September 10, 2011 [LINK / comment]
Kauffman Stadium update
After taking a close look at all the photos I took there last month, I have updated the Kauffman Stadium diagrams. At first I thought all I'd need to do would be to add a new lower-deck version, but then I noticed more and more minor discrepancies between the photos and the diagram. For example, the dugouts are curved a bit less than before, and the upper deck is angled inward a fraction of a degree more. Among the other new details are the restaurant/clubs in the left field and right field corners, the covered concourse that stretches between them in a broad arc, as well as the mini-diamond for kids beyond left-center field. Also, the ticket vending buildings and the curved peripheral fence between them are now shown as well. The new full-size version diagram shows those entrance gates in their entirety.
Strasburg returns to Washington!
In the wake of an earthquake and a hurricane, the National Capital Region suffered monsoon-like rains this past week, forcing the cancellation of the game with the L.A. Dodgers scheduled for Wednesday. But there was one piece of good news: At long last, Stephen Strasburg has returned to the pitcher's mound playing for the Nationals! I cringed when the first Dodgers batter got a double off him, but he kept his cool and prevented any runs from scoring for five solid innings, while giving up just one more hit. He left the game with game tied 3-3, a no decision. Unfortunately, the Nats relievers choked, and the Dodgers won, 7-3.
Tonight, starting pitcher John Lannan was badly roughed up by the Houston Astros, who scored six runs in the third inning. It's the worst outing he has had all year; there musts be something wrong with him that he isn't telling anyone. On the plus side, Michael Morse got his 27th home run of the year. He is fast closing in on the 30-homer threshhold, and his batting average is .313, ranking #6 in the National League among players with at least 300 at bats. If he plays this well next year, he should be a serious contender for the All Star team.
The night beforre, the Nats edged the Astros 4-3 in 11 innings. The conclusion was less than satisfying: Jayson Werth hit a hard grounder to the third baseman, who unwisely threw it to second base in hopes of getting an out, and when the ball sailed into center field, Ryan Zimmerman ran home for the winning run. Hey, a win's a win.
Adios to Livan & Pudge?
Two of the Nationals' seasoned veterans may no longer play for the team in the starting lineup: Livan Hernandez and Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez. Livan recently threw his 50,000th major league pitch, an incredible milestone. Unfortunately, he had a rough outing in his last start, giving up six runs to the Mets over 5 1/3 innings on September 4. He has proven himself to be useful in other ways, however, such as getting down a perfect sacrifice bunt in one of their recent victories. He's not a bad hitter, either. As for Pudge, he will play in a reserve role while Wilson Ramos gets more experience [as first-string catcher while backup catcher] Jesus Flores gets a chance to rehabilitate himself after being out for more than a year due to injury. Livan and Pudge have each indicated they want to continue to play in Washington, but their careers may be coming to an end very soon.
Astros to the AL?
I heard a rumor on the radio that the Houston Astros may move to American League, depending on how the proposed sale of the franchise to Jim Crane goes. See MLB.com. Drayton McLane paid $117 million for the Astros in 1992, and the sale price is reportedly $680 million, quite a hefty rate of return. (The price was $103 according to Forbes magazine, and the franchise was valued at $463 million in 2008; see MLB Franchises.)
For years, I have been in favor of moving the Astros to the National League Western Division, while moving the Arizona Diamondbacks to the American League West. That would provide for much better geographical dispersal of each league, bringing more American League teams to the southwest USA. The Astros and the Rangers make natural cross-state- interleague rivals, like the Mets and Yankees or Cardinals and Royals. Why change that?
Shorten the season?
Sports writer Frank Deford was recently interviewed on NPR radio, about his proposal to reduce the overlap between baseball and football. (Hat tip to Matthew Poteat.) Deford suggests:
First, end the season on Labor Day. A 140-game season will do just fine. Other sports are not prisoners to old records.
But second, as you reduce the regular season, add teams to the playoffs.
Count me as very dubious. Baseball is not like other sports. Old records are the standard against which present-day performance is measured. I could see going back to a 154-game season, with only teams that are contending for a postseason slot playing the post-1961 schedule of 162 games. A better way to compress the season would be to cut down on the number of rest days, to an average of two or three a month. Or perhaps four, by relying on occasional planned double-headers. "Let's play two!"
And as for adding more teams to the playoffs, that is what has made the NBA postseason such a tedious bore. The NBA playoffs ought to finish by the end of April, likewise for hockey, baseball should finish by mid-October, and the NFL ought to finish by the end of January, period.
New Fenway video boards
The other day I noticed a new video board at Fenway Park, and one of my Facebook friends informed me that new set of video boards was installed this past spring. The LED "Electric Diamond Vision" video screens are made by Mitsubishi; see MLB.com and YouTube. This means I'll have to update the Fenway Park diagram soon.
NOTE: Several text corrections and clarifications were made the following day.