(A special compilation of blog entries that include references to the only topic about which I customarily "RANT." Not yet complete...)
July 10, 2008 [LINK / comment]
Nationals are losing TV viewers
Tuesday's Washington Post reported that the Nationals' TV audience has dropped 43 percent compared to last year, and with an average of 9,000 viewers per game, they are by far the least popular major league team. That TV audience is less than one-third as much as that of the next-lowest team, the Kansas City Royals. That's a bit odd, because the attendance at the home games at Natinals Park has been more or less satisfactory, averaging nearly 30,000 per game. (That's paid attendance, however, and may exceed the actual turnstile count by 15 percent or more.)
As noted by WaPo columnist Thomas Boswell , no other MLB team has more fans at the stadium than watching at home on the tube. If this means that most of those who go to Nats games just want to see the shiny new stadium but don't really care about the team itself, that is bad news indeed. Boswell observed that Orioles owner Peter Angelos is paying about $25 million annually for the TV rights, much more than is commercially justifiable, given the low viewership. Poetic justice, perhaps? One should remember that the Nationals currently have only a minority owership stake in the company that broadcasts their games, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. In future years, they will gain a bigger equity share. For details on the last-minute (shady?) TV rights deal between MLB and Mr. Angelos, see my Mar. 31 2005 blog post. Most people expected TV viewership of Nats games to rise sharply after MASN and Comcast signed a deal in March (Yay!), but MASN seems to have more and fancier promotional ads for the Orioles than they do for the Nationals. I can't help but wonder if this sorry situation has something to do with the often-miserly Mr. Angelos... Is he spiteful enough to neglect promoting what could be a very promising sports marketing franchise, forgoing a substantial profit?
Compared to their former selves as the Montreal Expos, nevertheless, the Nationals are doing much better on television. That's because the Expos didn't even have a television contract.
Nats win a game!
Well, at least the Nats won a game last night, breaking their six-game losing streak. John Lannan pitched yet another solid game, giving up no runs and only two hits over six innings, and this time he actually got run support. His 5-9 win-loss record does not begin to reflect his actual performance, however; his ERA is 3.40, which puts him 23rd in the major leagues. The slugging hero this time was Jesus Flores, who pinch-hit a three-run homer into the visitors' bullpen in the sixth inning. Flores has been in a slump lately -- just like several of his team mates. The 5-0 win over the Diamondbacks was the Nats' sixth shutout victory of the season; they have been shut out 11 times this year.
Demolition in Detroit
Partial demolition work has begun on Tiger Stadium, as wrecking crews ripped a gash in the outer wall that exposes the overgrown field inside. [See a photo at Washington Post.] Whether that work will continue until nothing is left of that lovable old hulk of a historic ballpark depends on fan support. Come on, folks:
Save Tiger Stadium!!!
September 27, 2005 [LINK]
Strange bedfellows in Maryland
Orioles owner Peter Angelos, otherwise known as "Dr. Evil," took out a full-page newspaper ad to thank Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich for his support of his failed attempt to prevent baseball from returning to Washington. What is strange is that Angelos used to be very tight with the state Democrat party, and was a major contributor to the campaigns of former Governor Parris ("Not Hilton") Glendening and others. The party affiliation made sense, since he is, after all, a fabulously wealthy trial lawyer. Since the ad did not explicitly urge people to vote for Ehrlich when he runs for reelection next year, it probably won't count as a campaign expenditure. See Washington Post. After a brief honeymoon, Ehrlich's term as governor has been marked by one frustration after another, as the Democrat majority has successfully blocked his initiatives. He and Angelos both needed each other, so you might say it was a match made in ... no, let's not go there.
April 14, 2005 [LINK]
Home opener: Nats on a roll!
(Blackout in some areas.)
The Washington Nationals will make their long-awaited grand debut in RFK Stadium later today not as hapless underdogs, but as a proud and very competitive team. They have now prevailed in two of their first three series of the season against some of the toughest divisional rivals in all of baseball. Just like they did against the Phillies last week, the Nats rebounded from a crushing defeat on Monday (11 to 2) to edge the Braves on Tuesday night, 4 to 3. Their 11 to 4 triumph in Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon showcased the team's slugging potential, especially that of José Guillen, who currently leads the majors with 5 home runs! Well done, Nats!
