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Only 68 more days
until Opening Day!

December 31, 2021 [LINK / comment]

Another bleak year comes to an end

After their first few games were postponed due to the coronavirus, the Washington Nationals started the year on a very positive note, beating the team that ended up winning the World Series: the Atlanta Braves! After two months of mediocre play, the Nationals got red hot in June, when they went 19-9 thanks in large part to Kyle Schwarber's historic string of home runs. They were above .500 for exactly three days: June 29 through July 1. But then Schwarber pulled a hamstring and went on the Injured List, and the Nats quickly went into an apocalyptic nose-dive from which they did not recover. For the first time since the team was reborn in Washington in 2005, the Nats had a "fire sale" in which most of their most talented players were traded away, including the team's biggest stars: Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, and Kyle Schwarber.

The last two months of the 2021 season were marked by very low expectations, mostly just giving young players a chance to prove themselves in the big leagues. Some of the rookies indeed showed great promise, raising hopes for the future. Nevertheless, the Nationals ended the season alone in last place with a 65-97 record (.401), even worse than their 26-34 record (.433) last year, and in fact their lowest percentage since 2009. Whereas they won seven of the last nine games in 2020, this year they lost eight of their last nine games.

Nats winning pct 2021

The chart above is now included on the Washington Nationals page, which has frankly become so overloaded with various historical statistics that it will probably soon be pared back, with some of the information moved to new pages.

Even though it was another bleak year, I did at least get to see a game this year -- only one, on June 16, when the Nats beat the Pirates 3 - 1. (See my June 23 blog post.) I'm looking forward to seeing more games next year, hopefully some of which will be in stadiums that I have not yet seen.

Championship diversity!

On a brighter note elsewhere in the majors, as I pointed out on November 4, once again the World Series championship went to a team that had not won such a title for decades. For eight consecutive years, we had a fresh, new champion team. In fact, 2014-2021 was the first eight-year span in which no team had won the World Series more than once since 1980-1987. In contrast, during the preceding eight-year span (2006-2013), three teams -- Red Sox, Cardinals, and Giants -- won six of those eight World Series -- not very "diverse" at all! (See my annual baseball chronology page.) So there is that. What will the new year bring?

Merry (seventh day of) Christmas, baseball fans! smile


December 27, 2021 [LINK / comment]

Oakland (?) Coliseum update

Oakland Coliseum

The Oakland Coliseum diagrams have been revised, for the first time in over five years -- on July 6, 2016, to be exact. To be more proper, it is now formally called "RingCentral Coliseum," after a confusing series of negotiations and court hearings in 2019 and 2020.

So what the heck is "RingCentral"? One of these fancy-shmancy new high tech companies like America Online or Gateway Computers, apparently. According to www.RingCentral.com, "RingCentral provides businesses with different cloud-based business communications solutions that include message, video, phone, and contact center services..." It was founded in 1999 by two guys named Vlad. [UPDATE: See the Stadium names chronology page.]

Among the most notable changes to the diagrams (as opposed to the names), the circular portion of the grandstand is about eight feet shorter on both ends than it was when I rendered it in 2016, and the locations of the light towers and access ramps on the south (first base) and west (third base) sides are significantly different. (You can compare to new version to the previous version simply by clicking on that diagram and then moving your mouse away; however, that won't work for tablets and other devices with touch screens.) In a major enhancement of that page, there are now jumbo-sized diagrams showing the elliptical road that surrounds (or used to surround) the Coliseum, and the four main tunnel gates through which fans enter the original grandstand. There are also two new gates for the massive (but now defunct) "Mount Davis" grandstand that was built as an inducement for the Oakland Raiders to return home after 15 years in Los Angeles. A fat lot of good that did, as the Raiders packed up and left for Las Vegas after the 2019 season was over. Now the Athletics are forced to play in a stadium with an empty monstrosity looming over them in the outfield.

Other changes include new diagrams for the lower and middle decks -- actually, two middle-deck diagrams, one for 1968 and one for 1996, which is when (as far as I can tell) a second level of luxury suites was added in the second deck. There is also a 2019 diagram that shows the new table-top seating areas in the left and right field corners. The profiles of the bleacher sections are now shown in the 1960s diagrams, both in the baseball and football configurations. The upward slopes of the access ramps are now shown, and of course, the home and visiting team dugouts are now properly indicated, a practice I began a few weeks ago.

