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May 7, 2021 [LINK / comment]

Nats surge to first place, fall to last

In the evenly-matched National League East Division, only a small margin separates the best teams from the -- ahem -- others. The Washington Nationals swept the Miami Marlins at home last weekend, earning them a share of first place, and after the Mets lost on Monday (when the Nats were resting), they briefly held sole possession of first place. But then the Atlanta Braves came to town, beating the Nationals three times in a row. As a result, the Nats have fallen to fifth place, and the precious momentum they had built in recent weeks ground to a screeching halt.

In last Saturday's game, Patrick Corbin had his best outing of the year, giving up just two runs over seven innings. Yan Gomes homered, and Josh Bell finally broke out of his lengthy slump, batting in four runs. Final score: Nats 7, Marlines 2. On Sunday, Max Scherzer took the mound and soon laid to rest any fears that his previous outing (April 27 vs. the Blue Jays) might portend a trend. He pitched a full nine innings, with nine strikeouts, and did not allow a run until the final frame when Isan Diaz hit a leadoff homer. For the Nationals, Ryan Zimmerman provided all of the offensive firepower, with a three-run homer in the third inning. Nats 3, Marlins 1. Sweep! smile

On Tuesday night, the Braves came to Washington, and the first five innings were a classic pitchers' duel between the Nats' Joe Ross and the Braves Huascar Ynoa. Ronald Acuñ hit a solo homer in the fifth inning, and Ross was relieved an inning later as the Braves got a rally going. But Tanner Rainey completely lost control, as the Braves' pitcher (Ynoa) hit a grand slam to take a 6-0 lead. The Nats scored once in the seventh inning, and that was it. On Wednesday, the Nats' young Erick Fedde gave up home runs in the third and fourth innings, and the Nats' attempts to catch up fell short, as the visitors won again, 5-3. In the Thursday afternoon series finale (broadcast by YouTube), Jon Lester had another decent outing (his second this year), but the Braves got clutch RBIs when they needed it, while the Nats let multiple run-scoring opportunities slip by. It didn't help when, with two outs and two runners on base, the umpire called Victor Robles out on a very low pitch to end the eighth inning. Manager Davey Martinez only objected briefly; he should have really let that umpire (Nick Mahrley) have it. Ryan Zimmerman led off the bottom of the ninth with a line drive double to the left field corner, but he (or his pinch runner) never made it past third base as the next three batters were each out. Final score: Braves 3, Nationals 2. Sweep! frown

Two more no-hitters!!!

In Seattle on Wednesday, Baltimore Orioles' pitcher John Means threw a no-hitter to beat the Mariners 6-0, and it would have been a perfect game if a batter (Sam Haggerty) had not reached first base on a third strike wild pitch in the third inning. Means now has a 4-0 record, with an ERA of 1.37 -- fourth best in the majors!

And in Cleveland earlier this evening, Wade Miley went the full nine innings without allowing a hit as his team (the Cincinnati Reds) beat the Indians, 3-0. Miley is now 4-2 with a 2.00 ERA. It's a very odd trend that so many no-hitters are happening this year, even more than in recent years...

Superdome super-duper update

Superdome

Prompted by having seen it with my own eyes two months ago, I made some major revisions to the (Mercedes Benz)* Superdome diagrams. While reading up on the history of the architectural marvel, I came across an important figure: the diameter of the dome is 680 feet. I realized that the existing diagram -- which I did in 2013 -- was too big (it indicated a dome diameter of 700 feet), so I set out to do some corrections. Along the way I realized that there were multiple seating configurations for football games in the pre-2011 era when the lower deck was movable. So, there is now a "standard" football diagram as well as a "modified" one, which seems to pertain to Super Bowls or perhaps other special games. There are now separate lower-deck diagrams for football and baseball, highlighting how the lower deck was shifted for the two sports, as well as an "opaque roof" diagram that shows the eight gates (A - H) and the adjacent streets. For a long time I was uncertain about the precise orientation of the football and baseball fields, but by using my Fodor's/USA Today Four Sport Stadium guide, some online sources, and my own photos, I was able to reach the proper deduction. Elementary!?

