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November 16, 2021 [LINK / comment]

Second straight Silver Slugger for Soto!*

The 2021 Silver Slugger Awards were announced last Thursday, and the Washington Nationals' right fielder Juan Soto was among the three National League outfielders so honored. Soto also won last year, when he led the NL with a .351 batting average. This year he led the majors in RISP batting average (.396), in on-base percentage (.465), and in walks (145). No other qualifying MLB player had more walks than strikeouts this year. Congratulations, Juan!

Elsewhere in the National League, the Atlanta Braves picked up four of the nine Silver Sluggers, and five teams got one such award each. In the American League, the Blue Jays (3) and Red Sox (2) garnered five of the Silver Sluggers, and four teams got one each.

* How's that for a tongue-twister? The announcer in the MLB.com video about that announcement used almost the exact same phrase: "This is the second straight Silver Slugger award for Soto..."

Harper set to become NL MVP

According to an unconfirmed rumor that spread on Facebook today, Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt (who played with the Philadelphia Phillies for his entire 19-year career) has been asked to announce the National League MVP for 2021. That can only mean one thing: Bryce Harper has been chosen as Most Valuable Player. Assuming that is the case, it would be Bryce's second such award, the first being in 2015, when he was elected unanimously. It will be interesting to see how many votes went to Juan Soto, who was my pick.

Rookies of the Year

In the American League, Randy Arozarena of the Tampa Bay Rays was chosen as Rookie of the Year. He became almost a household name as he led that underdog, over-achieving band of misfits from St. Petersburg to their second straight AL East Division title. Last year, when his team made it to the World Series for a second time, he was chosen as American League Championship Series MVP. So how can he be a rookie this year? He only played 23 games in the covid-shortened 2020 season, and 19 games (with the Cardinals) in his actual "rookie" season of 2019. (I wonder how many partial seasons you can play and still be eligible to win Rookie of the Year in your first full season?) His teammate Wander Franco ranked third in voting for AL ROY. In the National League, meanwhile, Jonathan India, who plays second base for the Cincinnati Reds, received 29 of 30 first-place votes to become NL Rookie of the Year. He hit 29 home runs and got 69 RBIs, providing spark for a team that desperately needs it.

Managers of the Year

This year's Manager of the Year awards went to Gabe Kapler of the San Francisco Giants in the National League, and to Kevin Cash of the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League. Kapler not only led the Giants to their first postseason appearance in five years (which I find hard to believe), but to their biggest number of wins (107) in franchise history. That is pretty amazing. For his part, Cash was the second manager ever to win this award two years in a row. Only the Braves' Bobby Cox (2004-2005) did it before. (I picked Dusty Baker on the AL side partly for sentimental reasons, since he served as manager for the Nationals for two years.)

So, that just leaves the AL MVP and both leagues' Cy Young winners to be announced. So far, I'm 3 for 4 in my predictions made last week, or 3 for 5 if you include the all-but-certain NL MVP.

Syndergaard to wear an Angel's halo

I heard about this "breaking news" (?) just before midnight: New York Mets' ace pitcher (and free agent) Noah Syndergaard has signed a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels. See ESPN.com. (Why would he sign for just one year, and why so early in the postseason?) A number of other mid-career free-agent superstars signed fat long-term contracts with the Angels, and then -- so it would seem -- they just took it easy and collected their salaries. (I probably shouldn't name names, but several examples come to mind.)

November 8, 2021 [LINK / comment]

Gold Glove winners announced

Now that baseball is over and done with for the year, all that's left is to decide on which players deserve awards for top performance -- and perhaps to gossip about trades and free agent signings. Yesterday the Gold Glove winners were announced, and the St. Louis Cardinals set a record by winning five of the nine awards: Paul Goldschmidt (1B), Tommy Edman (2B), Nolan Arenado (3B), Tyler O'Neill (LF), and Harrison Bader (CF). Two members of the World Series champion Atlanta Braves received Gold Gloves: pitcher Max Fried and right fielder Adam Duvall (who was traded by Miami in July). None of the Washington Nationals were even nominated for a Gold Glove, however.

In the American League, former Washington National Michael A. Taylor (who joined the Kansas City Royals after last year) won the Golden Glove for center field. His team mate Andrew Benintendi also won the award. The Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics also won two Gold Gloves each. For a complete rundown, see MLB.com.