I didn't bother to update the two "hypothetical" diagrams (one for baseball only, one for football only), since there is now little or no prospect that the Coliseum will remain in use five years from now. [I was previously aware of the legendary awful plumbing facilities, made infamous when the players had to endure sewage backup in the showers, but I didn't fully understand why that happened. It turns out the playing field at the Coliseum is a few feet below sea level! That plus numerous other inadequacies make the original portion of the grandstand pretty much obsolete, and not worth saving.] Something's gotta give. Personally, I think they should forget about the downtown Oakland waterfront site and simply build a whole new stadium on the current site. I'm sure the Giants would be glad to rent out Oracle Park to the Athletics for a couple years while construction is completed... Right? smile

More diagrams updates...

During the holiday break I've been hard at work on revising Yankee Stadium and the other long-overdue diagrams (Forbes Field and Griffith Stadium), but ran into a stumbling block, so I decided to release this one first. When the New Year rolls around, I plan on instituting some changes to the functionality of my baseball pages, and registering your name and e-mail account (possibly subject to verification) would be advisable. Donations to this website are most appreciated.

Covid disrupts bowl season

The University of Virginia Cavaliers were going to play in the inaugural Fenway Bowl this Wednesday, but several of their players tested positive for covid-19, so they had to withdraw, forcing the big event to be cancelled. I saw an aerial view on TV of Fenway Park with the football gridiron all set up, which makes me wonder how much money and effort was wasted on that. Also canceled: the Military Bowl (in Annapolis) and the Arizona Bowl (in Tucson). I thought I heard something about Pinstripe Bowl (Virginia Tech vs. Maryland in Yankee Stadium), but apparently it is still on. In addition, covid protocols forced Texas A&M to withdraw from the Gator Bowl, which is actually of some significance, and since "the show must go on" they had to find a replacement opponent to go against Wake Forest: Rutgers!


December 24, 2021 [LINK / comment]

LOCKOUT: MLB owners play hardball

For the first time in 27 years, Major League Baseball activities have been interrupted by a labor dispute. Unlike the horrible strike in August 1994, this time there are no real consequences other than the players' faces cannot be shown on MLB team web pages. The average person is probably not even aware of the situation. The upshot is that the owners followed through with their threat to bargaom hard, resisting the players's demands for .

In the players' favor is a report that the total payroll for all 30 MLB franchises ($4.05 billion) fell by four percent in 2021 compared to a year earlier, and was the lowest since 2015 -- not counting 2020, obviously. The coronavirus has distorted all such indicators of the teams' financial health, possibly making it harder for the two sides to reach an agreement.

In today's Washington Post, Chelsea Janes argued out that the owners and players alike are treating the "middle class" in quite different ways. The fundamental problem highlighted by this negotiating impasse is the incentive to out-bid each other for top talent, while scrimping on salaries for younger players. Those in the latter group invariably perform at a far high efficiency on a dollar-for-dollar basis, while solid mid-career players often have a hard time finding jobs because contractual rigidities due in part to the MLB Players' Association.

In sum, it is not so much a dispute between players and owners so much as it is between elites and working class folks -- a situation that is aggravated, in my opinion, by huge public subsidies (via new stadiums) that become harder and harder to justify as time marches on. Fans need to protest to Commissioner Rob Manfred and to the MLB MLB Players' Association chief, Tony Clark. Our tax money should not be used to help millionaires become billionaires!

Bowl season is upon us

This year there are approximately sixty three (63) college football bowl games, pairing up teams from across the fruited plain that have at least finished with an even win-loss season. It gets more and more ridiculous every year. The University of Virginia Cavaliers will play in the inaugural Fenway Bowl (in Boston's historic Fenway Park, of course), while Virginia Tech plays in Yankee Stadium's "Pinstripe Bowl." The NCAA national championship semi-finals will take place a week from today, on New Year's Eve, rather than on New Year's Day, when all the biggest college bowls used to be scheduled. The final will be held on Monday, January 10. The football use page may (or may not) be updated to incorporate these changes, but for the time being at least it will not provide information about stadium name changes or subsequent stadiums for NFL teams that relocated, etc.

