the South during the 1960s. Contrast that with the friendly welcome mat laid out for the Orioles when they moved from St. Louis to Baltimore in 1954:
Senators owner Clark ... Griffith relented and in some ways even supported Baltimore's bid. When the team finally arrived in Baltimore, Griffith attended a citywide parade, welcoming a new baseball team to the area. All he received was a small monetary payment that came through television sponsorship. [SOURCE: Washington Post, Sept. 30, 2004]
Meanwhile, there is a flurry of negotiations with free agent pitchers such as Carl Pavano and Pedro Martinez, who used to pitch for the Expos. Thanks to the delays caused by Linda Cropp, however, the Nationals franchise is not likely to be sold until next year, which means the team's "interim" general manager, Jim Bowden, is still on a shoestring budget and therefore won't be able to acquire as much pitching talent as he would like. Booo!
December 3, 2004 [LINK]
D.C. stadium vote aftermath
In Thursday's washingtonpost.com, columnist Marc Fisher really ripped into some of the D.C. City Council members, especially Chairperson Linda Cropp, for cowardly abstaining in the big vote on Tuesday. He also showed a sense of balance, however, in discussing the stadium bill's leading opponents:
Adrian Fenty (Ward 4) and David Catania (At Large), deserve credit for their principled agitation on behalf of the view that the stadium deal is fiscally irresponsible. ...
Then he patiently explained the obvious economic benefits from drawing in all the suburbanite cash into the District, as well as the more nebulous psychological benefits:
So even if you don't believe that the Capitol Street corridor will blossom as a result of the stadium development, this deal is sweet. That a majority of the D.C. Council lacked the courage to say so is shameful. That three members were so derelict as to take no position is unforgivable.
Exactly! Fisher has been a consistently avid booster of D.C. baseball on the Post staff, and I agree wholeheartedly with his honest and forthright conclusions. Meanwhile, hot-headed anti-stadium activist Adam Eidinger has apparently taken a vacation in France, one week after disrupting the announcement of the Nationals name and logo. Finally, the Anomalous stadiums and RFK stadium pages have been updated to reflect the virtual certainty that the Washington Nationals will play in RFK Stadium next year. Revisions to other pages are still pending...
December 3, 2004 [LINK]
Jason Giambi confesses
So Jason Giambi has admitted to using steroids in testimony to a grand jury. Was there ever any doubt, really? Those enormous biceps (until this year, that is, when "going clean" apparently came back into fashion) looked like something from a comic book superhero. Dittos for ... well, you know. The records books in the future may have a lot of asterisks for sluggers in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I try to avoid being too judgmental, but I've certainly never believed in the ethical relativism of "so what, everybody does it." I just hope Giambi hasn't caused permanent damage to his body, and I pray that this doping scandal doesn't end up ruining all the public goodwill that baseball has managed to recover since the 1994 strike. In sportsillustrated.cnn.com, Tom Verducci says the Yankees will "definitely look into the possibility of voiding the contract," which has four years to go. Poor Mr. Steinbrenner.
Andrew Clem archives
December 1, 2004 [LINK]
D.C. Council approves stadium
By a 6-to-4 vote, with three abstentions, the D.C. City Council approved a bill that will provide city funding for construction of a baseball stadium for the Washington Nationals. It provides for the possibility of some private financing and obliges Mayor Anthony Williams to renegotiate terms with Major League Baseball, for whatever that's worth. It was a closer call than it had to be, as some believe that Williams got complacent and neglected to persuade key council members on the merits of his grand plan. A second vote to finalize the bill's passage will be taken in two or three weeks. See washingtonpost.com for details. Some are still denouncing the package as a case of "corporate welfare," and there's some truth to that, but no one can deny that the new stadium will provide an uplifting impact on a wretched, forlorn part of the city that's only a mile from the Capitol. The only question is whether the stadium design and the construction contracts will be handled in a way that integrates the ballpark into the local community. Councilmember Adrian Fenty's proposal to force the Nationals to play at RFK Stadium indefinitely is hopelessly unrealistic, as is Chairwoman Linda Cropp's proposal to use land near RFK as a backup site if cost overruns get out of hand. I'm more convinced all the time that the timing of the announcement that the team will be named the "Nationals" was aimed at providing political ammunition for Mayor Williams, who opposed reuse of the "Senators" name because the District lacks any voting representatives in Congress.
Andrew Clem archives
November 22, 2004 [LINK]
The "Nationals" It Is!
Mayor Anthony Williams just led a ceremony announcing that the Washington baseball team will be named the "Nationals." It had been understood that the new owners of the franchise would have discretion to choose the team name, but the fact that someone has invested a lot of design work into the new team logo suggests that MLB may be appeasing or giving political support to Mayor Williams, who has rejected reusing the "Senators" name because D.C. lacks any representation in Congress. Score one for Tony. Another possible name occurred to me recently, but I guess it's too late now: the Washington Warblers! Three other baseball teams already have bird names, including our friendly neighbors up in Baltimore. Another crucial landmark is that there is now an official MLB Washington Nationals Web site, which has replaced that of the defunct Montreal Expos.
Sadly, the auspicious occasion was marred when a protester took over the podium, held up a sign, and started yelling about the pending stadium financing deal. Opposition to public funding for sports stadiums is certainly a legitimate point of view, but expressing it in such a rude and obnoxious fashion detracts from the cause. (Where was good old dull-but-earnest Ralph Nader?) The culprit was identified as Adam Eidinger, who recently ran for D.C. "shadow representative" on the D.C. Statehood Party ticket, and indeed the photos on his Web site match the guy I saw on TV. It was a reminder of one reason why MLB has long been leery of Washington: It's a hotbed of disruptive fringe political activists, rather like Greenwich Village or Berkeley. Getting things done in Our Nation's Capital often means pandering to zealous fools.
Andrew Clem archives
November 19, 2004 [LINK]
Baseball frenzy in Washington
In the first two days since sales began, over 10,000 people have put down a $300 deposit to get season tickets for baseball games in D.C. next year. Prices at RFK Stadium will range from $7 for the outfield upper deck to $90 for elite box seats between the dugouts, with eleven (!) different price brackets. By comparison, in the stadium's inaugrual year, 1962, there were only five price brackets, ranging from 75 cents to $3.50. Single-game ticket prices will be higher yet, but it is not yet known whether multi-game ticket packages will be sold. Another good sign for D.C. is that the "Ex-Expos" just obtained outfielder Jose Guillen from the Anaheim Angels in exchange for outfielder Juan Rivera and shortstop Maicer Izturis. Meanwhile, the D.C. city council has agreed to vote on funding for the new stadium on November 30, and it appears likely that there will be a compromise provision allowing for some private funding. MLB franchise owners postponed their vote to approve the relocation of the Expos to D.C., but Bud Selig denied it had anything to do with the delays in getting the stadium funding approved. According to the Washington Post, the main hitch is good ol' Peter Angelos, who is still haggling over revenue-sharing terms.
It is interesting to contrast the D.C. situation with that in South Florida. The Miami Herald reports that the Florida Marlins have offered to contribute $35 million more to build a new stadium in Miami, estimated to cost $420 million, for a $192 million total commitment. City officials have insisted that the Marlins say how much they would pay for any cost overruns.
Andrew Clem archives
November 16, 2004 [LINK]
Field(s) of Dreams
UPDATE: The front office of the amorphous entity formerly known as the Expos, currently in transit from Montreal to Washington, has agreed to a four-year contract with 26-year old shortstop Cristian Guzman (who played a big part in the Twins' pennant chase this year) and a two-year contract with Vinny Castilla (the veteran Rockies third baseman). It is not certain whether this means the "Ex-Expos" are not interested in former Reds shortstop Barry Larkin, though he might become a first baseman. You put those three top-notch infielders together with Jose Vidro at second, and you've got a team in serious contention for the pennant! Also, Frank Robinson made a verbal agreement to serve as manager for another year. This was also reassuring news for a team in flux that is vulnerable to an identity crisis. I wonder if this flurry of activity is an indication of MLB's confidence that the D.C. City Council will approve the stadium package as originally agreed to by the Mayor? Obviously, whoever puts in the winning bid to buy the Expos must have deep enough pockets to follow through on those commitments.
Field of Dreams, imaginary home of the Chicago Black Sox. "If you build it, he will come." -- (Yeah, but who's gonna pay for it???) Note the special effects on the cornfield photo on that page.
Meanwhile, the dream of bringing baseball back to Washington is coming ever closer to becoming a reality. D.C. City Council Chairperson Linda Cropp has agreed to fully fund a new stadium at the South Capitol Street site if it's the only way to consummate the Expos relocation deal. Nearly everyone agrees that her alternative plan was just a shady tax-dodging scheme. It is rumored that 40-something veteran player Barry Larkin, who was let go by the Reds, is very interested in finishing his career in Washington. Orlando Cabrera, who was traded to the Red Sox in July, might even be induced to rejoin his Expos teammates under the right conditions. Finally, the former minority partners of the Montreal Expos just lost their racketeering lawsuit against former principal owner Jeffrey Loria and MLB officials, thus removing one of the last potential obstacles in the way of that franchise being relocated to Washington Next year. It's hard to know what the plaintiffs were hoping to gain from that suit, aside from getting a small cash payoff, and perhaps the fact that their claim that they wanted to keep the Expos in Montreal was so far-fetched was what undermined their legal case. (See Yahoo Sports; Thanks to Steven Poppe for the tip.)
Andrew Clem archives
November 10, 2004 [LINK]
Cropp blocks stadium vote
Once again, D.C. City Council Chairperson Linda Cropp shocked her cohorts by postponing a vote on funding a new baseball stadium for two weeks, even though Mayor Williams had a majority of votes lined up for his proposal. Unbeknownst to the Mayor, she has been discussing with real estate brokers (including Michael Sununu, son of John Sununu, a top official in the first Bush administration) a plan under which private investors would fund up to $350 million of the $440-$530 million total construction cost. The good news is that she says she is committed to building the stadium, and now accepts the South Capitol Street site on the Anacostia waterfront. According to the Washington Post, an aide to the Mayor "described the proposal as a tax shelter that relies on a loophole in the federal tax code..." Mrs. Cropp appeared on WUSA-TV9 this morning and tried to explain her alternative plan, denying that her actions are aimed at laying the groundwork to run for mayor. Will Mayor Williams be forced to renegotiate his agreement with MLB? I'm rather sympathetic to those who fault such "stadium socialism," but D.C. has a reputation for being unfriendly to business, and the city's credibility has been undermined by Mrs. Cropp's last-minute switcheroo. Fortunately, none of this seriously threatens the planned relocation of the Expos to D.C. MLB plans to name the team the "Nationals" on a provisional basis, and ticket sales are supposed to begin any day now, according to General Manager Tony Tavares.
Andrew Clem archives
November 8, 2004 [LINK]
Late-inning $tadium $ite $nag
D.C. City Council Chairwoman Linda Cropp admits that her plan to build the new baseball stadium near RFK Stadium doesn't have enough votes to win passage, according to the Washington Post. As things stand, however, Mayor Williams' plan doesn't have enough votes either, and tomorrow evening's Council meeting will decide whether a compromise is possible. The Saturday edition of the Post was full of news and comments that cast extremely negative light on Mrs. Cropp's alternative. I had initially hypothesized that her ploy was aimed at getting better terms from MLB, but I may have overestimated her political astuteness...
Winston Lord, of the propsective D.C. baseball franchise ownership group, just sent out an e-mail message to folks like me who are signed up for ticket info on the new Washington baseball team. Their site has link for sending an e-mail message to the D.C. City Council: www.baseballindc.com/non_dc_resident with a pre-written message, which I rewrote almost from scratch; see below. That link didn't work for me, so you might want to just click on the following link to send a message to
ALL MEMBERS OF THE D.C. CITY COUNCIL.
Dear Members of the D.C. City Council:
I am a resident of Virginia and a former resident of the District who has long been a serious fan of baseball. I am writing to express to you my strong support for the Anacostia Waterfront as the right location for a new ballpark in Washington DC. Anything else would be an unmitigated disaster.
I once lived within a block of the proposed site on South Capitol Street, and I can testify how deep is the need for a renewed urban development effort in that part of the city. It is the gateway to D.C. from the south, and a new stadium / entertainment complex there would be a tremendous enhancement to Washington's image. Giving up on the Anacostia Waterfront will mean missing a historic opportunity to revitalize an entire section of the City. A new ballpark could do for the Waterfront what the MCI Center did for the 7th Street area. What's more, by drawing in many millions of dollars from Virginia every year, it would serve as the "commuter tax" on suburbanites that the D.C. government has always wanted.
Building a new ballpark near RFK Stadium as Chairwoman Linda Cropp has proposed, in contrast, would NOT generate any significant development, and it would attract far fewer fans from Virginia. (I would probably attend at least ten additional games per year at a South Capitol Street ballpark compared to a ballpark built next to RFK.) Even worse, it would be more likely to encroach upon the Baltimore Orioles' fan base in Maryland, and their owner Peter Angelos would almost certainly require additional monetary compensation. In short, the RFK site would be a colossal mistake: penny wise but pound foolish.
The deal that Mayor Washington made with Major League Baseball specified the site on South Capitol Street. The radical change of plan this late in the game will jeopardize the return of baseball entirely. After waiting so long for baseball to our area, we can't afford such a risk. Please do not break the signed agreement with Major League Baseball.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Andrew G. Clem
Andrew Clem archives
November 5, 2004 [LINK]
Cropp throws curveball
D.C. Council member Linda Cropp, who has previously spoken in favor of a new baseball stadium, just proposed to build it near RFK Stadium, prompting Mayor Williams to warn that such a change would put the whole relocation deal in jeopardy. She claims it would save 20 percent of the construction costs, a perfect example of "penny wise, pound foolish." A location that far from downtown and Northern Virginia would reduce average attendance at games by at least 15 percent, I'd bet. See Washington Post. Again, I interpret such actions as part of a negotiating strategy aimed at getting slightly better terms from MLB and the new owners, but we'll see... Earlier this week, two committees of the D.C. Council gave approval to particular aspects of the stadium plan, after including additional funds for community development. Hot-headed D.C. Council member Jack Evans, perhaps the biggest stadium booster, used profanity during one of the heated public hearings. He then apologized.
I plan to stay much more on top of baseball events this winter season than in past years, for obvious self-interested reasons. Aside from much new material pertaining to the new Washington team, there will be dozens of revisions, corrections, and enhancements guaranteed to appeal to true baseball fans. Any old photos of stadiums -- especially Griffith Stadium or RFK Stadium -- would be greatly appreciated, and all such photos will be properly credited.
(This is where the new blog system begins.)
October 30, 2004 [LINK]
The Curse Is Eclipsed!
