November 1, 2015 [LINK / comment]
Royals put the Mets on the brink
I expected this to be a fairly even World Series, with the Kansas City Royals' relentless hitting and base-running offsetting the New York Mets' stellar pitching and slugging. Game 4 was another classic back-and-forth affair, full of dramatic twists of fate and cruel ironies. It looked like the Mets were about to even the series 2-2, with a 3-2 lead going into the eighth inning. Then all of a sudden, Daniel Murphy misplayed a ground ball hit by Eric Hosmer, and the Royals seized the opportunity to stage a three-run rally that ended up deciding the game. Final score: Royals 5, Mets 3. So now the Mets are on the brink of elimination.
In tonight's game, which started about an hour ago, Curtis Granderson put the Mets on the board with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first inning. (I was actually uploading the revised diagrams at the time, and missed seeing it live!) I kind of hope that the series returns to K.C., but I'll be rooting for the Royals in any case.
For the record, I am not happy at all about baseball extending into the month of November. MLB officials need to consider ways to compress the regular season, either with fewer games (perhaps going back to 154 games, like it was before 1961) or else having scheduled double-headers throughout the season.
Citi Field tweak
After seeing aerial shots of Citi Field on TV, I noticed some discrepancies in my diagrams in the area around the bullpens in right-center field. So, I went back and consulted some photos that Mike Zurawski had brought to my attention a few months ago, and made some small revisions to the Citi Field diagrams. One detail that I had failed to account for is that the former "385" distance marker in deep left center field was removed prior to the 2015 season, and a new "370" marker has been put in the power alley in left-center field. As with yesterday's "tweak" of my Kauffman Stadium diagrams, it is not worth considering a diagram update per se.
November 3, 2015 [LINK / comment]
Hey, Hey Kansas City: Royals are triumphant
As Matt Harvey took the mound in the top of the ninth inning on Sunday night, it appeared all but certain that the World Series would return to Kansas City for Game 6. But once again the Royals pulled off a highly unlike comeback to complete their triumph at Citi Field in Flushing Meadows -- a Royal Flushing! The Mets manager was going to use a relief pitcher in the ninth inning, but Harvey insisted on finishing the game, and the rest is history. He walked and gave up a double to the left field corner hit by Eric Hosmer (who had not been batting well up to that point). Hosmer then reached third and when Salvador Perez ground ball to short stop, he waited until the ball was thrown to first and then made a mad dash for home. Safe! It was a high-risk move, but it paid off, as the game was tied and went into extra innings. (It reminded me of a similar situation in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series last year, when Alex Gordon held up on third base rather than going for an inside-the-park home run. He was stranded there, and the Royals lost.) Fortune favors the bold!
In the 12th inning, Salvador Perez singled and was replaced by pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson, who stole second base, made it to third on a ground ball out, and then scored when pinch-hitter Christian Colon (who??) hit a clutch single to left field. The Royals were ahead for the first time in the game! On the very next play Daniel Murphy misplayed a ground ball just like he had the night before, Alcides Escobar hit an RBI double, and after the bases were loaded, Lorenzo Cain hit a three-run double to make it a 7-2 game. Fans in New York were dismayed beyond belief at this gut-wrenching turn of events. No team had ever scored five runs in an extra inning of a World Series game before. It was a historic accomplishment, and the Royals savored the triumph in the locker room.
Salvador Perez was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2015 World Series, the Royals' first world championship since 1985.
Today on the streets of downtown Kansas City, about 800,000 fans gathered to pay tribute to the Royals. See the Kansas City Star.
Congratulations to the Royals!
Citi Field update
Well, wouldn't you know it, I found some more discrepancies in my Citi Field diagrams, and before you knew it I was hard at work with yet another update. Good grief, Charlie Brown! Foul territory is slightly larger than before, the bullpens are angled a bit more to the right, and a few other details have been corrected. I hope that takes care of that.
