September 20, 2008 [LINK / comment]

Bud's ballpark building boom

On the eve of the final game at Yankee Stadium frown, tries to put an upbeat spin on the sad occasion by focusing attention on all the new stadiums that have been built:

Stadium closings, even legendary ones like Yankee Stadium, are an inevitable part of a vibrant, healthy game that's growing more and more every year. The old ballparks make way for newer, better versions where more memories are waiting to be made.

Pardon me for not sharing the joy.

Ever since Fay Vincent resigned and Allan "Bud" Selig took over as Acting Commissioner of Baseball in 1992, a total of sixteen new major league baseball stadiums have been built, and another five older stadiums have been substantially renovated. (It would be easier to celebrate this remarkable progress if taxpayers in most of those cities had not been stuck with the lion's share of the bill.) Factoring in Rogers Centre/Skydome, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and Thunderdome/Tropicana Field, which were still new when Selig took over, all but six MLB teams now play in relatively up-to-date stadiums that were built primarily for baseball. The exceptions are (construction years in parentheses): the Mets (1964), Athletics (1966*), Royals (1973), Yankees (1976), Twins (1982), and Marlins (1988). As of next year, that list will shrink to three, and it will then shrink to only two the year after that.

* The A's moved to Oakland in 1968, two years after Oakland / "McAfee" Coliseum was built. The rebuilding of the Coliseum in 1996 was exclusively for the NFL Raiders, and substantially degraded the baseball experience there.

Mets eke out 2-2 split in D.C.

On Monday and Tuesday night, it looked like the Nationals were going to inflict the same kind of embarrassment on the Mets as they did last year, costing them a postseason berth, but in the next two games the Mets regained their composure, winning by scores of 9-7 and 7-2. On Friday, the Mets beat the Braves in Atlanta, taking first place in the NL East once again, as the Phillies lost to the Marlins in Miami.

Dubious economic benefits to D.C.

Friday's Washington Post reported that the D.C. government expects to earn only about $13.5 million in sales taxes for the inaugural season at Nationals Park, much less than the $16.1 million which was originally projected. Average attendance at the new ballpark was close to 30,000 at mid-season, but then petered out as the Nationals went from mediocre to worse during July and August. They will be lucky just to match last year's average attendance of 24,219, which was less than 2006 (26,574) and 2005 (33,584). If the owners don't spend more money on high-quality talent next year, the team will be in danger of losing its precarious fan base. The fact that the owners of the Nationals owe the city $3.5 million in rent payments is putting further financial stress on D.C., making stadium boosters look foolish.

One of the leading rationales for investing over $600 million in public funds in Nationals Park was that it would stimulate economic development in Southeast D.C., but a related article notes that the economic spinoff effects from the ballpark have failed to meet expectations. For example, the Lerners' new high-rise building north of the stadium remains "substantially empty." I wonder whether the problem might be that, with the ongoing crisis in the real estate market, the Lerners aren't able to make their rent payments??

Arlington Stadium

Arlington Stadium The Arlington Stadium diagrams have been updated. Why that one? It's a simple design, and therefore easier for me to work on. The profiles are now more accurate and detailed, and light towers are now included, but none of the measurements have changed.

The mail bag

Back in July a fan named Joe King sent me a message that got lost in my in-box (he's not the only one, I'm afraid), and his idea is worth consideration:

I have a suggestion to avoid the "extra-innings All-Star Game" problem:

1. Limit the game to 10 innings. This will allow the managers a set number of innings to plan so that every selectee gets to play (they won't have to "hold players back" for extended innings) and so no position player ever has to pitch. Ten innings is a reasonable length, I think, especially after this year's 15-inning, 1:40 a.m. debacle.

2. If the score is tied after 10 innings, the tie-breaker will be the total number of home runs hit by each league during the previous night's home run derby. This will a) give the derby some additional meaning and fan interest, and b) maybe give a little incentive for the top sluggers to participate and not blow it off.

What do you think?

I think something along those lines is worth a try. After all, the All-Star Game is mainly a "pageant," and yet the pressure to win puts each league's manager in a very awkward dilemma in extra-inning games such as the one this year. What do all of you think? Feel free to comment, as long as you have registered first.

COMMENT by: Brian Hughes, of Edison, NJ on Sep 21, 2008 18:59 PM
I've been preaching an innings cap to the All-Star Game since to my fellow baseball fans since the final out at the Yankees Stadium ASG was recorded, and yet nobody listens to me because they consider 15 inning, six hour long debacles starting at 9 at night to be "epic". I proposed a 9 inning cap so that managers would have a SET schedule to put in all the players, and removing the "IT COUNTS" mantra to the game, instead giving home field advantage in the World Series to the team with the best record, with ties going to the best interleague record. But baseball out of all the sports is the most conservative and nobody wants any major changes.

COMMENT by: Andrew Clem, of Staunton, VA on Sep 22, 2008 20:25 PM
So what would you do instead to maintain fan interest in the otherwise-pointless ASG? Before they decided to "make it count," it was turning into a lame ritual with zero drama, much like a modern-day national party convention, or like the NFL Pro Bowl. Perhaps in the 10th inning (if any), they could let everyone in the lineup bat one more time, regardless of how many outs, and after that use some kind of tie-breaker if necessary.