December 1, 2015 [LINK / comment]
Zimmermann signs with Tigers
As had been expected, the Washington Nationals' stalwart right-handed pitcher Jordan Zimmermann signed a contract with another team, and it was a suitably juicy one. Yesterday it was announced that the Detroit Tigers will pay him $110 million over the next five years, confirming rumors that came out on Sunday. He'll get a thorough physical exam before the deal becomes final, probably checking his elbow which had Tommy John surgery six years ago. See the Washington Post. This year was a big disappointment for the Tigers, who probably regret letting Max Scherzer go. When they traded away David Price in late July (see below), their pitching rotation became even weaker, and Zimmermann was exactly what they need to become pennant race contenders again.
The $22 million annual salary Zimmermann will receive represents a big step up from what he would have been earning in Washington. As that Post article indicates (and which I noted on November 7), the Nationals made "qualifying offers" to both Jordan Zimmermann and shortstop Ian Desmond; the amount was of $15.8 million. The strange thing is that his contract with Detroit is only $5 million more than the $105 million five-year extension the Nationals offered him last winter. Since Zimmermann is the first of the big-name free agent pitchers to sign a contract during this off-season, it makes you wonder why he seemed eager to leave D.C. It had been speculated that he would prefer to play for a team closer to his home state of Wisconsin, perhaps the Cubs or the Brewers. Michigan isn't too far away from home.
Zimmermann had spent his entire major league career with the Nationals, beginning in 2009, when he led the team with 92 strikeouts. He missed the entire 2010 season after having Tommy John surgery, but then came roaring back in 2011, leading the team in strikeouts and ERA.
If there is any bright side for Nats fans in this melancholy news, at least we won't get confused between Ryan Zimmerman (ONE n) and Jordan Zimmermann (TWO ns) any more.
Farewell, and best wishes, Jordan!
You won't be forgotten!
Jordan Zimmermann, warming up prior to the historic September 28, 2014 game when he threw a no-hitter.
The Jordan Zimmermann bobblehead box given out to fans at the September 25 game against this Phillies this year. That iconic upraised arm photo captures the moment he saw left-fielder Steven Souza make a diving catch* to save the no-hitter and end the game.
Ironically, both of the players whose bobbleheads I got at games this year ended up switching to different teams. On July 20 in Detroit, I got a David Price bobblehead, and about a week later he was traded from the Tigers to the Blue Jays, who capitalized on his talent to make it all the way to the ALCS. (Coincidentally, I had just been in Toronto.) Even more ironic is the fact that the other bobblehead player (Jordan Zimmermann) is now heading to Detroit. Go figure.
* Here's something fun: I Googled "Steven Souza catch" to look for photos of that big moment, and I've gotta say, in terms of timing and angle, the photo I took (which is shown on the Sept. 29, 2014 blog post linked in the caption under the first photo above) seems to be one of the best ones. Too bad it wasn't a little sharper. Another fan got a nice closeup video, from which a freeze frame was taken.
Citizens Bank Park tweak
I made some minor changes to the Citizens Bank Park diagrams, the main new detail being "creases" in the grandstand. A clarification is needed, however: The previous diagrams showed "seams" that divide portions of the grandstand from each other. One is about 90 feet past third base, another is 45 feet to the left of the right field foul pole, and there is one each about ten feet away (on the inside) of the dugouts. In the diagrams, those seams are rendered as dark gray lines, whereas the creases are pale gray.
Speaking of Citizens Bank Park, on MASN this afternoon I was watching the June 19, 2013 game, in which the Nationals tied it in the ninth inning, and then won it 6-2 in the twelfth inning on a grand slam by Ian Desmond, the first of his career. He hit another one on April 10, 2014, when the Nats beat the Marlins 7-1; see my Washington Nationals page. "Desi" is another Nat stalwart who will be missed next year.