I was all excited about watching the Braves host the Nationals on TBS this week, and guess what I saw? A black screen! Eegads: a blackout! I complained to Adelphia, our cable providers, and after two days finally got human response. It turns out that MLB Extra Innings imposes blackout restrictions on broadcasters within the territories specified for each team. I'm sure most folks who live in or near big cities are already quite familiar with this situation, but it's new to me. None of the MLB Extra Innings options is even available where we live in Virginia, however, rendering the blackout utterly pointless and self-defeating. Well, isn't that special?
Motivated by righteous anger, I went through the MLB Web site to find out who controls what territory. Not surprisingly, the infant Washington Nationals do not yet have any such blackout territories, but the Baltimore Orioles of course do. In fact, they control 3,515 zip codes, ranging from 17001 (Camp Hill, PA) to 28594 (Emerald Isle, NC). See for yourself at mlb.com I scoffed at Peter Angelos's territorial claim on March 21, but it turns out he is exerting control over his fiefdom quite well. Now I see the extent of his power in a very direct and ugly way -- as if I didn't have enough reasons to resent him already. Just another reminder of what a crooked, elitist monopoly that the business side of baseball has become. Below are the results of my quick and dirty research, which will eventually be incorporated into the Baseball cities page. A few franchises have an even bigger territory than the Orioles, mostly those in the central part of the country. Of course, there is a wide range of population from one zip code to the next, so these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt.
MLB franchise broadcast domains
| Urban market
|| Number of blackout zip codes
| New York Mets
| Los Angeles Angels
| Chicago Cubs
& White Sox
| Houston Astros
& Texas Rangers
| Baltimore Orioles
& Washington Nationals (?)
| San Francisco Giants
& Oakland Athletics
| Tampa Bay Devil Rays (overlaps)
| Florida Marlins (overlaps)
| Toronto Blue Jays
|| all of Canada
| Atlanta Braves
| Milwaukee Brewers
| St. Louis Cardinals
| Arizona Diamondbacks
| Cleveland Indians
| Seattle Mariners
| San Diego Padres
| Philadelphia Phillies
| Pittsburgh Pirates
| Boston Red Sox
| Cincinnati Reds
| Colorado Rockies
| Kansas City Royals
| Detroit Tigers
| Minnesota Twins
April 3, 2005 [LINK]
At last: Opening Day!
Today I hit the road to see the Washington Nationals play at Philadelphia's Citizen's Bank Park, at 3:00 Monday, joining Phil Faranda, one of the earliest and most regular visitors to this Web site. Along the way I'll pass by RFK Stadium, where the Nats are at this very moment playing their first game in their "new" home. It's just an exhibition game, serving as a charity fund raiser and practice for the ground crew, concessionaires, etc.
The big remaining mystery for the history books is, Who will be the first-ever batter for the Nationals? Endy Chavez was sent back to the minors, so it will probably be either Nick Johnson (first baseman and former Yankee who resembles Babe Ruth) or Brad Wilkerson (versatile fielder and slugger, whom I just saw on a brand new television ad for Chevy Chase Bank). See mlb.com. The Nats' lineup is still up in the air, while their batting performance in spring training has lagged behind their pitching, to everyone's surprise. So how will they do this year? I have no idea, but at the very least I expect the team to show a lot of spunk, trying hard to please their new fans on the Potomac. Like most baseball analysts, David Pinto figures that the Nats will finish their inaugural season in last place in the NL East, but he doesn't rule out a third place finish. Me neither!
"After further review," it now appears that Peter Angelos got himself one heck of a sweetheart deal. The Nats will get a mere ten percent of the new "Mid-Atlantic" broadcast joint venture's profits in the first year, gradually climbing to a peak of 33 percent after twenty years! Thomas Boswell tried to put an upbeat spin on this outcome. He is right to say that teams that get used to plush comforts and safety cushions tend to get lazy and lose, and that Washington's wealth, population, and vitality will more than make up for the handicap, but to me it's like the Nationals are being forced to play with one arm tied behind their back for the indefinite future. I guess this lousy bargain goes to show how ineffective large groups (in this case, the other 28 MLB owners) are in a negotiation with an individual counterpart who is as determined and crafty as Mr. Angelos is. I can't wait till the O's and Nats play each other next year!
March 31, 2005 [LINK]
Broadcast deal: NO ! ?