World Series tix
By amazing coincidence, I got hold of some World Series tickets (as well as a National League Championship Series ticket) yesterday, but they were 32 years out of date. They're of no practical use, but may be of significance to collectors. In the 1983 Fall Classic, the Baltimore Orioles beat the Philadelphia Phillies in four straight games (including Games 3 and 5 on the tickets below) after the Phillies won Game 1 in Baltimore.
Dusty Baker to manage Nationals
So much for unconfirmed rumors from reliable inside sources! Apparently negotiations with Bud Black broke down after it was all but announced that he would become the new manager of the Washington Nationals, and in his place Dusty Baker has been chosen to lead the Nats next year. He has a multi-year contract, so apparently this is a done deal. (As far as we know, at least!) It's an embarrassing turn of events, and seems to reflect poorly on the Lerner family's awareness of baseball negotiating protocols according to Thomas Boswell (not "Bosworth" as I originally wrote in my October 30 post, now corrected). For more, see the Washington Post.
There's no question that Baker is a good choice. He was chosen as National League manager of the year in 1993, 1997, and 2000 while with the Giants, whom he led to the 2002 World Series. Later he managed the Chicago Cubs, whom he led to the NL Championship Series in 2003 (ouch!), and then the Cincinnati Reds, whom he led to the 2013 Wild Card Game. Twenty years is a lot of managerial experience indeed. Baker is 66 years old, not as old as I thought he was, so maybe he can fill the job of manager for a few years. Davey Johnson was 70 years old when he retired as manager of the Nationals after the 2013 season.
November 7, 2015 [LINK / comment]
Dusty Baker is introduced to D.C.
In a press conference on Thursday, "Dusty" Baker was formally introduced by Mike Rizzo as the new manager of the Washington Nationals. The event was a big success, as Baker quickly developed a rapport with the journalists, answering their queries with wit and a big smile. He is determined to get the team to the postseason again, and is hopeful that he can win his first World Series ring as a manager. See the Washington Post, which had a photo of Baker wearing a business suit leaning on the dugout at Nationals Park.
The beginning may have been a little awkward, but Dusty is full of charm and optimism, as well as skilled leadership, and I'm guessing we'll forget all about that Bud Black mess before long. He is almost certainly the best "second-best" choice ever!
The Nationals' new pitching coach, Mike Maddux, was also introduced to reporters.
Desi, J-Zimm get offers
Veterans Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann both received "qualifying offers" from the Washington Nationals, which means that if they sign elsewhere (as expected), the Nats will get compensatory draft picks. (See MLB.com.) It is still possible that either or both could remain with the Nats next year, and I kind of hope both do. J-Zimm is a proven top-notch performer and would keep the pitching rotation in a championship caliber, while Desi had a solid record until this year which was a big disappointment. He's bound to improve next year, whatever team he's with.
Citi Field update update
OK, I get it, I'm way too much of a perfectionist. But is that really such a bad thing? Yes, sports fans, believe it or not, I made a few more tiny corrections and enhancements to my Citi Field diagrams. It mostly involved details such as the seam that divides the grandstand in left field from the rest of the grandstand. Also, I had to reconcile slight inconsistencies from one diagram version to another. New features in the lower-deck and second-deck diagrams include the entrances to the aisles, as well as a transparent color (thus showing the green background) to differentiate the field level from the main concourse level. I really hope that takes care of that.
November 10, 2015 [LINK / comment]
Keeping up with the diagram revisions
As my work on revising stadium diagrams heads into the final stretch, I updated the Diagram update log for the first time in several months. For nearly all current and past Major League Baseball stadiums, it shows when the diagram in question was last revised (aside from trivial "tweaks"). Currently, the oldest diagram is Forbes Field, which was last updated ten years ago. For most such stadiums, that log shows the history of diagram updates, with links to the blog posts when those updates were announced. For the remainder of the stadiums, there is simply a blank cell to indicate that the compilation of past updates is still underway. By the end of the year, that task should be completed.
Also, I have taken a big step in the transition toward a simpler layout for the stadium pages. For recently-updated stadium pages, and eventually on all such pages, the key displays interactively when you roll the mouse over the last of the "dynamic diagram" links. It no longer appears on the right side of those links. This is part of the ultimate plan of making the stadium pages easier to view on mobile devices such as iPhones. (Yes, I'm aware of that.)
Williams back to Phoenix
The Washington Nationals' former manager Matt Williams is going back to the Arizona Diamondbacks next year, serving as third-base coach. He played third base in Phoenix from 1998 through 2003, when he retired. See ESPN. I hope the experience does him good. He has many good potential qualities, but just needs more experience before managing a championship-caliber club.
Shea Stadium mini-update
Having finished my Citi Field diagrams after much laborious pixel-tweaking, it was fitting (and relatively easy) for me to make a slight enhancement to the Shea Stadium diagrams as well. Only two things changed that anyone would notice: First, the entry portals in the upper deck have been moved back a couple feet, and are rendered more accurately with the vertical discontinuity in back of the lateral walkway, and the small stairs (five steps) on either side of each entry portal. Second, the pitching rubbers and home plates in the bullpens are now shown.
November 18, 2015 [LINK / comment]
Strasburg gets back surgery
Now we know why Stephen Strasburg was having so much trouble with tightness in his back last summer: he had a painful skin growth that turned out to be a non-cancerous tumor. He had surgery to have it removed, and hopefully he'll be back to normal next spring. See ESPN.
Zimmermann, Desmond depart
As expected, both Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond declined the "qualifying offers" from the Washington Nationals, which almost certainly means they're about to become free agents. If they accept an offer from another team, the Nationals will get a draft pick from the other team in compensation. See MLB.com. They'll probably both rake in top dollar multi-year contracts, and I wish them all the best -- except when they're playing against the Nationals, of course. They both played like champions for years with the Nats, and they will be remembered fondly.
(Milwaukee) County Stadium update
I took a quick "detour" in my diagramming work, and make some minor enhancements to the diagrams for Milwaukee County Stadium. That, of course, was the former home of both the Milwaukee Braves and Milwaukee Brewers. It mainly involved the upper-deck and lower-deck diagrams, with the entry portals being bigger and the support columns being much more prominent than before. Also, the bullpens were rendered more accurately in all the diagrams, with the pitching rubbers and home plates shown, among other details.
November 21, 2015 [LINK / comment]
Unanimous: Bryce Harper is the NL MVP!
By a unanimous vote (30), Bryce Harper was selected by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) as the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player. Harper was the first Washington player to be so honored since 1925. He is also the youngest player ever to be elected unanimously. Most Nationals fans expected him to win, since he was clearly the most likely candidate, but the overwhelming "mandate" from the experts was a pleasant surprise.
The Washington Post devoted almost the entire front page of the sports section to a painting of Bryce Harper, including a day-to-day chart showing Harpers on-base-plus-slugging percentage compared to the three other Nationals' players who hit decently this year: Yunel Escobar, Ryan Zimmerman, and Clint Robinson. Harper vastly outshown his team mates. The Post produced this online video summarizing what Harper accomplished. Here are the numbers that made Harper's selection almost a no-brainer:
- Home runs: 42 (T-1st)
- Runs: 118: (1st)
- Average: .330 (2nd)
- On-base %: .460 (1st)
- Slugging %: .649 (1st)
The only reason to question Harper being the MVP is that there is a tradition of favoritism to players whose teams make it into the postseason. But neither Paul Goldschmidt (D-Backs) nor Joey Votto (Reds) played for postseason-qualifying teams this year, so that was that.
Bryce Harper, in some of his finer moments that I had the good fortune to see. Clockwise from top left: home run #31 on August 21, 2015; at bat on September 22, 2013; at Nats Fest in D.C. on January 26, 2013; sliding into second on September 28, 2014*; in left field on August 15, 2013.
