August 6, 2013 [LINK / comment]
A-Rod is suspended, fights back
As had been widely rumored for the past few weeks, Alex Rodriguez was suspended for the rest of this season and for all of next year. Ironically, he was allowed to play after filing a formal appeal, and actually played in his first game with the New York Yankees last night. (They lost, but A-Rod got a hit.) In addition, twelve other MLB players received 50-game suspensions. See MLB.com and ESPN. (Thankfully, the list did not include Nats pitcher Gio Gonzalez, who was linked to the Florida sports "pharmacist" Anthony Bosch earlier this year.)
A-Rod's combative response to the announcement was rather strange. (It almost reminds one of Richard Nixon's famous "I am not a crook" declaration during the Watergate scandal.)
If the ESPN radio commentary I heard on Sunday afternoon is correct, I am not alone in having scant sympathy for the Yankee third baseman. A-Rod's denials sound phony and mechanical, as if he has been rehearsing dozens of times with some public relations expert. It's not very convincing, which makes you wonder what he really wants: redemption among his fans, or a better deal in renegotiating his contract? He is owed over [ $90 ] million by the Yankees, and their lawyers [are no doubt going through the fine print of the contracts to see how much of his compensation can be voided.]
One thing that really bothers me about this whole episode is how the rumors have been leaked to the press, bit by bit. Apparently it's part of the MLB Commissioner's bargaining strategy with the MLB Players' Association, but to me it really seems sleazy.
Nats keep wasting opportunities
After getting drubbed in Detroit by the Tigers last week (5-1 and then 11-1), the Washington Nationals got themselves back in sync and took the first two games of the road series against the Milwaukee Brewers, winning 4-1 on Friday and 3-0 on Saturday. Sunday afternoon's game started off just fine, as the Nats had a lead. Rookie pitcher Taylor Jordan once again had a super outing and was in line for his second career win -- until everything fell apart in the sixth inning. Jordan suddenly ran out of steam and loaded the bases with nobody out, at which point Fernando Abad came in from the bullpen. This time Abad did have a bad day (sorry I can't let go of that pun), as the Brewers scored five runs while he was on the mound. In the top of the seventh inning, Anthony Rendon hit a lead-off home run, sending a signal that the Nats weren't about to give up. But after that, more runners were left on base, and the Brewers added insurance runs to make it an 8-5 victory. Completing a sweep of the Brewers would have been a great psychological boost for the Nats at this critical juncture...
Back home in D.C. last night, the Nats really played their hearts out. They almost scored two runs in the first inning, but Wilson Ramos was thrown out at the plate in a remarkable relay from outfielder Jason Heyward to shortstop Andrelton Simmons. Thanks to a superb seven-innings pitched by Stephen Strasburg, the Nats had the game tied 2-2 going into the eighth inning. That's when usually-reliable reliever Tyler Clippard gave up a home run to Justin Upton. In the bottom of the eighth, Scott Hairston hit a leadoff double, but the next three batters failed to get him home. The Nats out-hit the Braves 9-8, but the final score was 3-2 in favor of the visitors. (See MLB.com.)
That painful loss put the Braves 13 1/2 games ahead of the Nats in the NL East, an almost insurmountable margin. The Braves have won eleven games in a row, the hottest team in the majors right now. The games tonight and tomorrow night are pretty much make or break if the Nationals want to maintain a realistic hope of making it to October this year. It sure would be nice to see some meaningful games late in the season...
On a brighter note, Jayson Werth was named National League player of the month for July, the the first time any Nationals player has been so honored since the team was "reborn" in 2005. See MLB.com. Too bad all those home runs went for nought. Adam LaRoche has been hitting some home runs too, but his batting average remains very low, just .234 with 16 home runs. He has a career pattern of starting off slow each year and then doing much better by midseason. Bryce Harper is struggling to regain his batting prowess after a lengthy DL hiatus earlier in the summer. He has gone hitless in the last three games, and his batting average has sunk below .270, also with 16 home runs.