Today the nominees for the rest of the awards were released, and two Washington Nationals players (or perhaps one and a half, given that one of them was traded to the Dodgers in late July) are in the running: Max Scherzer and Juan Soto. Also, former Nats manager Dusty Baker is up for his fourth Manager of the Year award. He led the Nationals to NL East Division titles in 2016 and 2017, whereas the two predecessors (Davey Johnson and Matt Williams) won the Manager of the Year award in 2012 and 2014, respectively, when the Nats won the division title. (See October 22, 2017.) Also, former Nats slugger Bryce Harper had a great second half of the season, and is a serious contender for NL MVP, but Juan Soto developed a legendary reputation with his historic .465 on-base percentage (.525 after the All-Star break). He briefly led the majors in batting average in mid-September, but dipped to .313 by the end of the season. Pitchers were afraid to pitch to him, for good reason.

Category American League National League
Rookie of the Year Randy Arozarena (TB) Dylan Carlson (STL)
Wander Franco (TB) Jonathan India (CIN)
Luis Garcia (HOU) Trevor Rogers (MIA)
Manager of the Year Dusty Baker (HOU) Craig Counsell (MIL)
Kevin Cash (TB) Gabe Kapler (SF)
Scott Servais (SEA) Mike Shildt (STL)
Cy Young Award Gerrit Cole (NYY) Corbin Burnes (MIL)
Lance Lynn (CHW) Max Scherzer (WSH/LAD)
Robbie Ray (TOR) Zack Wheeler (PHI)
Most Valuable Player Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (TOR) Bryce Harper (PHI)
Shohei Ohtani (LAA) Juan Soto (WSH)
Marcus Semien (TOR) Fernando Tatis Jr. (SD)

Nationals players (this year) are in bold face. Red check marks () are my picks.

Globe Life Field football

Football in baseball stadiums

Thanks to Terry Wallace, I learned that the "Commanders' Classic" football game between Army and the Air Force on Saturday was held at Globe Life Field, the nearly-new home of the Texas Rangers. (Army won, 21-14.) So, needless to say, I had to make a football-layout diagram for that page. While watching the game on TV, I saw no trace of the warning track used in baseball games, but given the fact that the field is artificial turf, it may be just a matter of different color and/or texture. Temporary spray paint? Actual dirt is rarely used in stadiums with artificial turf these days. Anyway, I updated the Football use page, adding Globe Life Field.

You may think it strange that they played that game in Globe Life Field and not the Rangers' former home, Globe Life Park, which had been rebuilt for the specific purpose of accommodating football games.* (Apparently, so did the folks at ESPN, as I noticed that their scoreboard mobile app erroneously indicated that that is where the game was being played!) Talk about a waste of money! Another alternative would have been nearby AT&T Stadium, but the Dallas Cowboys hosted the Denver Broncos the next day, and the cleanup chores might have made games there on consecutive days inconvenient.

* Such a football conversion was also done at Turner Field, former home of the Atlanta Braves ; see below.

Ex-baseball stadium name changes

Terry also informed me that Globe Life Park, which had already been renamed three times since it first opened in 1994, is now called "Choctaw Stadium," in a naming rights deal with the Choctaw Casino in Oklahoma, which I drove past in 2014. So I updated that page with the information about the new name. It's now being used as a soccer stadium, and you know what that means... (See soccerstadiumdigest.com.)

But wait, there's more! I also recently learned that the [Braves' -- not Rangers']* former stadium, Turner Field, which had been renamed "Georgia State University Stadium" after being converted to football use in 2017, is now called "Center Parc Stadium" (don't ask), so I updated that page, as well as the Stadium names chronology page, where I try to keep track of such things.

For the record, here is a complete list of all former full-time MLB stadiums that are still standing, excluding the two that have been drastically reduced in size, and are now used for other sports: Jarry Park (now Stade Uniprix) in Montreal and Braves Field (now Nickerson Field) in Boston. RFK Stadium may be demolished as early as next year, but the remaining six either remain in active use or will (apparently) be maintained for the foreseeable future. And some of them may undergo yet another name change or changes in future years...


