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Only 4 more days
until Opening Day! smile

March 24, 2023 [LINK / comment]

Japan wins the World Baseball Classic

After a dramatic comeback win over Mexico, Japan edged the USA team 3-2 to win its third World Baseball Classic championship title on Tuesday. The final game was a tense, very close contest all the way through, with two former Washington Nationals players -- Trea Turner and Kyle Schwarber -- hitting solo home runs. It was Turner's fifth homer of this year's WBC, and he almost carried the American team to a championship single-handedly. It ended on a fitting note when Shohei Ohtani struck out fellow L.A. Angels player Mike Trout in the top of the ninth inning. Attendance at LoanDepot Park in Miami was a very impressive 36,098 -- far more than the Marlins draw to their home games other than Opening Day.

Indeed, the 2023 WBC overall set new records for attendance (over one million altogether, nearly 25,000 per game on average), as enthusiasm soared. Earlier rounds were played at the Tokyo Dome, Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium in Tapei, Taiwan (formally referred to as "Chinese Taipei" to appease Red China, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province), and Chase Field in Phoenix. This year's WBC expanded to 20 national teams grouped into four "pools" (A, B, C, D), including some teams (e.g., China, Czech Republic, and Israel) that were clearly just not up to competitive standards. Maybe next time?

Japan had won the first two WBCs (in 2006 and 2009), while the Dominican Republic won in 2013 and the USA won in 2017. Oddly, the USA only made it as far as the semi-finals one other time, in 2009. The covid-19 pandemic forced a cancellation of the event in 2021. The next one will presumably be held three years from now, in 2026.

But it easily could have been Mexico rather than Japan in the final game. Mexico advanced to the WBC semi-final game (played on Monday) for the first time, and thanks to a two-run rally in the top of the eighth was leading Japan 5-4 going into the bottom of the ninth inning. That's when Shohei Ohtani hit a leadoff double, and before you knew it two runs scored on a double by Munetaka Murakami to end the game in dramatic fashion. in the came within a hair's breadth of reaching the final matchup. In the quarter-final game, played last Friday (March 17), Mexico scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat Puerto Rico, 5-4. In the other semi-final game, which was played on Sunday, the USA easily defeated Cuba 14-2, with Trea Turner hitting two home runs.

Mexico's big success was due in part to the slugging performance of a certain 30-year old "rookie" player for the Washington Nationals: Joey Meneses. In Mexico's 11-5 victory over the USA on March 12 (Pool C) he hit two home runs and batted in five runs! While he was being interviewed after that game, one of his team mates put a huge Mexican sombrero on his head. smile In the WBC overall, Meneses went 10 for 27 at the plate, a batting average of .370!

Play ball: Spring training is almost over!

Where does the time go? Believe it or not, only six days remain until Opening Day: Friday, March 30. The pitchers and catchers reported to spring training camps in mid-February, followed by the rest of the players a few days later. The first practice games of the year were played on Saturday, February 25. The Washington Nationals got off to a good start one month ago by winning their first two spring training games of the year.

The results of spring training games mean next to nothing, but it is nevertheless worth noting that (excluding the March 15 rained-out game) the Washington Nationals won four games in a row last week! They continued to play well this week, and they briefly had a very respectable 12 - 9 win-loss record. But on Thursday against the Houston Astros, Kyle Finnegan gave up four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, blowing the lead and losing the game. In today's game the Nats were within one run of the Cardinals going into the top of the ninth inning, and then Willy Peralta gave up five runs, all but guaranteeing defeat. And so, heading into the last weekend of spring training, the Nats are barely clinging to a winning record, 12 - 11. The Cardinals have the best record (15 - 6) in the Grapefruit League, which is no surprise given their perennial strong roster, while the other Missouri team -- the K.C. Royals -- are atop the Cactus League with an 18 - 11 record.

At 1:00 next Friday, the Nationals will take the field at Nationals Park, hosting the Atlanta Braves to begin the 2023 regular season. The Braves' ace Max Fried will face the Nats' default top starting pitcher, Patrick Corbin. It seems like a very uneven matchup. At the same time, the Yankees will host the San Francisco Giants in New York, and as the day progresses, 13 other MLB games will be played, including two other interleague games. The increase in the number of interleague games in this year's schedule irks me; it seems that the Comissioner Manfred and other MLB honchos don't seem to care much about the historical identity of the American and National Leagues.

Nats' roster takes shape

The Nationals made only two or three significant roster moves during the off-season: In December former Mets pitcher Trevor Williams signed a two-year contract worth $13 million, and former Detroit Tiger third baseman Jeimer Candelario signed a one-year contract worth $5 million. (He was born in New York City but decided to play for the Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic.) In both cases they had played for several years with those respective teams, and then declared free agency after the 2022 season was over. Another former Met free agent, Dominic Smith, will be the usual first baseman, playing on a one-year, $1 million contract. Those represent modest improvements, nothing more. Earlier this month the Nats' first-string catcher Keibert Ruiz signed an eight-year contract worth $50 million. That was a good indication that at least the Nats front office is planning for the long term.

As noted nearly two months ago, the Nats are entering this year with the lowest expectations since 2008 or 2009. Other than Joey Meneses, there are no real sluggers on the team, so it is unlikely that they will be high scorers this year. The pitching staff is a "work in progress," with a few decent starters and a bullpen that would at least appear to be more dependable than in most recent years.

Among the returning position players, center fielder Victor Robles remains an enigma. His motivation is often questioned, and the fact that the arbitration settlement did not work out in his favor adds to the doubts. All other arbitration-eligible Nats players reached agreements with the front office. Lane Thomas and either Alex Call, Corey Dickerson, or Joey Meneses will fill the remaining outfield spots. Former Padre C.J. Abrams (shortstop) and Luis Garcia (second base) both show great future potential at the plate, but much improvement on defense is essential for the team to do well this year.

One of the expected members of the Nats' 2023 pitching rotation, Cade Cavalli, had to leave the game after tweaking his elbow last week. After being examined, he underwent Tommy John surgery, which means he will miss all of the 2023 season. For the moment it appears that Chad Kuhl will replace him on the mound. Patrick Corbin had a couple bad days in spring training, but seems to have improved recently. That's good news after his awful performance in 2022. Josiah Gray and Trevor Williams are expected to do well on the mound this year, whereas Mackenzie Gore (obtained from the Padres in the trade for Juan Soto and Josh Bell last August) remains a question mark. Frankly, I have no idea who the closing pitcher will be. As for the once-great Stephen Strasburg, he could barely make it through one day of spring training before the pain in his side came back, and it appears that his career is very likely over. In his case, thoracic outlet surgery either did very little good, or it may have made things worse. Here is the tentative pitching rotation:

* = new player this year

Silver Slugger nostalgia

One measure of how far the Nationals have fallen over the past two years is in the number of their former players who won the Silver Slugger award last year: Trea Turner (SS, LAD), Kyle Schwarber (OF, PHI), Juan Soto (OF, SD), and Josh Bell (DH, SD). That's four out of the ten positions, including desginated hitter and utility player. frown

Looking back (in horror) at 2022

The Nationals finished the 2022 season with their worst-ever win-loss percentage, a measley .340. (Their second-worst year was 2009, during which they were below .300 before for several weeks improving in late July and finishing with a .364 win-loss percentage.) In looking at the year as a whole, it is striking how they consistently hovered around the .350 mark for much of the season. Faint hopes arose in late May, and then as the likelihood of Juan Soto being traded away become stronger in July, the grim reality was reflected in a dismal string of losses. The graph below can be compared to earlier years on the updated Washington Nationals page, which also includes roster and contract information.

Nats winning pct 2022

January 31, 2023 [LINK / comment]

Catching up: Astros win the World Series

Well, it's been quite a while since I have tended to this web site (three months, in fact), so as as the first month of this new year of 2023 comes to a close, let's take a quick look back at the thrilling conclusion of the 2022 baseball season. On the National League side, upsets by spunky wild card teams (the Padres and Phillies) blocked the Braves and the Dodgers from advancing to the NLCS as had been widely expected. The fact that neither of those teams even made it to the NLCS was quite stunning. In my mind, this really calls into question the new MLB postseason format, but it's doubt that they will ever go back to just one or two wild card teams per league. In the American League, in contrast, the higher-seeded teams with a first-round bye advanced to the ALCS: the Yankees and Astros. After sweeping the Yankees, the Astros were clearly on a roll.

Game 1 of the World Series was played in Houston, and those upstart Phillies stunned the home crowd with a 6-5 extra-inning victory. That reminded me of the 2019 World Series Game 1, when a National League wild card team (the Nationals) did the same thing. But any hopes that history might repeat itself were dashed in Game 2, as the Astros beat the visitors 5-2. Game 3 took place at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, and star slugger Bryce Harper (a former Washington National, some may recall) got things started with a two-run homer in the first inning. An inning later, Eric Bohm and Brandon Marsh hit solo homers to give the Phillies a 4-0 lead. In the fifth inning, Kyle Schwarber (another former National) and Rhys Hoskins hit two more homers, and the Phillies ended up winning easily, 7-0. This raised hopes that the Phillies might be able to win Games 4 and 5 at celebrate a world championship at home, but such was not to be. Quite the contrary, Game 4 was a drastic reversal of momentum, as the Phillies failed to get even a single hit as the Astros won it, 5-0. Cristian Javier was relieved after the sixth inning, having thrown 97 pitches, and three other Astros pitchers combined for a no-hitter -- only second such feat in World Series history! (The other time was Don Larsen's perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956.) That evened the series, making Game 5 truly pivotal. Justin Verlander went five innings and got his second World Series win of his career as the Astros held on to win it, 3-2. So the Astros returned home to Houston with a 3-2 series lead, hoping to avoid a repeat of what the Nationals did to them in 2019. Neither team scored until Kyle Schwarber hit a solo homer in the top of the sixth inning. After Zach Wheeler hit a batter and then gave up a single in the bottom of that inning, he was replaced by Jose Alvarado, Yordan Alvarez crushed a home run on top of the batters-eye balcony in center field. With a 3-1 lead the Astros never looked back, and ended up winning the final game, 4-1. The Phillies put up a good fight, but it just wasn't their year.

By winning the last three games to claim their second World Series championship in the last six years, the Astros managed to fulfill their high expectations. I hesitate to use this term, but any time one team wins multiple World Series plus multiple league championships within the span of a decade, one might speak of a dynasty -- if it weren't for the questionable tactics that may have tipped the balance in their favor in those earlier years, that is.

The annual baseball chronology page has been udpated accordingly. (It also shows the planned site of the All Star Game for the next two years -- T-Mobile Park (Seattle Mariners) and Globe Life Field (Texas Rangers) -- but as the Atlanta Braves found out in 2021, sometimes those plans don't end up the way they were expected to.

Catching up: 2022 awards

Just for the record, here is a quick run-down of the top baseball awards for 2022.

Most Valuable Player:
Aaron Judge (AL, NYY): 62 home runs!
Paul Goldschmidt (NL, STL): 115 RBIs

Cy Young Award:
Justin Verlander (AL, HOU): 1.75 ERA
Sandy Alcantara (NL, MIA): 2.28 ERA

Rookie of the Year:
Julio Rodriguez (AL, SEA): 28 HRs
Michael Harris (NL, ATL): .297 BA

Manager of the Year:
Terry Francona (AL, CLE): 92-70 W-L record (1st place AL-C)
Buck Showalter (NL, NYM): 101-61 W-L record (2nd place NL-E)

Sports stadiums in North Carolina

About four months ago (late September) I was in the middle of a weekend trip to North Carolina, during the course of which I managed to squeeze in a little baseball (and football) sightseeing. While visiting the city of Raleigh, where North Carolina State University is located, so I stopped to take a peek at Carter-Finley Stadium. I casually walked into the athletic training facility like I owned the place and snapped some quick photos before anyone noticed. smile Little did I realize that, at about that time, the NCSU Wolfpack was briefly ranked #10 in the nation! They fell short in a big showdown with Clemson on October 1, however, and likewise lost to the University of Maryland in the Duke's Mayo Bowl last month.

Carter-Finley Stadium panorama

A panoramic view of Carter-Finley Stadium, as seen from the exercise / training facility behind the southeast end zone. (Some window glare is visible on the lower left and lower right.)

New stadium page:
Durham Bulls Athletic Park!

Not far from Raleigh is the city of Durham, home of the Durham Bulls, made famous (or even more famous than before) by the movie Bull Durham, starring Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins. It's one of my favorite baseball movies, and I was eager to see where it was filmed. So we drove into Durham, and I soon located Durham Bulls Athletic Park, built into a slope on the south side of downtown. There was a game that day, and I really would have enjoyed seeing it, but I could not muster a "majority vote," and thus consoled myself with an external inspection of the facilities. I tried wangling my way inside without a ticket, without luck, but eventually found a spot in the left field corner that is open to everyone until shortly before the game begins, apparently. I got some very good interior photos from that vantage point. As I was leaving, I persuaded the friendly guys at the center field gate to let me inside for just a minute to take the photo you see below. It was a beautiful day, just perfect for a ballgame.

Durham Bulls Athletic Park

And so, as you might imagine, I got busy after returning home on making diagrams for Durham Bulls Athletic Park. As you can see in the thumbnail image, I paid special attention to the buildings that surround the stadium, since it was evidently constructed as part of an integrated development project. Not far away are various iconic reminders of Durham's economic roots in the tobacco industry: Lucky Strike cigarettes, etc.

Durham Bulls Athletic Park from CF

Durham Bulls Athletic Park from center field. The guys at the ticket gate were kind enough to let me walk up to the railing behind the grass slope that serves as the batter's eye backdrop.

Not until I got home did I realize that the movie Bull Durham was actually filmed at a different location: the Durham Athletic Park, located about a mile north of downtown. D'oh!!! It is still standing, perhaps serving as a historical site, so I will have to go back to Durham again for a visit. While watching that movie recently, I noticed a scene featuring the rather ornate exterior of World War Memorial Stadium, located in Greensboro, North Carolina. Inside it is rather odd, with an oval-shaped grandstand somewhat reminiscent of the Polo Grounds.

Dismantling of RFK Stadium begins

Two miles east of the U.S. Capitol, meanwhile, a certain grand old stadium is gradually being dismantled in preparation for a complete demolition later this year. If I understand correctly, measures to prevent asbestos contamination make it impossible for the public to watch the work that is taking place inside RFK Stadium. Seats from the lower deck went on sale in December, and upper deck seats are now becoming available. You can check the progress of the demolition at eventsdc.com Stay tuned... frown

Etc. etc. etc.

(Cue Yul Brynner.) Among the many, many baseball-related news items that I need to analyze and digest are significant changes to Progressive Field, Rogers Centre, Comerica Park, and perhaps others. I owe Mike Zurawski, Angel Amezquita, Terry Wallace, Bruce Orser, and others hearty thanks and humble apologies for their continued assistance in keeping up with things. And what about the long-rumored sale of the Washington Nationals? The Lerners are apparently not satisfied with the bids they have received, which is a shame. Among my other overdue chores is wrapping up a review of the Nationals' 2022 season, including a daily graph of their win-loss record.

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: