April 1, 2021 [LINK / comment]
Opening Day 2021: marred by covid-19, again
All thirty Major League Baseball teams were scheduled to play today, but only 26 of them will actually do so. The Orioles and Red Sox were rained out in Boston, and the Mets - Nationals game in Washington was postponed due to the #@!&% coronavirus. Last night it was announced that one Nationals player had tested positive and four other players and a staff member would be quarantined. Today MLB decided to postpone the game "out of an abundance of caution," and later we learned that two other Nats tested positive. It's just like last July when the Nats' star Juan Soto tested positive on the same day baseball got underway, forcing him to miss over a week of play. Obviously, we are not out of the woods yet, sports fans. Why in blazes have not all the players been vaccinated yet???
Scenes from Nationals Park on March 13, when I was visiting Our Nation's Capital. The "Free COVID-19 Testing Here" sign is rather ironic. At the top right is one of the "Celebrating Nationals history" electronic "banners" (located on either side of the office annex to the stadium, and repeatedly switching), honoring Max Scherzer. In the middle of the bottom image it says "05.21.18 * * * Juan Soto hits his first career home run."
[NOTE: The construction activity is related to the new Frederick Douglass bridge, right next to the old one of the same name. They both span the Anacostia River just south of Nationals Park. The project seems to be at least a few months from completion, however, so this may present difficulties for fans trying to get to the ballpark in D.C.]
[GRIPE: Both of the women pedestrians in the top left image are wearing masks that cover their mouths but NOT their noses. Come on folks, get with the program! ]
There were plenty of surprises and dramatic twists of fate in the ten games that were played during the day. (Three others games are still being played on the Pacific Coast.) Among the bigger surprises: the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Chicago Cubs, the Toronto Blue Jays beat the New York Yankees, and the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves.
I was paying close attention late this afternoon to the Los Angeles Dodgers - Colorado Rockies game, a tense back-and-forth affair which L.A. ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw ended up losing. Colorado second baseman Chris Owings led the way with a triple and two singles, with one RBI. Final score: COL 8, LAD 5.
A few hundred miles east of Denver, the Kansas City Royals gave up five runs in the top of the first to the Texas Rangers, then tied it in the bottom of the inning, then fell behind three runs, and pulled ahead to win it, 14-10. The star of the game was none other than former Washington National Michael A. Taylor, who hit two RBI singles (one in the first inning) and one solo home run. Now, why couldn't he hit like that when he was in Washington? (Actually, he was very good some times.) Anyway, I'm happy he got off to a great start in his new "home on the range."
Lindor, Mets ink deal
The roster for the visiting team in today's scheduled game in Washington was in a bit of doubt until just before midnight, when news broke that Francisco Lindor had signed a contract extension with the New York Mets for ten more years and $310 million. He was acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Indians earlier this year, but evidently this was the final year of the previous contract and he was insisting on a career-long deal before the season got under way. Lindor will be 38 years old when the contract ends -- the longest contract in Mets' history. It was probably the biggest player acquisition in the 2020-2021 MLB offseason, and it's another sign that under the new ownership of Steve Cohen, the Mets have big ambitions.
COVID-19 testing in MLB parks
Since mass vaccinations began in the middle of February, a number of Major League baseball stadiums have been used to distribute the life-saving antibody doses to folks in big cities. They include the following stadiums, and probably a few others:
- Fenway Park, Boston
- Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles
- Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York
- Citi Field, Queens, New York
- Petco Park, San Diego
- Oakland Coliseum
Marlins Park*, Miami
- PNC Park, Pittsburgh
- Coors Field, Denver
- Minute Maid Park, Houston
- Globe Life Field, Arlington, Texas
Marlins Park? "loanDepot park"!
Believe it or not, this is not an April Fools joke. Nine years after it was built, the home of the Miami Marlins is now officially called "loanDepot park," with the irregular lower-case letters thusly rendered. Terms of the naming rights contract were not immediately available. The Marlins Park, Stadium chronology (annual), and Stadium names chronology pages have all been updated accordingly. Thanks to Mike Zurawski for bringing that to my attention! (I've got other news to catch up on, not surprisingly.)
Demolition in San Diego
QualComm / Jack Murphy Stadium, home of the San Diego Padres from 1969 through 2003, has now been completely demolished. The process began in December, and was essentially finished on March 22. All that's left now is to clean up the rubble and begin building a new (smaller) stadium for the San Diego State University Aztecs football team. You can watch the video at www.nbcsandiego.com.
April 3, 2021 [LINK / comment]
All Star Game pulled from Atlanta
To the surprise and consternation of many baseball fans, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced yesterday that the All Star Game will not be played at Truist Park, located near Atlanta, as had been previously planned. This was an explicit repudiation of the Georgia legislature's recent passage of a bill aimed at tightening voting procedures, possibly targeting minority voters. "Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box," Manfred said. See MLB.com.
In general, I would rather keep political controversies out of baseball, but that becomes exceedingly difficult in times like these. While I grant that there are legitimate concerns about the new law, I also understand that the stated purpose of the law was to minimize voting irregularities, which were at the heart of the dispute over the 2020 presidential election. I happen to agree with that objective, but I'm not sure whether the law was the best way to accomplish that, just as I am not sure whether the decision by Commissioner Manfred was an appropriate response to the law.
Be that as it may, the Truist Park page has been updated accordingly. I will update the Baseball chronology (general) page once an alternate venue for the All Star Game has been chosen. Why not Dodger Stadium, which was supposed to be the site of the 2020 All Star Game? (It was canceled due to the coronavirus, of course.)
By sheer coincidence, I happen to have been to quite a few MLB stadiums (five) in the same year when the All Star Game was played there, or within one year thereof (six). Truist Park would have been the sixth in the same year. If Georgia repeals the new voting law, and MLB rewards them by having the 2022 All Star Game "in" Atlanta, it would become the seventh stadium within one year of an All Star Game. Here is the complete list:
- Jacobs Field / Progressive Field, Cleveland (1997 ASG / 1998)
- Coors Field, Denver (1998)
- Fenway Park, Boston (1998 / 1999 ASG)
- Turner Field, Atlanta (2000 ASG / 2001)
- Comerica Park, Detroit (2004 / 2005 ASG)
- Yankee Stadium (I), New York - 2008
- Busch Stadium (III), St. Louis - 2009
- Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City (2011 / 2012 ASG)
- Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati (2014 / 2015 ASG)
- loanDepot park / then-Marlins Park, Miami * (2017)
- Nationals Park, Washington (2018)
- Truist Park, Atlanta (2021) : NOT!!!
In the list above, camera icons () indicate stadiums of which I took photos with All Star Game signs; they will be displayed below when you roll the mouse over the stadium page links.
I took the photo of Yankee Stadium (not previously posted) during the tour I took there in October 2008, soon after the very last game was played. It shows the back side of the bleachers beyond [left]-center field, and the photo was taken from the adjacent "subway" station, which is actually elevated.
Nats-Mets series is postponed
After Opening Day in Our Nation's Capital was spoiled by the coronavirus, on Friday they announced the other two games in the Nats-Mets series have been indefinitely postponed, without specifying makeup dates. This really sucks having to wait so long for the first game! The Nats are scheduled to play the Braves late Monday afternoon, assuming no other covid-19 cases are detected.
Almost two no-hitters!
The Phillies' Zack Wheeler struck out ten batters and gave up no hits over six innings against the Braves today, and the Twins' Jose Berrios struck out 12 and gave up no hits over six innings against the Brewers this evening. The latter game was an exceptionally tense pitchers' duel, with both pitchers throwing perfectly for nearly half the game; no batter on either team reached base until the Twins' Jake Cave was hit by a pitch in the fifth inning. The very first [hit of the game] came in the top of the seventh inning, when Byron Bruxton hit a solo homer. Final scores: PHI 4, ATL 0 and MIN 2, MIL 0. The Braves and Brewers each got exactly one hit.
And in Kansas City, new Royal (and former National) Michael A. Taylor hit another home run and racked up three more RBIs today, helping trounce the Rangers 11-4. The change of scenery has definitely done him a world of good!
The Braves, Rangers, Red Sox, [and] Indians have lost their first two games of 2021, while the Athletics and Diamondbacks have lost their first three games.