November 4, 2021 [LINK / comment]

World Series 2021: Braves are the champions!

To the surprise and amazement of almost everyone, the Atlanta Braves won the World Series in Houston two nights ago. Game 6 itself was rather uneventful and anti-climactic for the most part. The Braves' starting pitcher, Max Fried, who had given up six runs and was tagged with the loss in Game 2, got off to a rocky start, giving up a leadoff single to Jose Altuve and then missing a catch at first base, but he managed to get out of the inning unscathed. For the next five innings he was nearly flawless, allowing just three more hits (singles) and no runs. Atlanta jumped to a 3-0 lead in the third inning as Jorge Soler crushed a monster home run that sailed over the railroad tracks above left field and out of the park. (The roof at Minute Maid Park was open.) After that there was no looking back. Dansby Swanson homered and Freddie Freeman hit an RBI double in the fifth inning, and Freeman hit a solo homer two innings later to pad the lead. Final score: Braves 7, Astros 0. Just like two years earlier, the fans in Houston exited glumly while the visiting team celebrated an improbable, historic triumph.

Back in Atlanta (or the northwestern suburbs, that is), fans of the Braves gathered at Truist Park, where I paid a brief visit last February:

Truist Park Battery Plaza

Battery Plaza, the south entrance to Truist Park, as seen on February 25, 2021. On Tuesday night it was jam-packed with several thousand euphoric Braves fans watching Game 6 on a big video screen. Prior to Opening Day 2022, it will be festooned with numerous signs and banners heralding Atlanta's World Series victory.

Congratulations and BRAVO to the Braves!

LONG wait for another WS title

The Braves had to wait 26 years since their last championship, in 1995, and 25 years since their last National League pennant, in 1996. Indeed, a striking characteristic of World Series champions over the past several years (see the Chronology annual page) is that almost all of the teams (or franchises) had not won such a title for decades.

Year World Series champion Previous league pennant Previous World Series title Number of years waiting
2015 Kansas City Royals 2014 1985 30
2016 Chicago Cubs 1945 1908 108
2017 Houston Astros (Colt .45s) 2005 NEVER 56
2018 Boston Red Sox 2013 2013 5
2019 Washington Nationals (Montreal Expos)* NEVER NEVER 15 (50)
2020 Los Angeles Dodgers 2018 1988 32
2021 Atlanta Braves 1996 1995 26

* The former Montreal Expos (founded in 1969) became the Washington Nationals in 2005.

At MLB.com, Will Leitch identified seven teams that "need a championship the most," so I put together the following table, which is more "diverse and inclusive." smile The last team in his list (in bold face below) may surprise some people. As I pointed out on July 22, 2020, "even though the Yankees had the winningest regular season record and reached the postseason more often than any other team from 2010 to 2019, they failed to win the American League pennant even once. Quite bizarrely, this was the first decade in almost a century that the Yankees failed to reach the World Series at all!"

For some reason Leitch excludes a number of other teams, mentioning four that he implies just aren't likely to even make the postseason any time soon: Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Detroit Tigers. So I added them to the table, along with five other teams that have been waiting a long time, ranked in order of how long they have waited: the Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics, Toronto Blue Jays, Cincinnati Reds, and Colorado Rockies. The seven remaining teams have all won the World Series during this century.

Team Previous league pennant Previous World Series title Number of years waiting
Milwaukee Brewers (Seattle Pilots) 1986 NEVER 51 (52) years
Cleveland Indians * 2016 1948 73 years
New York Mets 2015 1986 35 years
San Diego Padres 1998 NEVER 52 years
Tamps Bay Rays 2020 NEVER 24 years
Minnesota Twins 1991 1991 30 years
New York Yankees (!!!???) 2009 2009 12 years
Seattle Mariners NEVER NEVER 45 years
Pittsburgh Pirates 1979 1979 42 years
Baltimore Orioles 1983 1983 38 years
Detroit Tigers 2006 1984 37 years
Texas Rangers (Wash. Senators) 2011 NEVER 49 (60) years
Oakland Athletics 1990 1989 32 years
Cincinnati Reds 1990 1990 31 years
Toronto Blue Jays 1993 1993 28 years
Colorado Rockies 2007 NEVER 28 years

Previous franchise names are listed where appropriate.
* NOTE: the Cleveland Indians will be renamed the "Guardians" in 2022.