Once more, superstition and astrology intersect with the world of baseball. Was it just a coincidence that the Red Sox triumph on Wednesday night took place during a lunar eclipse? Within the span of one full lunar cycle, two unthinkable historic passages in the baseball world have transpired: first, official confirmation of the relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington ("when the moons and the suns and the stars and the dollars are aligned correctly," as Bob DuPuy said), and now, the Red Sox have become World Champions, and have done so in spectacularly decisive fashion. Both miracles followed decades of maddening frustration suffered by fans in their respective cities, and in both cases a central part of the story was rising above old demons, either internal or external. (Just in time for Halloween!) Just as Washingtonians were momentarily stunned by news that they were about to become a real baseball city once again, Bostonians are temporarily dazed by the new reality of being on top of the proverbial heap, now freed of their past crippling self-doubt and bitter grudges. It was a Cinderella story that only a total grouch could fail to appreciate, though a World Series without pinstripes still seems a little empty to spoiled Yankee fans like me. Four years without a world title?
Johnny Damon's first-inning homer was all the Red Sox needed in Game Four, putting the Cardinals in an effective psychological "pin" position from which they could not escape. Pitching performances by Schilling, Martinez, Lowe, and Foulke far surpassed expectations; apparently not many experts gave the Red Sox as much credit for pitching before the postseason as I did. Many have remarked that Boston not only set a record for consecutive postseason wins, they also sustained a perfect inning-by-inning lead in runs. Another odd facet of this World Series was that both teams' scores in each successive game declined in steady fashion. And what are we to make of the enormous ironies involving the actual or possible trades of Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, and Nomar Garciaparra this year?
I was amused to find out that Boston's pitching hero Curt Schilling endorsed Bush at the end of his brief appearance on ABC's Good Morning America on Thursday. After Charles Gibson offered congratulations to him and the Red Sox, he replied: "And make sure you tell everybody to vote, and vote Bush next week." (via www.georgewbush.com)
In Washington, the city council held a marathon public hearing on the baseball stadium issue, and more than 300 folks showed up. The opposition seems split between total rejectionists and those who would like to get a better bargain, so Mayor Williams' plan is likely to be approved. (See Washington Post.) There is a remote possibility, however, that all this is part of a negotiating ploy aimed at setting up a more reasonable deal, mobilizing public sentiment in D.C. to demonstrate than the city government can't bend any further and will have to get more private money to fund the construction. In other words, give the extortionary deal demanded by Peter Angelos a fair shot, and then force him to settle for something less. I wonder if the terms Angelos is getting include an upper cap on D.C.-Baltimore revenue sharing, in case the Washington team earns a higher profit than expected?
October 27, 2004 [LINK]
Thanks to Pedro and Manny both living up to their high expectations at just the right moment (and Jeff Suppan making a colossal base-running goof), the Red Sox edged closer to what will be regarded the history-making triumph of our time. The fat lady is not yet singing, but the ghost of Babe Ruth seems to be sleeping. (Good SNL skit on that, but I missed Ashlee Simpson's lip-sync gaffe.) The Red Sox must have set some kind of record in errors in the first two games, but their batting made up for it. A 4-0 sweep would cut into FOX's ad revenues [Fans! It's game time, time to grab a cold, fresh Budweiser!] so let's see if they can contrive some way to stretch this series out another game or two. As we all know, coming back from an 0-3 deficit is almost unheard of...
Four letters to the editor in the Washington Post on Tuesday made some good points about the developmental effects of the proposed new ballpark, and some bad ones. To succeed, stadiums must be close to downtown, which is why the option of keeping the team in RFK indefinitely is simply not plausible. That's also why FedEx Field is such a sterile, unhappy home for the Redskins. As for the complaint that a homeless shelter near the new site may get shut down, that needs to be compensated in some way. Insisting on private funding for the new stadium is a nice thought, and the Giants' SBC Park is a noble example, but MLB's terms for relocating the Expos were very explicit on that point. They're a monopoly, and -- as long as Congress lets them run free -- they make the rules.
October 24, 2004 [LINK]
Hey, a win's a win.
Johnny Damon sparked the Red Sox into taking an early lead last night, but the Cardinals clawed their way back into the game in the latter innings. Two errors by Manny Ramirez almost blew the game wide open, but Mark Bellhorn's home run in the bottom of the eighth saved the day. The way I figure it, Manny owes him a BIG favor; a loss in Game 1 would have been a crushing blow to the Red Sox. The idea of a World Series in Boston is still almost too unreal to absorb; the Red Sox have made it to the October Classic about once every two decades since the 1940s. It's interesting that their recent success coincides with the transfer of ownership from the Yawkey family, the owners since 1933, to John Henry, the former owner of the Marlins.
October 22, 2004 [LINK]
Red birds vs. Red Sox
Thanks in large part to that amazing diving catch by Jim Edmunds in the 2nd inning, which saved (at least) two runs, the Cards managed to beat Roger Clemens and the Astros last night. So this year's World Series will be a rematch of the 1967 and 1946 contests between two of the "reddest" teams in baseball. Had Houston won (they led until the 6th inning), it would have been the second all-wild-card World Series in three years. If Boston had held onto their 5-run lead in last year's ALCS Game 7, both teams in last year's World Series would have been wild card teams as well. Rewarding grit and spunk is all well and good, but the emerging pattern suggests that there ought to more of an advantage for teams that do better during the regular season. (Am I beating a dead horse here?) The problem is that playing at home doesn't yield as much of an advantage as one might think. Excepting this series, 12 out of the 23 other postseason games this year were won by the visiting team. This was only the fourth seven-game postseason series in MLB history in which the home team won all of the games. (The previous times were the 1987, 1991, and 2001 World Series.)
(revised, that is) Baseball in D.C., with a photo and map of the new stadium site, a chronology (not yet complete), Web links, etc.
October 21, 2004 [LINK]
"The World Turned Upside Down"
That was the name of the song played by the British Army band when General Cornwallis surrendered to General Washington at the Battle of Yorktown on October 19, 1781 -- only one calendar date earlier than the stupendous victory by the underdog Red Sox in the Bronx last night. How can such a thing have happened?? In my view, there were three main factors: reliable batting through the entire Boston lineup, solid pitching (when it really counted, at least), and gritty team spirit. I had wondered how the Yankees would manage to win in the championships without a first-rate pitching staff this year, and the consequences of that gap are now obvious. David Ortiz obviously earned the ALCS MVP award, but it was the down-on-his-luck "caveman" Johnny Damon who provided the necessary power (six RBIs) last night, with TWO homers, including a squeaker of a grand slam and a huge blast into the upper deck. What a well-timed rally on his part! Last year I felt a certain charitable sympathy for that perpetually frustrated team from Boston, but this year was different. During September they clearly established themselves as worthy contenders to the American League pennant. Even after their early losses in the ALCS, I thought they would end up with a respectable showing, but even I couldn't imagine the record-smashing comeback they pulled off in the last four games. Will this triumph help Boston fans to get over their hatred and resentment of the Bronx Bombers, at long last? Will it lead to national reconciliation and promote world peace?? Well, at least now I may be able to wear my Yankees cap without fear when I finally get a chance to see a game in Fenway Park. In the mean time, I will be cheering the Red Sox on in the World Series, confidently and whole-heartedly. That being said, I feel the need to repeat what I wrote about the Florida Marlins victory in last year's World Series: "I hate spunk!"
I've redone the panoramic (spliced-together) photo of the back side of Wrigley Field, and have added large versions of the two other photos on that page. Stil pending are diagram revisions to show how that historic stadium evolved over the early decades of its existence.
October 20, 2004 [LINK]
EVENING UPDATE: Jim Edmonds just forced Game 7 in the NLCS with a home run in the bottom of the 12th inning. Just in time for this evening's Main Event to begin!!! Julian Tavares got so mad at himself for blowing Game 5 in Houston that he pulled a Kevin Brown masochism stunt, and I was amazed he was able to pitch with two broken fingers tonight. Interestingly, the Astros-Cardinals series is the first postseason series in at least a couple years in which all games have been won by the home team -- so far. The Red Sox jumped out to an early 6-run lead thanks to yet another homer by Ortiz, and a grand slam by Johnny Damon, who has been ice cold lately. In Game 7 of the ALCS last year, the Yanks came back from five runs down to win; can they somehow recover from a six-run deficit this year???
When I first saw Bronson Arroyo's failed tag on Alex Rodriguez in the 8th inning I had chilling memories of the similar game-ruining gaffe by Bill Buckner in 1986. But then the replays showed clearly that A-Rod had swatted the ball away from Arroyo's glove with his left hand, and the conferring umpires quickly made things right, after which the outraged fans started throwing balls onto the field. Things soon calmed down after riot police took up positions, averting a possible forfeit but spoiling the atmosphere nonetheless. Thanks for leaving a sour taste in our mouths, A-Rod! Let's not forget the incredibly brave pitching performance by Curt Schilling, who somehow lasted SEVEN full innings, in spite of his fragile ankle. The deciding game this evening will be extremely tense, which raises the ugly possibility of another brawl.
The Montreal Expos franchise is officially on the auction block. Do I hear $300 million? The ultimate price will be greatly inflated by virtue of the publicly-subsidized future stadium in D.C., the "extortionary" price of admission made necessary by the obstructionism of Peter Angelos. Interested parties should contact mlb.com. In Washington, opponents of city funding for a new stadium seem resigned to defeat, as no one has any better ideas on how to revitalize the South Capitol Street neighborhood. See the Washington Post.
I've just read a book that provides a lot of insight into the recent (and yet-unfinished) struggle over the relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington, D.C. It's Playing Hardball: The High Stakes Battle for Baseball's New Franchises (1993), by Donald Whitford. It focuses mainly on the long campaign by Denver (and Colorado) to land a big league franchise, either via relocation or expansion. Their long sojourn in the "wilderness" is similar to what Washington has been through, except that Denver never had big league ball, and the nearest alternative big league team for them was several hundred miles away. The other case was the Florida Marlins, whose original owner Wayne Huizenga emerged from the pack of franchise contenders quite suddenly, in contrast to Denver. This illustrates how modern baseball has increasingly come under control of flamboyant risk-taking tycoons whose ties to their local communities are often weak. Two other themes in the book are fascinating to me: the persistent role of politicians who get carried away trumpeting economic development spinoffs (such as then-Denver mayor Federico Peña, who later served as U.S. Secretary of Transportation), and the unique personal styles of the successive MLB commissioners who struggle to balance heavy pressure from owners while justifying baseball's special monopoly status as a matter of public interest. How would baseball have evolved in the 1990s if Bart Giamatti had lived a full life?
The 2002 Archives and 2003 Archives pages have been cleaned up, and there are now links enabling you to jump from one postseason "scoreboard" to another. (Pretty handy, huh?) Games won by the visiting team are now shaded olive, which reveals some interesting patterns. Another bit of odd trivia I've discovered: there were NO extra-inning games in the 2002 postseason.
October 19, 2004 [LINK]
Back to The Bronx
The Red Sox came out swinging in Yankee Stadium tonight, but so far (end of 3rd inning) there is no score. Win or lose, the Red Sox deserve huge respect for what they accomplished in their do-or-die home stand this past weekend. Anyway, it will be better for the Yankees if they win at home. Now the big question is, How many innings can Curt Schilling last?
October 18, 2004 [LINK]
UPDATE: David Ortiz just drove in the winning run for the second night in a row, keeping the Red Sox's impossible dream alive. This year's "Boston marathon" has been simply unbelievable! And the Astros' 2B Jeff Kent of all people gets to be the hero for the folks in Houston. (Oh, that home field advantage.) So it's back to New York and St. Louis; could this year's postseason top last year's???
I still can hardly believe what I saw transpire after midnight up at Fenway Park. My hunch that Boston would refuse to quit, in spite of having dropped the first three games to the Yankees, was proven correct. Who cares that no team has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit in a postseason series? Anything is possible! Those scrappy wild card teams have certainly added lots of spark to the postseason, and we should give credit where credit is due for that innovation: Thanks, Mr. Selig! Nevertheless, I still think the highest-percentage team in each league should get a bigger advantage than at present, with only three games in the first round, and all at home. That's a little different from what I had suggested before; after rethinking the matter, I decided that a 3 home game / 2 away game series format would put too much pressure on the team with the home field advantage.
Interestingly, both games yesterday were decided by a home run to the right field bullpen. It was also coincidental that "Houston" and "Boston" rhyme, and both are in states that are home to a presidential candidate. What's more, both stadiums bear strong similarities in layout, with a short left field with a high wall and grandstands that are squeezed in along the foul line. (That's not really a coincidence, however, since it reflects the conscious imitation of Fenway Park by the designers of MinuteMaid Park.) The two games in Boston lasted well over nine hours altogether. The 19-8 blowout by the Yankees on Saturday set a number of records, too many to mention here. The Astros have proven themselves worthy competitors to the Cardinals. Carlos Beltran and Albert Pujols are just amazing.
I've received a lot of news tips and corrections on baseball stadium news over the last several days, and I'm sorry that I can't always respond right away. Steven Poppe laid out a list of stadium diagrams in need of revision and/or updating, including some of the "neutral" venues such as the TokyoDome. T.J. Zmina (whose photos are on the PNC Park page) told me that the scrolling stadium menus overlap with each other; I hope that's fixed now. Marc Gilbert tells me that the dugouts at Dodger Stadium will be moved forward next year, as part of the recent grandstand renovations there. I ran across some great photos of it and many other stadiums at walteromalley.com. As always, I greatly appreciate fan feedback, and I keep track of such input on my "to do" list, near the top of which is revising the grievously outdated Baseball in D.C. page.
October 13, 2004 [LINK]
Once again, the Red Sox couldn't quite mount enough of a comeback against the Yankees tonight, losing 3-1. They've still got plenty of fight left in them, though no league championship has ever been won by a team that lost the first two games. Whatever happens, 2004 will mark another great chapter in one of the biggest rivalries in sporting history. We've learned that Curt Schilling's rocky outing last night was the result of his tendon snapping across his ankle bone every time his foot pivoted. He is listed as "hopeful" for Game 5 (if there is one), but Boston's pitching staff has plenty of depth, so even if he can't make it, they'll still be competitive. The Cards beat the Astros by the same score as the Yanks did to the Bosox last night, 10-7. There seem to be a lot of repeated scores this postseason (8-3, especially).
The Red Sox certainly showed they've got spunk last night, coming within one run of the Yanks after falling eight runs behind. If David Ortiz's drive to left center field in the eighth inning had gone about two feet further, it would have set a postseason comeback record. The way things turned out, the 10-7 loss probably qualified as a moral victory for Boston, whose batting lineup and pitching staff are simply awe inspiring. The Bosox don't need anybody's sympathy this year; indeed, they could ... go ... all ... the ... WAY! Arghhh! The FOX channel on our TV is all screwed up at the moment; where is "the cable guy" when you need him?
October 11, 2004 [LINK]
So the Astros have won their first-ever postseason series after 43 years of trying. Meanwhile, the Braves' championship dreams have once again been thwarted, as if it's expected. Those may be the two most frustrated teams in baseball today, but either of them would be hard pressed to beat the Cardinals. Is Houston due? It was nice for a long-suffering lower-ranked team like the Angels to finally get a moment of glory a couple years ago, but other teams have waited even longer. At least Turner Field was (over-) filled to capacity this time; the empty seats in the first two games were an embarrassment. Houston's remarkable success since mid-August is all the more amazing considering that Andy Pettite has been on the DL for so long. What if Roger Clemens faces Curt Schilling in the World Series, with both pitchers having switched leagues since their last joint appearance in 2001!?
October 10, 2004 [LINK]
Here we go again!
The Red Sox will face the Yankees in the AL Championship Series, just like last year. These being the two highest percentage teams in the AL, this is as it should be. Don Zimmer isn't coaching for the Yanks anymore, so who will Pedro Martinez throw to the ground when the next fight breaks out? Seriously, the Red Sox have shown they are true AL pennant contenders, combining skill, determination, and (so far) self-discipline. (Too bad the Cubs couldn't do likewise.) The Braves eked out another come-from-behind win over the Astros today and will now get a chance to advance to the NLCS at home tomorrow night. The Dodgers are struggling to survive another day against the Cardinals right now, but it doesn't look good. UPDATE: Game over, Cards win 6-2.
Parting is such bitter sorrow:
Who can blame Canadians for scorning the $weetheart deal that brought the Expos to D.C.? Here's a headline from www.canada.com: "Washington name? Call 'em the Suckers -- The deal that brought major-league baseball back to Washington is so one-sided there's no need to hold a contest to come up with a name for the franchise" The Washington Post's political columnist David Broder suggested the team be called "The Reagans" because everything else in Washington has been named after The Gipper lately. Or maybe "The Gippers"?
As for us Washingtonians and Virginians, after waiting for baseball for so many years, the recent turn of events is still almost too unreal to believe. (Thomas Boswell eloquently explored this theme last week in the Washington Post.) But it makes me think, if such outrageously improbable things are possible, then who knows, maybe the Red Sox can win the World Series! I said "maybe." Meanwhile, former rogue mayor Marion Barry says he will fight any public funding for the new ballpark in Washington, echoing the flat-out rejectionist position of council member Adrian Fenty. (Do they have any better ideas for bringing in private money to clean up and redevelop the South Capitol Street neighborhood?) Tomorrow's Post has an article on the political opposition to Mayor Williams' baseball deal. Let there be no doubt: This was a sweetheart deal and deserves serious scrutiny in terms of public policy. But beyond the strict developmental aspects of building a new ballpark there lies the deeper socio-psychological purpose of healing the racial animosities that exploded in the 1960s. That was a big reason for baseball's departure in 1971, and Mayor Williams is well aware of the unique role baseball can play in making things right again in Our Nation's Capital.
October 6, 2004 [LINK]
What home field advantage? Three of the first four playoff games were won by the lower-seeded visiting teams, yet more proof that anything can happen in the wide-open baseball postseason. Har-rumph! See the Postseason scores table below. UPDATE: The Twins scored a run in the top of the 12th inning, but A-Rod's clutch double and Matsui's sac fly saved the day for the Bronx Bombers, who won 7-6. Whew!
Activists in Our Nation's Capital are already organizing to try to block any public funding of a new ballpark, under the false assumption that there is a fixed "pie" of goodies to be divided upon among various factions. ("Education, Homelessness Are More Pressing Priorities, D.C. Group Says" -- Washington Post.) In a capitalist system such as ours, the pursuit of investment opportunities creates a positive-sum gain for society as a whole, though sometimes at a cost to certain groups. True, the economic development spinoffs from sports stadium construction are often exaggerated, but anyone with any familiarity with the South Capitol Street neighborhood should know how desperately new capital investment is needed there. Such blighted areas are a main reason for despair, which is what leads to so many other social ills. The real question is whether to spend D.C. government money from the existing tight budget, or to spend money drawn from new revenue sources in a way that attracts a steady and increasing flow of private money. The amount of money that would be spent in that area by suburban fans would probably cover the entire cost of the stadium well before the expected 30-year bond term expires. Such an injection of outside wealth will have a huge multiplier effect, stimulating new business and residential construction. (See last Sunday's Washington Post.) For anyone who genuinely wants to expand economic opportunities in the inner cities, this should be a no-brainer. The protesters seem more interested in thwarting the private sector elites and blocking investment than in looking out for poor people's best interests. The only question is whether the dislocated residents of the area will be adequately compensated and treated with respect.
Speaking of compensation, negotiations with Peter Angelos are dragging on and on and on. No surprise there. I think some kind of cushion is entirely appropriate, much like the adjustment subsidies given to workers in industries impacted by foreign imports. The point of such programs, however, is to ease the transition, not create a permanent entitlement. Angelos wants not only a 60 percent share of the Baltimore-Washington broadcasting profits, but a guaranteed $360 million resale value for his franchise and an automatic payment to make up for any revenue decline after the team begins playing in D.C. Any one or two of those would be reasonable, but all three? The word chutzpah does not begin to describe Mr. Angelos CORRECTION: The Expos lost to the Mets in their last game, not the Marlins. Thanks for that to "TopGear" who also writes, "By the way, it's interesting to note that the Expos' first game ever was at Shea Stadium as well as their last (as the Expos, at least)."
October 4, 2004 [LINK]
UPDATE: In a more perfect world, the winningest team in each league would have a bigger advantage in the playoffs*, and frankly I would love to see a rematch of the 1964 Yanks vs. Cards contest. As we've seen in recent years, however, it's anybody's guess as to who will advance to the World Series. The Astros seemed to come from out of nowhere in in the final week, while the Cubs choked, to my distress. The Dodgers and the Angels both made it: isn't it funny how rival franchises in big markets are often so competitive! Will the team in Washington next year give the Orioles the motivation they've been lacking? Nearly all the teams in the playoffs are stronger in batting than in pitching -- except for the Astros, and possibly the Red Sox. (Wild card teams: hmmm...) Also, thanks to James Mauro for reminding me which division the K.C. Royals now play in. (D'oh!) The list of stadiums by league and division on the left side of the Baseball page has been duly corrected.
* I.e., the first round would be in a 3 home game -- 2 away game format (rather than 2 -- 2 -- 1), and there would only be a wild card slot if a team had a winning percentage higher than one of the divisional champions; otherwise, "bye" for the number one team!
I've been "on the road" quite a bit for the past several days. While in our historic state capital last week, I stopped at the home of Richmond Braves and took some photos of The Diamond. (That's the first minor league stadium page I've done, though there is yet no diagram.) Over the weekend I paid a visit to Washington, D.C., where I stopped at the former site of Griffith Stadium and RFK Stadium (which by weird coincidence had to be evacuated later that day due to a bomb threat). Two new photos are found on the respective stadium pages. Finally, I ventured into my (brief) old neighborhood on South Capitol Street, where the future ballpark will be built. (See photo.)
While Washingtonians danced in the streets and uncorked champaign bottles, 31,395 melancholy Montreal fans showed up at Olympic Stadium to say goodbye to their beloved Expos last Wednesday night. They've known this was coming for several years, which is no doubt why the fans were much better behaved than the ones who stormed the field at the last game in RFK Stadium 33 years ago, causing a forfeit. Or maybe Canadians are just nicer folks. Anyway, the Expos lost to the [[Marlins]] in their last [home]* game, 9 to 1. I know from experience what a beautiful city Montreal is, and it would behoove joyful Washington-area fans not to forget the sadness felt by those true-blue fans up north.
Next April 15, the Ex-Expos, or whatever they will be called, will play their first home game in 43-year old RFK Stadium, where no official baseball games have been played for the last 33 years. The longest such vacant lapse among the four previous "hand-me-down" stadiums was four years. When the A's moved into Kansas City's Municipal Stadium in 1955, that structure (or its first deck, rather) was already 32 years old. The
Washington Post has a full report on the momentous occasion, and MLB.com has already launched a new
D.C. Baseball Web site, for ticket and merchandise information.
* CORRECTION: I had it right the first time, but someone misinformed me, thinking I was referring to the Expos' final game of the season, which was against the Mets.
September 29, 2004 [LINK]
Let us play
FURTHER UPDATE (6:20 PM): Mayor Anthony Williams announced at 5:00 this afternoon that Major League Baseball will be coming to Washington, D.C. next year. Two hours before, he had received a telephone call from the Commissioner's office confirming that the transfer will be approved. (A 3/4 vote of the 29 franchise owners is required, but that is a 100% certainty. If the broadcasting package is as generous as is rumored, Peter Angelos himself may vote "yes.") The 15-minute ceremony featured seven city council members who have [either] agreed to vote for the necessary funding [or are leaning that way]. Mayor Williams made it clear that D.C. residents would not bear any tax burden for the new stadium, that a large number of free or low-cost tickets would be set aside for underprivileged youth, and that one dollar for each ticket sold after 2.5 million attendance is reached each year would be allocated to community recreation projects. In short, the Mayor gets it. Baseball is about building communities and restoring hope. For details, see WTOP Web site. Much more to come.
Mayor Williams was particularly gracious in paying respects to Virginia Governor Mark Warner and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, whose welcoming attitude so angered Mr. Angelos back in July. So what's next? I'll be buying myself a Senators (or Nationals or Grays) cap as soon as the franchise is sold and the team's new name is announced. Come next spring, George W. Bush or John W. Kerry will revive the long-forgotten spring ritual by which the President used to throw out the first pitch at the season opening game in The Nation's Capital. PLAY BALL!!! I really look forward to finally seeing a game at Camden Yards, now that my boycott is over.
As in previous years, I've added a table at the bottom of the Baseball page showing the scores of postseason games. A few the championship series slots are still unfilled, so I may have to alter the teams listed. Cincinnati just beat the Cubs 4-3 in 12 innings, meaning the Cubs are in grave danger of losing the wild card race.
FURTHER UPDATE (noon): Steven Poppe referred me to a Canadian blogger Colby Cosh, who insists that the lawsuit by former minority partners in the Expos franchise will stop this deal dead in its tracks. It is, of course, remotely possible that lawyers could still sabotage this deal, even though no serious person on Earth believes that there is sufficient support for the Expos in Montreal to keep the franchise alive. True, MLB may just going through the motions with this relocation process, but the economic reasons for moving the team to the D.C. area are simply overwhelming. The lawsuit, and the threat of an injunction, is nothing more than a ploy to cash in -- one of the "$nag$" I referred to yesterday.
UPDATE: Here's the Post story from the Wednesday edition, and here's the latest press release from MLB.com. No official confirmation just yet. My take on this is that Mayor Williams is jumping the gun just a bit to make sure that the necessary funding legislation gets introduced at the City Council this week. Friday is the deadline.
September 28, 2004 [LINK]
Yes, sports fans, it's true. According to both WTTG FOX-5 TV and WUSA TV-9 in Washington, it's a done deal! MLB negotiators have narrowed the differences with Peter Angelos, and the D.C. Mayor's Office tacitly confirmed that an announcement will be made tomorrow afternoon that the Expos will move to Washington next spring. Ironically, a press release from MLB.com earlier today cast a bit of doubt, as Bob DuPuy stated, "No schedule has been set for any announcement" about relocating the Expos. So what was the precipitating factor that brought forth this sublime revelation today, as opposed to later in the week? Were the honchos motivated by sympathy for Expos fans? Those few but passionate long-suffering true blue devotees now will know with certainty that their team's final home game of this season tomorrow will in fact be the last one ever played in "The Big O." Merci beaucoup, Mr. Selig. Was it the alignment of "the sun and the moon" that Bob DuPuy cited last year? (The moon is just about at full phase, it so happens.) Was it the passage of yet another hurricane through the D.C. area today? Or perhaps the rumblings at Mount Saint Helens or the earthquake in California today? Details about the sale of the franchise are still up in the air, and it's entirely possible that the Zients-Malek investor group (Washington Baseball Club, www.baseballindc.com) may get outbid by an out-of-towner. Some visitors to this site have expressed understandable skepticism about this long-delayed transaction actually being consummated, and there will probably be a few last-minute $nag$, but there's really no turning back now. O ye of little faith! It was just about 33 years ago -- a third of a century -- that the final Senators game was played at RFK Stadium, and it was exactly two years ago that I opined that the Southeast D.C. prospective stadium site was my favorite.
September 26, 2004 [LINK]
The Red Sox kept the heat on the Yankees at Fenway, trouncing them decisively in both weekend games after losing a close one on Friday. It was a virtual mirror image of what happened in the Bronx the week before. Obviously, Kevin Brown wasn't ready to return as a starting pitcher; I hope he's not too mad at himself... Yankee Andy Phillips became (according to my records) the 14th player ever to hit a home run on his very first pitch in the major leagues; Marcus Thames (also of the Yankees) was the last to do so, on June 10, 2002.
Following up on the issue of ballpark compass orientation which was brought up in the Washington Post article on the planned new stadium in D.C. yesterday, I have determined such orientations for all stadiums covered on this Web site. (!) The data are now included in a new column on the Stadium statistics page. To my surprise, in only three of the 65 stadiums is center field situated northwest from home plate. (Oddly enough, all three of those stadiums are/were in Canada!) So, it would appear that my proposal of building the new stadium in such a way as to have both the Washington Monument and the Capitol as an outfield backdrop is not very likely. I've come up with a suggested name for the new stadium, by the way: "Senators Park at Navy Yards." (It's just west of the Washington Navy Yards, on the Anacostia River.)
The new CBS drama The Clubhouse may be just the "shot in the arm"* CBS needs to recover from the 60 Minutes - Rathergate scandal. It seems like a well-conceived and directed series, and the fact that Mel Gibson and Aaron Spelling are behind the project says a lot. Dean Cain, formerly of "Lois and Clark" and "Ripley's Believe It Or Not!",** is well cast as the handsome, good-natured veteran star, à la Derek Jeter or Cal Ripken Jr. Tonight's premier episode explored the moral dilemma of team loyalty versus upholding the law, the kind of charcter-building issue you don't often see on television these days. I was puzzled by the source of the imaginary New York team name "Emperors" until I put "Yankee" and "imperialist" together. I was also impressed by the special effects by which Dodger Stadium (which plays the role of "Empires Stadium") and Camden Yards were transformed into an alternate reality by replacing their bleachers with the bleachers from some other stadiums.
* Cheap, gratuitous pun on the steroid issue.
** Gratuitous bragging.
September 25, 2004 [LINK]
Three runs down and with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Mets came back to tie the Cubs and then beat them in the eleventh inning, ruining what had seemed to be smooth sailing toward a second consecutive postseason appearance. Arghhh! Sammy Sosa struck out four times and then grounded into a double play. He and the rest of the Cubs desperately need to get their stuff together fast. I'm really looking forward to seeing Sosa, Bonds, and the Jones "brothers" playing in Washington next summer...
"A Perfect Setting For a Diamond"
Saturday's Washington Post looked into the likely uplifting effect a new stadium would have on the South Capitol Street neighborhood, which is a rough urban frontier consisting of warehouses, industrial junkyards, and rowhouses of various classes. (I ought to know, I once lived there.) Andrew Zimbalist and other experts have questioned the touted economic benefits from new stadium construction, but there is little doubt that this project would yield a huge positive impact. It is one of the most compelling cases one could make these days for a public subsidy. Let's hope Ralph Nader takes an open-minded view of this... The Post article discusses alternate stadium orientations, but the author believes that the northwest orientation I favor would put afternoon sun glare in the batters' eyes. Perhaps; I need to finish a comparison of the orientation of other stadiums.
September 24, 2004 [LINK]
Braves do it again!