* The ten-year stadium naming rights contract with Mercedes Benz ends this year, and I am not aware if a renewal is expected. Given that Mercedes Benz has a stadium naming rights contract with another NFL team (the Atlanta Falcons), my guess is that they will let this one slide.

Stadiums in New Orleans

While not of great importance to baseball per se, my interest in the other stadiums was piqued by having visited New Orleans for the first time a few weeks ago. Almost all sports fans are familiar with the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, and Cotton Bowl stadiums (as opposed to the events bearing those names), but I only had a vague idea about the traditional venue of the Sugar Bowl. Tulane Stadium, a massive oval with a small upper deck, hosted the Sugar Bowl from 1935 until 1974, after which the Superdome opened, and it also hosted the Super Bowl in 1970, 1972, and 1975. Tulane Stadium seated over 80,000 fans, which was far more than Tulane University's football team would ever need, so it was obviously expanded specifically for the Sugar Bowl. After the Superdome opened in 1976, it was abandoned and then demolished in 1980. Tulane's football team played in the Superdome from 1976 until Yulman Stadium was built (just north of where Tulane Stadium had previously been) in 1999.

What about baseball? Zephyr Field was built in the western suburb of Metairie, Louisiana, in 1997, and was home of the New Orleans Zephyrs until the team changed its name to the Baby Cakes in 2017. At the same time, the stadium was renamed "Shrine on Airline," its previous nickname. Unfortunately, New Orleans bore the brunt of the big contraction of minor league teams, and the franchise relocated to Wichita after 2019. As a result, that relatively new 10,000-seat stadium now is essentially abandoned.

Previously, New Orleans had a minor league team called the Pelicans from 1901-1959 (AA), and in 1977 (AAA). For whatever reason, baseball just never developed a strong presence in the Big Easy, which suggests that the whole idea of making the Superdome adaptable to baseball use was probably a Big Mistake.

Finally, the Tulane University baseball team has played at Turchin Stadium (subsequently appended with "Greer Field at"), just north of Yulman Stadium, since 1991.

New Orleans stadiums



April 30, 2021 [LINK / comment]

Stadium capacity changes, 2021

Now that fans can return to the ballparks and see baseball games in person, it's a good time to look at how much the seating capacity has changed in various MLB ballparks this year. (Capacity changes last year were irrelevant, since only one stadium -- Globe Life Field -- had any fans at all.) Because so many stadium names have changed in recent years, I decided to include the previous names for several of them to avoid confusion. Just like three years ago (October 3, 2018), I have compiled the current-year seating capacity figures for each of the 30 MLB stadiums and calculated changes in capacity compared to 2020. There was only one change greater than 1,000 (PETCO Park), highlighted in yellow.

Stadium name
(current & recent)
2021 capacity2020-2021
nominal change
Apparent approx.
attendance limit
Dodger Stadium56,000030%
Rogers Centre (ex-Skydome) #53,5060NA
Coors Field50,4454740%
Chase Field48,68616725%
T-Mobile Park (ex-Safeco Field)47,929-1420%
Yankee Stadium II47,309025%
Oakland Coliseum46,8478225%
Oriole Park at Camden Yards* 45,971 *020%
Angel (ex-Anaheim) Stadium45,51746730%
Busch Stadium III45,494-4430%
Citizens Bank Park42,792-85520%
Great American Ballpark42,319030%
Citi FIeld41,922020%
Oracle (ex-AT&T) Park41,915020%
American Family Field (ex-Miller Park)41,900030%
Wrigley Field41,649025%
Nationals Park41,313020%
Minute Maid Park41,168050%
Truist Park (ex-SunTrust)41,084-6550%
Comerica Park41,083-21420%
Guaranteed Rate Field (ex-U.S. Cellular)40,615020%
Globe Life Field40,300060%
PETCO Park40,209-2,23640%
PNC Park38,74738520%
Target Field38,544-10525%
Kauffman Stadium37,903025%
Fenway Park37,7552412%
loanDepot park (ex-Marlins Park)36,742020%
Progressive (ex-Jacobs) Field34,788-43725%
Tropicana Field* 25,000 *-2525%
Sahlen Field (ex- Pilot Field; # temp. for Blue Jays)16,600?NA??
TD Ballpark # (temp. for Blue Jays)8,500NA20%