Opening Day attendances
Official attendance figures for Opening Day varied from city to city, with Denver claiming the number one spot, and Boston coming in last. That may be an unfair comparison, however, because the scheduled April 1 Red Sox - Orioles game was postponed until Friday due to rain. For some reason, I could not find the attendance for the Cardinals - Reds game in St. Louis. Until a couple weeks ago, [because of continuing fears of covid-19] there was doubt as to whether the D.C. government would even allow fans into Nationals Park, but they finally relented.
|Home city / team
||Visting city / team
||* 10,350 *
||** 4,452 **
* = Revised from original figure of 8,773. ** = Apr. 2 game Underlined scores = extra innings
April 6, 2021 [LINK / comment]
Belated Opening Day in D.C. (?)
Five days after the planned Opening Day in Washington (April 1) was postponed due to the coronavirus, there finally will be a game in Nationals Park later this afternoon -- barring more bad news, that is. The Nats and Braves were scheduled to play yesterday at 4:00, but there were so many last-minute roster changes that the Nats needed more time to get ready. Although it is still unknown exactly which players tested positive for covid-19, we do know which ones are under quarantine for either testing positive or having been in close contact with those people. Both catchers -- Yan Gomes and Alex Avila -- are quarantined, forcing the Nats to scramble and sign the unemployed veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy on an emergency basis. Also available to play as catcher for the Nats: Tres Barrera. Others who are off the roster for the time being: Kyle Schwarber, Josh Bell, and Josh Harrison. Here is the expected starting lineup for the game, which will begin in about two hours:
- CF: Victor Robles
- SS: Trea Turner
- RF: Juan Soto
- 1B: Ryan Zimmerman!
- 3B: Starlin Castro
- 2B: Hernan Perez
- LF: Andrew Stevenson
- C: Jonathan Lucroy
- P: Max Scherzer
The good news is that the first five batters are all experienced players, and even without the missing players mentioned above, the Nats still have a pretty solid lineup. Hernan Perez was already on their 25-man active roster as a backup player, but I'm not familiar with him. The young Andrew Stevenson has shown great promise, and this will be his chance to shine. Lucroy (age 34) hasn't had much time to practice, but he has a decent record: .274 batting average with 4,121 career at-bats, mostly with the Milwaukee Brewers. Hopefully he will adjust quickly.
All-Star Game is moved to Denver
MLB announced late yesterday that the 2021 All-Star Game will be played in Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies in Denver. It will be the second All Star Game in Denver, the first being in 1998 -- about six weeks before I was there! That page has been updated accordingly, as has the Baseball chronology (general) page. Meanwhile, political partisans on both sides are using this occasion to accuse the other side of divisiveness and hypocrisy, etc. etc. As a certain former president often commented, "Sad!"
The above official logos from the 2005, 2008, 2009, 2012, and 2018 All-Star Games were extracted from the photos of the respective stadiums whose photos were displayed in my blog post three days ago -- except for 2008. I didn't realize until taking a closer look at my photos a day later that the All-Star logo was indeed displayed inside Yankee Stadium (behind the left-center field bleachers), as you can see when you roll your mouse over the image.
NOTE: I have wavered back and forth on how to punctuate "All Star": with or without a hyphen. The standard seems to be with a hyphen, so I'll try to stick to that from now on. For the record, however, in all five of the logos above, there is a star between "All" and "Star," so perhaps an asterisk (whose root word is "star") would be better. "All*Star"? Whatever...
Packed house in Texas
The very first Texas Rangers game ever played [with fans in the stands] at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas yesterday was a "virtual sell-out," with 38,238 fans; total seating capacity is 40,300. [Frankly, they could have easily sold 2,000 more tickets and made it a real sell-out if those empty seats weren't all in high-price luxury suites.] Many people were apparently not using masks as they were urged to do. Last year's World Series and National League Championship Series games were played there, with sharply reduced attendance allowed.
Monthly links this year:
Culture & Travel
Science & Technology
Jan 18, 2021 ~ Dodgers end 32-year World Series drought
Jan 19, 2021 ~ Trump loses re-election, incites riot, gets impeached
Jan 31, 2021 ~ Birding in Autumn (and early winter)
Feb 8, 2021 ~ The Nationals in 2020: Lousy season ends well
Feb 12, 2021 ~ Return to normalcy? Joe Biden becomes president
Feb 18, 2021 ~ Impeachment trial #2: Trump is acquitted again!
March 9, 2021 ~ Nationals assemble championship-caliber team / Spring 2021 road trip
March 10, 2021 ~ Birding in Louisiana (& nearby areas)
March 16, 2021 ~ Spring break (early): road trip to New Orleans