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Monday, September 28, 2009
The USA Today has a story about just how gosh darn nice the new ballpark in Minnesota is shaping up to be. And I'm sure it will be great. But you can never tell how things are truly going to play. With that in mind, I went searching for an article -- any article -- from the last time the Twins opened a new ballpark. I don't have a link because this ain't on the common interwebs, but here are some choice quotes from an April 26, 1982 Toronto Globe and Mail article about the debut of the Metrodome:
For the 4,000 fans sitting in the right-field bleachers of Minnesota's new domed stadium, baseball is an eight-man game. That's because the seats jut out in such a way the right fielder disappears if he is anywhere near the fence. But that's one of the few bad things in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis, named for the former U.S. vice-president and senator from Minnesota. The early days of the season provided a shakedown for the $52-million structure and if anything didn't work, it was soon corrected.
The USA Today article talks about all of the glitches and inefficiencies of the old place. I wonder when, exactly, they stopped correcting them?
The stadium has the world's largest retractable seating system. When folded back, the seats form a 47-foot wall in right and centre field, protected by a seven-foot fence for baseball. When the football Vikings move in, the system comes out from the wall, providing 7,600 choice sideline seats in addition to the 54,711 baseball seats that are available.
The whole bit about the seating and convertability was played up as a positive in the article. No mention of the baggy. Industrial design has improved dramatically since 1982, but every time a new park opens, I wonder if there will be some unexpected delight. I think they're going to have a big fire pit on an outfield part deck at the new place. Maybe Joe Mauer will launch one into the flames and get a snappy new nickname or something. Like "third degree burn" or "The arsonist."
The Twins drew 52,279 for their home opener with Seattle Mariners, the largest crowd to see a sports event in Minnesota. The team hopes to pass the record season total of 1,483,547 set in 1979. But the second day the Twins were down to 5,213. "The people came here for the opening of the baseball season just to check on their football seats," suggested one critic.
For the record, the Twins drew 921,186 in 1982. Of course, losing 102 games will do that to you. 858,000 in 1983. After that they were never under a million again. Since 1983, they've finished above that record attendance 18 of 26 seasons.
The temperature outside on opening day was - 7 Celsius, while inside it was a balmy 21. "Games are being cancelled all over the country," said executive vice-president Clark Griffith, pointing to the scoreboard where all out of town games were marked 'ppd'. "We could have never opened here if we didn't have the dome. It would have been too cold."
Contrast this with Joe Nathan's quote in the USA Today story: "Although the weather will be unpredictable, the Twins can't wait to move. 'The weather is no big deal,' Twins closer Joe Nathan says. 'It doesn't get any colder here than it does in Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago or New York in April.'"
The stadium also houses 115 private, glass-enclosed boxes that are operated by the Vikings. They seat up to 12 people each. The boxes include heating, air conditioning, an ice maker, refrigerator, wet bar, microwave oven and closed-circuit television. All you need is $30,000 a year.
Renting a 12-person suite in Target Field for 81 games will cost roughly $2,000-$4,000 a game, depending on whether it's a premium opponent or not. More if you actually want food. I'm guessing there's a discount for getting one for the whole season, but I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that it will cost more than $30K.
But while wet-bar facilities are available, even the $30,000-a-year patrons are not allowed to bring their own liquor into the building. They can buy liquor from the stadium authority at somewhat inflated prices. "They're asking $18 a bottle for most of their liquor," Griffith said. "And if you want a good bottle of Scotch, it will cost $30." But will people pay that kind of money? "Of course not," Griffith said. "They'll sneak their own bottles in." Griffith isn't much of a fan of the reserved boxes. "Who needs the glass in an indoor stadium?" he asked. "It's like watching a game on television."
I like the cut of young Griffith's jib, but I can see why he had some financial troubles before selling the team. Dude: you're supposed to charge for everything and make it sound so exclusive that everyone will want to give you their money. I'll cut Griffith some slack here, though. The Reagan years really weren't humming yet when he gave these quotes and people weren't yet hip to the glories of conspicuous consumption.
But the $30,000 crowd has another perk. Patrons in the private boxes will be allowed to smoke.
Funny how none of today's gleaming new ballparks offer such a "perk." I thought they had everything.
Concessions are expensive. Draught beer costs up to $2.75; soft drinks go up to $1.25; popcorn to $1.75; hot dogs to $1.60. Tickets are expensive, too. Bleacher seats sell for $4, double the price in Toronto, and all other seats are $8.
And I'm sure there were lots of people complaining about it then too. If I had more time to dig around on LEXIS today I'm sure I could find the 1982 press release from whatever consumer group it is who puts out that "study" every year complaining that "a family of four can't buy tickets, hot dogs, popcorn, sodas, beers, big foam fingers, jerseys, pennants, commemorative plates, and bullpen cars for less than $17."
When the Jays played two exhibition games there before the start of the season, John Mayberry reached the upper deck with fly balls three times during one batting practice shift. "It feels good," he said. "A pitcher could have a heart attack here," Seattle veteran Gaylord Perry said, and others agree . . . Minnesota pitching coach Johnny Podres: "This is like pitching in a shooting gallery. There's going to be some four-hour games here.
It was the homer dome, but really, it's played a lot straighter than expected for most of its history. Indeed, in the past couple of years it has looked like a pitchers' park in a lot of ways.
Oh well, just having fun here. Keep this page bookmarked, as we'll revisit this in 2036.
Time Magazine named The Huffington Post one of the best blogs of 2009 and it was recently ranked "the most powerful blog in the world."
I'm assuming it's not for its sports coverage.
If you can get past the media/ad-speak, you'll hear a tale of big market success making for some very happy television networks:
Boasting a murderers’ row of big-market clubs--along with the Yankees and a pair of Los Angeles-area contenders, no less than six of the playoff-bound MLB franchises represent top 10 DMAs--the promise of a deep run to the Fall Classic has Turner Sports practicing its home run trot. (Waiting on deck with its fingers crossed for a great World Series matchup
Wait, I thought "Hass avocados" were simply a variety of avocados, not a brand. Do Granny Smith apples buy ad time? How about Cavendish bananas?
I guess I'm not the only baseball writer who struggles to fit a day job in with the writing:
Buster Olney (1:31 PM)
If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know who Jack Marshall is. Lawyer, Red Sox fan, professional ethicist anti-steroid crusader and -- and I mean this in the nicest way possible, Jack -- outrageous pain in the neck. Pain in the neck because he routinely disturbs perfectly comfortable conventional wisdom in which folks like me tend to swaddle ourselves. Things like "unless he's killed a guy, a player's character shouldn't matter when it comes to the Hall of Fame."
The problem for my conventional wisdom Snuggie and me, however, is that Jack is right about the character thing. At least about how it does, according to Hall of Fame voting rules, matter. We may disagree about how much it matters and in what way, but the words "integrity, sportsmanship, and character" are right there on the ballot and it's therefore folly to ignore them.
To that end, Jack has started a project. Beginning with this article and continuing on into the upcoming THT Annual, he is exploring how to measure a player's character, its interplay with baseball greatness, and its relevance to admission to the Hall of Fame. It's a neat idea, and even neater is that Jack -- who has been accused of preaching in ShysterBall comment threads from time to time -- is asking for everyone's input. I think it's exactly the right way to go about it, and I think it's a worthy and fertile subject for exploration and discussion.
As you might expect, I disagree with some of Jack's arguments and assumptions. For example, Jack attempts to construct a temporal hierarchy regarding a player's indiscretions which (very roughly) holds that stuff a player does during his career and especially during the season is worse for his character case than things that come in the offseason, before he's a pro, or after he retires. I understand how that works practically speaking, but doesn't such a hierarchy actually do less to measure a guy's actual character than it does to measure the amount of bad publicity an active player gets as opposed to a retired one? I don't think Jack is truly interested in analyzing bad press as opposed to bad ethics, so it may be wise to be careful in distinguishing between what indiscretions count and for how much with respect to a player's legacy.
But that's just a nit at the moment. I want to think about all of this more, and I think you should too. Feel free to comment here if you'd like, but Jack's article has comments enabled, so that will be the best place to focus discussion. In the meantime, I plan to think more, and I definitely plan to read Jack's next stab at this in the THT Annual.
I made it all the way up to the 16th floor this morning without the elevator stopping at any lower floors. When I got to my office: champagne celebration. Hey, if baseball teams can do it for the littlest things, I can too . . .
Hey, they canceled the Monday meeting! Break out the bubbly!
Yankees 4, Red Sox 2: The Bombers clinch, win 100, guarantee home field, etc. Inevitable, but the exuberance looked a little less rote yesterday than I seem to remember it in years past. I think those who have been there a while have a new appreciation for making the post season after what happened last year. The guys like Sabathia and Teixeira probably feel like a lot of weight has been taken off their shoulders. At least for a week or so. This is strange to me: "The Yankees have the choice of whether they want to play in the division series that has a day off between Games 1 & 2." Time out. Why do they get to choose? I mean, why don't I get to choose, why doesn't he get to choose? Better question: why isn't that sort of thing just set up ahead of time? I actually thought it was.
Rockies 4, Cardinals 3: If the Braves miss the playoffs by one game I'm going to blame Matt Holliday's hangover. Oh, I'm sorry, his "flulike symptoms" which just happened to show up the morning after the Cardinals doused themselves in booze for clinching the division. Their second most important hitter misses the day and Ryan Ludwick and Mark DeRosa combine to go 0-6 with five strikeouts. You telling me Matt Holliday couldn't have managed one extra flare beyond what Ludwick and DeRosa did? Just one? A gork, a ground ball with eyes, a dying quail . . . just one more dying quail and the Cardinals could have won this game and the Braves would be one back in the loss column. Damnation.
Braves 6, Nationals 3: I wrote my team off so many times this year -- and for good reason -- that I feel like getting all giddy now would be like taking back a cheating girlfriend or something. But there they are, looking all fine and everything. I just know that if I lower my guard they'll hurt me again, but I can't keep my eyes off of them. Dude, seriously: don't let me walk over there. I don't care how much I drink tonight, do NOT let me walk over there and talk to them. And take my cell phone too. I just don't trust myself . . . . . . . OK, give me my cell phone back. C'mon, I promise I'll be cool.
Pirates 6, Dodgers 4: Ugly ending for Los Angeles, blowing a three run lead in the ninth to some dudes who stole the Pirates' uniforms. Worth noting that L.A. was boned by Matt Holliday's hangover too, as a Rockies loss would have given them the division title. They'll get it though. More worrisome for L.A. was that Clayton Kershaw, though arguably effective, was kinda wild in his first game back since separating his shoulder. He'll get one more start before the playoffs, and I'm sure the Dodgers would like to see him a bit sharper.
Phillies 6, Brewers 5: Dave Bush put the Brewers in a 6-1 hole, the offense came back, but it wasn't enough and the Phillies magic number is down to three.
White Sox 8, Tigers 4: Detroit stumbles into the showdown with Minnesota with both Edwin Jackson and Fernando Rodney getting roughed up.
Royals 4, Twins 1: Minnesota doesn't take advantage of Detroit's stumble, but you have to figure that they had this one -- a Zack Greinke start -- penciled in as a loss anyway. Just another day at the office for Greinke (7 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 8K). Less expected was Yuniesky Betancourt's day (3-3, HR, 3 RBI).
Giants 5, Cubs 1: Matt Cain was dominant, shutting out the Cubs over eight innings. Eugenio Velez on the Giants' playoff hopes: "We have to win all of our games and they have to lose all of their games. That's how we have to look at it." Eugenio, the chances of that happening are, like, a million to one. Velez: So you're telling me there's a chance... Yeah!
Rays 7, Rangers 6: If you've got a 5-0 lead with two outs in the eighth, you had best hold on to it. More Eugeino Velez thinking: the Rangers are still technically in the wild card race, much like I'm technically qualified to be President of the United States and technically capable of settling down and having a couple of kids with Salma Hayek.
Angels 7, Athletics 4: With this win and the Rangers' loss, Anaheim merely need one of its next four games -- all of which come against Texas -- to seal the deal.
Mets 4, Marlins 0: File "Pat Misch throws a shutout" in the "stuff I didn't expect to see before the season ended" drawer. Jeff Francoeur hit a homer and made a home run saving catch in support of Misch. Francoeur: "He's going to buy me dinner and beers." Jeffy, you really think it's a good idea to keep track of when other people save your bacon? If people did that for you, you'd have spent enough on dinner and beer by this point to hold substantial stakes in Anheuser-Busch and several restaurant companies by now.
Diamondbacks 7, Padres 4: Adrian Gonzalez hits his 28th road home run this year vs. 12 at home. Man, if this guy played anywhere else but Petco Park . . .
Indians 9, Orioles 0: "It's been a rough 10 games for us," Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said after the game. The 145 before that weren't a friggin' picnic either, to be honest.
Blue Jays 5, Mariners 4: Seattle squanders 3-0 and 4-2 leads as the Blue Jays finish the season on a fairly strong note.
Astros 3, Reds 2: Wandy Rodriguez (6 IP, 9 H, 2 ER, 9K) is about the only good thing that has happened to Houston this year.
Just one note: you shouldn't be surprised that the recaps for some of these games featuring non-contenders are going to be a bit cursory this last week of the season. I mean, sure, it's possible that I'll find myself on my deathbed one day saying "boy, I wish I had spent more time thinking about late September Astros-Reds games," but I just sort of doubt it. If you're a partisan of one of these dead teams walking and you really feel like I missed something important, by all means, let us know in the comments. I'll edit the recaps to include really good stuff I learn after the fact.