SOURCE: Box scores published in the Washington Post.
* Some stadiums announced a reduction in capacity without really taking out any seats. Until the 2010s, Oriole Park at Camden Yards had 48,290 seats, with room for a few hundred more "standing room only" fans. 48,876. Tropicana Field's 1998 capacity was 45,000, but has been reduced sharply several times in the years since then. The same used to be true of Oakland Coliseum, but it now includes virtually all the baseball-suitable seats.

Thus far in the season, the allowed attendance at most ballparks seems to be about 25 percent, but that should rise to 50 percent or more by the second half of the season. The extreme cases seem to be Globe Life Field Minute Maid Park 41,168 0 50% Truist Park, and Fenway Park, where a maximum of 8,000 fans (about 20 percent) can see games, due to a recent spike in covid-19 cases there.

Nats gradually improve

The Washington Nationals ended the month of April on an upbeat note, as Kyle Schwarber hit a walk-off home run for the second time in his brief tenure with the team. (The first time was April 16.) It was the opening game of a series against the visiting Miami Marlins, and Jon Lester (finally released from covid-19 quarantine) did just fine in his first start as a National: five innings pitched without giving up a run. But neither team could score a run for the first nine innings. The Nats' closer Brad Hand returned to the mound in the tenth inning, the first time he has pitched more than one inning with the Nationals. He gave up a two-out RBI single. In the bottom of the inning, leadoff hitter Kyle Schwarber crushed a ball that landed half-way up the second deck in right-center field. Game over! It was Schwarber's second walk-off home run of this month -- quite an impressive debut performance. Ryan Zimmerman did likewise in July 2010, hitting walk-off homers on the 6th and 31st of the month.

After the disastrous opening game of the series on Monday, April 19th, the Washington Nationals bounced back and found a way to beat the visiting St. Louis Cardinals twice, thereby winning the series. Patrick Corbin had a solid outing, but Tanner Rainey gave up two runs in the seventh inning, and a similar bullpen meltdown by the Cardinals allowed the Nats to retake the lead in the eighth inning, thus coming out on top, 3-2. Wednesday was a day game, and Max Scherzer put in a dazzling performance, with 9 strikeouts over six innings. Alex Avila had the only RBI of the game: Nats 1, Cards 0.

On Friday the Nats played the Mets, and Jacob deGrom dazzled fans in Citi Field, striking out 15 Nationals batters in a complete game shutout. Erick Fedde pitched fine for the Nationals until the fifth inning, when the Mets scored three runs. Final score: NYM 6, WSH 0. The Nationals shook off that rude slap and came back with a 7-1 victory the next day, as Joe Ross pitched very well for six innings. But in the Sunday game, Patrick Corbin had a "relapse," giving up four runs before being replaced during the fifth inning. The Nats lost that one, 4-0.

After a day of rest, the Nationals flew south to Dunedin, Florida, where the Toronto Blue Jays have been playing their home games this season. (They expect to move into Buffalo's Sahlen Field in the near future.) Max Scherzer was pitching, and even though he had run support (two homers by Trea Turner and one by Yadiel Hernandez), he somehow came unglued and gave up seven runs (two unearned) over five innings. A two-run homer by Ryan Zimmerman in the seventh inning closed the gap, but the Nats ended up losing 9-5. On the next day, strangely enough, Erick Fedde pitched one of his best games ever, giving up just one run over six innings. Home runs by Josh Harrison and Josh Bell (whose batting average had fallen to just over .100) propelled the Nats to an 8-2 victory.

And so, after tonight's 2-1 victory over the Marlins, the Nats now have a 10-12 record, in a virtual tie with the Braves and Mets, just one game behind the Phillies. Of the 11 home games, average attendance is a paltry 6,660. The Washington Nationals page has been updated accordingly.