Details are still lacking, but it appears that Peter Angelos got most of what he wanted in the deal over broadcast rights that was reached with MLB officials today. Once again, I'm appalled but not surprised. The Orioles will control an unspecified majority of the new network:
Under the agreement, sources had said yesterday, newly created Mid-Atlantic Sports would pay the Nationals a rights fee and distribute 76 of the club's games to WTTG-5 and WDCA-20, two Fox-owned broadcast stations in Washington. SOURCE: Washington Post
On the bright side, broadcasting that many games on the open air waves will help to promote greater public interest in the Nationals, about which many people in Virginia and the Capital Region are still only vaguely aware. Unfortunately, Commissioner Selig raised new doubts about his capacity to enforce discipline and fair play on the MLB owners with this comment:
I also want to commend my friend, Peter Angelos. He was relentless in his desire to preserve and protect the Baltimore Orioles franchise now, and for future generations. His concerns, which he expressed often and well, were not about himself or his ownership interest, but rather to establish a means by which to ensure the future viability of the Orioles franchise. I don't know many other people who would have fought so vigorously for such purposes. SOURCE: mlb.com
Ugh. What a lame excuse for blatant monopolistic behavior. This broadcast agreement, which does not fully go into effect until next year, is supposedly modeled after existing arrangements in mega-cities with overlapping team areas. In the case of New York, however, there seems to be no interaction between the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network ("YES") and the Mets, whose games are broadcast locally by Fox Sports New York, WPIX-TV, and "Madison Square Garden Network." Speaking of YES, here's a suggested alternative name for the new Baltimore-Washington baseball network: just use the initials of the two teams, Nationals and Orioles, to create the acronym "NO."
March 29, 2005 [LINK]
New name for RFK???
I was appalled when I read that D.C. officials are trying to raise some cash by leasing the naming rights of RFK Stadium. They are hoping for $2 million per year, for the next three years. This seems like a travesty, but "RFK Stadium" will remain part of the name, much as "Mile High Stadium" remains part of the name of Denver's new football venue, but with a corporate appendage (Invesco). In addition, Bobby Kennedy's widow Ethel apparently agreed to the change, because the funds are supposedly being earmarked for children's programs in the District. We'll see... Response from corporate bidders has been slower than anticipated, and rumors are that a local telecommunicatons company has an inside track. (Is it Verizon? Since their spokesperson James Earl Jones co-starred in Field of Dreams, I suppose that is appropriate.) See washingtonpost.com.
"Dr. Evil" digs in heels
Peter Angelos is still haggling over terms for compensation and broadcast rights, with less than a week to go before Opening Day. (The first Nationals home game is still more than two weeks away, however.) Today's Washington Post editorialized on this situation:
In fact, such a deal is a rip-off that would deflate the Nationals' value and imperil the task of finding a buyer for the franchise -- an orphan that is now the collective property of baseball's 29 team owners. What prospective Nationals' owner would cede control of broadcasting rights to a rival -- to say nothing of a rival as truculent as Mr. Angelos? Might as well trade away the team's best sluggers and star pitchers.
Orioles' ticket sales have apparently declined by at least ten percent compared to a year ago. That is in line with what most people expected, but much less than Angelos had claimed. (He used to say that one fourth of Orioles' fans came from the Washington area.) Meanwhile, some tickets for Opening Day at RFK Stadium (which quickly sold out) are going for over $1000!
For what it's worth,
I've come up with a design for a Proposed new D.C. stadium. (Yes, folks, that is one of the main things that has occupying my time in the last few days.) What do you think? Too wacky? Too symmetrical? Tell me what features you think the new stadium should have.
Thanks to Bruce Orser for the following links to images of two under-construction stadiums: ballparkconstruction.com, about the future Busch Stadium, scheduled to open in , and ballpark.org, about Safeco Field in Seattle, which opened in 1999. And thanks to Mike Zurawski for alerting me to a small mistake in the diagram for the newly renovated version of Dodger Stadium, which has now been fixed. Finally, I have recalibrated the "countdown clock" for Opening Day in D.C., which is presently 16 days away (not 14).
Andrew Clem Archives
March 21, 2005 [LINK]
Open Letter from Orioles
One of the items I meant to talk about last week was the unusual full-page ad in the sports section of the Washington Post from two Sundays ago: "An Open Letter to All Fans of Baseball from the Orioles." It took sharp issue with news reports and editorials in the Post, claiming that for the last 30 years their franchise has had exlusive rights to territory "as far south as Charlotte, North Carolina." (Huh? Do those folks know that?) It also claimed that the above assumption was figured into the sales price when Mr. Angelos bought the team for $173 million in 1993. That was a gamble that Mr. Angelos took, and under normal business practices he should bear the risk. (Of course, as we all know, baseball is not a "normal business," it is a curious cartel whose dubious dealings are kept from the public eye by all the goodwill and nostalgia that the sport built up over the decades. Like Mr. Potter in A Wonderful Life, Peter Angelos is simply trumpeting to the world the universal arrogance exhibited by all monopolists.) It is as though Washington was never even considered for an expansion franchise or a relocation deal (Astros?) in the 1990s. Most outrageous, perhaps, is the demand that the Nationals games be broadcast exclusively by the television network controlled by the Orioles. That network was created in 2001, however, by which time it was becoming very clear that the Expos might relocate to Washington at any time. Recouping the millions of dollars in sunk costs for that enterprise is his responsibility, and cannot be forced upon Washington. I've always felt that some reasonable compensation to the Orioles would be appropriate, but Angelos has infuriated other franchise owners by his no-compromise position, forfeiting millions of dollars in lost revenues. He has created his own mess, and his old pal Commissioner Selig has too many other things to worry about right now to try to placate or woo Angelos. As usual, Thomas Boswell aptly dissects the perverse logic behind Angelos's arguments. Suffice it to say that he is not winning the hearts and minds of many potential fans in Washington. I was really looking forward to finally seeing a game at Camden Yards this spring, but it looks like I'll have to prolong my boycott a little longer...
The Dodger Stadium page has a new dynamic diagram that reflects the nearly-complete renovations, which will radically change its character.
Andrew Clem Archives
March 7, 2005 [LINK]
Nationals play (practice) ball!
History will record that the Washington Nationals won their first-ever competitive event, edging the Mets at their spring training home field at Space Coast Stadium by a score of 5-3. (History will omit the fact that I was in the vicinity of this practice game while it was being played, about six miles above in a United Airlines jet, returning home from Costa Rica.) Seeing the Nationals on the field in uniform is still almost too fantastic to believe... Even though their inaugural win means virtually nothing, it was still a nice way to start. Even nicer was when they beat the Orioles, who will become the "natural" interleague rival club. MLB just announced that the Nats and O's will play at least three games against each other during the 2006 season.
To the surprise of no one, Peter Angelos is still refusing to budge in negotiations with MLB over compensation and broadcast rights issues. This is causing further delays in the process of selling the Nationals to private investors, which in turn will make it hard for the team to expand its salary budget until very late in the season. There goes our chances for the postseason! Thomas Boswell wrote about all this in the Washington Post:
Perhaps out of malice because D.C. finally dared to get a team, or simply to wangle the best deal for his Orioles, Angelos has filibustered all spring in marathon reparation negotiations. Before Opening Day, all this will be settled. Top officials are furious at Angelos for refusing what they consider generous, if not excessive, offers. The call-his-bluff stage is coming soon.
All of which made the Nats' televised victory even tastier.
Scorched-earth tactics by Mr. Angelos notwithstanding, any remaining legal contingencies that might have thwarted the start of baseball in Washington have now effectively vanished, so I've officially raised the likelihood of the Nationals playing in D.C. as scheduled to 100 percent.
March 7, 2005 [LINK]
Stadium updates: D.C., L.A., etc.
The D.C. government has chosen three architectural firms as finalists in the bid to design the new stadium near the Anacostia River: the renowned Hellmuth, Obata, & Kassabaum (HOK) of Kansas City; Harwood K. Smith of Dallas; and Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill. A final decision is expected by the end of the week. The architectural proposes submitted at this stage do not include specific design plans, just broad parameters. It is reassuring that D.C. officials don't want just another ultra-nostalgic retro stadium, a once-laudable trend that was, unfortunately, taken to extremes in recent years. They want something unique. For more, see washingtonpost.com.
All systems are go at RFK Stadium, including the new self-propelled seating rotation mechanism that will make it possible for baseball and soccer to co-exist in perfect harmony -- or so they say. It's never been done before. Single-game Nationals tickets go on sale this Saturday, but tickets for Opening Day won't be sold until March 26...