Yes, those underrated tribesmen from Atlanta grabbed yet another NL East championship, which makes 13 such titles in a row, a feat unmatched by any other team in any other sport. Marcus Giles's eighth-inning 2-RBI double put the Braves ahead in dramatic fashion. Johnny Estrada, Charles Thomas, Jaret Wright, and Eli Marrero are among the many pleasant surprises on the Braves' roster this year, and senior citizen Julio Franco just keeps on truckin'. I officially take back what I wrote on February 21 about "their ownership just giving up." Up in Beantown, meanwhile, the Yanks pulled further ahead of the Red Sox in the race for the AL East title.
Tick, tick, tick
Despite the lack of a formal announcement from the MLB Executive Committee meeting in Milwaukee, Friday's Washington Post is just as upbeat as before about landing the Expos, as all parties realize the proverbial gilded carriage is about to turn into a pumpkin.
"I think we're all running out of time and we realize that," said MLB President Robert A. DuPuy, speaking generally about the relocation process at a news conference in which he revealed few specifics but indicated that years of negotiations will conclude soon.
[UPDATE: The text in red is on the Post Web site but did not appear in my copy of the paper this morning, suggesting careful editorial treatment of this extremely sensitive matter. You know how skittish "unnamed sources" can get.] If MLB officials sign the necessary letter of intent to relocate the Expos as expected, D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams expects to make a formal announcement at RFK Stadium next week. By the way, I wonder what the astrologers are saying about all this. In July 2003, Mr. DuPuy said a decision on the Expos would come "when the moons and the suns and the stars and the dollars are aligned correctly. We'll get there." Is this the dawning of the Age of Aquarius?
September 23, 2004 [LINK]
Angelos: "Hell no!"
The Major League Baseball Executive Committee met in Milwaukee today, but did not make any decision on what to do with the Expos. As expected, Orioles' owner Peter Angelos remains 100% intransigent. [UPDATE: USA Today headline says: "Expos remain in limbo," though their columnist Hal Bodley opines that they have to move to D.C. "I believe Selig has come to the conclusion there's no other place to locate the Expos."] Thursday's Washington Post quotes MLB sources as saying negotiations with Peter Angelos about compensation for the expected relocation of the Expos to Washington "are going nowhere." His no-compromise position may alienate the other 28 franchise owners, who are starting to look like the biggest chumps on the planet for coddling him. As the Post notes, the tentative stadium deal worked out with the District of Columbia should raise the market value of the Expos franchise by nearly $300 million, which means an extra $10 million in the pocket of each of the 29 franchise owners, who currently share ownership of the Expos. Does Angelos really have enough clout to persuade 28 other men to forego $10 million each??? As a successful trial lawyer, Angelos may well be contemplating filing a motion for an injunction against a franchise move to D.C. However, the Major League Constitution defines the Orioles' "operating territory" as consisting exclusively of areas in Maryland, so "a team could be chartered in the District with no infringement upon that geographic territory." The front pages of Sections A (National), B (Metro), and D (Sports) of today's Post were filled with prominent headline stories on various aspects of the seemingly-imminent relocation, an indication that most insiders conclude it is virtually -- virtually, mind you -- a done deal.
NOTE: I have moved the Stadium chronology table from the bottom of this page to a separate page, to save time in loading and make navigation more efficient. You got a problem with that? Just let me know. The link to that new page is in the Comparisons section.
September 22, 2004 [LINK]
Down to the wire!
According to the Washington Post, officials in D.C. and MLB have tentatively agreed on a new stadium site on South Capitol Street near the Anacostia River. (See map below.) The L'Enfant Plaza site would have been better, but Virginians could get to this location fairly easily, so it's OK by me. Thomas Boswell echoes my gleefully expectant yet slightly wary sentiments:
Nevertheless, the Expos are so close to coming to the District right now that, if you were Charlie Brown, you'd be absolutely, positively certain that, this time, you were going to kick that miserable football before Lucy could pull it away.
Well put. Let's just hope MLB pays due respect to the feelings of Montreal fans, and makes a decision by this weekend. Only eight more games are scheduled in Olympic Stadium, and the Expos deserve to bow out and begin the transformation of their identity with class.
This map shows the location of the proposed stadium site, but I have turned the field around 180 degrees to bring the "Washington skyline" into view. To see a larger image, just click on it. The existing stadium design is basically just a clone of Ameriquest Field in Arlington (Texas), and I have made preliminary modififications in it to provide for open views toward the U.S. Capitol (down the right field line) and the Washington Monument (in center field). How inspiring would that be? The rectangular notch in center field draws on a similar feature of Griffith Stadium, which would be a nice tribute to Washington's ancient baseball heritage. I may work on a more detailed suggested design in coming weeks... [UPDATE: In the mean time, I just updated the RFK Stadium page, moving five of the eight photos to a separate page so it will load more quickly.]
The Red Sox became the third team in the majors to reach the 90-win mark, edging Baltimore last night. Many people have offered suggestions for a revised postseason format, and my basic feeling is they should avoid tinkering with divisional alignments or divisional series, but should give a bigger advantage to teams with a higher overall winning percentage. In this case, for example, [even though Boston is "only" the (probable) Wild Card team,] they really ought to get a home field advantage over the AL Central champion Twins and whoever wins the AL West.
As the moment of truth approaches for the titans of Major League Baseball finally making their fateful megabucks decision on relocating the Expos to Washington, it's a good idea to take a grass-roots small-town perspective to help remember what our national pastime is all about: fitness, community, tradition, intergenerational bonding, and never-ending faith and hope in "better luck next year." With that shamelessly corny thought, here's a snapshot of a Valley League game in Staunton on August 2. Final score: Staunton Braves 7, Woodstock River Bandits 3. Attendance: about 300.
September 19, 2004 [LINK]
The PETCO Park page is finally done, the last of the 65 major league stadiums I set out to cover when I began this Web project two-plus years ago. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!? Not yet, there are plenty of corrections and enhancements to do in existing stadium pages, and I also plan to do pages for stadiums where major league games were held even though they were not the home field of any major league team. A visitor to this site asked about compass orientation of stadiums, which reminded me that I had been thinking about adding a symbol to indicate "North" in each diagram. So I added one to the PETCO Park and Turner Field diagrams, the latter of which is slightly revised.
MLB is negotiating how much money to give to Peter Angelos to overcome his objections to putting a team in the Washington area. According to the Washington Post, an "indemnity payment in the tens of millions of dollars" is expected. (I wonder what he did with all those millions he got from the tobacco settlement?) Then there are the former Expos minority owners who are suing former chief owner Jeffrey Loria and Major League Baseball. Just when the deal is on the verge of being closed, D.C. Councilman Jack Evans unleashed another volley of spiteful bile, as reported by the Washington Times:
Major League Baseball is so screwed up, they probably won't give us the team anyway. ... I have nothing but disrespect for the owners of Major League Baseball, to be honest with you. And if they drag this thing out any longer, they can take the team and put it in Northern Virginia, and I hope it fails. Good for them.
Sheesh. Is he trying to alienate prospective fans from this side of the Potomac? With sick attitudes like that, this whole thing might just fall apart. Or maybe it's just meant as another motivational kick in Mr. Selig's rear.
The Yankees proved they've still got spunk, trouncing the Red Sox by double-digit margins both Saturday and Sunday. It's amazing they can hold the other team to so few runs, given their weak pitching staff. The Red Sox can draw a bit of satisfaction from eking out one win in The Bronx, but they'll need to do better than that in these last two weeks. #701! Barry Bonds did it again, and is single-handed propelling the Giants in the Wild Card race with the Cubs, who have the advantage of facing weak opponents for the rest of the season.
September 17, 2004 [LINK]
On the question of baseball in D.C., I've learned over the years to be highly skeptical about rumors of glad tidings, but this time I think they're really serious. According to the the Washington Post, Relocation Committee Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and other MLB officials have spent 12 hours in meetings with D.C. officials to iron out details on getting RFK Stadium ready for the Expos to play in next year. All signs point to an announcement about the Relocation Committee's recommendation in the next few days. The Virginia option seems to be fading away, as Governor Warner seems to have been caught flat-footed by the recent turns of events. At the same time, the virtual election of the roguish Marion Barry to the D.C. City Council has jolted the MLB into accelerating the process and finalizing the deal once and for all. Barry, who will take office in January, said public funding for a new baseball stadium will come "Over my dead body." Would he go as far as trying to retroactively nullify the kind of targeted stadium tax package that Mayor Anthony Williams has been pushing? In any event, the idea that such funding would come at the cost of education or vital public services is highly dubious, Ralph Nader notwithstanding. If Barry's threat prods Mr. Selig into a decision this month, it will at least have served the purpose of giving the long-suffering fans in Montreal enough advanced warning so that they will have a fair chance to bid a fond farewell to their team. I've criticized Selig's heel-dragging many times, but it is very important that this process be carried out 100% above board, with due deliberation. I wouldn't wish the feeling of abrupt betrayal as endured by Brooklynites (1957) and Washingtonians (1971) on anyone.
700 Club! After a few days stuck at #699, Barry Bonds just hit his 700th career home run before the friendly Frisco fans at SBC Park. Not a bad performance, considering he had been hit by a pitch earlier in the game. Early next season he'll no doubt catch up to The Babe, and a year after that probably Hammerin' Hank himself. Unlike some other famed long-ball hitters, however, Bonds has maintained an awesome batting average throughout his career, yielding a stratospheric slugging percentage when you factor in all the walks. Simply put, no one has dominated the game like him in my lifetime.
On the other coast, meanwhile, the Red Sox came from behind in the top of the ninth inning to beat the Yanks in the first game of the Clash of Titans. The often-slack Manny Ramirez actually jumped into the left-field stands in Yankee Stadium to rob Miguel Cairo of a homer, helping to pull his team to within 2 1/2 games of first place. Once again, Mariano Rivera failed to live up to his huge reputation as a closer, as the Bosox used some commendable "small ball" tactics to tie and then take the lead in the ninth. I wonder how high FOX's TV ratings will be for tomorrow's Game of the Week? The e-mail seems to be working again. Note that I've split the scrolling baseball stadium menu into separate "Current" and "Past" sections, which I think should speed up access a little bit. Please let me know if this format is less than satisfactory.
September 15, 2004 [LINK]
Today's Washington Post reports that several Virginia legislators and Governor Mark Warner are a bit leery of putting the Commonwealth's credit rating on the line to help finance a new stadium. Apparently many have growing doubts about the proposed "Diamond Lake" mega-complex in Loudoun County, especially now that it has been scaled back. Meanwhile, former Mayor-for-Life Marion Barry just won the Democratic primary election for D.C. City Council, assuring him of a victory in the November general elections. Ever the populist, the doubts he raised about spending the District's money on a new stadium throw yet another wrench into the tense endgame negotiations with MLB officials. If only they had made the deal last year... The hit counter for the Baseball page crossed the 10,000 threshhold in the past couple days. Thanks for stopping by, sports fans! (Now if only one percent of you would just click on that Donation button...) The PETCO Park page will be done by the end of the week, at long last!
September 14, 2004 [LINK]
Chased away from their home turf in Miami by Hurricane Ivan, the Florida Marlins "hosted" the Montreal Expos for a two-game series in the Chicago White Sox's U.S. Cellular Field. Total attendance was about 9,000, meaning that about $45,000 will be made available as disaster relief to victims. MLB officials met once again with representatives from D.C. and Virginia today, as haggling over financial details related to moving the Expos goes down to the wire. A preliminary announcement by the Relocation Committee could come in the next week or so. The baseball e-mail account has been disfunctional in recent weeks, possibly the result of malicious hacking. Thanks for your patience until I get communications repaired.
September 9, 2004 [LINK]
Tropical Storm/Depression Frances roared through these parts yesterday, and it looks like we got about three inches of rain, a little less than predicted. The power flickered on and off a couple times, but the wind wasn't really that strong. Richmond got hit by heavy rains once again, only a week after the Shockoe Bottoms downtown district was devastated by floods caused by the remnants of Hurricane Gaston. Even before that, the Richmond Braves' home field, The Diamond, had been rendered unplayable by mud and sinkholes. As reported in the Richmond Times Dispatch, though, the grounds crew somehow got the field in shape (just barely) for the end of the season. The R-Braves face the Columbus Clippers in the International League (Triple A) playoffs.
The Turner Field page has been revised, and now includes a "dynamic diagram" to show how the original structure used for the 1996 Olympics Games in Atlanta was transformed into the "home of the Braves" we know today. A little late for this year's Olympics in Athens, but just in time for tonight's Braves' game on TBS. (Football? Huh??) There seem to be an unusually high number of long winning and losing streaks over the last month. The Red Sox and Astros have been almost unstoppable, while the Mets and Devil Rays are plummeting headlong into the cellar. The Orioles had lost eleven in a row, but over the last couple weeks have managed a rebound, even beating the suddenly shell-shocked Yankees. Regroup! The Yankees' lobbying to have a forfeit declared on that game in New York the Devil Rays missed due to Hurricane Frances was not an indication of a team that is confident of its ability to win.
September 6, 2004 [LINK]
Davis steps up to plate
The Washington Post reports that Congressman Tom Davis (R-Virginia) is throwing his weight behind the effort to land a baseball team for the Washington area, wisely ridiculing the petty parochial jealousies that have erupted recently between Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia. He's an avid fan and, at age 55, still plays softball. To him, the political jurisdiction to which the Expos franchise will be relocated is less important than the overriding objective of giving Washingtonians and Northern Virginians a real chance to see big league ball. If the rest of the Virginia congressional delegation would get behind this effort, it just might tip the balance and close the deal once and for all.
September 4, 2004 [LINK]
In case you're wondering about the sparse posts on this site of late, I've been under the weather, and most of my limited energy has been devoted to local politicking and e-mail debating. In fact, I just realized that I had failed to update the Baseball page with the material from September 1. My apologies! Perhaps the 22-0 shellacking suffered by the Yankees at the hands of the Indians this week had something to do with my subpar state of mind. What's worse, Kevin Brown smashed his (non-pitching) left hand in anger. That's gotta hurt! The Yanks lost to Baltimore again today, and Red Sox had a chance to pull to within 1 1/2 games, but even with a 5-run seventh inning at Fenway, they fell short against the Rangers. Yikes... I'm really mad that Fox stops the Saturday afternoon baseball broadcasts in September.
September 1, 2004 [LINK]
Four photos and added comments on Great American Ballpark based on my recent trip through the Midwest. Those photos, and the ones I took at Comerica Park, brought to my attention certain inaccuracies in those stadiums' diagrams, so they'll have to be revised at some point. Also, two of the photos of Citizens Bank Park taken by Phil Faranda have been enlarged to show more detail. The pennant races are heating up, as the Red Sox have somehow pulled to within 3.5 games of the Yankees, but even so, the Angels and Rangers are still strong contenders for the AL wild card spot. In the National League, the hard-luck Cubs are clinging to a precarious wild card lead, while the Braves bravely pitched to Barry Bonds during the four-game series in Atlanta last weekend. Result: he got three more homers.