Amazing walk-off wins
In my July 26 blog post, I made a big deal about two walk-off wins by the Washington Nationals, but since then some other teams have had equally remarkable victories. First and foremost, the Boston Red Sox, who scored six runs in the bottom of the ninth to seal an improbable 8-7 win over the Seattle Mariners. No, it wasn't David "Big Papi" Ortiz this time, it was Daniel Nava, who hit a walk-off single. It was the Red Sox' biggest comeback win since July 3, 1940, when they beat the Philadelphia Athletics a 12-11. See MLB.com.
For a quick video review of the other big walk-off wins last week, see MLB.com.
How about the Kansas City Royals this year!!?? They are currently 57-52, five games above .500, and in the hunt for a postseason berth. Perhaps most impressive was their 12-inning 4-3 win over the Mets in Citi Field on Saturday. Will wonders never cease?
Miller Park update
Prompted by seeing the recent Nationals-Brewers series on TV, I redid the Miller Park diagrams. To my surprise, it has been three years since the last update of those diagrams. (I know, some diagrams of older stadiums are even more outdated than that.) Once again the inclusion of entry portals made a significant difference. The lights are shown on the "open roof" version, but not on the others, which is ironic because the lights are most needed when the roof is closed. I also made some minor corrections to that enormous retractable roof, showing how the inner sections overlap the outer ones. There is also an "opaque roof" version, as also is the case with Marlins Park.
Not surprisingly, Miller Park a smaller-than-average foul territory compared to most other current MLB stadiums: 21,100 square feet.
Web site maintenance
I just updated the Stadium statistics page, showing new data for several stadiums whose diagrams are "in progress," but please bear in mind that some of the new data is still "subject to revision."
I spent some time this afternoon weeding out "dead" links to baseball Web sites, a long-overdue chore. The newly thinned-out list of links is on my Baseball blog page, which is the most-visited page on my Web site. I also did likewise with links to baseball-related blogs. I usually am quite receptive to solicitations from other Web masters to post reciprocal links. I made an effort to see whether the "peer" Web sites (non-MLB, non-government, semi-pro, or amateur) include links to this Web site; If not, I have removed them for the time being. In some cases, I kept the links if there was at least some new content over the past year or so. Sadly, Chris Needham's "Capitol Punishment" blog about the Nationals seems to be "Resting In Peace."
That was prompted in part by a (semi-)recent e-mail message from Jake Cain, who brought to my attention his Web site, ballparksavvy.com. As Jake explains, it "is primarily about helping fans save money while going to MLB games." A noble cause, without a doubt!
Also, I belatedly updated the text and layout on four stadium pages, about three full years after I should have done so. Good grief! (It was during 2010 that I adopted the current standard page layout for those pages.) And so, the Comiskey Park, Metropolitan Stadium, Cashman Field (Las Vegas), and Estadio Dennis Martinez (Nicaragua) pages now look like they are supposed to.
NOTE: I have re-ordered the sequence on the "Coming Attractions" list of stadiums whose diagrams are in the process of being updated. The biggest change is that I have made finishing all the current MLB stadiums a top priority. Of course, that list is only a loose guide as to which stadiums I do when, which is why I thought I should pay more attention to harmonizing it with my actual work.
OMISSION: Last week I mentioned a certain "Kansas City fan (and classic rock D.J.!)" who gave me a tip about Kauffman Stadium a couple years ago. Unfortunately, I neglected to mention his last name. Sorry about that, Scott Rhodes! (rockinplanet.com) And thanks, again.
School's out for summer!
Remember that Alice Cooper song? In case you're wondering, I was teaching summer school this year, taking up more of my time that I had planned. That's why I haven't done as many diagram updates as I had planned. It's also why I won't be making any long-distance trips this summer. I had really hoped to attend the recent SABR convention in Philadelphia, but regretfully just didn't have the time.
According to my calendar, school will resume in just a few weeks. Sigh...