Soto on the Injured List

Just a few days after Stephen Strasburg was placed on the ten-day Injured List, Juan Soto likewise went on the IL. Both players are reported to be improving and should be available for duty soon. Soto is pretty durable, playing 47 out of the 60 games last year, and 150 games of the Nationals' world championship 2019 year. Strasburg, on the other hand, is often fragile.

Busch Stadium II

Busch Stadium II tweak

At the request of Angel Amezquita, I modified the Busch Stadium II page, replacing the old "overlaid" diagram (which showed both the current AND previous Busch Stadiums in color) with a new "site today" diagram in which the previous Busch Stadium is rendered with light gray lines, allowing the current-day streets and major buildings (in particular, the "Ballpark Village") to be shown. Please bear in mind that these are mere approximations based on photos I have seen! I am still working toward a systematic way of rendering stadiums (especially those that no longer exist) in their respective neighborhoods.

No-hitter by Mad Bum?

In the second game of a double-header today, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Madison Bumgarner pitched seven full innings without giving up a hit, as his team won 7-0. This came after The fact that almost all serious baseball fans would dispute the validity of his accomplishment as a real "no-hitter" is one more reason why MLB should abandon that expedient measure after this year is over. Obviously, they can't change the rules in the middle of the season.



April 20, 2021 [LINK / comment]

Birding in March

I led one Augusta Bird Club field trip in March, and that was to Chimney Hollow on the sixth of the month, a Saturday. Things got off to a great start when Ann Cline spotted a flock of Evening Grosbeaks while riding in Penny Warren's car along Rt. 250 a mile or two before the destination. I'm glad I noticed them on the side of the road, or else I would have missed it! We estimated at least 25 of them, including several bright yellow-orange males -- the first ones I had ever seen! (I had seen female and/or young Evening Grosbeaks once before, about two years earlier. In contrast to the earlier episode, however, the birds were far away (80 yards?), so it was hard to get good photos. We had a pleasant walk through the snowy wooded landscape at Chimney Hollow, but there were very few birds, just a Pileated Woodpecker, a distant hawk, and a couple others. Just in case, we checked out nearby Braley Pond afterwards, and likewise, we found very little. Most of the birds in the montage below were on Bell's Lane later in the day.

Montages 2021 Mar 06

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Evening Grosbeak (male), American Kestrel, E. Meadowlark, Evening Grosbeak (female), Red-winged Blackbird (male) and White-crowned Sparrow. (Rt. 250 near West Augusta and Bell's Lane, March 6)

On March 9 I went to Bell's Lane and saw my first Tree Swallows and Eastern Phoebe of the year, but the photos weren't that great.

On March 14, Jacqueline and I went hiking around Sherando Lake, at the base of the Blue Ridge in southeastern Augusta County. It was the first time we had been there in at least 15 years! Soon after starting I heard and then saw Pine Warblers (first of the year!), as well as a Red-breasted Nuthatch. After that, however, there were few birds, just an Eastern Phoebe, some American Crows, plus the usual Tufted Titmice, etc.

Montages 2021 Mar 14

ABOVE: Pine Warblers; BELOW: Red-breasted Nuthatch. (Sherando Lake, March 14)

Three days later we went for a casual drive through the Swoope area. I wanted to check the new Bald Eagle nest, just south of the old one along North Mountain Road, and I was able to get a decent photo of a presumed female adult on the nest, from about 200 yards away. At the Boy Scout Camp we saw Eastern Phoebes, Tufted Titmice, Tree Swallows, and a Red-tailed Hawk. On Cattleman's Road on our way home I was lucky to spot where a passing Northern Harrier (adult male) landed in a field nearby, and I got a very good photo of it.

Montages 2021 Mar 17

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Red-tailed Hawk, Tufted Titmouse, Eastern Phoebe, Northern Harrier, and Bald Eagle. (Swoope, March 17)

On March 24 I checked out the Mill Place trail, and was pleased to see a Yellow-rumped Warbler, a species that was scarcer than usual over the past winter. I also saw an Eastern Bluebird and two N. Flickers and a Red-bellied Woodpecker hammering at the trees in preparation for mating season. Finally, along Bell's Lane, I managed to get some very good closeup photos of an Eastern Meadowlark.

Montages 2021 Mar 24

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Yellow-rumped Warbler, Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern Bluebird (M), N. Flicker (F), and Red-bellied Woodpecker (M). (Bell's Lane, March 24)

Two days later, March 26, we went for a long hike around Ragged Mountain Reservoir, a few miles southwest of Charlottesville. We hadn't been there since we lived in Charlottesville during the 1990s, and I had a vague recollection of a shortcut causeway or bridge that divides the lake into two parts. As we discovered, however, the water level has risen since the new dam was built in 2014, so we had to walk a lot farther than I planned, a total distance of eight miles including the side trail down to the lower parking lot where we started. That was exhausting! Anyway, we saw some excellent birds, including a male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and a Red-headed Woodpecker, as well as an E. Phoebe, a N. Flicker, a Common Grackle, and a probable Golden-crowned Kinglet.

Montages 2021 Mar 26

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Golden-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Hairy Woodpecker (M), Tufted Titmouse, N. Flicker (M), and Red-headed Woodpecker. (Ragged Mountain Reservoir, March 26)

Finally, on March 27 I paid a visit to the Izaak Walton Nature Preserve, located near Route 250 in western Augusta County, courtesy of my friend John Dull, who is a member. As soon as I arrived I was startled to see male and female Hooded Mergansers on a small pond nearby, but they flew away before I could take a photo. We did see two Eastern Phoebes near a footbridge, a likely nesting site. Later on I heard a Blue-headed Vireo singing in the tree tops, and after painstaking effort, we finally located it. It was my first one of the year! Later on we had a good look at a male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and caught fleeting glimpses of Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Chipping Sparrows.

More photos can be seen on the Wild Birds chronological page.



April 19, 2021 [LINK / comment]

Nationals struggle to rebound from roster crisis

The Washington Nationals managed to triumph over adversity on their belated Opening Day, nearly two weeks ago, briefly raising hopes that they would pull together and put themselves on a winning trajectory. Max Scherzer gave up four solo home runs, two of them to the Braves' young slugger Ronald Acuña, but struck out nine batters and left the game after six innings with the score tied. It was 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth when the Nats' young slugger Juan Soto hit an RBI single, his first career walk-off hit. What a huge relief that was!

After that storybook finish, however, the Nationals fall flat, losing five consecutive games. The Nationals and Braves played a double-header the next day, and in the first game the artificial seven-inning limit prevented the Nats from making a late comeback, as they lost 7-6. In the second game, Stephen Strasburg pitched six scoreless innings, but then the reliever Tanner Rainey gave up a two-run homer to rotund pinch-hitter Pablo Sandoval, formerly of the Giants and Red Sox. That was the only run-scoring play of the game. Narrow margins!

Then the Nats hit the road, and [in Dodger Stadium] on Friday, April 9 Joe Ross excelled as starting pitcher, going five scoreless innings. In the sixth inning Justin Turner hit a solo homer, which was the only run-scoring play of the game. Deja vu! On Saturday, Patrick Corbin's first outing of the year was disappointing: six earned runs over four and a third innings. The Nats lost that one 9-5 in spite of getting 15 hits. Sunday was a classic matchup between Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer, and thanks to some guy named Zach McKinstry (who got all the RBIs), the Dodgers won it, 3-0. In all three games of that series in which they were swept, the Nats out-hit the home team.

Next came a visit to Busch Stadium in St. Louis, and badly-needed reinforcements arrived just in time: Kyle Schwarber, Josh Bell, and Josh Harrison were all released from covid-19 quarantine, making a big impact. The Nats won 5-2 on Monday April 12, thanks to a home run by Andrew Stevenson and three hits by Juan Soto. On Tuesday Stephen Strasburg gave up eight runs (one unearned) and had to be taken out during the fifth inning. He was seen rubbing his shoulder in the dugout afterwards, and later expressed displeasure that a TV camera was pointed at him. Relief pitcher Luis Avilan did no better, however, and the Cardinals ended up with a lopsided 14-3 victory. But on Wednesday Joe Ross had another fine outing, and the Nats won the game 6-0, taking their first series of the season.

The Nationals flew back to Washington for a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks the very next day, and once again Patrick Corbin badly underperformed. In fact, he only lasted two innings, giving up ten runs (one unearned). The Nats' batters erased the early 3-0 deficit and took the lead in the bottom of the first inning, but that advantage was quickly squandered. It was obvious that Corbin had lost all control when he hit a batter with a pitch with the bases loaded, but as is often the case, Nats' manager Davey Martinez was reluctant to take him out. Result: he gave up a grand slam to the next batter, Andrew Young. Final score: D-backs 11, Nationals 6. Corbin later seemed unable to explain what had gone wrong on the mound, not a good sign. Friday night was Max Scherzer's third start of the year, and he showed big improvement: ten strikeouts over seven innings, passing the immortal Cy Young in lifetime strikeouts. But neither team could score a run until the bottom of the ninth, when Kyle Schwarber crushed a ball that landed on the concourse behind the second-deck seats in right field. It was estimated to have gone 463 feet, but from what I can tell, the horizontal distance was only 400 or so. Maybe 440 feet? Anyway, it was the Nats' first walk-off home run of the year. Welcome to Washington, Kyle Schwarber! The Nats also won on Saturday (6-2) thanks to home runs by Yan Gomes and Ryan Zimmerman, and solid pitching by Erick Fedde. But on Sunday came the bad news that Stephen Strasburg was going on the Injured List after an MRI revealed inflammation in his (right) pitching shoulder. So, the burden of starting pitcher fell upon Paulo Espino, a little-known veteran from Panama. He rose to the occasion, giving up just two runs over four-plus innings, but the bullpen gave up runs in the last three innings, and the D-backs won the finale, 5-2. The Nationals only runs came on solo home runs by Trea Turner; the other bats fell silent for some reason.

Tonight's game against the visiting St. Louis Cardinals turned into a complete debacle, as Joe Ross somehow lost his command, or his composure, or both. He gave up ten runs over four-plus innings, and the visitors took the series opener, 12-5. Paul DeJong's grand slam in the fifth inning pretty much sealed the deal. Ross had previously shared honors for the lowest ERA in the majors (0.00), but that number suddenly jumped to 5.87.

Two actual no-hitters in one week!

On Friday, April 9, Padres' pitcher Joe Musgrove threw nine hitless innings against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field in Arlington, becoming the very first Padres pitcher ever to achieve a no-hitter. He got nine strikeouts in the 3-0 victory. It was an especially sweet moment, since he grew up in the [San Diego] suburb of El Cajon and rooted for the Padres as a youth.

And on Wednesday night, April 14, White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon had a perfect game [against the Cleveland Indians] going into the top of the ninth inning, whereupon he hit the batter [in the foot], Roberto Perez. At least he salvaged the no-hitter. It was a little bit like June 20, 2015 when Jose Tabata of the Pittsburgh Pirates blatantly put his elbow in front of the ball with two outs in the top of the ninth, ruining Max Scherzer's bid for a perfect game. (Do I carry grudges? Yes, sometimes. frown)

In my April 3 blog post, I noted that there had been two "Almost two no-hitters" during the first couple days of the 2021 season. If these trends continue, Major League Baseball may decide to go ahead with the proposal to move the pitching rubber back by a foot or so. I would prefer that they don't do so; can't they just lower the mound like they did in the late 1960s?

Blue Jays go south again

Canada has been experiencing an upsurge in coronavirus cases, and restrictions on international travel raise the possibility that the Toronto Blue Jays may not play any games in their home at the Rogers Centre until mid-summer or even later. Because this situation was not anticipated, they have been forced to play their "home" games at TD Park in Dunedin, Florida, [their spring training facility] located north of St. Petersburg. (Its capacity is 8,500.) So just like last year (see July 24), they Blue Jays must "migrate" south, but much farther this time. Their "home away from home" last year, Sahlen Field, is being prepared for an extended stay by the Blue Jays, including moving the bullpens to beyond the outfield fence, and adding various amenities for the fans and players. So, I will have to do another version of that diagram and (at some point) do a new diagram for TD Park, as well as update the Anomalous stadiums page.



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:

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!"

All Star Game logos

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.



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:

In the list above, camera icons (camera) 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.

Yankee Stadium 2008 All Star sign

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! frown 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 Home score Visting city / team Visting score Attendance Percent of
capacity (approx.)
COL 8 LAD 5 20,570 41%
LAA 4 CHW 3 13,207 29%
MIL 6 MIN 5 11,740 28%
NYY 2 TOR 3 10,850 23%
OAK 1 HOU 8 10,436 22%
SD 8 ARI 7 * 10,350 * 24%
CHC 3 PIT 5 10,343 25%
KC 14 TEX 10 9,155 24%
PHI 3 ATL 2 8,529 20%
SEA 8 SF 7 8,174 17%
DET 3 CLE 2 8,000 19%
MIA 0 TB 1 7,062 19%
BOS 0 BAL 3 ** 4,452 ** 12%
CIN 6 STL 11 ? ?%
WSH - NYM - - -

SOURCE: MLB.com
* = Revised from original figure of 8,773.         ** = Apr. 2 game         Underlined scores = extra innings



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??? frown

Nationals Park montage Mar 2021

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:

* 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.




 

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What's this about?

This blog features commentary and musings on a diverse but well-defined set of topics, from a critical-minded conservative point of view, featuring a veritable library of original graphics and statistical information. It is distinguished in many ways from the rest of the "blogosphere." My blog entries cover a rigidly defined set of topics, with varying degrees of intensity according to how much is going on in each area, and how much time I have. Being somewhat of a "do-it-yourselfer," I chose a "home-made" approach rather than conforming to the common blogging systems such as Blogger or WordPress. The blog entries and archives are arranged in a sort of "proprietary" scheme that I have gradually developed over time. Finally, being an old-fashioned, soft-spoken kind of guy, I avoid attention-grabbing sensationalism and strident rhetoric, and strive instead to maintain a reasonable, dignified, respectful tone.

"It's not just a blog, it's an adventure!"



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My blog practices

My general practice is to make no more than one blog post per day on any one category. For this reason, some blog posts may address more than one specific issue, as indicated by separate headings. If something important happens during the day after I make a blog post, I may add an updated paragraph or section to it, using the word "UPDATE" and sometimes a horizontal rule to distinguish the new material from the original material. For each successive day, blog posts are listed on the central blog page (which brings together all topics) from top to bottom in the following (reverse alphabetical) order, which may differ from the order in which the posts were originally made:

  1. Wild birds (LAST)
  2. War
  3. Science & Technology *
  4. Politics
  5. Latin America
  6. Culture & Travel *
  7. Canaries ("Home birds")
  8. Baseball (FIRST)

* part of "Macintosh & Miscellanous" until Feb. 2007

The date of each blog post refers to when the bulk of it was written, in the Eastern Time Zone. For each blog post, the time and date of the original posting (or the last update or comment thereupon) is displayed on the individual archival blog post page that appears (just before the comments section) when you click the [LINK / comments] link next to the date. Non-trivial corrections and clarifications to original blog entries are indicated by the use of [brackets] and/or strikethroughs, as appropriate so as to accurately convey both the factual truth and my original representation of it. Nobody's perfect, but I strive for continual improvement. That is also why some of the nature photos that appear on the archive pages may differ from the (inferior) ones that were originally posted.

The current "home made" blog organization system that I created, featuring real permalinks, was instituted on November 1, 2004. Prior to that date, blog posts were handled inconsistently, and for that reason the pre-2005 archives pages are something of a mess. Furthermore, my blogging prior to June 1, 2004 was often sporadic in terms of frequency.



 

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