* the same day that Jordan Zimmermann threw a no-hitter!
It was nice to hear that Harper expressed a hope to make Washington his career home, which will of course depend on whether the Lerner family is willing to fork over the megabucks it will take to keep him here. For a player with his amazing early accomplishments and enormous future potential, that could be one of the biggest baseball contracts ever.
I confess to being hesitant about believing in the hype surrounding Harper, but there is no doubt about it: He is for real!
Congratulations, Bryce! We look forward to many more years with you playing in D.C.!
Nationals annual records
Since Bryce Harper set so many records this year, I thought it would be appropriate to update the Washington Nationals page, which now includes a day-to-day graph of the team's winning percentage for the 2015 season, along with those for the previous ten years. As you can plainly see, from mid-July until late August it was just horrible:
That page also features the team's individual batting and pitching annual records going back to their inaugural year of 2005. I have only been keeping that data systematically for the last few years, so I had to refer to the Nationals' official MLB.com Web site for the older numbers. Here is a slightly "squeezed" version of that table:
Best batting and pitching annual records
|| R. Zimm. & L. Mill.
|| Bryce Harper
|| Bryce Harper
Schu will return
After being let go, along with the rest of the Nats coaching staff, Rick Schu has been rehired as the Nationals' hitting coach. It was new manager Dusty Baker's call, evidently. See the Washington Post
Josh Donaldson wins AL MVP
On the American League side, Josh Donaldson of the Toronto Blue Jays was chosen as Most Valuable Player. It wasn't unanimous, as with Bryce Harper, but he did receive 23 first-place votes and seven second-place votes from the 30 BBWAA voters. Mike Trout of the L.A. Angels came in second place. The last Blue Jay MVP was George Bell, in 1987. Donaldson batted .297, hit 41 homers, and had 123 RBIs. See MLB.com. Coincidentally, I saw Donaldson play in Toronto last July:
Josh Donaldson after drawing a walk in a game at Rogers Centre on July 19, when the Blue Jays beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-0.
Best rookies: Bryant & Correa
The Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant and the Houston Astros' shorstop Carlos Correa were awarded the 2015 Rookie of the Year awards, and few people argued. Bryant hit 26 home runs, batted in 99 runs, and had a batting average of .275. (He struck out 199 times, however, the most in the National League.) Correa hit 22 home runs, with 68 RBI and a batting average of .279, managing to outshine the Astros' other young star, Jose Altuve. See bleacherreport.com.
Football and "football" news...
On November 6, the Toronto Argonauts played their final game in the Rogers Centre, beating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 21-11. Toronto failed to make the Canadian Football League playoffs, going 10-8 for the season. Because the Blue Jays made it to the MLB playoffs, the Argonauts were obliged to host their October home games in Ottawa. See argonauts.ca. Next year the Argonauts will play their home games in BMO Stadium, built primarily for soccer. It is located about a mile to the west, on the north edge of where Exhibition Stadium used to be. I saw it while driving into Toronto last July. Accordingly, I have updated the text on the Rogers Centre page.
When I updated those diagrams in late September, I should have mentioned that the Buffalo Bills are no longer playing any of their "home" games in that stadium. The decision was announced in December 2014; see the CBC. The Bills only won one of the six games they played in Toronto since 2008, and the lack of fan enthusiasm seems to have hurt the team's performance. The Bills plan to build a new stadium to replace Ralph Wilson Stadium, one of the oldest NFL venues.
In Washington, meanwhile, the D.C. Government has undertaken eminent domain procedures to acquire land to be used for the future D.C. United soccer stadium. It will be located about three blocks southwest of Nationals Park in the Buzzards Point area of Washington. See the Washington Post. D.C. United had an excellent regular season, but once again fell flat in the playoffs, losing to the New York Red Bulls on November 8.