August 28, 2004 [LINK]
Comerica, Bob Feller
Three photos and added comments on Comerica Park based on my recent trip through the Midwest. I've fallen way behind schedule as a result of said journey, but I do plan to add photos and comments to the Great American Ballpark page very soon. Also, stay tuned for a 1996 Olympics version of Turner Field. THEN I'll finally get to Petco Park, hopefully featuring photos from a high school friend who now lives in San Diego. Adding pages for special occasion stadiums and doing revisions of other diagrams will keep me plenty busy during the off season.
While heading west earlier this month, I made an impromptu visit to the Bob Feller Museum, in Van Meter, Iowa, just west of Des Moines. The time I spent there browsing through all the historical mementos related to the Cleveland Indians' star pitcher (and World War II veteran) was well worth it. The folks at the museum are very friendly and helpful, and I highly recommend a visit there to anyone passing through that part of the country. (It's just a couple hours west of the Field of Dreams in Dyersville.) To see a closeup of the bas relief images in the adjoining photo, roll the mouse over it.
The tension mounts...
MLB officials held intensive negotiations with officials from D.C. and Virginia earlier this week, a sign that there may just be a final resolution of the Expos relocation issue in the next couple months. Just as the agonizingly long process nears a climax, however, potential "deal breakers" have emerged on both sides of the Potomac. Some Virginia state legislators have expressed doubts about approving state guarantees for debts incurred for a stadium if it's built in the distant hinterlands of Loudoun County, and today the Washington Post reported that the proposed "Diamond Lake" mega-resort complex has been downscaled because the sale of quarry land where the lake was supposed to be fell through. Meanwhile, a poll of D.C. residents points to stiff opposition to using city government money to fund a stadium. What's more, on Friday members of the D.C. city council held a press conference to ridicule the Virginia option, pointing to a poll indicating that 82 percent of adult fans in the Greater Washington area would prefer a ballpark in Washington rather than Loudoun County." It got even nastier when Councilman Jack Evans warned that if Virginia gets the Expos, "the council could pass legislation that would keep a northern Virginia team out of RFK." (From the Washington Post.) I've said in the past that I would prefer that a new stadium be built within sight of the Potomac River, but such obnoxious and foolish rhetoric is a big turn-off. If no baseball games are to be played in RFK, they might as well tear it down right now and save the maintenance costs, which soccer games alone can't cover. Could such petty squabbling sink the whole deal?
Meanwhile, building inspectors in Chicago have verified that Wrigley Field is structurally sound after all. An interesting political angle came to light during this episode: Mayor Richard Dailey (a Democrat, like his father) has recently been at war with the Tribune Company which owns the Cubs, and he has made unsubtle threats that Wrigley might be shut down.
August 19, 2004 [LINK]
The MLB Relocation Committee failed to reach a decision during their meeting this week. Robert DuPuy issued a statement denying that the Washington area will necessarily get the Expos franchise, but few people believe any other outcome is likely. The Washington Post ran stories on the Washington-based and Virginia-based prospective franchises. Jeffrey Zients has replaced Fred Malek as the lead figure in the Washington Baseball Club, while William Collins keeps on truckin' in that role on the southern side of the Potomac. I've added two photos and some comments to the Tiger Stadium page based on my visit there earlier this month. Photos from Comerica Park and Great American Ballpark will be added next week.
August 18, 2004 [LINK]
Believe It Or Not!
I just returned from my vacation to South Dakota, the highlight of which actually appeared in last Thursday's Sioux Falls Argus Leader... Unlike our brief rain-curtailed jaunt to NYC last month, this time my intricately scheduled baseball itinerary worked flawlessly: while heading west I saw a game in Detroit (Rangers 2, Tigers 1), and on the way back saw one in Cincinnati (Padres 7, Reds 2). So much for home field advantage! That first game put Texas into first place in the AL West, and they are still neck and neck with the A's. San Diego overtook the Cubs in the NL Wild Card race, though [San Francisco now holds that lead]. Given that the total scores in the three games I've seen this year have risen in perfect geometric progression (1, 3, 9), I would expect the total score in the next game I see to be 27. Stay tuned for updates to three stadium pages, complete with photos, in the near future. (Yes, venerable old Tiger Stadium is still standing.)
August 4, 2004 [LINK]
Off to The Heartland
I'm heading west to South Dakota for a high school reunion and family get-together. If all goes as planned, I'll see a ballgame in Detroit on the way out there, and perhaps another city or two on the way back. I may try to update this blogsite from a remote location, but otherwise, I'll return by mid-month.
Diabolical plot in the Bronx.
Wouldn't you know it, one week after I finally see a game in The Bronx and it's announced that the Yankees have resurrected plans to replace "The House that Ruth Built" with a smaller luxury-oriented venue next door. The New York Daily News reports on the particulars; apparently they would play in the current stadium while a new one is built across the street. So I did some Google searching on Yankee Stadium and come across a New York City blog with a relevant thread, Gothamist, where I posted the following comment:
"Travesty" would be putting it extremely mildly. It's long been known that Steinbrenner is a short-sighted bully who is clueless about the "goodwill" value of the Yankee tradition in general and Yankee Stadium in particular. What is news is Mayor Bloomberg's acquiescence in this latest gambit. He had opposed any public funds for new baseball stadiums in the wake of 9/11, but now it looks like he'll agree to massive new spending on infrastructure, an unwarranted public subsidy to make life more pleasant for the skybox set. He's making Ralph Nader look wise...
Speaking of political controversy at Yankee Stadium, I noticed that Blue Jays slugger Carlos Delgado was getting booed by many fans when I saw them play on July 22. Only later did I read up on what that's all about. It seems Señor Delgado has taken it upon himself to protest against the Iraq war by refusing to stand when "God Bless America" is played. Well, that's his right as an American. (He's from Puerto Rico, actually, a quasi-colony where Yankee hating is still quite intense in some quarters.) See MSNBC.com for more details.
Perhaps indicative of the increasing likelihood that the Expos will finally relocate to Washington next year, the D.C. United soccer team has expressed concerns that their games may conflict with baseball games at RFK Stadium. (See Washington Post.) The stadium seating sections could be moved back and forth with no problem (other than a few rusting wheels perhaps), but the field couldn't take the wear and tear, and the dirt infield would make it very hard to play soccer. The major league soccer season roughly coincides with the baseball season, from April through October.
The Staunton Braves beat the Woodstock River Bandits Monday night, 7-3, thereby qualifying for the next round in the Valley Baseball League playoffs. Stay tuned for some photos of a small-town, American-as-apple-pie baseball game...
July 31, 2004 [LINK]
Today was the deadline for trading (excepting late waiver-clearing trades), and apparently the only big news is that Nomar Garciaparra is going to the Cubs. Randy Johnson was expected to be traded to New York or Boston, but the Arizona Diamondbacks owners apparently think they have a shot at becoming pennant contenders next year if they keep him. The big question in the National League is whether any other team has a chance at stopping the red-hot Cardinals. Jason Giambi has been diagnosed with a benign tumor that has been causing him gastric discomfort and weakness in recent months. He will be on the disabled list for at least two weeks. The Yankee Stadium page has been revised with four more photos from the second roll of film we took in New York, including a giant panorama.
July 28, 2004 [LINK]
More trivial pursuits
There is a new page showing proximity of baseball stadiums where one stadium replaced an older one. Eventually each respective stadium page will display this information in a consistent way. Thanks to T. J. Zmina for his photos from a recent visit to beautiful PNC Park in Pittsburgh. I hope I can pay a visit there this year...
July 27, 2004 [LINK]
Is Wrigley crumbling?
According to USA Today, Wrigley Field is being inspected for structural defects after small chunks of concrete fell from the upper deck three times in recent weeks. Fortunately, no one was injured. A similar incident happened in The Bronx five years ago, and the Yanks had to take refuge in Shea Stadium. For now, the Cubs are just going to install protective netting to protect lower-deck fans, so they probably won't have to play in their South Side counterparts' home for the time being. For couch potato fans (like me, usually), here is some vicarious ballpark fun: Great Baseball Trip 2004 with Andrew (not me) & Ben. They just got back to their home in the Chicago area, where I hope to be a week or two from now...
July 26, 2004 [LINK]
Is this heaven?
Our pilgrimmage to that sacred green field in The Bronx last week was rewarded with a Yankees win (against the Blue Jays), but just barely. The only score came in the bottom of the ninth inning when Ruben Sierra knocked a home run that just cleared the center field fence. To my dismay, neither Derek Jeter nor Jason Giambi played, and Jorge Posada didn't enter the game until the 7th inning. It was a pleasantly warm, humid, partly sunny day, and our seats were in the shade. The Yankee Stadium page has been revised with four photos and much new text based on our experiences and other recent research. There will be minor corrections to the diagrams in the near future. Because of the heavy rain on Friday, we cancelled our plans to see either the Braves-Mets game at Shea Stadium or the Cubs-Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park on the way home. To my surprise, the latter game was held after all!
The four-hour Yankees-Red Sox game in Fenway on Saturday afternoon had plenty of runs and entertainment value, though there were too many errors and wasted opportunities. Every time I try to wish well on the Red Sox, another senseless brawl breaks out. I thought A-Rod reacted fairly mildly to being hit by a pitch, and there was no reason I could see for Jason Varitek to get in his face like that. (OK, I did lip-read A-Rod's retort, but still...) Bill Mueller's stunning game-winning homer in the bottom of the ninth gave Boston fans a sweet memory that will last for years. It gave me heartburn.
July 21, 2004 [LINK]
Off to Gotham!
Jacqueline and I are heading north to see the Yankees playing host to the Toronto Blue Jays Thursday afternoon. (And to think, I waited 40+ years for this!) With any luck, we'll catch the Phillies hosting the Cubs on our way home.
Marc Fisher, writing in the Washington Post, tried to downplay the D.C.-Virginia rivalry for getting the Expos franchise, saying that such lively tensions boost attendance and competitive spirit. Indeed! He also noted that the Montgomery County Council endorsed the D.C. alternative, which is no surprise, and heaped scorn on the racist notion that black people don't care about baseball, one of the lame excuses once expressed by Calvin Griffith and Bob Short.
A few Baseball pages have been (or are being) corrected or updated, thanks to recent helpful input from Vince Tucci, [G.H.], T. J. Zmina, and Steven Poppe, who just passed the quarter-century mark. And many thanks to Paul Cox for being the first guy to step up to the plate and contribute to this Web site, or rather, to my very first brewski in the Bronx.
July 17, 2004 [LINK]
After weeks in the doldrums, the Braves managed to climb into a tie for the NL East lead with Philadelphia, but then fell a game behind again. It was a shame that only one Braves player made it to the All-Star roster, and he was a new arrival: Johnny Estrada. (Chipper? Andruw?) I was a little disappointed that the center field slope in Minute Maid Park only came into play once during the All-Star Game, when A-Rod hit a triple. The MLB promo guys kept saying "This one counts!" When is the National League going to start playing like it does?
According to the Washington Post, Bud Selig announced that there will be no more Expos games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, next year, raising the likelihood that the team will be sold and relocated next year. Target decision date: an MLB owners' meeting in Philadelphia on August 18-19. We'll see...
The Exhibition Stadium page has been revised with some minor corrections and a dynamic diagram to show the football gridiron and baseball diamond separately. Other diagram revisions are in the works as well, of which Wrigley Field is the top priority.
July 13, 2004 [LINK]
ALL STAR GAME
Poor Roger! Was that awful 6-run first inning some kind of divine retribution for having had second thoughts about "retiring" from the Yankees and then joining the Astros? As of the sixth inning, the score is AL 9, NL 4.
The Washington Post ran a front-page story on Sunday exposing the weak link in the campaign to bring the Expos to the Washington area: jealousies and distrust between D.C. and Northern Virginia. How many Washingtonians would drive out to Dulles for a night game, knowing that they wouldn't get back home until after midnight? One D.C. official even cast doubt on whether RFK Stadium would be available for a Virginia team on temporary basis. Yikes! The way MLB honchos are playing Virginia against the District for bargaining purposes may end up ruining everything. One thing is almost certain: whether the stadium ends up north or south of the Potomac, the majority of fans would probably be suburbanites, and most of them would be from the Virginia side. Suggestion: Whether Bill Collins (Virginia) or Fred Malek (D.C.) gets the Expos, they should put in an immediate bid to sign Vladimir Guerrero, the former Expo who joined the Angels this year. One of Vlad's main concerns was playing in a city with a high hispanic population, and Washington certainly fits that bill.
Thanks to Steven Poppe for reminding me about a nagging legal problem that may block any Expos relocation. The Las Vegas Sun reports that Expos minority owners are suing MLB and former Expos principal owner Jeff Loria (new owner of the Marlins) over the way their interests were trampled upon when Loria sold out. I would think there is enough spare capital in Washington to pay off the disgruntled investors. According to renowned baseball economics expert Andrew Zimbalist, however, there is a very real chance that the Expos are not going to move at all. Another little-known fact is that Virginia's legislative provisions for baseball stadium financing expire at the end of December. As far as I'm concerned, it's this year or never.
July 10, 2004 [LINK]
End game negotiations in D.C.?
A group of officials from MLB's Relocation Committee, including White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, just held meetings with interested baseball parties from D.C. and Virginia. According to the Washington Post, written commitments were submitted, suggesting that a final decision on the Expos' fate may be near, but President Robert A. DuPuy said none of the six prospective new home cities have been ruled out yet. Things do seem to be coming to a head, but I'm almost afraid to get my hopes up once again... Sentiment from those folks who send me e-mail is running in favor of a home in D.C. rather than in the wilds of suburban Northern Virginia. I'm inclined to agree, but ONLY if the new stadium is built in Southwest Washington.
John Moores, owner of the San Diego Padres, wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post on Thursday in which he defends Commissioner Bud Selig for taking a strong leadership role that, he believes, has restored vitality to baseball. I suppose averting a calamitous strike is praiseworthy, and the move toward revenue-sharing is certainly overdue. I'm also mildly in favor of inter-league play, but fear it will be overdone. But the fact remains that Selig's actions qualify him as the apostle of "stadium socialism," validating the anti-"capitalist welfare" arguments of Ralph Nader and others. The Big Unknown Factor in all this is to what extent Bud Selig is independent of the owners. The series of articles in the Washington Post by Steve Fainaru two weeks ago portrayed him as in control of major decisions. Most of what I've read, in contrast, suggests that Mr. Selig is more of a passive mouthpiece for the 29 MLB franchise owners. Eric McErlain says Selig is not the real problem, it's the big owners behind the throne. I guess we'll find out pretty soon...
July 9, 2004 [LINK]
Future Expos Web sites
The Washington Post reports that "squatters" have already claimed domain names of propsective future homes of the Expos, who are currently playing in San Juan: www.nevadaexpos.com, www.norfolkexpos.com, and others are taken (but not operational), while www.washingtonsenators.com has been an active Web site since the 1990s. Attendance at Hiram Bithorn Stadium has been running about 8,000 per game lately...
July 8, 2004 [LINK]
Show me the money!
