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Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Darren Rovell is not impressed with last week's strories about attendance being down 7%:
Last week, when the Associated Press wrote that Major League Baseball's average attendance for the first two weeks was off 6.9 percent from last year, many news outlets just reported the number. Well, I just did the math and it's not even half as bad.
He explains, of course, and it's pretty darn straightforward. Some charts too.
(at this point is there any doubt that this link came courtesy of Pete Toms?)
From yesterday's New York Times, a walk around Busch III, which greatly impressed George Vecsey. This had me nodding in approval:
The playing field has avoided the intentionally quirky corners and gimmicks of many newer ballparks.
A quirky corner like the Mets have in right makes the same amount of sense in that park's location that a hitching post makes in front of my downtown office building.
One other fun thing mentioned that, if I ever knew it, I had forgotten, and that's that there exists a Mark McGwire statue to match the other immortal Cardinals' statues, except it sits under wraps in an attic somewhere. The rationale seems rather silly, though: the statues are only for Cardinals who have been elected to the Hall of Fame or have had their numbers retired by the club. The club only retires the numbers of Hall of Famers, Ken Boyer excepted. Since McGwire isn't going to be elected to the Hall of Fame anytime soon, the statue remains in limbo.
I've said it before, but the Hall of Fame wields way too much friggin' influence. Or, rather, those around baseball allow it to. The Cardinals have the power to honor anyone they want. If Giants' fans gave Barry Bonds a standing ovation last night, you can bet your bippy that Cardinals fans would be happy to have Mark McGwire honored as well. Who cares if a handful of sanctimonious writers have declared a vendetta against him? He brought an immense amount of joy to the people of St. Louis and an immense amount of money to the owners of the Cards. He should have his day in Busch Stadium and his statue should take its place alongside the other Cardinals' immortals.
In December, the Red Sox agreed to a 30-year deal with Lee County to keep their spring training facility in Fort Myers. As part of the deal, the county agreed to build a new spring training complex. Now, it seems, that the FBI is interested in, well, something relating to that process:
Florida's Lee County turned over e-mails that included terms related to the building of a new spring training facility for the Red Sox to the FBI at the agency's request. The team said it has no connection to the inquiry, despite the apparent inclusion of a member of its minor league operations staff among the search terms specified by the FBI.
Who knows? This is the kind of environment in which kickbacks are born -- and the FBI absolutely loves to investigate local government officials in connection with this kind of thing -- but there really aren't enough details here to allow us to do much more than gawk and say "hmm, interesting." For their part, Ballpark Digest finds Lee County, Florida's land bids to be, well, curious.
(thanks to Pete Toms for the link)
Eric Wedge is looking for leadership among his players:
Manager Eric Wedge is looking for leaders. He says they have to come from the Indians' position players and they better not take too long to get here . . .
I love stuff like this. What, exactly, does he want? Why can't either the manager or the writer provide an example of what this clubhouse leader is supposed to be doing? The only time you ever hear anything concrete about a clubhouse leader is either when (a) guys are fighting about which music is played on the clubhouse boom box; or (b) when a guy is being described as the leader following some excellent play on his part, in which case he is said to be "leading by example." Name me one clubhouse leader whose primary attribute isn't that he's playing well. More generally, show me one team who has a solid, respected and previously-identified clubhouse leader that is playing awful baseball.
It all smells like retrospective hogwash to me.
There are some people who claim that NBC didn't promote Star Trek enough back during its original run, but that's simply not true. There were loads of promotional materials, media kits, etc. released prior to its fall 1966 launch, and some of that stuff is an awful lot of fun to look at these days. One of the coolest was an informational booklet NBC released covering all of its new shows for the upcoming season entitled “Advance Information on 1966-1967 Programming." Some excerpts of it can be found here. The best part is the description of a character known as "Yeoman Smith," who would only appear in the second pilot:
YEOMAN SMITH, who has drawn the important assignment of secretary to the Captain on her first mission in deep space, is easily the most popular member of Kirk’s staff. A capable secretary and efficient dispense of instant coffee, she also provides a welcome change of scenery for eyes that have spent long hours scanning the vast reaches of space.”
Just keep that in mind the next time someone is going on about how progressive a show "Star Trek" was. Anyway:
I promise: that's the last time I mention Star Trek in this space today. Unless there's a really good reason to, anyway.
I'm a pretty major Bob Dylan fan, so putting him in a ballpark gets me 50% of the way towards my personal Nirvana (the remaining 50% would be covered by including corned beef sandwiches and a complicated brunette with a dark rhythm in her soul, though not necessarily in that order). For now we have the first half:
Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp will share the bill during a U.S. summer tour of minor league baseball parks, beginning July 2 at the GCS Ballpark in Sauget, Ill., and wrapping Aug. 15 at the Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton, Calif.
I have grown to appreciate Willie Nelson in recent years, so this sounds doubly excellent. Mellencamp? Eh. No ill will or anything, and a mix CD containing his hits is a surprisingly satisfying listen, but I'm pretty sure I could die content without having seen him live. Maybe he'll get sick and they can swap in Tom Petty or someone.
The only hiccup: they're not playing Columbus, despite the fact that we have a shiny new AAA park. Maybe because of it. I don't know. Anyway, I suppose it's worth driving to Dayton.
We've read about Yankee Stadium's problems for two weeks now. Too many home runs. Not enough fans in the seats. Too expensive. Frankly, it's played out. But now comes news of a truly serious problem*:
THE new Yankee Stadium has a problem. No, it’s not all those home runs, it’s the beer.
The article veers off of baseball here and delves into an extended discussion of American craft pilsners, so if that's your thing, then this is really your thing. For my part, if, as the article notes, they're really charging $9 for a 16 ounce can of Pabst at Yankee Stadium, I can't imagine how much, say, a Tröegs Sunshine Pils would run you if they thought to carry it.
I'll also note that given all of the charges that Yankee Stadium caters only to the elites, maybe not carrying American beers with semi-ironic umlauts in their name is a good thing. I mean really, wouldn't you guzzle Miller High Life all afternoon if it meant a reasonably priced seat in that park? I sure would.
*note: due to a glitch in the New York Times' matrix, I may have seen this article before its time. It was dated April 29th when I saw it this morning, and the main page of it had trouble loading. As of 6:30 AM you could still read the whole thing if you clicked "print this entry," however. If that doesn't work I'm guessing it will be up tomorrow.
"Great Moments in a Bad Economy," or "How The Atlanta Braves are like Denny's":
Celebrate your birthday right with the greatest birthday gift of all: free admission for one (1) game during the 2009 season to see the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field! It's our present to you, or your children. Follow these simple steps:
I was prepared to be really mad about this, as my birthday falls on the day of the All-Star game this year, but according to the fine print, anyone born on any date in July can pick any July game. October-March birthdays are accommodated as well.
Not a bad promotion, really, but if the Braves keep playing two-steps-forward, three-steps-back baseball, I think I'd rather go with the Grand Slam breakfast instead. Oh, and if there are any Chi-Chi's left I'll get some free nachos too.
(thanks to Ben Stock for the heads up)
Mets 7, Marlins 1: Gary Sheffield played left field and immediately dropped a fly ball, so apparently it's the position, not the player. Other than that, things were just fine for New York, as John Maine pitched well for once. And, as you know, you can't stop Omir Santos, you can only hope to contain him. Not so good for the fish: Hanley Ramirez got plunked in the hand and had to leave. X-Rays were negative, which paradoxically, means good news.
Astros 4, Reds 1: Great starts from both Oswalt (7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER) and Cueto (7 IP, 7 H, 1 ER), though neither figured in the decision. Francisco Cordero had only given up one earned run in his first seven innings, but got beat up in the ninth. Chris Dickerson had 12 strikeouts in his last 19 at-bats entering this game and finally hit something. Unfortunately it was Miguel Tejada's head with his own, and he had to leave the game with a concussion.
Red Sox 3, Indians 1: Must have been some bad starting pitcher juju floating around Ohio last night, because this is the second game here in which the starters were spectacular yet had nothing to show for it. Wakefield (7 IP, 1 H, 0 ER) trumps Lee (8 IP, 5 H, 0 ER) in the bad luck department, however, because as a knuckleballer he is entitled to better treatment. Great Moments in Passive-Aggressive Game Stories: The AP story had this note at the end: "OF Matt LaPorta, acquired by the Indians from Milwaukee in the deal for CC Sabathia last summer, is batting .400 at Triple-A Columbus. He batted .520 and was the International League's top player last week." It said that because AP editors wouldn't allow the beat reporter to write "man, the Indians leftfielders suck this year, don't they?"
Tigers 4, Yankees 2: The game story said "Sabathia (1-2) gave up four runs on six hits in another disappointing performance for the pitcher the Yankees gave a $161 million, seven-year contract last winter." Reader RobRob opines: "Let's see: Complete game, check. Six hits allowed, check. No walks, check. Seven strikeouts, check. 99 pitches, check. Four runs? Not terrible, considering two were on a fly ball that could have been an out. Disappointing? Only in New York." My sentiments exactly. It was a good start. He lost. It happens. No need to call it disappointing and to point out the size of the contract.
Phillies 13, Nationals 11: Nick Johnson and Adam Dunn homered in the top of the eighth to put Washington up 11-7, but then Raul Ibanez hit a grand slam in the bottom of the eighth, after a couple of other runs, to fling the Phillies to the 13-11 victory. The names of the relief pitchers involved were changed to protect the innocent.
Cardinals 3, Braves 2: I watched this one -- well, kinda; I was flipping back and forth between it and "Star Trek: TNG" episodes -- but from what I saw, I was amazed that the Cardinals left more guys on base than did the Braves, who were afflicted with some sort of tachyon-based anti-clutch force field. Oh, and while I'm geeking out, I'm going to go on record and note that the Star Trek people made a big mistake in not killing off Worf and making Suzie Plakson's K'Ehleyr the regular token Klingon circa season 2. Small sample size, sure, but definitely the potential for a much better character.
Royals 7, Blue Jays 1: I guess the only remaining question is whether Brian Bannister (7 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 2K, 6 BB) will get a second round of national media love before his inevitable shellackings commence.
Rays 7, Twins 1: Well, at least Scott Baker didn't give up any home runs.
Rangers 6, Orioles 4: I hate these wraparound series. They make me feel like the week hasn't really started. Like every day is Sunday. Come, Armageddon! Come! Um, sorry about that. Habit. Anyway, announced attendance was 10,621, which is the second-smallest crowd in Camden Yards history. They're going to break 10,000 pretty soon, which should be fun.
Brewers 10, Pirates 5: A textbook case of mutual bullpen betrayal, as the Brewers blew a two-run lead in the top of the eighth, then scored five in the bottom half to beat the Pirates. This was Pittsburgh's 16th straight defeat at Miller Park. Trevor Hoffman makes his Milwaukee debut, but it wasn't a save situation. Do they still play "Hells Bells"? Does a closer with his own music bring it with him when he changes teams? I'm guessing Hoffman did, but I'm not sure.
Rockies 12, Padres 7: San Diego, as I predicted, is beginning to find their true level after a quick start, and that level isn't all that high.
Giants 5, Dodgers 4: What began as a excellent start by Zito -- shutout through six -- kind of fell apart in the seventh as the Dodgers scored four times to take the lead, but the Giants rallied in the eighth. Brian Wilson, apparently much better rested now that he's home from the road trip, nailed it down in the ninth. Pfun Pfact: History's greatest monster, Barry Bonds, was in the house, sitting between Giants CEO William Neukom and president Larry Baer in the front row next to the Giants’ dugout. Later he made a guest spot on the Giants broadcast, breaking down a Manny Ramirez at bat against Zito. There were no reported injuries, no one fainted or even swooned, and no children were corrupted in the process.
Diamondbacks 7, Cubs 2: Danny Haren gave up a leadoff homer to Soriano and then settled down to retire 22 of the next 23 he faced. His line: CG, 3 H, 2 ER, 10K, 0 BB.
Mariners at White Sox: Postponed: According to the AP story, the game will be made up today as part of a doubleheader beginning at 4:05 p.m. Does that mean it's a true, old-fashioned two-for-one doubleheader, or will they kick everyone from the first game out at 7PM or whenever it ends so that they can get a second paying crowd out of the deal? I suppose it would have to be the latter due to the logistics of it all -- two people could have tickets to the same seat -- but I really have taken a shine to the old style doubleheaders ever since my mom told me that she went to this one -- and sat through both games less than two weeks before giving birth to me. Kinda makes me feel like I have doubleheaders in my DNA, ya know?