November 29, 2015 [LINK / comment]
Arrieta, Keuchel Cy Young winners
The ace pitchers for two of this year's "Cinderella" teams -- the Chicago Cubs and the Houston Astros -- won baseball's highest honor for their position. On November 18 it was announced that Jake Arrieta (Cubs) and Dallas Keuchel (Astros) had won the 2015 Cy Young Awards. With a 22-6 record this year (and the final 11 decisions all wins), Arrieta prevailed by a comfortable margin over two Dodger pitchers: Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. The last Cubs pitcher to win the Cy Young Award was Greg Maddux in 1992.
On the American League* side, Dallas Keuchel easily beat David Price (Tigers until late July, then with the Blue Jays) and Sonny Gray (of the Oakland A's). He threw 301 strikeouts, the most in the major leagues since 2002. See nydailynews.com. Dallas Keuchel must have a confusing identity problem, since his first name is that of Houston's rival MLB city in Texas.
* I'm still having a hard time thinking of the Astros as being in the American League...
Minute Maid Park update
Over Thanksgiving break, I put a lot of effort into diagram revisions, some of which are done or nearly done. The first fruit of my ceaseless labor is a rendering of Minute Maid Park, where the Houston Astros' Dallas Keuchel pitched so well this past summer. The grandstand is notably smaller than I had previously estimated, while changes to the field itself were negligible.
In contrast to most stadium diagram revisions that I do, the entry portals per se in Minute Maid Park are not visible (from above) in the diagrams, because of the big vertical discontinuity (about eight feet) between the upper and lower portions of the upper deck. This, in turn, is a reflection of the unusually large balconies which were built into the upper deck, in every other section of the grandstand, more or less. The diagrams do show the stairs (in medium gray) to the upper part of the upper deck. Whereas most such staircases are about three feet wide, in Minute Maid Park they are about six feet wide.
In addition to multiple diagrams for various degrees of roof closure (and translucent vs. opaque renderings), there is a brand new lower-deck version which shows the visitors' bullpen in left center field. It also shows the support pillars between the big stone (?) arches overlooking left field, mimicking a railroad bridge. (I thought about including that faux locomotive and the tracks in one of the diagrams, and may add that whimsical detail later.) If the Astros go ahead with the plans to remove "Tal's Hill" in center field and add more seats out there (not until after 2016 at least), I'll have to revise that diagram again.
This was one of the most-overdue diagram revisions among all current MLB stadiums. (I could have sworn I had done a diagram update for that one in 2012, but as often happens, I never finished it.) The previous (2010 edition) "dynamic diagram" for Minute Maid Park had a sideways orientation, so as to occupy less space in the computer window. Now all of the diagrams are oriented with center field at the top. That was the last of the (ten) stadium pages for teams that made it to the postseason this year.
I should mention that two of the photos on that page were taken by my friend Dave Givens, who saw a ball game in Houston last summer.
Retractable roof stadiums
The update of the Minute Maid Park diagrams means that all six current MLB ballparks with retractable roofs are now fully "up to par," with dynamic diagrams that show the roofs in open, closed, and (sometimes) partly-open positions, following the conventional center-field up orientation. In alphabetical order:
- Chase Field
- Marlins Park
- Miller Park
- Minute Maid Park
- Rogers Centre ("Skydome")
- Safeco Field
Since the Twins left the Metrodome after the 2009 season, there is now just one MLB ballpark that is permanently enclosed: Tropicana Field. Among MLB stadiums of the past, Olympic Stadium in Montreal was supposed to have a retractable roof, but it didn't work, so they just left it permanently closed. The other three fully enclosed MLB stadiums were: the Astrodome, the Kingdome, and the Metrodome.
Judge voids decision on MASN
Earlier this month, New York State Supreme Court judge Lawrence Marks voided an arbitration decision by Major League Baseball, which would have favored the Washington Nationals. According to the Washington Post, "The Nationals will receive $40 million in TV rights fees from MASN per year, nearly $20 million less than the amount awarded by the MLB panel in June 2014." Strangely, the judge's ruling seemed to be based on his suspicions of the law firms associated with the teams, rather than the merits of the decision per se. A few days later, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said he and his staff are studying the ruling to see what the next step should be. (Washington Post)
How many of you folks remember what MASN really stands for? Click on the camera icon below for a surprise. (Photo taken in September 2005.)