World Series in Braves' stadiums

The 25-year pennant-less interval (1997-2021) endured by fans in Atlanta coincides rather closely with the period (1997-2016) during which they made Turner Field their home -- almost as if Turner Field were jinxed! That got me to thinking, which is always dangerous... Looking at the history of the Braves' stadiums in the table below, one might conclude that Braves Field was likewise "jinxed." The only time the Braves themselves actually played a World Series game there (in 1948) they lost, and just five years later they abandoned that home -- and the city of Boston -- for greener pastures in Milwaukee. The Boston Braves' only World Series victory (1914) was when they were using Fenway Park, as a "tenant" of the Red Sox. This adds an interesting dimension to the "curse of the Bambino" suffered by Red Sox for 80+ years, as if such sorcery plagues the whole city of Boston. Might this be related to the Salem witchcraft trials? smile

Stadium Built 1st
World Series
World Series
World Series
World Series
Fenway Park (owned by Red Sox) (1912) 1914
Braves Field 1915 1915 1916 1948
Milwaukee County Stadium 1953 1957 1958
Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium 1966 1991 1992 1995 1996
Turner Field 1997
Truist Park 2017 2021

Underlined years above indicate World Series victories (4 Braves, 2 Red Sox); the other 5 years were defeats for the Braves.
* The above table cells with a reddish background pertain to the Boston Red Sox, who were both the "landlords" (1914) and later the "tenants" (1915 and 1916) of the Boston Braves.

October 31, 2021 [LINK / comment]

Braves stun Dodgers, win National League pennant

The Braves did indeed "seal the deal" at home in Truist Park two Saturdays ago, beating the heavily-favored L.A. Dodgers in Game 6 the National League Championship Series by a score of 4-2. Fears of another improbable series comeback such as the Dodgers inflicted upon them in October 2020 (winning the final three games) were surely in all the players' minds, even if they didn't admit it. The Braves took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, thanks to an RBI double by Ozzie Albies. Then the Astros tied it in the fourth inning, but Eddie Rosario immediately put the Braves back on top with a 3-run home run, his third this postseason. He was named NLCS Most Valuable Player. Starting pitcher Ian Anderson was replaced in the fifth inning, but the bullpen held the line, only giving up one run and two hits for the rest of the game. And thus, the Braves won the game, 4-2, thereby claiming the National League pennant for the first time since 1999.

World Series: Braves stun Astros, win 3 games

As an upstart "Cinderella" team with a history of postseason misfortune, the Atlanta Braves were clearly the underdogs going up against the Houston Astros in the 2021 World Series. (Much like the Washington Nationals two years ago, they were "just happy to be here"!) That's why it was such a shock when the Braves beat the host team in Game 1 last Tuesday night, October 26. For the first time ever, the first batter in Game 1 of the World Series hit a home run: Jorge Soler will long be remembered for that feat. That sparked a rally that scored another run for the Braves, and the Astros were lucky that was the extent of it. The Braves scored again in the second inning, and twice more in the third, thanks to a home run by Adam Duvall. But the big news of that game was that Braves starting pitcher Charlie Morton had to be replaced in the third inning as the pain in his leg which had been hit by a line drive kept getting worse. It turns out that he had pitched to several batters with a fractured fibula! Losing him was a terrible blow to the Braves, and that cast a shadow on their prospects. The rest of the game was fairly uneventful, and just like the Nationals did in the very same place two years earlier, the visiting team came away with the victory: 6-2, Braves.

Game 2 was almost a complete reversal of Game 1, as the Astros took a 5-1 lead after scoring 4 runs in the bottom of the 2nd inning. The fact that the Braves' other ace pitcher, Max Fried, got shellacked was an ill omen for Atlanta. The final score of that one was 7-2, Astros.

In Game 3 in Atlanta, with Truist Park jam-packed full of thrilled (but long-suffering) fans, Ian Anderson pitched 5 hitless innings, and in fact none of the Astros got a hit until the 8th inning. All the Braves needed was an RBI double by Austin Riley in the 3rd inning and a solo home run by Travis d'Arnaud in the 8th inning. Final score: [2-0 -- correction].

