March 2, 2019 [LINK / comment]
Bryce Harper was with the Washington Nationals for exactly half the team's (reborn) existence: 2012-2018. You might think that he has dominated the team's offensive output during those seven years, but by most measures at least, you'd be wrong. Only once during those seven years (2015, when he was NL MVP) did he lead the Nationals in batting average: .330. Daniel Murphy did so twice, and only spent two and a half years with the Nats. What about Harper's specialty, home runs? Yes, he led the team twice in homers during that time, but so did both Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman. What's more, Zimmerman had the most homers (including one tie) twice during the team's first seven years, 2005-2011. Harper's peak year in terms of home runs (2015) was 42, which was four less than Alfonso Soriano hit during his one year with the Nationals in 2006. Finally, Harper led the team twice in runs batted in from 2012 to 2018, but Adam LaRoche did so as well. Ryan Zimmerman has had the most RBIs for the Nats four times in his career. But what is really striking is that in none of the four years in which the Nationals won the NL East Division (2012, 2014, 2016, 2017) did Harper lead in any of the main offensive categories. It's almost as if when he was at his best, the team was not -- and vice versa. See the Washington Nationals page, from which the following data are extracted.
|Year||Batting average||Home runs||RBIs|
|2012||Ian Desmond||.292||Adam LaRoche||33||Adam LaRoche||100|
|2013||Jayson Werth||.318||Ryan Zimmerman||26||Jayson Werth||82|
|2014||Denard Span||.302||Adam LaRoche||26||Adam LaRoche||92|
|2015||Bryce Harper||.330||Bryce Harper||42||Bryce Harper||99|
|2016||Daniel Murphy||.347||Daniel Murphy||25||Daniel Murphy||104|
|2017||Daniel Murphy||.322||Ryan Zimmerman||36||Ryan Zimmerman||108|
|2018||Anthony Rendon||.308||Bryce Harper||34||Bryce Harper||100|
Years with red borders: Nationals won the NL East Division.
None of the above is meant to detract from Harper's immense contribution to the Nationals in terms of pursuing championships and as a commercial franchise, however. Baseball is more than just winning and more than just money, it is a form of popular entertainment for the masses, and Harper gave Washington-area fans a thrill like none of their team's other players had done before. Yes, Harper has a tendency to be cocky sometimes, but with the talent he possesses, it's probably fitting. After all, sports fans love prima donnas!
In today's Washington Post, Barry Svrluga had a rather harsh column about the Lerner family's habit of deferring salaries paid to many of the Nationals' top stars. I mentioned this two days ago, but I put the blame on the tight cash situation created by the unfavorable TV rights contract with the Baltimore Orioles. (That was a key condition for owner Peter Angelos to approve the relocation of the former Montreal Expos to Washington in 2005.) Svrluga suggests that it's just the Lerners' way of doing business, and it's not good. We still don't know for sure how much of the compensation offered to Bryce Harper last fall consisted of deferred salaries, but if it was as big as some rumors have indicated, that might have been a blunder of historic proportions.
On Wednesday, two days before the news about Bryce Harper broke, the Colorado Rockies announced that their star Nelson Arenado had signed a new contract. He will be making $260 million over a period of eight years, a stupefying $32.5 million annually. It is the highest annual salary in history for an MLB position player. He can opt out of the contract after three years, but why in the heck would he? Having hit an average of 40 home runs and 126 RBIs over the last four seasons, he no doubt commands a high price on the market, but for a small-market team like the Rockies to be making that kind of commitment does raise eyebrows.
The recent update to the Polo Grounds page included an auto racing diagram for the first time, corresponding to the 1958-1961 period following the New York Giants' departure and preceding the creation of the New York Mets. That reminded me that another MLB stadium once hosted auto racing events: Philadelphia's Baker Bowl, after the Phillies left in 1938. So I added a racetrack diagram to the Baker Bowl page just for fun.
But wait, there's more! Auto racing also takes place in Mexico City's Foro Sol, a strange combination of a Grand Prix race track with a ballpark. So, I updated the Foro Sol diagrams for the first time since 2011; April 11 to be exact. The grandstand is now about 12 feet deeper than before all the way around, and details such as entry portals are included for the first time. There is also a new diagram showing details such as the press box underneath the roof. Diagrams for other "Miscellaneous" (non-MLB) stadiums will likewise will brought "up to standard" in the months to come...
Am I ever going to do diagrams showing stadiums in a configuration for "monster truck" rallies or moto-cross races? Not bloody likely! Eventually, however, I may need to indicate which stadiums featured such events. There's more than you might think...