I also made a few tiny changes to the Minute Maid Park diagrams, most notably the inclusion of stadium lights in the "open, opaque" diagram version. Those lights tend to get cluttered, obscuring other important details in the diagrams, so I did not include them in the other versions. I should have mentioned one slight change compared to the diagram(s) I did in 2014: the sharp bend in the grandstand on the third base side is a few feet farther from the infield.
Heads up for fans
As we enter a new month, and as we approach a whole new year of baseball excitement, I want to alert the loyal followers of this blog / Web site that I will be soliciting advertisements and page sponsorships once again in the near future. I may even create a Facebook page to make it easier for fans to give me feedback and/or share tips. I hesitate to do so when my schedule prevents me from devoting adequate time to doing diagrams and other features, but I have recently gotten back into a groove of sorts, and the results should be evident to all in the coming days and weeks.
December 4, 2015 [LINK / comment]
Red Sox acquire David Price
The Boston Red Sox have just signed free agent pitcher David Price to a whopping seven-year, $217 million contract, putting themselves back into the American League East Division competition. It was the biggest contract for a pitcher ever, with Clayton Kershaw being paid $215 million by the Dodgers and Max Scherzer being paid $210 million by the Nationals. Price's pricey deal includes an opt-out clause so that he can go elsewhere after 2018 if the Red Sox don't make the playoffs, or at least become strong contenders. See MLB.com.
It's been quite a busy year for Price, who played a key role in the Toronto Blue Jays' late-season push that got them all the way to the ALCS. But before he was with the Blue Jays, he was with another team that has been in the postseason several times in recent years: the Detoit Tigers! Older folks may recall the distant past when he pitched for the Tampa Bay Rays.
David Price bobblehead box, given out at the July 20 game in Detroit when the Tigers beat the Seattle Mariners 5-4.
Sun Life Stadium tweak
The Sun Life (Dolphin) Stadium diagrams have been slightly revised, and like the recently-revised Citizens Bank Park diagrams, the octagonal overall shape made the task pretty easy. Including the "creases" at each of the eight corners did lead to a few small corrections, however. I made a startling discovery, which is that the entry portals are not positioned symmetrically but rather are offset by about 8-10 feet from the structural joints. (You can tell where those are by the support beams for the stadium lights.) I added a few other details such as the platforms at the rear of the lower deck facing each end zone. (That would be the third base side and right field for baseball.) Finally, there is a brand-new new lower deck diagram, which also shows the lower set of luxury suites.
December 6, 2015 [LINK / comment]
Nationals extend offers to five
Just before the deadline at midnight last Friday, the Washington Nationals made contract offers to five of their six players who are eligible for arbitration: Drew Storen, Stephen Strasburg, Wilson Ramos, Danny Espinosa and Anthony Rendon. All five of them are solid players with a lot to contribute, so that made perfect sense. The sixth player, Craig Stammen, did not receive an offer and therefore is now a free agent. That was a surprise to me, since Stammen has been pretty good as a relief pitcher in most recent years, and the Nats need stability in the bullpen. He spent the entire year on the DL after getting surgery in the spring. Two other players, Tyler Moore (utility) and Jose Lobaton (backup catcher) agreed to one-year deals, thus avoiding arbitration. They are both reliable on defense, but had poor years in the batter's box, not getting as many at-bats as they had in 2014. It was the first year the Nats' first-string catcher (Ramos) played for the entire season without an injury. See MLB.com.
One question is whether Storen will be traded to some other team before spring training. The whole fiasco with getting bumped aside when Jonathan Papelbon was acquired in late July left a sour taste in everyone's mouth, and it would be hard to smooth things over again. Storen is a fine pitcher but has been through hell and back (the 2012 and 2014 NLCS), and finally vented his frustration by breaking his thumb in September. It's a terrible shame.
D-backs sign Greinke
In a surprise move, the Arizona Diamondbacks signed Zack Greinke to a fat and juicy contract. The free agent Dodger pitcher (and third-place contestant in this year's NL Cy Young Award) will rake in a tidy sum of $206.5 million over the next six years. It's a puzzling move on his part, given that one of the main reasons he left the Kansas City Royals a few years ago was to play in a postseason-bound team (irony!), and the D-backs aren't exactly a top contender at this point in time. Time will tell what is going on. See MLB.com.
Sun Life Stadium update!
Wouldn't you know it? Just two days after I make some minor changes to the Sun Life (Dolphin) Stadium diagrams (see December 4), I made another, even more "startling discovery": the planned rebuilding (which I had thought was going to take another year or two) has already been done! I was flipping channels this afternoon, and when I saw the Ravens-Dolphins game (being played in Miami), my mouth just about dropped open. Nearly all of the upper deck in the four corners was gone, and there were new gaps in the corners of the lower deck, which now extends about 20 feet forward (along the sides) from where it used to. (As a footnote, the home team won, 15-13.) So, I got right to it and did the necessary diagram update (not just a "tweak") for Sun Life (Dolphin) Stadium, which you can see in reduced form right here. (Roll over the image to compare it to what the stadium used to look like.)
I guess it serves me right for not paying enough attention to news, including the tips I get from fans. Actually, the renovations at Sun Life Stadium are not completed. By next year, they plan to have completed a canopy covering the stadium (possibly retractable to cover the field as well), and by 2017 all of the luxury suites and other amenities will be done. See palmbeachpost.com. So, I'll probably have to do another diagram once all the changes have been completed.
Coincidentally, all three current NFL stadiums that were once home to an MLB team hosted a football game today: Sun Life (Dolphin) Stadium, QualComm (Jack Murphy) Stadium, and O.co (Oakland) Coliseum. (The latter two are aging and at risk of being vacated in the next few years, unless the Chargers and Raiders just can't financial support to build new stadiums.) There was also a game at another stadium where baseball has been played: the Superdome. In recognition of all that, I have made some updates to the Football use page, and may make a few more in the next few days.
December 8, 2015 [LINK / comment]
Nats struggle to build bullpen
As the winter meetings of general managers are about to get under way in Nashville, the Washington Nationals are scrambling to get a championship-caliber cadre of relief pitchers. GM Mike Rizzo says he has plenty of "irons in the fire," but for the most part he has struck out so far. See MLB.com Last Friday they signed left-hand pitcher Oliver Perez to a two-year contract worth $7 million. They were interested in acquiring free agent pitcher Darren O'Day, but he decided to stay with the Baltimore Orioles since they offered him a four-year contract. In any case, former closer Drew Storen is widely expected to be traded in the near future.
In contrast, Rizzo still talks as though Jonathan Papelbon is going to be the Nats' closing pitcher next year, but that's probably just a way to keep his trading value higher than it would otherwise be. With a record of trouble-making like Papelbon has, who would want him? And as somebody said on Facebook, the Lerners refuse to "eat" the salary they owe him for next year. Awk-ward!
Chapman trade is held up
Another player the Nationals were seeking is Reds' closing pitcher Aroldis Chapman, but they lost out to the Dodgers. It may be just as well, however, as Chapman was accused of domestic violence by his girlfriend. It was recently reported that she told police of a violent argument which they had on October 30, so now the deal is on hold while MLB officials investigate. See ESPN.
Sun Life Stadium tweak
Ever the perfectionist, I added a few missing details to the Sun Life (Dolphin) Stadium diagrams. There are terraces for handicapped fans in the deep corners of the upper deck, to the left and right of center field, and also on the right side behind home plate. These were not present when the Marlins started playing in 1993, so they must have been built several years after that, at least. Plus, there is (or was until this year) a small field-level seating section near the right field corner, a press box at the top of the upper deck on the south (first base) side, and camera wells at the front edge of the upper deck at the 50-yard line. I may [eventually] indicate on those diagrams which parts of the upper deck were closed off for baseball games. By the end of the Marlins' stay there in 2011, they stopped selling upper-deck tickets altogether.
Also, week or two ago, I added a new upper-deck diagram for U.S. Cellular Field, showing the support beams which were added when the upper deck was reduced in size and given a new, bigger roof in 2003.