In spite of the apocalyptic floods that have plagued the Los Angeles area for the last several weeks -- Repent, Hollywood! The End is near!? -- renovations at Dodger Stadium are somehow on schedule. New dugouts are being built about 15 feet closer to the diamond, and several rows of "Baseline Field Box seats" (very l-o-w) are being installed along the foul lines. Will the 1,600 new seats add to Dodger Stadium's "permanent" capacity of 56,000? The extra rows will create a very long "notch" in each corner, much like at Yankee Stadium but even longer. To restore authenticity, real dirt will replace that fake rubber surface on the warning tracks. For more, see mlb.com.
The Cubs have announced that the bleachers at Wrigley Field will be expanded prior to the 2006 season, adding 1,970 to the capacity. No word from Detroit on how the process of moving the bullpens from right field to left field is going... The Cardinals' new ballpark, Busch Stadium III, is assuming recognizable form with much of the steel superstructure and brick exterior on the south end already completed. Yet uncertain is whether partial demolition on Busch Stadium II can be avoided until the end of the 2006 season in order to give enough time for completing the new stadium, which overlaps the "footprint" of the current one.
March 7, 2005 [LINK]
Back from vacation
Fear not, sports fans, I've returned safe and sound from the jungles of Central America, and I'm raring to go as the new season gets underway. I do plan to make continual revisions and enhancements to the baseball pages, which I've spelled out more explicitly in the left column. Can I guarantee that I will proceed in that precise order. No, but that is my general plan. I've been in touch with Bruce Orser about what the original Wrigley Field was like, and we are both stumped for the moment. I may end up doing a "best guess" version for the 1914-1922 period.
Andrew Clem Archives
February 9, 2005 [LINK]
Nats lack radio
With only a week to go before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, the Nationals still have not reached a deal with any radio broadcasters, nor any television stations either. Since Peter Angelos is still haggling over compensation issues, no one knows what the Nationals will be able to pay, so why should anyone make a deal with them? This situaton is truly disgusting. "Mini"-season tickets will go on sale next week, and I'm starting to worry that there won't be enough individual game tickets for good seats left for Opening Day on April 14. See Washington Post.
Fenway finalized ! ? ($$)
The Fenway Park page has been updated with a revised football diagram, based on a photo graciously sent to me by Howard Corday, as well as a 1912 version which is still somewhat conjectural due to unclear photos. It may not be perfect, but it's probably more accurate than you're likely to find than from just about any other online or print source. So, why not do your part to promote the diffusion of historical knowledge of baseball by clicking on that PayPal button? It's safe, easy, and secure.
Andrew Clem Archives
January 27, 2005 [LINK]
Nats act while O's sulk
In today's Washington Post, Thomas Boswell talks about how, thanks largely to Interim General Manager Jim Bowden, the embryonic Nationals franchise is outperforming the Orioles in terms of talent acquisition. This, in turn, is spurring deposits on the Nationals' season ticket packages, totalling 17,830 so far. As far as letting Carlos Delgado slip through his fingers, Peter Angelos said he refuses to pay more than a player is worth to his team, which these days would seem to be an uncommonly sensible attitude. Boswell noted, however, that another Orioles official has a far less upbeat take on his team, then draws some lessons about Angelos's apparent sulking behavior:
His most infuriating and baseless demand is that the Orioles should get more than half the revenues -- perhaps 60 percent -- of any future regional cable TV network.
This offseason's radically opposite results have put such greedy demands in an ugly light.
The Orioles have everything on their side -- profits, tradition, a classic ballpark and a team on the verge of becoming a winner again. Yet they either can't or won't improve their product on the field. Why should they be rewarded by baseball for ineptitude?
Boswell may be a little harsh this time, possibly caught up in all the excitement over the impending Opening Day at RFK, but he has a point. Despite the lack of any agreement between Angelos and MLB over the compensation issue thus far, I'm raising the likelihood of the Nationals playing at RFK Stadium from 99 percent to 99.5 percent.
"Joisey" in big leagues?
For the first time in months, there is a brand new stadium page: Roosevelt Stadium, located in Jersey City. It may or may not still exist, depending on which source you consult.
UPDATE: I just learned from Adam Myers that the confusion over whether Roosevelt Stadium still exists or not stems from the odd fact that there were two stadiums with that name built at about the same time, only a few miles apart. Upshot: the one where the Dodgers once played is long gone. At the suggestion of Brandon Henderson, I've added a fake turf version diagram of Candlestick Park. How's that for quick response?
Andrew Clem Archives
January 16, 2005 [LINK]
RFK grandstand repositioned
There is a photo of the ongoing renovation work at RFK Stadium in Sunday's Washington Post, showing that the movable portion of the grandstand has been returned to its baseball position for the first time since 1999. (It probably took several gallons of 3-in-1 oil to get those rollers unstuck!) Last week there was just a huge gap on the third base side. The photo also shows the much bigger new dugouts which are under construction. The work is proceeding so quickly that many of the details are being decided with little or no advance planning. For example, "when the chief groundskeeper asked how close the bullpens should be to the outfield wall, [architect Lane Welter replied,]
'Whatever you think is best. I trust your judgment.'" To make room for a modern electronic scoreboard/advertising message board, unfortunately, the "Hall of Stars" -- the signs with names of past Washington sports heroes that ring RFK Stadium at the mezzanine level -- will probably be moved to a less-visible location in the upper deck. Yet unclear is what kind of main scoreboard there will be. Commissioner Bud Selig has already committed to attending the premier game at RFK on April 14, and I wouldn't be surprised if President Bush shows up as well.
January 16, 2005 [LINK]
Nats on the tube?
Saturday's Washington Post reported that the Nationals still do not have a television broadcasting deal for the coming year, because negotiations with Orioles owner Peter Angelos over territorial issues and compensation for anticipate revenue declines continue to drag on, with no end in sight. As things presently stand, FOX will broadcast Saturday games from RFK Stadium in August and September.
In spite of the unresolved Angelos issue, and the remote but non-negligible possibility that the new D.C. Council may rethink the stadium funding bill that was passed last month, I've raised the likelihood of the Nationals playing in Washington from 98 percent to 99 percent. In practical terms, they are now past the point of no return, and the costs of an emergency change of location from D.C. back to Montreal, or to San Juan or Las Vegas, would far outweigh whatever extortion Angelos may demand. It would also throw the entire Major League Baseball schedule into utter turmoil. As for the D.C. Council, new member (and ex-mayor) Marion Barry recently checked into a hospital under an assumed name because of some severe flu-like illness. As a consequence, he probably won't have enough energy to contest the stadium bill until the baseball season is about to begin.
Good news: First baseman Nick Johnson and pitcher Tony Armas (Jr.) have signed short-term contracts with the Washington Nationals, keeping the team formerly known as the Expos virtually intact as they prepare for spring training in Viera, on the "Space Coast" of Florida.
January 16, 2005 [LINK]
Stadium page update marathon
Many thanks to Bruce Orser, a new visitor to this site, for sharing with me ancient blueprints of Yankee Stadium (revisions pending on that page) plus boatloads of great archival photos of several stadiums. The blueprints indicate that in the first year of Yankee Stadium, 1923, the distance down the foul lines was 257.5 feet, only 2.5 feet less than I had previously estimated by eyeballing old photos! I have never seen that figure published before in any book, so that's a major research finding, in my book. Thanks also to all the other regular visitors who keep me on my toes with their sharp eyes and helpful feedback, even if I don't always have time to respond right away.
The (K.C.) Municipal Stadium page has been updated for second time in one day, after I found an inconsistency in the field dimension data in Lowry's Green Cathedrals book. That's one of those stadiums where they kept moving the fence year after year (and even home plate, sometimes), and it becomes hard to maintain accuracy. I believe that makes nine stadium pages I've revised already this month, quite possibly a "personal best."
Which reminds me, those of you who pay regular visits to this site might want to consider making a small contribution to the cause by clicking on the PayPal button above. I have found their service to be very efficient and very fair, but if anyone ever has problems with it, please let me know. I'm not in this for the money, obviously, but nothing says "I appreciate what you're doing!" quite like a crisp five dollar bill, or the electronic equivalent thereof. If your charity/good cause budget has been depleted by donating to the tsunami relief operations, that's perfectly understandable. But if you would like to see further improvements in this site in coming months and years, give some thought to making a small donation. Whatever you think it's worth, I'd be much obliged...
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.
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)."
NOTE: Older blog entries will be added here in the future.