Game 4 on Saturday night seemed almost hopeless for the Braves, who didn't have an experienced starting pitcher available. So they gave that job to Dylan Lee, who was replaced after loading the bases and getting just one out in the first inning. Kyle Wright escaped major damage, and managed to pitch through the fifth inning, at which point the score was 2-0; rather surprisingly, the Braves were still in the game! They rallied to score a run in the 6th inning, and then in the bottom of the 7th inning something truly incredible happened: back-to-back solo home runs by Dansby Swanson and Jorge Soler!! Relief pitchers Luke Jackson and Will Smith got the last six batters out, and the Braves somehow overcame heavy odds to win the game, 3-2.

That gave the Braves a 3-1 series lead, giving them the opportunity to win the World Series in tonight's Game [5 -- correction]. When Adam Duvall hit a grand slam in the 1st inning, it seemed like the proverbial Fat Lady was getting ready to sing and make the Braves' triumph official. Not so fast!!! The Astros tied the game in the 3rd inning, running roughshod over the Braves hodgepodge of relief pitchers. (25-year old Tucker Davidson was the Braves' starter, and he was replaced after giving up the tying run in the 3rd inning.) Freddie Freeman hit a solo homer right after that, giving the lead back to Atlanta, but a dumb decision to give an automatic walk to Alex Bregman in the 5th inning led to a 3-run rally that gave the lead to the Astros. The score is now 8-5 in the bottom of the 7th inning, and chances are that the series will go back to Houston... It's kind of spooky in a way. [UPDATE: The Astros added a run in the 8th inning, and won Game 5 by a score of 9-5.]

Happy Halloween! * smile

* And for Nationals fans, happy second anniversary of their World Series victory!! smile

Comparing the ballparks

Just like two years ago (but not last year, when the baseball season was upended by the covid-19 pandemic), and several years before that, I present the home ballparks of the two World Series teams, for easy comparison. Also just like last year (Fenway Park and Dodger Stadium), the contrasts between the two stadiums this year (Minute Maid Park and Truist Park) are very sharp. Left field in particular differs radically, and the line drive home run into the left field bullpen by Jorge Soler last night was of such a low trajectory that it might not have carried the high wall at Minute Maid Park.

Truist Park Dodger Stadium
Truist Park

Just roll your mouse over the thumbnail images to switch between the respective full-size diagrams.

October 23, 2021 [LINK / comment]

Astros turn the tables & triumph; Dodgers too?

Just a few days ago, it looked like the Boston Red Sox were headed to the World Series for the first time in three years, with a 2-1 series lead and two more games to play in the (usually) home-team-friendly Fenway Park. However, their bats suddenly turned ice cold, and their bullpens melted down in historically awful fashion. Almost as soon as I posted on my blog on Wednesday, the Astros erupted with a 5-run rally, after Kyle Schwarber missed a catch at first base and Yordan Alvarez hit a 2-run double. That knocked starting pitcher Chris Sale out of the game, and his replacement Ryan Brasier gave up three more runs after that. The Astros added a run in the top of the 7th inning, matched by the first and only run by the Red Sox in the bottom of the inning. By then there wasn't much hope for the home town fans, and the Astros won it 9-1. Last night at Minute Maid Park in Houston, a similar sequence of events transpired, as the Red Sox seemed glumly resigned to doom. Yordan Alvarez hit an RBI double in the 1st inning, and scored in the bottom of the 6th on a strange double play in which Kyle Schwarber chose to tag the runner at first instead of immedidately throwing home to prevent the run from scoring. The Astros added three runs on a home run by Kyle Tucker in the 8th inning, and won the game 5-0.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta Braves took NLCS Game 4, thanks to two home runs by Eddie Rosario and one by Freddie Freeman, whose batting performance has been mediocre lately. With a 4-run rally in the top of the 9th they won it easily, 9-2. That gave them a 3-1 series lead and a chance to finish the job on the road. Once again, however, the L.A. Dodgers turned the tables, shocking Braves ace pitcher Max Fried. Overcoming a 1st-inning homer by Freddie Freeman, the Dodgers took a 3-2 lead in the 2nd inning, and kept adding to their run total in subsequent innings. It was rather embarrassing for Fried and his team. Chris Taylor, the little-know utility player who stunned the world with a game-winning home run in the NLDS against the Giants, hit three more home runs, with 6 RBIs total. A.J. Pollock hit two homers of his own, and former National Trea Turner finally started hitting as he was expected to do; he went 3 for 4 at the plate. So, the Dodgers narrowed the series deficit to 3 games to 2.