Now that I've resumed devoting top priority to this Web site over the past several weeks, I feel comfortable with setting up a "tip jar" via a PayPal account. I'm only asking for five bucks annually, the price of a beer. Feel free to donate more if you think it's worth it; I would be extremely appreciative. (Proceeds will go toward my long-deferred summer baseball tour!) If you're one of those fine folks whose photos I've included on this site, consider yourself paid. If this works as I plan, donors will get special consideration in terms of access to comments pages, etc. I had neglected keeping up with the Amazon Honor System over the past year, and need to figure out what happened with it. I hope to avoid indulging in too much crass money-grubbing, but you may see a few ads or commercial links here and there...
July 7, 2004 [LINK]
The Baseball stadium pages now have a logo at the top left corner with a link back to this page, for easier navigation. The RFK Stadium and U.S. Cellular Field pages have been revised with new text as well as new data on the backstop distance and the outfield fence height in the "Vital statistics" table. The latter page also includes two great new photos kindly submitted by Bill Blake. The other stadium pages will be modified to include the additional information in coming weeks...
July 5, 2004 [LINK]
Angelos lashes out
George Solomon wrote an exasperated column in the Washington Post: "Hey Bud, Time for Decision-Making Is Over." In it, he notes that Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley said last week that he wouldn't mind a baseball team in the Washington area, seeing it as promoting a friendly rivalry. Good for him!! In response, Peter Angelos issued a bitter, insulting rebuke to the mayor, once again making plain his grim, dead-set opposition to any new team nearby, and revealing his megalomaniacal paranoid mindset, bordering on dementia.
If the resort complex site near Dulles is ultimately chosen as the least objectionable site to Mr. Angelos, it would constitute a tragic abandonment of the vital social function of community building for which baseball is uniquely suited. (Catering to an upscale clientele would also be a very questionable use of taxpayer-subsidized bonds.) Unfortunately, my suggested option of West End Alexandria does not appear to be in the cards, either. I hope all those "NIMBY" elitists up in Arlington are satisfied. On a parallel note, new visitor to this site T.J. Zmina offers another good reason to question the wisdom of the proposed baseball stadium site in Loudoun County: JET NOISE!
So they want to put a new stadium in D.C. near Dulles Airport. Two words: Shea, LaGuardia. Not a good idea if you ask me.
I managed to let the All-Star voting slip by this year, but the lineups on both sides are pretty much what I would have chosen anyway. The entire AL infield played for the Yankees either this year or last year. The Red Sox' fifth-inning collapse in Atlanta yesterday does not augur well for keeping up with the Yankees during the second half of the season. With a new manager and a relatively inexperienced owner, trying to keep a lid on personality squabbles may be very difficult.
July 3, 2004 [LINK]
Talk, talk, talk
MLB president Bob DuPuy met with Commissioner Selig on Wednesday to report on the Relocation Committee's preliminary findings. According to the Washington Post, serious deliberations on the fate of the Expos are proceeding (albeit slowly), whereas last year such talk dwindled away as the summer progressed. (One of the things I learned from that Post series last week was that DuPuy is also Bud Selig's personal lawyer. Hmmm.) The Post cited reports in Sports Illustrated and USA Today that the committee is leaning toward Washington or Northern Virginia. Furthermore, according to USA Today, "Selig said last week that he expects a final decision soon after the July 13 All-Star Game in Houston." Same story, different year... It is worth mentioning that USA Today also made a detailed analysis of all the prospective new locations for the Expos, concluding that Northern Virginia is the best choice.
June 30, 2004 [LINK]
The RFK Stadium page has been revised with a dynamic diagram and another photo, which was spliced together from a video clip. Text revisions to follow...
June 29, 2004 [LINK]
"The Last Cartel"
The Washington Post just published a splendid three-part series of articles written by Steve Fainaru, entitled "Baseball: The Last Cartel." It exposes in gory detail many of the dirty dealings in which MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has been associated, raising the distinct possibility that an honest resolution of the issue of relocating a baseball team to the Washington area may not be possible. PART ONE details how Selig contrived to get Wisconsin taxpayers to pay for most of Miller Park, which ended up causing great political damage to former Governor Tommy Thompson (a Republican). PART TWO chronicles the disgraceful saga of the Expos franchise, which could easily have been relocated to the Washington area five or more years ago, but which has been kept in money-losing limbo for the sake of one of the 29 major league franchise owners: Baltimore's Peter Angelos (a Democrat). PART THREE probes into the nature of the alliance between Angelos and Selig, detailing the composition and operations of MLB's Relocation Committee, which seems heavily stacked against Washington-area interests. The upshot is that the custodians of our national pastime are flagrantly abusing the antitrust exemption they have enjoyed since 1922 on behalf of purely parochial interests. It's a reminder that if Selig once again goes back on his word to finally resolve the issue this year, the only recourse may be in the halls of Congress.
It was quite a coincidence that these articles ran just as I returned to take some photos at RFK Stadium for the first time since the exhibition game I saw there in 1999; there are two new photos on that page, which will soon be updated with a dynamic diagram, revised text, and another photo or two.
June 26, 2004 [LINK]
In Wednesday's Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher pointed out the hypocrisy that Orioles owner Peter Angelos is seeking to purchase the Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George's County, even though Major League Baseball forbids ANY relationship with gambling! (Remember Pete Rose?) An article in the Post that same day compared the long distance from the Dulles Airport stadium site to downtown D.C. (21 miles) to stadiums built in the last ten years. At present, the stadium built farthest away from downtown is Ameriquest Field in Arlington (Texas), which is 16 miles from the center of Dallas, but it's somewhat closer to Fort Worth. Intrigued by this question, I took it upon myself to estimate such distances for all current and past baseball stadiums. The results are shown on the Stadiums by class page. Some of my estimates, which were based mainly on the DeLorme Street Atlas USA program, differ slightly from The Post's. Here is a summary of the four major stadium classes:
|Early 20th century
|Modern 20th century
June 22, 2004 [LINK]
Ken Griffey Jr. finally got his 500th home run in Busch Stadium, keeping the Reds in contention with the Cardinals and the resurgent Cubs for the lead in the NL Central. Tampa Bay has won eleven in a row, but is still below .500. What is the meaning of this?? The Expos remain in a tailspin, and there are rumors of some kind of players' mutiny against manager Frank Robinson. Hey, the paltry payroll isn't his fault. I'd be pretty mad too if I were in charge of a team without any identity or clear future prospects. Saturday afternoon: Happiness is watching the Yankees beat the Dodgers in Dodger Stadium.
The Washington Post has had more stories about promotional campaign to build a new stadium near Dulles Airport, emphasizing the wealthy, fast-growing fan base in that area. The problem is, it's about 22 miles from downtown Washington, as the crow flies. The team name would be tied to Virginia, not Washington. All that just may satisfy Peter Angelos, but I remain skeptical that such exurban settings can provide a suitable venue for authentic baseball. Even if it's built mostly with private money, such a location would never approximate the intense urban vibes you get in Baltimore or Cleveland. Among all current baseball stadiums, the one located furthest from downtown is Ameriquest Field, which is 16 miles away from downtown Dallas. It is situated between two big cities, however, and draws nearly as many fans from Fort Worth, which is about ten miles to the west.
June 18, 2004 [LINK]
Wednesday's Washington Post had a nice Style section story about the (Shenandoah) Valley Baseball League, of which the Staunton Braves are a part. The League, which draws from the ranks of collegiate baseball players with dreams of making it to The Majors, expanded from eight to ten teams this season. It's high-quality, fun, old-time baseball that brings out community spirit. See Mr. Angelos? We don't need you greedy big leaguers! Aw, who am I kidding...
Speaking of which, another Post story that day reported on the negotiations between D.C. officials and top business leaders, who have mixed feelings about the $20 million extra tax bill they will have to shoulder if Mayor Williams' stadium financing plan goes through. Remembering the disastrous collapse of political support for baseball in Arlington, Virginia one year ago, no one wants to make a commitment until the other parties go first. The situation is still very delicate.
Thanks to Leon Furth for a great panoramic photo of Oakland Coliseum, which I just added to that page. While I was at it, I tweaked the dynamic diagram on that page, which now includes a "combined" version similar to the original one. Thanks to Chuck Jones for pointing out layout problems on this page; I hope they're fixed now.
June 17, 2004 [LINK]
Citizens Bank Park, new home of the Philadelphia Phillies. The page includes some comments and great photos from a long-time visitor to this site, Phil Faranda. Thanks, Phil! Now that the site transition is mostly completed, I plan to include more such fan input on the baseball pages, so keep those messages and photos comin' in, folks! Only one more regular big league stadium to go!!!
More inspirational civic action: Iraqi-Baseball, a volunteer project to get Iraqi kids interested in Our National Pastime. (I hope they serve all-beef hot dogs!) Just imagine ten years hence with names in the big league lineups like Akhmed and Rasheed...
June 14, 2004 [LINK]
The Fenway Park page has been updated with a revised diagram and a new photo of that beautiful ballpark that I just took! Thanks to Mike Zurawski for alerting me to the new rows of box seats in Fenway, and to long-time visitor Steve Poppe for alerting me to some omissions in this "newly-relocated" Web site.
June 13, 2004 [LINK]
I swear, every time I see THIS it sends chills of emotion up my spine. Thank you ABC, especially for bringing in Johnny Bench and George Brett to chat with Kevin Costner! (Who was that third guy?) I think I'm going to follow the example of Philip Lowry (author of Green Cathedrals) and include a page and diagram for that mystical ballpark near Dyersville, Iowa. It's become quite a tourist attraction, and I've got a few photos from our visit there a few years ago, so why not?
That was quite a dramatic see-saw game broadcast by Fox up in Baltimore yesterday afternoon: the Giants beat the O's, 9-6 in 11 innings. Rafael Palmeiro tied Mickey Mantle for the number ten spot (at 536) on the all-time home runs list, and then passed him with a second homer. Barry Bonds hit a homer too, of course, though it was a "cheapie" in the shallow left center "power" alley. Batter-friendly Camden Yards really gleamed in the afternoon sun. Speaking of which, a couple people have reminded me that the diagram and data on that page are out of date, and I am aware of that. Likewise, I'm aware of some minor errors on a few other pages that people have brought to my attention, and I make it a point to acknowledge them in this "blog" running commentary. In the new list of stadiums in the left hand column (under "Leagues") I've indicated which stadium pages are on my list to be revised (TBR). In most cases, the only intended change is to add a "dynamic" diagram for multi-use stadiums or those that were substantially rebuilt one or more times, such as Yankee Stadium. I do appreciate all comments aiming to improve this site.
June 12, 2004 [LINK]
Movin' on up
Welcome to the "new" Web site! So far, the only thing that has changed is the address (make sure to "bookmark" it), but there will be a number of enhancements in coming months. Within a month or two I plan to include multiple "guestbook"-type pages, possibly leading to a discussion board making it easier for fans to exchange information. There will also be more photos, and I invite visitors to submit photos that they would like to share with others. (Note the new e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.) All submissions will be properly credited. It will probably take me a couple days to get all the files transferred properly to the new server at ICD Soft. I do virtually everything manually, so there are bound to be some temporary glitches, but that's the price you pay for customized appearance and efficient functionality. Thanks to all for your patience and your support. And now ... Play Ball!
June 9, 2004 [LINK]
The Vet, revisited
In preparation for the next new stadium page, Citizens Bank Park, the page of the Phillies' old home, Veterans Stadium has been revised, with a dynamic diagram to better represent the baseball-to-football reconfiguration. After a hot streak in May, the Phillies have started to fall behind the Marlins in the NL East once again, while the injury-plagued Braves are gradually catching up.
The top-seeded U.Va. Cavaliers managed two victories in the NCAA regional playoff series in Charlottesville, but lost to Vanderbilt 7-3 in the deciding game (sold-out!) on Sunday. It was a bittersweet ending to a great season; just wait till next year! Two Cavaliers were drafted by big league teams this week: ace pitcher / slugger Joe Koshansky (by the Colorado Rockies) and Mark Reynolds (by the Arizona Diamondbacks).
June 6, 2004 [LINK]
As described at mlb.com, Yankee Hall of Famer Yogi Berra was stationed aboard a naval vessel offshore during the Normandy landings, the operation code-named "Overlord." Other big league players who served in the armed forces during World War II include Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller, and Warren Spahn. Almost without exception they were modest, selfless, patriotic-minded citizens just doing their duty. The article linked above also refers to the letters exchanged between Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis and President Franklin Roosevelt, who urged that baseball be continued in spite of the war, for the sake of national morale. With some of the best players serving in uniform, the quality of play fell noticeably, and the minor leagues almost evaporated. That was what led to the creation of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, featured in the movie A League of Their Own.
June 5, 2004 [LINK]
Ex-home of the Braves
The diagram on the Milwaukee County Stadium page has been revised based on a very detailed and clear photograph in the book by Ira Rosen. That page has a temporary "dynamic" diagram with an "experimental" warning track version. I also corrected on that page the spelling of the name of Bob "Mr. Baseball" Uecker, thanks to a tip from a new visitor to this site, "Hazy Dave," who has fond memories of Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron. Soon after this Web site migrates to a new host, I anticipate adding interactive features such as a comments page for each of the stadium pages. Stay tuned!
June 4, 2004 [LINK]
The Oakland Coliseum page has been revised with an improved "dynamic diagram" that better depicts the 1996 renovation/expansion and the football reconfiguration. One of the diagrams shows the warning tracks, adding realism but at a slight cost in terms of clarity. I invite comments as to whether warning tracks should be included on other diagrams. Annette Gaudino (a Yankees fan living in the Bay Area!) recently alerted me to a factual error on the that page: I had written that Jason Giambi was thrown out at home plate in the AL divisional series in 2001, but it was actually his brother Jeremy Giambi. Thanks, Annette! I may get names mixed up, but I'll never forget that amazing acrobatic assist by Derek Jeter.
Speaking of the Yankees, they have been on a hot streak lately, pulling 3 games ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East. A-Rod is finally hitting commensurate with his salary, while Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui are starting to live up to their high slugging reputations. Actually, ALL the division races remain quite competitive, especially the oversized NL Central division. Without Sammy Sosa, the Cubs have fallen to fifth place. Oh-oh...
June 2, 2004 [LINK]
Braves get a miracle
The Braves' bottom-of-the-ninth rally against the Expos last night was about as dramatic and heroic as you can get. Nick Green (???) knocked a three-run homer with two outs to tie the game, and J. D. Drew homered on the very next pitch to win it. Unbelievable! It just goes to show that baseball is the one sport where there's always hope to come from behind and win -- a uniquely American attitude, it would seem. Donald Sensing's blog "One Hand Clapping" contains some reflections on this.
How's this for inspiring: An organization called Spirit of America has set up a program to teach kids in Afghanistan how to play baseball. I'm a little skeptical of the whole "hearts and minds" aspect, but such efforts certainly can't do any harm. After all, think about all the major league baseball players who come from Japan and countries in the Caribbean that used to be occupied by U.S. forces.
The Skydome page has been revised and now includes a "dynamic diagram" to account for the retractable roof and the football reconfiguration.
May 31, 2004 [LINK]
Even though the second-seeded U.Va. Cavaliers baseball team lost two heart-breaking games in the ACC championships at Salem, Virginia, they will be hosting the NCAA regional tournament nonetheless. This is a tribute to their superb playing this year, and to their (nearly) new stadium, Davenport Field. See collegesports.com for details.
D.C. City Councilman Jacks Evans is pushing for quick legislation to authorize purchase of necessary land for a new ballpark at L'Enfant Plaza, but much opposition remains. See the Washington Post. Even though the Dulles site would be more convenient for me, I would still much prefer a stadium close by the incomparably scenic Potomac River -- even if it's on the northern side.
May 29, 2004 [LINK]
A new Big Red Machine?
As the summer season swings into high gear, the latest baseball stadium page has just been completed: Great American Ballpark, home of the Cincinnati Reds. It has a lot of odd curves and angles, and thus took longer than usual to render. Its appearance here is quite timely, nevertheless, since the Reds have just taken sole possession of the National League Central Division, having swept the Houston Astros in what must have been a thrilling home stand. Meanwhile, the Cubs just dropped a double header in Pittsburgh.
The Braves and Phillies have split the first two game in their series at brand-new Citizens Bank Park. The broadcasts on TBS Superstation were the first real good look I've had at that stadium, and I'm more impressed all the time. Phil Faranda, a guy who has been visiting this site for quite a while, recently saw a game at the Phillies' new home and told me "they have done an absolutely incredible job there." I just may go there myself before long...
May 25, 2004 [LINK]
Ballpark at Dulles?
Today's Washington Post has more details on the baseball stadium which would be the centerpiece of a planned resort development in Loudoun County. It would be located at the northeast corner of Dulles Airport, west of Herndon and south of Sterling. An abandoned stone quarry would be filled with water to create a recreational lake. The wheels of lobbyist action are revving up to full speed... Up in Montreal, meanwhile, attendance at Expos games this week has fallen to well below 5,000, and as viewed on TV it didn't even look like half that many were actually present.
May 21, 2004 [LINK]
The saga continues...
Commissioner Selig elaborated on the reasons for his doubts about the Washington area's desirability as a new home city for the Expos franchise yesterday. According to the Washington Post, he "does not want to repeat baseball's past mistakes" by allowing a franchise relocation that adversely affects an existing franchise. As indicated elsewhere on this Web site, however, franchise relocations to metropolitan areas with existing franchises have only occurred four times: in 1902, 1903, 1954, and 1968. In the first two cases (St. Louis and New York), multiple teams coexisted for several decades. In the third case, the Baltimore Orioles may have diverted a small portion of the Washington-area fan base from the Senators, but that was hardly the main reason for the subsequent decisions of Clark Griffith (1961) and Bob Short (1972) to abandon D.C. The only such precedent that Selig can cite with some justification is when the Athletics moved to Oakland in 1968, taking some fans from the Giants across the Bay. One case is not enough to make an argument! The very real long-term problem of lagging attendance and television viewership in the baseball world has multiple causes, but it is certainly not a function of franchises crowding each others' turf. Interestingly, only one city has ever benefited from an MLB franchise relocation more than once: Milwaukee, which just happens to be Bud's home town! Hmmm... Obviously, he knows what he's talking about.
In spite of his qualms, Mr. Selig expressed confidence that the Expos will have a permanent home by the start of next season, saying "It's time to get this done." MLB officials supposedly expect a final decision on relocation by July. Of course, we've heard that song and dance before, over and over and over again, but this time Selig just may be serious. What's more, Northern Virginia is apparently on the verge of winning the franchise for next year, notwithstanding all the talk about Washington, or the barely plausible alternatives of Portland, Las Vegas, Norfolk, or Monterrey. As Jon Saraceno writes in USA Today,
When it comes to those cities, don't believe a word about their chances of landing the Montreal Expos. Baseball's smoke-and-mirrors strategy is designed for competitive bidding purposes.
Of course, we've heard that explanation before too: it's all just a ploy to leverage more public funding for a new stadium out of area taxpayers. What has changed the dynamics in recent weeks is the fact that the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority has worked out a plan to build a ballpark near Dulles Airport, most likely in Loudoun County. That is indeed a booming suburban area, and the fact that it is 20+ miles from downtown Washington would certainly make it more palatable to Peter Angelos. As Saraceno says, "Virginia has given MLB what it wants. Baseball has no better option." I'm not so sure, though: With gas prices soaring and no near-term prospect of mass transit to Dulles, attendance at such a far-out ballpark would be a very uncertain thing. I can remember going on bike rides in that area in the 1980s, back when it was full of bucolic pasturelands. The times are indeed a-changin'; are they changing that much?
So, this is a good opportunity to repeat my modest little proposal: Build a small-sized stadium (35,000 seats) in Northern Virginia while refurbishing RFK Stadium (with 45,000+ seats), and have the team alternate between home fields from one home stand to the next, for as many years as is mutually agreeable to the franchise owners and the respective local governments. That would attract the maximum number of fans from the Washington area and satsify all concerned parties -- if only the Commonwealth of Virginia and the District of Columbia could find a way to collaborate in their own mutual best interests!
May 20, 2004 [LINK]
Bud stalls again
According to today's Washington Post, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has reverted to his old worries about a Washington-area team cutting into the revenues of the Baltimore Orioles, owned by Bud's pal Peter Angelos. Come on, Bud, we've been through all that! Quit stalling and just make a deal! Recent news on this matter had been pretty upbeat, but when you look at all the folks on the Relocation Committee who are connected in various ways to past "stadium swindles," the odds would seem heavily stacked against Washington.
May 19, 2004 [LINK]
Randy Johnson's perfect game in Atlanta last night was the first such feat since David Cone did so for the Yankees five years ago. Depending on how you count the various asterisks, this could be considered anywhere from the 15th to the 19th perfect game in Major League history. Thanks to TBS Superstation, millions of fans nationwide got to see this momentous event live on TV. Atlanta fans showed real class by cheering him on during the extremely tense ninth inning, as the home team lost 2-0. Hooray for forty-somethings!
The Braves are clearly hurting all over, having dropped to fourth place in the NL East. MRI tests revealed that Rafael Furcal has a bruised bone in his throwing arm, while Marcus Giles broke his collar bone and suffered a serious concussion after colliding full-speed with Andruw Jones while chasing a short fly ball over the weekend. Speaking of injuries, Sammy Sosa somehow sprained his back while sneezing in Chicago, and will be out for a while. Fellow Cub Mark Prior and Red Sock Nomar Garciaparra have been on the disabled list since spring training, and yet their teams have been at or near the tops in their divisions. As for the Yankees, Derek Jeter is still slowly recovering from the injury he suffered in early April.
In preparation for this year's All Star Game in Houston, the Minute Maid Park page has been updated and now has a "dynamic diagram" that shows how the roof opens. Other retractable-roof stadium diagrams yet to be updated in this fashion: Safeco Field, Skydome, and Olympic Stadium.
The MLB Relocation Committee met again today, discussing the latest stadium financing offer from D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams. As today's Washington Post indicates, however, Williams will be hard pressed to get the D.C. City Council to pass the necessary funding measures. The article also included a map of the proposed Waterfront stadium site, which is two blocks further east than I had previously thought. The entire grandstand on the third base side would rest on a platform on top of I-395, the Southwest Freeway. The brick-paved L'Enfant Plaza promenade would lead right to the stadium, which would be a perfect link between the Mall, the Waterfront restaurants, and the residential district just to the east. The problem is that the diamond would point toward the southeast, AWAY from the Washington Monument. Why in the world wouldn't they take advantage of such a spectacular scenic backdrop???
May 14, 2004 [LINK]
Back to normal
The Yankees reached first place after several weeks trailing the Red Sox. Ominously, the Orioles are neck and neck with both those teams. I was following the play-by-play on MLB.com's "Game Day" system on Tuesday night, and was tremendously gratified by the Yankees' dramatic tenth-inning win over the red-hot Anaheim Angels. I did likewise the next night and was sickened by the eighth-inning collapse, as the Angels beat them 11-2. The divisional races continue to provide plenty of drama and tension, and it's great that formerly second-tier teams such as the Rangers are vying for the lead.
Just in time for the Braves' return to their former home city in Milwaukee this weekend, the Miller Park page now has a "dynamic diagram" that shows how the roof opens. Thanks to a tip from an anonymous White Sox fan, I learned of an important news item that might otherwise have slipped under my "radar screen": Just last Friday the Rangers and Ameriquest Mortgage Company announced a 30-year, $75 million agreement under which the Ballpark in Arlington is being renamed "Ameriquest Field in Arlington." Details are at MLB.com.
Finally, the U.Va. baseball team won one [not two as previously stated] of three games at the climatic series against Florida State in Charlottesville over the weekend. Last night they beat Wake Forest and are on the verge of clinching the ACC title. Wa-hoo-wa!
May 8, 2004 [LINK]
I neglected to mention another important Washington Post baseball story from Friday: It's about the phenomenal rise to championship caliber of the U.Va. baseball team this year. A big part of the reason is the new stadium, which cost $4 million and seats and over 2,000 fans, including six luxury boxes and a roof. It is widely believed that famed author John Grisham, who lives in Albemarle County, is the anonymous donor who made the new stadium possible. I used to work at U.Va.'s Miller Center, which is right next door, and every once in a while I would walk over to see a game -- back when it was just cheapo aluminum bleachers. This weekend's series against Florida State in Charlottesville is sold out, or else I might go.
May 7, 2004 [LINK]
MLB in D.C. (Episode 37)
MLB executive vice president John McHale met with D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams yesterday, and according to the Washington Post said, "If we weren't serious about Washington, D.C., we wouldn't be here." Relocation Committee chairman Jerry Reinsdorf apparently declared that the opinions of Orioles owner Peter Angelos about this matter are NOT "an automatic disqualification." (Does that mean it would be a manual disqualification?) Since Williams has offered MLB just about everything they demanded in terms of stadium financing, they have no further excuse to block the transfer of the Expos to Washington next year. We'll see... I'm still intrigued by the proposed stadium site on 14th Street near the Jefferson Memorial. That would draw the biggest number of Virginians to the games, especially if they build a new metro station on the Yellow Line.
The latest round of flirtation with D.C. coincides with a mini-uproar over the planned use of commercial advertisements on bases. Such scrounging for bucks would of course be extremely tacky, but please, folks, let's not forget all the big billboards on outfield walls during the Golden Era of baseball, the 1920s-1950s. Baseball is a business, after all.
Mike Zurawski let me know about a few needed corrections to the stadium diagrams, some of which I already knew about. Most importantly, I was not aware that they had added new rows of box seats behind home plate at Wrigley Field, and indeed on TV last night I noticed the new brick wall back there for the first time. Revisions pending...
April 25, 2004 [LINK]
"Poor" Bosox surge
The Red Sox just swept the Yankees in a three-game series in the Bronx (shame!), and have passed the Orioles to claim first place in the AL East. But Mr. Henry, I thought you folks were at a hopeless economic disadvantage! Thanks to new visitor Alex Chernogaev for pointing out a few omissions in this Web site, two of which were in the big scrolling menu of stadiums.
April 24, 2004 [LINK]
90th Year at Wrigley
Yesterday was the 90th anniversary of the opening of Wrigley Field, or "Weeghman Park" as it was known back in 1914, when it was the home of the Federal League Chicago Whales. That means when I was born it was younger than I am now. Yikes...
The Braves and Red Sox continued to get revenge against their respective leagues' 2003 pennant winners last night, just like the two rematch series last week, but this time playing away from home. Prompted by seeing the Braves beat the Marlins on TV last night, I went ahead and put a "dynamic diagram" on the Pro Player Stadium page, but that's all for now. Jennifer Lim informs me that Davey Lopes was fired as the Brewers' managers two seasons ago, and I've deleted my erroneous reference to him on the new Miller Park page. D'oh! Well, at least my stadium diagrams are fairly accurate. Thanks, Jennifer!
April 23, 2004 [LINK]
Upside down standings
What is going on this year? The Tigers, Reds, Padres, and Orioles are all vying for the lead in their respective divisions. It's a good sign that both the Red Sox and Cubs have shaken off their crushing postseason disappointments and are back in the thick of things this year. Sorry to sound mean, but has anyone calculated how much money A-Rod is making on a per-hit basis? Long-time visitor Steven Poppe suggested that I delete the football gridiron outline from the baseball configuration diagram of Mile High Stadium since it's visible on the football configuration diagram anyway, and I've obliged him. I used the opportunity to make a few minor tweaks in that diagram while I was at it. After I finish the last few baseball stadium pages over the next several weeks, I'll begin making "dynamic" diagrams for all the dual-use stadiums as well.
April 21, 2004 [LINK]
It's Miller Time!
As the ever-growing number of regular visitors know, the latest addition to this Web site, Miller Park, has been a long time coming. In fact it is not 100% complete, since I plan to add a "dynamic diagram" to it in coming weeks. Speaking of which, I've updated the Bank One Ballpark page to make the "dynamic diagram" on it more controllable, much like the Busch Stadium (New) page I updated last week. I realized a few months ago that Busch Stadium is slightly oblong in shape, not circular, necessitating a redrawn diagram. Once again, I appreciate comments from the public, and I endeavor to make factual or graphic corrections to these pages whenever they are brought to my attention, though not always as promptly as I would like.
April 17, 2004 [LINK]
Both of last year's pennant winners just lost two road games against their main division rivals: the Yanks fell to the Red Sox, and the Marlins fell to the Braves. Manny Ramirez got credit last night for a home run that did not in fact cross the fence, and perhaps out of guilt he almost threw the game away a while later by dropping an easy pop fly. Remembering Game 6 last October, I was gratified that Florida's ace pitcher Josh Beckett got taken out of the game in the face of hot Atlanta slugging. Early signs are that the division races will be pretty competitive this year. Hopefully that will put to rest all the whining about the Yankees' "unfair advantage" with their $180 million payroll. By the way, I've run across a number of Red Sox fans in various places since last October, and have had mixed reactions from them to my expressions of goodwill and respect. Some smile warmly, and some give me an icy glare. For many Bostonians, the Yankees are as irredeemably evil as George W. Bush is in the eyes of many Democrats. Oh well... Perhaps we all need to be reminded of a basic fact: It's just a game, for crying out loud! Perhaps the extreme degree of fanaticism portrayed by Robert DeNiro in the movie The Fan is more widespread than I thought.
April 14, 2004 [LINK]
According to the Washington Post (registration required), Mayor Anthony Williams has proposed full funding for a new stadium in D.C., which would cost from $340 to $385 million. Perhaps there is no further point to resisting the extortionary pressure of MLB. On the bright side, a new stadium site has been proposed at the west end of the waterfront in Washington, just south of the Jefferson Memorial. Though a tight squeeze, it would certainly be the most convenient spot in D.C. for us Virginians, and perhaps therefore least objectionable to "Dr. Evil," a.k.a. Orioles owner Peter Angelos.
The San Diego Padres are above the .500 mark, getting an apparent boost from their new home at Petco Park, which has seen a surprising number of home runs, in spite of the deep outfield distances. An article on the MLB.com Web site addresses that puzzle. No such luck for the Phillies, who are 1 - 6 despite the grand opening of Citizens Bank Park.
Has someone in Miami seen this Web site? The distance marker in right center field at Pro Player Stadium has been corrected: It used to say "385" (at least ten feet too long according to my estimates), but now says "363." However, the difference is partly due to the fact that said marker has shifted toward the right field pole. In other stadium news, the outfield fence at Kauffman Stadium has been moved back ten feet, where it had been originally.
April 2, 2004 [LINK]
Another sign that spring is really here is BASEBALL!!! The Tampa Bay Devil Rays somehow beat the Yankees in the opening day game in the sold-out Tokyo Dome (capacity 55,000), but the Yanks got more than adequate revenge the next day, winning by 12 to 1. Jorge Posada homered twice, and Hideki "Godzilla" Matsui thrilled the crowd with a home run of his own. The short power alleys in that ballpark (only 361 feet) probably account for most of the runs in that slugfest. It's nice to have such international exposure for our national pastime, but there's something not quite right about staging Opening Day abroad. It should be held in The Nation's Capital, like in the old days... Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell complained about the ungodly hour at which the first game was broadcast (5:00 A.M.) and slammed Commissioner Bud Selig's short-sighted commercialism.
In time for the "real" Opening Day, the U.S. Cellular Field page has been revised, with new diagrams that show the original design and the recently completed renovation. The Anaheim Stadium and SBC Park (formerly Pac Bell Park) pages have been updated to reflect the changes in their names during the off season, and the former page has an improved dynamic stadium diagram. Yet to be revised are the diagrams for Olympic Stadium and Busch Stadium.
March 21, 2004 [LINK]
That big old hulk in South Philadelphia, Veterans Stadium, was demolished early this morning, and the walls came tumblin' down in a carefully timed sequence. To commemorate the event, I've updated that page and added an excellent photo of a ballgame in Philly kindly submitted to me by a new fan of this Web site, Keith Kirkpatrick. Thanks, Keith!
In Boston, construction is proceeding on a new level of luxury suites on top of the roof in the right field corner. That spot happens to be quite a ways from home plate, but in the cramped quarters of Fenway Park you really can't complain. That's a small price to pay to get a truly authentic baseball experience. Anyway, it's a good sign that new owner John Henry is committed to renovating and preserving the cherished old ballpark.
MLB Relocation Committee member John McHale contradicted Bud Selig, saying he doubts there will be any decision on the fate of the Montreal franchise by the All-Star break. No surprise there! It would appear that the poor, mistreated Expos must continue play in limbo for the indefinite future, not unlike a gang of undead zombies. Coincidentally, a remake of the classic movie Night of the Living Dead is about to be released. Meanwhile, ex-Expo Vladimir Guerrero has "gone to heaven" as an Anaheim Angel.
While en route with my wife to Peru over spring break (hence the lack of recent postings to this site), I caught sight of another baseball stadium for the first time: Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in St. Petersburg, Florida. At an altitude of 40,000 feet, however, I don't think that qualifies as "being there." It was just a big white blob on the urban peninsula, but to a trained eye such as mine, there was no doubt.
Speaking of which, only nine days remain to the Opening Day game between the Devil Rays and the Yankees in the Tokyo Dome. Pitching???
March 3, 2004 [LINK]
No more artificial additives?
Less than a month remains until the "Opening Day" game between the Yankees and Devil Rays in the Tokyo Dome... Will Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi have as bulky biceps this year as they did last year??? What about Barry and Sammy? The fact that the MLB Players' Association is dragging their collective heels on the new drug testing policy speaks volumes about the state of the sport these days. In today's Washington Post (registration now required), Tony Kornheiser writes that the players are basically running the show, using Commissioner Bud Selig as a meek figurehead while they set the basic terms in policy. To this I merely repeat my contention that this case of severely imbalanced market forces is the direct consequence of the huge public subsidies to baseball franchises, through stadium deals and other under-the-table concessions.
This spring training season takes some getting used to, with so many familiar faces in unfamiliar uniforms: A-Rod, Sheffield, and Lofton for the Yanks, Schilling for the Red Sox, Maddux for the Cubs, and Pudge Rodriguez for the Tigers. "Who's on first," again??
February 25, 2004 [LINK]
Cheaper D.C. Stadium?
According to the Washington Post, Washington, D.C. officials have come up with a revised, less expensive stadium proposal so that the prospective baseball franchise owner -- Fred Malek, to be precise -- would have more funds available to pay the franchise fee, which will probably include a hefty premium to Mr. Angelos, who considers that a team in Washington would be "an affront" to Baltimore. Talk about chutzpah!
February 21, 2004 [LINK]
Orioles (+), Braves (-)
Peter Angelos is feeling pretty upbeat about his team, apparently convinced that the "threat" of the Expos moving to Washington has greatly diminished. He says that is what has given him the confidence to beef up his payroll... The Washington Post had one of their online chat forums last Wednesday, and I got the following response to my query:
Staunton, Va.: What is going on with the Atlanta Braves letting their best players go elsewhere? After all the post season disappointments of recent years, is their ownership just giving up?
David Sheinin: The Braves definitely are slicing payroll. Looks like they've lopped off about $15 million this winter, by letting Maddux, Sheffield and Javy Lopez go. When I talked to their GM, John Schuerholz, a few weeks ago, he said ownership simply came to the conclusion it could not keep operating in the manner they had been accustomed to.
February 16, 2004 [LINK]
A-Rod to the Bronx!
Nearly two months after the Red Sox failed to close a deal that would have brought Alex Rodriguez to Boston, the Yankees have pulled off the trade of the century, getting A-Rod for Alfonso Soriano, who was one of the Yankees' youngest rising stars. (Too bad he's leaving.) Apparently, Rodriguez will be playing at third base, which must make incumbent shortstop Derek Jeter feel appreciated. (His performance suffered due to a wrist injury early last year.) Today Commissioner Selig approved the A-Rod deal, which most experts believe dooms any hope for Boston to mount a serious pennant race or post-season challenge to the Yankees this year. Don't forget, sports fans, raw payroll size is NOT sufficient to win world championships. (It does smooth the path to the postseason, however.)
February 6, 2004 [LINK]
Stadium on D.C. waterfront?
At a meeting in Washington this week, D.C. government officials showed MLB honchos a much better baseball stadium site: near the southwest waterfront. It's a pleasant area, with several fine restaurants, and, more importantly, is closer to us fans on the south side of the Potomac than any of the other proposed sites in D.C.! Arlington withdrew from the stadium picture last summer, but I wonder if officials in Alexandria have contemplated having a stadium built on the West End of their fine city? That area has convenient access to Metro, the Beltway, and is close to the Landmark shopping mall and a dense urban high-rise apartment district. Not a perfect site, but at least it wouldn't be in a suburban wasteland.
Many thanks to Mr. Roy Sorice, who explained to me the reason that the Chicago Bears played in the cramped quarters of Wrigley Field all those years was because Soldier Field was such an inhospitable white elephant, until it was finally renovated in 1971, that is. Before that, its main uses were hosting "midget auto races and the college all star game..." (That was before my time, I'm afraid.) Keep those historical tips comin' in, sports fans!
January 31, 2004 [LINK]
The MLB Players' Association is beginning to suspect collusion among the franchises as an explanation for the flat salary trends on the free agent market this winter. Could be. Indeed, it happened before, in the late 1980s. Or it could be the widespread realization after the near-strike of 18 months ago that baseball fans' patience with astronomic salary hikes for players has worn thin... Meanwhile, the L.A. Dodgers have been purchased by Frank McCourt (a Boston real estate developer), for $430 million. Bud Selig praised the deal, saying, "Having an unresolved ownership situation was, frankly, hurting the franchise." (Why does this seem so ironic to me?)
Old business: In my review of the movie 61* I forgot to mention that some of the digitally retouched scenes of "Yankee Stadium" along the first base side were rather lame. The second deck was far too big, since it was really the second deck of Tiger Stadium, and the third deck was just a carbon copy "pasted" over the top. The result was a frighteningly huge triple-deck image. Finally, thanks to Dave Russell for pointing out some errors in the Oriole Park at Camden Yards page, which I just fixed.
January 23, 2004 [LINK]
Construction is proceeding on the new St. Louis baseball stadium, where the Cardinals will begin to play in 2006. The Cardinals' Web site shows that it will overlap with much of the existing structure, which presumably means they will have to tear down the right field side of Busch Stadium during the Cardinals' final year there. What's more, to my astonishment, I noticed a slight oblong shape in the Busch Stadium diagram, and confirmed from the text that it is in fact elliptical, NOT circular as I had always assumed. It's about nine percent longer than it is wide, which explains the long original distance to center field (414 feet) and tight seating configuration at the corners. Those facts just did not jibe with a circular stadium shape, but I was so convinced that the stadium was circular that I wondered whether the actual distances to the corners might be 10-15 feet longer than they are supposed to be. Anyway, that's one more stadium diagram I'll have to revise...
A fan named Joseph H. Johnston let me know that he enjoyed my review of the movie 61* and reminded me what a fine (though overlooked) defensive player Roger Maris was. By coincidence, I recently learned from The Yankees: An Authorized History of the New York Yankees that Maris made the game-saving play in the bottom of the ninth inning in the deciding seventh game of the 1962 World Series in Candlestick Park. By quickly getting the ball hit by Willie Mays back into the infield, he prevented Matty Alou from scoring what would have been the tying won. Yanks 1, Giants 0!!
The Washington Post reports that Major League Baseball turned down a $30 million offer by the Virginia Baseball Club to host all or most of the Expos games in RFK Stadium next year, on a one-year basis without ownership change or any commitment. The fact that such a reasonable (and money-making!) offer can't get serious consideration from MLB officials shows once again how badly the deck is stacked against The Nation's Capital.
January 20, 2004 [LINK]
The temperature outside is in the frigid teens, but spring training is only a month away!!! I recently got myself a great new book, The Yankees: An Authorized History of the New York Yankees, and am compiling data from a library book, The Sports Stadium as a Municipal Investment. (See Sources below.) Also, I've added a new page, Stadium statistics, containing objective data (e.g., capacity, field dimensions) that was formerly part of the quite subjective Stadium rankings page. The type on both pages is now larger, so it should be easier to read.
January 16, 2004 [LINK]
Same old song & dance
During the MLB owners' meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona, Commissioner Bud Selig commented on the long-delayed relocation of the Expos franchise, saying he hopes "to finalize a 2005 deal as soon as possible." Gosh, I sure hope so, too! The Washington Post story also stated that Mark Ganis, a Chicago sports consultant, said that MLB was using additional prospective baseball cities (such as Monterrey, Mexico) to get more stadium money from the three principal relocation candidates, Washington, Virginia, and Portland. No kidding!? Ominous portent: Orioles' owner Peter Angelos, arch-opponent of baseball anywhere close to Washington, was elected to the MLB Executive Committee.
January 12, 2004 [LINK]
Angels Nab Vlad
Vladimir Guerrero just signed a six-year contract with the Anaheim Angels, to the dismay of the Baltimore Orioles, who had offered him a generous package. Apparently Vlad wanted to play in a city where Spanish is spoken more widely. ENCORE!?: The "just-retired" Roger Clemens has apprently been persuaded by ex-Yankee teammate Andy Pettite to join him in playing with the Houston Astros. I don't really hold that against him; anyone who has done as much for the game as he has deserves a "victory lap." As for the semi-contrite Pete Rose, I figure they ought to let him in the Hall of Fame after another 14 years have passed, since that is how long he lied to the public about his gambling problem. In my opinion, his words and actions have disqualified him from ever again holding an official position in Major League Baseball.
January 11, 2004 [LINK]
Last Thursday, Miami city officials approved a plan to build a new baseball stadium adjacent to the Orange Bowl, which would be thoroughly renovated. The baseball stadium would have 35,000-40,000 seats, with an estimated cost of $375 million. The Marlins have pledged $137 million for the project, but they insist that a movable roof is essential because of the frequent summer monsoon rains in south Florida, so it's not yet a done deal. SOURCE: mlb.com
January 9, 2004 [LINK]
New home for Twins?
The spunky yet cash-poor Minnesota Twins franchise has proposed a new stadium, described on the MLB Web site. It would have 42,000 seats with four levels and a retractable roof. The estimated cost would be $430-$450 million, which is pretty steep for such a modest-sized stadium. Let's hope the hard-working taxpayers of Minnesota can come together and reach a fair deal with Carl Pohlad to keep big league baseball in the North Central region.
January 5, 2004 [LINK]
U.S. Cellular Field
Details are emerging about the exact nature of the renovations currently taking place in U.S. Cellular Field, and the architects seem to have hit a home run. As explained on the White Sox Web site,
Eight rows and 6,600 seats have been removed from the top of ballpark's upper deck, and the previously sloped canopy-style roof will be replaced by a flat roof, elevated 20 feet above the seating area. The new roof, featuring ornamental ironwork on the facade, will extend over the back 13 rows of the upper deck, leaving just the first eight rows uncovered.
I took a look at some of the photos and artist's renderings, and it's almost everything I could have hoped for. They are leaving the front edge of the upper deck intact, unfortunately, so there will still be ZERO overhang. Neverthless, the reduction in the size of that deck, and the installation of an old fashioned flat roof with structural support beams and a decorative facade (à la Yankee Stadium) represent a quantum leap forward in terms of aesthetic appeal and fan friendliness. Hearty congratulations to the White Sox front office! (Stay tuned for a revised stadium diagram...)
It's official: Pete Rose has 'fessed up to gambling. The careful coordination of the upcoming book publication, the Sports Illustrated article, and the forthcoming interview on ABC all add up to one slick public relations campaign. Will he get a forgiving hug from Dr. Phil?
January 2, 2004 [LINK]
Comerica Park + Tiger Stadium!
While working on the new Comerica Park page, I had an idea that might generate some excitement for Detroit: Why not have the Tigers play a few games every year in their old home, Tiger Stadium? The Indians used to split their home games between two stadiums, and of course the Expos are doing so this year once again. That would be a way to justify the expense of maintaining Tiger Stadium as a kind of museum, which many people want to do anyway (it's crumbling and rusting badly), and it would probably attract a lot of out-of-town fans who are curious about the good old days. Such a promotion might even yield a profit for the franchise...
January 1, 2004 [LINK]
Happy New Year!
The Edison International utility company just opted out of the $60-mllion 20-year contract it had signed with the Anaheim Angels in 1998. Both parties say there was no animosity... For the time being, the Angels' home field will be called "Angel Stadium of Anaheim." Very strange; why not just call it Anaheim Stadium, as it was called for 32 years?
David Wells just signed a one-year contract with the Padres, who are getting ready to move into Petco Field. The Yankees had made him an offer, but it wasn't enough for him. I was glad when they brought him back for a second stint with the Yanks a couple years ago, since he's quite a morale-boosting character, though sometimes his mouth gets him in trouble. We'll miss him.
RUMOR: According to the Washington Post, Pete Rose supposedly confessed to gambling in his soon-to-be-published autobiography. If so, it's about time. Does this mean he's really sorry, or that getting into the Hall of Fame is more important than salvaging his pride?
Members of the MLB Relocation Committee will visit Monterrey, Mexico on January 7, seriously exploring the possibility of selling the Expos franchise to a Mexican business tycoon. Coincidentally (??), President Bush will be visiting Monterrey for a special "Summit of the Americas," trying to mend frayed relations with our Latin neighbors, on January 12-13.