Mr. Angelos Screws the Nationals!
Ballparks in the news
Mike Zurawski let me know about the ongoing renovations to Wrigley Field. Most notably, the exterior walls around the main entrance have been removed, making it look like the entire stadium is being demolished. The same thing for the walls behind the bleachers as well. The bleacher renovations earlier this year were only about "70 percent complete," as new restrooms and viewing terraces are being built. Also, the bullpens will be moved underneath the bleachers in time for the 2017 season, and light towers are planned for the outfield, perhaps in that year as well. Finally, the dugouts are going to be shifted several feet down the left-field line, to accommodate expansion of club houses, etc. under the grandstand. See bleedcubbieblue.com. (Check out the related links at the bottom of that page for some construction photos.)
Bruce Orser sent me a link to a Web site about baseball (or beisbol) down in Cuba: cubanbeisbol.com. It features a piece on "El Gran Stadium de la Habana." (Why not "Estadio"?) Now that travel restrictions on U.S. citizens are being removed, I may seize the opportunity to visit Havana in the next year or two.
Also, Brandon Henderson alerted me to the news that the Cactus Bowl will be played at Chase Field for the next three seasons due to construction at Sun Devil Stadium. This event was held at Chase Field from 2000 to 2005, when it was called the Insight Bowl. See azcentral.com. Also, Miller Park [hosted] a friendly international soccer match [last] July 14, pitting Club Atlas (Mexican), against Newcastle United F.C. (English). See MLB.com. Another soccer diagram to do... [CORRECTED]
Speaking of lesser-known bowl games, the Virginia Tech Hokies qualified for a spot in a bowl game by beating the UVa Cavaliers 23-20 in Charlottesville yesterday. Otherwise, retiring Coach Frank Beamer would have ended his truly legendary career on a sour note. Today UVa Coach Mike London resigned his position, probably the best thing for everyone concerned. He's a good guy, but has made some very questionable on-field decisions over the past couple seasons.
I fell so far behind on e-mail correspondence this year, that it wasn't even funny. For all of you folks who tried in vain to contact me, please accept my apologies. I'll try my best in the weeks to come to get caught up, while I also put more effort into finishing the diagram revisions.
Monthly links this year:
Culture & Travel
Science & Technology
January 10, 2015 ~ Four stars get tapped for Hall of Fame
January 22, 2015 ~ Nats sign Scherzer, Max out their payroll
January 17, 2015 ~ West by Southwest: Winter wonderland scenery
February 12, 2015 ~ Redistricting reform fails
February 26, 2015 ~ Life bird: Smith's Longspur!
March 10, 2015 ~ GOP senators challenge Obama's foreign policy
April 12, 2015 ~ Play ball! Opening Day Week 2015
May 21, 2015 ~ Harper's homers lift Nationals into 1st place!
June 25, 2015 ~ Hiking up Little North Mountain
June 30, 2015 ~ Virginia wins the College World Series!
June 30, 2015 ~ If it's Tuesday, this must be Bridgewater*
June 30, 2015 ~ Emmett Hanger wins GOP primary election
July 8, 2015 ~ "That's gotta hurt!" Nationals' fans share players' agony
July 18, 2015 ~ Fleetwood Mac in concert!
August 14, 2015 ~ Northwest by North: Baseball road trip, 2015
August 25, 2015 ~ Welcome home to Washington?
September 28, 2015 ~ Papelbon chokes (twice!), Nationals fall apart
November 3, 2015 ~ Hey, Hey Kansas City: Royals are triumphant
November 21, 2015 ~ Unanimous: Bryce Harper is the NL MVP!
December 1, 2015 ~ Zimmermann signs with Tigers