Another example of absurdity in contemporary sports is how the NFL is stretching out its regular season to 17 games, extending into the second weekend in January. I know, it's a "business" and it's all about the money, honey, but they are making short-term profits at the expense of the long-term fan enthusiasm. Eventually there's just not going to be a big enough market to keep all those pro sports operating under the terms they have been accustomed to. If I were in charge, all NFL regular season games would be completed by the end of December, all NBA regular season games would be completed by the end of April, all NHL regular season games would be completed by early April, and all MLB regular season games would be completed by the end of September. (At present they usually do.)

Kingdome

Kingdome update tweak

Thanks to a tip from Angel Amezquita, the Kingdome diagrams have been revised, ever-so-slightly. He provided an image suggesting that the directional compass in my diagrams were pointed the wrong way. For stadiums with opaque non-retractable domes, it can be very hard to tell from photographs alone which way is which. I had this same problem with the Superdome, and I finally solved it last May. The solution to the compass orientation puzzle revolved mainly around the gates through which fans enter the stadium. Likewise for the Kingdome, combining a knowledge of the gate locations with visual clues from the exterior of the stadium enabled me to confirm that center field pointed slightly to the right of due north, rather than east-northeast as I had previous inferred. So, those diagrams now include the letters identifying each of the seven gates, and I intend to do likewise with additional diagrams in the days and weeks to come. The Kingdome diagrams now also indicate that the home team used the dugout on the third base side, another recent innovation that I began with Wrigley Field at the beginning of this month. (For the record, I have made some tiny tweaks to the Wrigley Field diagrams since then.)

In the course of revising the Kingdome diagrams, I learned that CenturyLink Field, the home of the Seattle "Seahawks" (there is no such bird by that name, by the way) has been renamed "Lumen Field." Oh, brother. But that's not all! Stay tuned, sports fans...

Errata

I just noticed that in my November 4 blog post, I indicated that the Milwaukee Brewers' previous league pennant was in 1986, but that of course was when the Mets beat the Red Sox. The Brewers actually won their last (and thus far only) league championship in 1982, when they were in the American League and lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.


December 1, 2021 [LINK / comment]

Max Scherzer signs with the Mets frown

Perhaps this is the punishment I get for having taunted Mets fans with "We got Murphy!" before a game at Nationals Park in June 2016. In one of the biggest transactional surprises that I can remember, Max Scherzer today finalized a contract with the New York Mets worth $130 million over three years. At the insane rate of $43 million per year, that surpasses the total annual payroll of several MLB teams. In announcing the deal (see MLB.com), the Mets' owner Steve Cohen boasted of the starting pitcher duo of Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, anticipating an imminent championship. Anything is possible, but if the past means anything, the Mets run a huge risk of personality clashes and dysfunctional performance.

So, this is another kick in the gut like the Nats' infamous "fire sale" at the end of July. Personally, I don't begrudge Max Scherzer ($cherzer?) for getting the best deal he could, but it says a lot about the Mets that no other team bargaining with him made a comparable offer. The fact that Max signed with a divisional arch-rival is a lot like when Bryce Harper signed with the Phillies in February 2019. When introduced to the press, Bryce famously misspoke, saying he hoped to bring a championship trophy to D.C.! smile

Why so early in the postseason period of trading? Major League Baseball and the MLB Players' Association are at an impasse over demands for earlier free agency and other things, and a "lockout" by the owners is all but certain to happen at midnight tonight. [UPDATE: It just did.] It would be harder if not impossible to bargain under such conditions of mutual distrust between team owners and players.

In other MLB transactions of note, former Dodger free agent Corey Seager signed a ten-year contract with the Texas Rangers. Former Cub free agent Javier Baez signed a $140 million contract with the Detroit Tigers. Both those teams are in dire need of a big boost. Also, the Cubs signed the Nats' former catcher Yan Gomes, and the Dodgers signed the Nats' former closing pitcher Daniel Hudson to a one-year contract. It was rather surprising that the Dodgers declined to make a "qualifying offer" to 34-year old ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw. Are the owners satisfied with just one World Series victory?

As for the Nationals themselves, they signed outfielder Andrew Stevenson to a one-year contract renewal. He has been a useful backup player, occasionally getting clutch hits as a pinch hitter, but his batting average was under .250 this year.

Harper and Ohtani are named MVPs

The leaked news about Mike Schmidt being the announcer (see November 16) removed the element of surprise from Bryce Harper being named National League Most Valuable Player for 2021. Oddly, he was only near the top of the National League in one category: batting average (.309); he had 35 home runs and 84 RBIs, which are good numbers but not that great. He was certainly most improved during the second half of the year. Washington Nationals' star Juan Soto came in second place, with six first-place votes; he had a .313 average, 29 home runs, and 95 RBIs. Former National Trea Turner led the league in batting (.328), but came in fifth place in MVP voting.

There was never any surprise about Shohei Ohtani getting the American League MVP award. He created an enormous sensation early in the season, as the first genuine dual-role pitcher/slugger since Babe Ruth rose to fame with the Red Sox over a century ago. During the second half of 2021, his numbers receded somewhat, but he still finished the year with 46 home runs (just two behind the MLB leaders), 100 RBIs, and a so-so batting average of .257. As a pitcher, he had a 9-2 record, with 156 strikeouts and an ERA of 3.18. Not Cy Young numbers, but very respectable in and of themselves.

Burnes and Ray get Cy Young Awards

The selection of Corbin Burnes (of the Milwaukee Brewers) for the National League Cy Young Award came as a bit of a surprise to me. He had a record of 11-5, with 234 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.43 (just ahead of Max Scherzer). Burnes started his MLB career with the Brewers in 2018, but this was his first year playing a full season. I was hoping Max Scherzer would get his fourth Cy Young, but he came in third place in the voting.

In the American League, Robbie Ray won the Cy Young Award in his first (and as it turns out his only) full year with the Toronto Blue Jays. He had a record of 13-7, with 248 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.84. You can't argue with those numbers. Yesterday it was announced that he signed with the Seattle Mariners.

Wrigley Field

Football returns to Wrigley Field

Two weekends ago, a college football was played at Wrigley Field for the first time in several years. Northwestern University hosted the Purdue Boilermakers, losing by a score of 32-14. Unlike the previous time that Northwestern University hosted a football game there (in November 2010), this time the gridiron was arranged with enough room behind the end zones to allay fears for players' safety. I was aware that when the last major renovation of Wrigley Field was completed (in 2018-2019) they made the dugout and first few rows of seats along the third base side removable. Until I saw photos of this game, however, I didn't know exactly how this was done. Well, now I do, and you know what that means...

Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field update!

Needless to say, I just had to create a diagram showing the new football configuration at Wrigley Field, and as so often happens, the process of making minor alterations led to a series of revelations which culminated in a rather significant revision of all the Wrigley Field diagrams. I was initially focused on getting the new football configuration right, but as I was comparing new photos to photos that I have taken there (in 2008, 2012, and 2017), I began to notice a few minor discrepancies, and before you knew it I was furiously tweaking details. Somehow I entirely missed the fact that the main grandstand was extended on both the left field and right field ends, so that they now actually hang out over the sidewalks, just like the bleachers do. The lower-deck diagram now shows the supporting posts under the three main scoreboards.

One brand-new feature that I have been contemplating for some time is the inclusion of markers to indicate the home ("H") and visitors ("V") dugouts. (In most cases there is no need to indicate which bullpen is which, since they are generally on the same side of the field as the respective dugouts are.) Eventually all diagrams will have such "H" and "V" markers, as long as I have solid information about which was which. In a few cases, such as Yankee Stadium and RFK Stadium, the home and visitors dugouts were reversed at some point.


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.)




From October through December, a table of all Postseason game scores is shown here.


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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
to be updated:

General diagrams
yet to be created:

City map/diagrams
yet to be created:
"Site today" diagrams
yet to be created:

(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: