March 24, 2012 [LINK / comment]
With the temperatures soaring into the 80s in much of the nation this week, it seems strange to call it "spring training." In any case, Opening Day is less than two weeks away, so it's time to get crackin'!
But first, a brief note of apology for the extended hiatus in this blog. In recent months, I have assumed some new responsibilities, and have had to take care of some long-deferred tasks, which of course took longer than expected. I'll explain further soon. For now, let me just focus on a couple items:
Perhaps the biggest baseball news over the past two months is that the Detroit Tigers signed Prince Fielder to a jumbo contract worth $210 million. It's probably for the best that the Nationals lost out in the race for Fielder, since they are still rising toward the upper ranks and are in need of other kinds of talent. As Peter Gammon writes at MLB.com, Fielder (whose last name should probably be "Slugger") will be knocking a lot of balls out of Comerica Park this season. Given the team's high-powered offense-focused lineup (featuring Brandon Inge and Miguel Cabrera), however, Gammon notes that defense could be a problem for the Tigers.
As for the Washington Nationals, several of their players have been banged up in the practice games, most notably Michael Morse, who strained his back muscles. He may even miss Opening Day. I'll have much more to say about the Nats tomorrow, especially about their vastly improved pitching rotation and the wonderful news that Ryan Zimmerman signed a long-term contract with the team.
Though unheralded blogwise, I updated the Candlestick Park diagrams way back in late January, fully intending to make the appropriate announcement shortly thereafter. C'est la vie. There are many, many enhancements in accuracy and detail in those diagrams. For example, foul territory is notably bigger than before, and the granstand extends beyond left field about 20 feet further than before. Also, I am now quite certain that the dimensions for 1961-1971 were 365 feet to left-center and 375 feet to right center. Lowry (in Green Cathedrals) and other sources gave inconsistent figures on that, but I have seen enough photographs and data sheets to be convinced. There is now a second profile showing the grandstand addition of 1972, showing how the retractable seating sections are split into three "layers" when they are tucked beneath the upper deck during baseball games. Those black lines you see in the football-version diagram are "slots" of about two feet in width that allow the rest of the retractable seats to slide past the support columns. Those slots are visible in the football diagram when you roll over the adjacent thumbnail image.
You may notice on that page that I have adopted a new graphical conventions in my diagrams: First, I will generally use solid lines rather than dashed lines in the "combined" version diagrams from now on. It's simpler to do it that way, and I think it looks neater. Second, grass slopes will have a different shade of green from now on, to distinguish them from trees and shrubs. That is a notable feature of Crosley Field and Minute Maid Park; the diagram for Crosley Field is in dire need of an update. The single-deck grandstand beyond left-center field at Candlestick Park was built on an artificial (bulldozed) hill, a remnant of which remains visible to this very day.
Getting all those details just right was extremely challenging, and I spent many late nights on my latest "masterpiece." I hope you folks out there enjoy it.
My choice of Candlestick Park was in part motivated by recent developments on the new stadium front. Indeed, the San Francisco 49ers' prolonged, turbulent drive for a new home in Silicon Valley is finally reaching the end zone. Just a few weeks after it was announced that the National Football League would provide up to $200 million in financing to help pay for a new stadium in Santa Clara (see mercurynews.com, via fieldofschemes.com*), the Santa Clara council approved six agreements that had to be reached before construction could begin. The project may begin in the next few weeks. See mercurynews.com. The football stadium will be located next to the Great America theme park, and will cost about $1.2 billion. With a capacity of just 68,500, however, it would actually be smaller than their current home at Candlestick Point.
* Hat tip to Mike Zurawski.
Assuming the 49ers do move to Santa Clara, it raises the question of their urban affiliation. It's similar to the situation with the Oakland Athletics on the other side of the Bay; their plans to move to San Jose (next door to Santa Clara) have run into yet another snag. Details to follow...
The 49ers lost out on the bidding for aging veteran quarterback Peyton Manning, who signed a contract with the Denver Broncos, displacing the phenomenal Tim Tebow, who will play for the New York Jets. The 49ers are an up-and-coming team, so Manning doesn't really fit their needs.
As of November 30, construction on Marlins Park (apparently the official name for this year, at least) was said to be 90% complete, so I figured it must have been 95% complete by late January. Construction began in July 2009, and it was 73% completed last June, and I can't figure out why it was dragging out for so long. Anyway, it's virtually finished now. See some aerial photos at MLB.com. (Hat tips to Bruce Orser and Carl Miller.) That means I need to make corrections and finish the dynamic diagram showing how the roof retracts soon...
Following in the footsteps of Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, and (this year) Citizens Bank Park, the Cleveland Indians hosted an outdoor hockey match at Progressive Field in Cleveland on Sunday, January 15. In the "Frozen Diamond Faceoff" the University of Michigan Wolverines defeated the Ohio State University Buckeyes by a score of 4-1. See MLB.com. Since it was just a college match, I probably won't make a special hockey version of Progressive Field, at least not for the time being.
And just for the record, Qualcomm Stadium was renamed "Snapdragon Stadium" for a period of exactly ten days back in late December. It was just a promotional gimmick by the corporate sponsor, and nobody really cared as far as I know. The former home of the San Diego Padres and home of the Chargers has since reverted to its previous name. See sbnation.com; hat tip to Mike Zurawski.
Of course, there is much, much more baseball news to get to, from Mike and from other loyal fans and associates. Y'all come back now, ya hear?