Tonight the Braves will try to seal the deal at home in Truist Park, trying to put aside fears of repeating the same thing that the Dodgers inflicted up them in the NLCS last year. (The Dodgers won the last three games after the Braves took a 3-1 series lead.) The Braves really need to win the game tonight, or else the momentum will shift even more strongly to the Dodgers. Walker Buehler will be pitching for the Dodgers tonight instead of Max Scherzer. Max apparently hurt his throwing arm after pitching as closer in NLDS Game 5 and then starting on short rest in NLCS Game 2. Presumably he will be available to pitch in the later innings tonight, if needed, or perhaps as a starter in Game 7, if there is one...

Postseason scores, 2021

Major League Baseball championship series, 2021
World Champions: Atlanta Braves
Wild Card Games / Divisional series
Oct. 5 - 14
League Championship series
Oct. 15 - 24
World Series
Oct. 26 - Nov. 3
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
NL-E: Atlanta Braves (.547) 1 3 3 5 X    
NL-C: Milwaukee Brewers (.586) 2 0 0 4 X    
    Los Angeles Dodgers 2 4 6 2 11 2 X  
    Atlanta Braves 3 5 5 9 2 4 X  
NL-wc: St. Louis Cardinals (.556) 1  
NL-wc: Los Angeles Dodgers (.654) 3   0 9 0 7 2
NL-W: San Francisco Giants (.660) 4 2 1 2 1    
  Atlanta Braves 6 2 2 3 5 7 X
  Houston Astros 2 7 0 2 9 0 X
AL-C: Chicago White Sox (.574) 1 4 12 1 X    
AL-W: Houston Astros (.586) 6 9 6 10 X    
    Boston Red Sox 4 9 12 2 1 0 X  
    Houston Astros 5 5 3 9 9 5 X  
AL-wc: New York Yankees (.568) 2  
AL-wc: Boston Red Sox (.568) 6   0 14 6 6 X   Extra-inning game: X
AL-E: Tampa Bay Rays (.617) 5 6 4 5 X   Win by visiting team: X

See explanatory notes at bottom.

Explanatory notes

(Regular season winning percentages in parentheses.) Boldfaced scores indicate the winning team. Underlined scores denote extra-inning games. Olive-shaded score boxes denote games won by the VISITING team. Higher-seeded teams (those with the initial home field advantage) are shown on the BOTTOM side in each matchup. However, beginning with 2012, each league has TWO wild card teams, competing in a one-game "play-in," and whichever of those two teams that wins in each league is displayed below (after the outcome is known), so as to properly align with the subsequent divisional series scores. Beginning in 2003 and continuing through 2016, the league that won the All Star Game got the initial home field advantage in the World Series; prior to 2003, initial home field advantage in the World Series alternated from year to year. Except for 2002 (the infamous tie), the American League won the All Star Game every year between 1997 and 2009. Beginning in 2017, home field advantage in the World Series goes to the team with the higher regular season winning percentage.

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Baseball books:

See Sources for a brief description of the above books. Also see more specialized books on the Ebbets Field, Wrigley Field, and Yankee Stadium pages.

Coming Attractions

General diagrams
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(Includes major revisions, minor revisions, pages with additional diagrams, and future stadiums that are under construction. This is only a rough guide; the sequence is subject to change.)

Stadium construction

Soon after the 2017 opening of the new home of the Atlanta Braves (SunTrust Park), construction began on the future home of the Texas Rangers, a very brief lapse. The last significant lapse occurred from March 2012 (when Marlins Park was completed), September 2014 (when construction on SunTrust Park began). Before that, there was at least one major league baseball stadium under construction continually from September 1986 until March 2012. Both the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays hope to get public funding for a new stadium, but near-term prospects are bleak.

NEW! Stadium construction page, with a chronology of the past 30 years.

Research department: