Tagged: Ballparks

The Rangers Ballpark in Arlington

Congratulations to the Texas Rangers for getting the name of their ballpark back! From now on it’s going to be known as Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Down The Left-Field Line has written before about ballpark naming rights. It’s just not a good idea. A ballpark is a kind of landmark in a city. I’m sure most people would think that the Taco Bell Statue of Liberty or the Steak and Shakes Gateway Arch or the Starbucks Space Needle would be ludicrous. Naming ballparks after phone companies, banks and mortgage companies should be just as ludicrous. Not only is it ludicrous, but then the team is linked to a company that may no longer exist after a short while because of mergers, necessitating a change in the ballpark name, as in San Francisco, where the place the Giants play, which I now call "Ballpark by the Bay," has changed names three times this decade. Naming a ballpark after a company that has nothing to do with baseball can also be PR bad news for the team when the company gets into financial trouble or proves to be poor corporate citizen. This is precisely what happened in the case of Ameriquest, which has gotten involved in lawsuits and layoffs.

T.R. Sullivan’s article on the change also mentioned that in 2003 the geographically-challenged Angels name to their facility Angel Stadium after seven years as Edison International Field. Let’s hope the trend toward selling off naming rights is reversing itself.

Now, if only the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington would get decent lighting…


The Oakland Athletics of Fremont?

Could be…a few years hence. Or it could be the Fremont Athletics or the Silicon Valley Athletics. We don’t know yet. What we do know is that the A’s appear to have a deal to build a new stadium on land owned by Silicon Valley kingpin Cisco Systems in southern Fremont. More details will be forthcoming at a press conference on Tuesday, November 14.

As we see it, the A’s really wanted to move to San Jose, which is now the 10th largest city in the United States. But MLB considers San Jose to be part of the San Francisco Giants territory–the Giants currently have a Single A affiliate there–so no can do.

Fremont is in southern Alameda County, A’s territory,and closer to San Jose than Oakland is. And those who assess the long-haul value of these things know that public transit connecting Fremont to San Jose will eventually be built. In fact the feds have approved a final environmental Impact statement (FEIS) for a BART (train) extension to Warm Springs, which is between Fremont, where the BART ends now, and San Jose.

Not that the new ball park (likely to be called Cisco Field) will be anywhere near the current Fremont BART station. But then, the folks who are looking to have the A’s move there are not really thinking about fans to the north. We are too working class for them. They want the southerners, at least those who survived the dot-com crash, and have some money left over for seasons tickets after the rents and mortgages in the very pricey SIlicon Valley are paid. Folks like that probably have cars, so they don’t have to worry about whenever it is BART gets around to building a connection between Fremont and San Jose.

Assuming, of course, that all the people I have been interviewing since the end of 2001 about something called Peak Oil are wrong and gas prices and electricity costs for the lights for all those night games don’t turn out to be major league nightmares.

You know what they say it means to assume.

More Later.


What is the Sound of Gloved Hands Clapping?

Q: New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers. What do these four most recent AL representatives in the World Series have in common?

A: They are all northern teams that play in open-air stadiums.

Addendum: The New York Mets, who almost made it to the 2006 World Series, are also a northern team that plays in an open-air stadium.

News item from a recent MLB.com article by Barry M. Bloom:

Next year the World Series shifts back to a Tuesday start for the first time in 23 years, which means it won’t begin until Oct. 23 and could extend as late as Oct. 31.

Are you thinking what we’re thinking? If there is a rain out (or a snow out) in a long World Series, a meaningful baseball game, perhaps the most meaningful baseball game of the year, could be played in NOVEMBER!

Up Next: John Madden and his amazing 6-legged turkey!

First March Madness ends in April, then they move the Super Bowl to February, now we may see baseball in November…and it won’t be the Arizona Fall League.


Yes, I’m Going…

Today and tomorrow…to "Whatever They’re Calling It This Year" Park in SF.

I am not crazy about the fact that I had to put the price of the tix on plastic. Or that I had to arrange for another worker to sub for me tomorrow night, the same week that the Saturday news is going to be pre-empted, costing me bucks I can ill afford.

But it’s Eric Byrnes. And when I was there in April he didn’t play. And he needs one more homer to make 20 (tying his personal best in MLB), and one more stolen base–please don’t get picked off again–to make 18, which would be a new personal best in that category. One more BB surpasses his total for all of A,A’05 and one more triple does the same in that category.

Of course any and all hits, RBIs and Rs he can get, and any great plays in the field,  will be most greatly appreciated, especially by yours truly, who will be sitting in the bleachers for the first time since 1981 at the Oakland Coliseum, back when they actually called it that.

More Later.

Kéllia "Hoping for True Elation Live" Ramares

On What’s Wrong with Naming Rights

Warning: Contains political content. Those of you who don’t want to read anything political at MLBlogs need to skip this article.

I saw the San Francisco Giants play at Candlestick Park twice. Now it’s just the 49’ers playing football there, sort of. And, for now, the stadium’s called Monster Park. (The winds are certainly monstrous).

Perhaps you have read other entries I have made on this blog about seeing the Oakland A’s at the Coliseum. It’s full official title used to be the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum or something like that, which might have even been longer than I can remember. The fans, the announcers and the nearby train station referred to it as the Oakland Coliseum, which was good because that let you know where it was in a manner that was easier to say than the whole kit-n-kaboodle designation of city and county. But in recent years they started calling it Network Associates Coliseum and, most recently, McAfee Coliseum.

After many years of political wrangling, the San Francisco Giants finally got to build their downtown stadium. It opened in 2000 as Pac Bell Park. But I live across the Bay in Oakland, and grew up a Mets fan, so I just never got around to seeing the Giants at Pac Bell Park. The corporation Pac Bell was swallowed up by SBC; the Pac Bell name disappeared from the new merged corporation’s properties. So the park was renamed SBC Park.

When Eric Byrnes got exiled by Oakland to Colorado after the 2005 All-Star Game, I planned to go to SBC Park to catch the Giants-Rockies series at the beginning of August. But Byrnesie was traded to Baltimore before the Rockies got to San Francisco. So that series became much ado about nothing to me and I waited until the middle of August to see the Orioles and the A’s at the Oakland, uh, excuse me, McAfee Coliseum.

So I missed SBC Park, too. AT&T and SBC have merged. (So much for breaking up Ma Bell, eh?) The SBC name is disappearing from the new corporation’s properties. I attended AT&T Park when Byrnesie came to "The City" as an Arizona Diamondback at the end of April.

It’s the same ballpark as the one that opened in 2000. So I haven’t really missed anything through all these name changes…or have I?

Despite some changes in and around the game in my lifetime, including: permanent domes, artificial grass, retractable domes, MLB teams in Canada, divisions, playoffs, limits to the number of times the manager can go to the mound without a making a pitching change, free agency, arbitration, "The Closer", mascots at the stadium, the DH in one league, wild cards, alternate uniforms, regular season MLB in Arizona and Florida, seasons opening in Japan, the All-Star Game deciding home field advantage in the World Series, colorful, hockey goalie-style catcher’s masks, a woman PA announcer (in the many-named San Francisco venue), a woman color announcer (in the mono-named New York American League venue), ball girls, ball dudes (really old guys) and sabermetrics, we like to think of baseball as a tradition-bound game.

And stadium names are part of the tradition. They have put seats atop the Great Green Monster, but it’s still Fenway Park. The Cubs now play at night, but it’s still Wrigley Field. Can you imagine Yankee Stadium being called anything other than Yankee Stadium? "My Friend, the Yankees Fan" says a name change is coming. But the new name will arrive with the new edifice in Manhattan. Not even King George Steinbrenner will mess with the name of "The House that Ruth Built." The St. Louis Cardinals are maintaining tradition, and with a corporate name at that, by calling their new home New Busch Stadium. (Or, as some fans call it, "Busch III").

The situation in San Francisco and Oakland shows just what is wrong with "naming rights." They turn the stadiums from the home field of one or more sports teams, and a landmark of the city, into giant advertising billboards that change as their renters change. The frequent mergers we see in the telecommunications industry and in the computer industry of nearby Silicon Valley create frequent changes in corporate names, which lead to changes in stadium names. And that just seems to be a reminder of how baseball has dropped in priority at the ball parks. What matters most now are things like how many luxury boxes the place has, what else you can do at the park, e.g. swimming, barbequing, doing a walking course, or accessing your email via WiFi, and which corporation has paid big bucks to have broadcasters trip over the new stadium name several times a night this year.

What makes it worse when you have the stadium named after a non-baseball corporation is that your stadium and your team become linked with the doings of that corporation. Do you really want that? AT &T was recently named as one of the telecommunications corporations cooperating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in turning over phone records of tens of millions of Americans for what USA Today calls "a massive government database." You know tens of millions of Americans are not terrorists or people who know terrorists, so what’s this about other than the building of a surveillance state in "the land of the free"? I’m waiting for metal detectors to appear at ballparks as part of the power elite’s (Republicans AND Democrats) ongoing campaign of fear.

That just about everything today, even DNA and pollution, can be commodified and sold for profit doesn’t mean that just about everything should be. Stadium names are one of those things, like DNA and pollution, that shouldn’t be sold to the highest bidder. (If you don’t understand what I mean about selling pollution, look into the issue of pollution credits).

Ballparks should be named for the team that plays there (Yankee Stadium, Dodger Stadium), the neighborhood (Candlestick Park, Fenway Park), or other geographical area in which the stadium is located (Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum), or both (Oriole Park at Camden Yards), or an individual (Shea Stadium, Wrigley Field) or corporation (Coors Field, Busch Stadium) most essential to getting the stadium constructed. However, with the last there should also be the proviso that the stadium name will be changed to a team and/or geographical designation if the corporate name ceases to exist. None of this changing names every few years when there’s a corporate merger. No turning the ballpark into a product placement ad sold to the highest bidder.


“Whatever They’re Calling It This Year” Park (San  Francisco)

I caved, I froze, I spent money.

I know I said I was not going to go to the April 28 game between the S.F. Giants and the AZ Diamondbacks, but, at basically the last minute, I ended up going anyway. That morning, Bay Area native Eric Byrnes was once again on KNBR, the sports talk station in San Francisco where he occasionally guest-hosts in the off-season. Not knowing that this was going to happen, I slept through it. But someone pointed out to me that they would probably post the interview later in the day. Sure enough, I listened to it just after 5 p.m. and while I was sure Eric wouldn’t get the start against Jason Schmidt, I decided I ought to go. Due to changes in my work schedule, it was the only game of the series I could attend. Maybe, if Byrnes and I were lucky, he’d get in the game later.

Byrnes did not play; he was sent out to the on-deck circle as a pinch-hitter for Johnny Estrada with two outs in the ninth and the score already 10-2 Giants. So I got to see him literally, as he took a few practice swings right in front of me (albeit three decks below where I actually was). But Shawn Green made the third out, so Byrnes never entered the game. So I am going to describe to you here what and who else I saw.

This was my first visit to "Whatever They’re Calling It This Year" Park in San Francisco, which opened in 2000, some three names ago. It’s a truly beautiful place. As is typical of the current generation of new ballparks, the motif is red brick and exposed metal. The paint is dark green. Bricks are generally not considered our friends in earthquake-prone California, but this place, which I think was inspired by Camden Yards in Baltimore, gives you the impression that ballparks should only be made of bricks. (I assume they reinforced the masonry against our occasional shakes).

The one area in which I find fault with the looks of the place is the grass. There are no lawn stripes as we are now used to seeing in many other parks, so the field lacks the appearance of depth that the stripes give. Murray the Groundskeeper needs to teach the folks in San Francisco how it’s done.

The main entrance is called the Willie Mays Gate and there are lots of palm trees in front of it. Palm trees are something most people connect with Southern California, and in fact, the inner Bay Area is about as far north in the state as they can go. Winters are too cold for them further north. On Saturday, May 5, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the city has spent 1.9 million dollars on them since the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989. (They cost $10,000 apiece). I’ve got a few in my neighborhood and they line the main drag to the Oakland International Airport. They are a bit weird to see here. We have deciduous trees, the kind that change colors and drop leaves in the fall. We have redwoods and other evergreens. Palms seem out of place this far north. But in front of the Willie Mays Gate, they look just right. Now, if only they would put a statue of Willie Mays there.

Walking up to a window to buy a ticket is a bit of a chore. The windows nearest the stadium exit of the MUNI light rail sell MUNI tickets. The windows next to MUNI are for Will-Call. It takes walking to the other side of the stadium, by the Bay and the Lefty O’Doul Gate, to find the place where you can buy a gameday ticket. Along the way, I passed the large windows displaying giant photos of some of the Giants, accompanied by quotes about baseball from people other than the guys in the pictures. Go figure. "Matt Morris has nice eyes," I thought.

With the sun still up, the temperature was reasonable enough for me to dispense with my sweatshirt. This gave the usher who directed me to the next open ticket window the opportunity to read my Byrnesblog jersey. "Eric Byrnes?!" he said, with that tone of voice that implied an additional "We’ve got Bonds and Alou and you’re rooting for Eric Byrnes?" I said nothing, but thought, "Yes, Eric Byrnes!" And oh, the things I am willing to do for my favorite player…like pull out my Master Card to pay $25 for a third deck seat, the $16(!) bleachers having been sold out before I got there. (I only had a $20 on me). For the first time in my life, going to the ballpark had become an occasion of debt.

The Giants are one of those teams that charge extra for a Friday, Saturday or Sunday game. April 28 was a Friday. At that rate, going to the entire series, which I had hoped in February to be able to do, would have cost $75, not counting transportation or any food. Our "National Pastime"? Only for that part of the nation that has way more disposable income than I do.

With my home printer not working, I did appreciate the fact that the Giants sell a scorecard for a dollar apart from their $5 program. As a token of unbridled optimism, I had brought my looseleaf binder of Eric Byrnes Pitch Count Reports to the stadium. It gave me something on which to lean the thin cardboard scorecard as I filled it out.

Stadiums nowadays have numerous activities one can pursue beyond watching the game, buying food and souvenirs or going to the bathroom. At "Whatever They’re Calling It This Year" Park, one of those activities is a walking course. I accidentally found myself on part of it while walking up the stairs to the third deck. Since I didn’t know my way around the park, I didn’t see the ramps until I was more than halfway up the stairs. "I already had my workout at the gym this morning," I muttered to myself as I trudged my way up to the third deck.

On the way up, I noticed a quote painted on the side of a beige building next to the stadium proper. It was the little monologue from W.P. Kinsella’s novel "Field Of Dreams" that was made famous by James Earl Jones in the movie: the part where he says that people would indeed come to the ballpark in the cornfields because it would remind them of "what once was good and could be again." (As I left the park later that evening, my eyes fell on another quote in painted inside another auxiliary building. This second quote was by actress Tallulah Bankhead, who proclaimed that there had only been two geniuses in the world: "Willie Mays and Willie Shakespeare.")

It turned out to be Kelley Moore Cap Night, so I got an orange baseball cap with the SF insignia that I wore over the plain black baseball cap I was breaking in for potential use for the cover shots of my book. If at some point Eric Byrnes ends up with the Giants, I will be ready with the appropriate millinery. (Two hats and my sweatshirt over my three-quarter length-sleeve Byrnesblog jersey and I still froze).

My actual seat was in the next to last row of section 310, the very section I had thought I might try when I looked at the seating charts online in February. The ticket seller was almost apologetic when he told me how high up it was, but in terms of pure view, if not price, it was just fine. It was comparable to where I liked to site for $8 and later $10 at the Coliseum in Oakland: on the right side of the diamond, in line with the pitcher’s mound. My one complaint is that from this section, one cannot see the full center field scoreboards detailing results from other games. You have to look across the park to a corner of the second deck "ribbon" strip of ads, where, one by one, the scores of other games are displayed.

But otherwise, the view is excellent, not only of the field, but of the Bay. I could see most of McCovey Cove and the kayakers who were waiting for balls to be hit into the water. Once it got dark, and the temperature dipped into the hypothermia zone, only one yellow kayak, paddled by an older black man, was left in the cove. He was featured on the big screen between innings. Eventually he disappeared also. It got C-C-C-old after sunset.

And speaking of the scoreboard, the Giants are to be commended for not having too much nonsense on the board between innings, or too much junk in general. Yes, there was a "Show Us Your VISA Card" promotion. (At the Oakland Coliseum it’s "Show us your BART (Train) ticket"). But, thankfully, there were no costumed characters having races around the field and no scantily-clad cheerleaders atop the dugouts. And there wasn’t some sort of game or contest every half inning. (I’ll never forget being at the Coliseum the day the crowd voted for "catching a Northern Pike" as the sports clip they wanted to view in the middle of the second inning). There was something cute at the end of the sixth inning: They played a recording of Frank Sinatra singing "Strangers in the Night" :

Strangers in the Night,
exchanging glances
wond’ring in the night,
what were the chances
we’d be sharing love
before the night was through, etc.

The cameras then video’d heterosexual couples, some of whom knew what was going on and were already kissing. Others, who found themselves on the big screen in center field quickly got the point: you were supposed to kiss. One elderly couple was shown on the screen. They thought about it and finally kissed, and the stadium crowd of over 39,500, including me, roared its approval.

The scoreboard also featured the usual birthday, hello, and love greetings between innings. It turns out I was not far from a group of young people celebrating the "Sweet Sixteen" of one of their number. There were also two marriage proposals posted, but no word if the ladies who received them said "yes."

There was another group of people sitting directly in front of me. Twenty somethings, mostly female, with more interest in taking digital photographs of each other than watching the game. This got to be annoying when they would pose right in front of me, obscuring my view of the pitcher’s mound. At least one of the guys in my row (not part of this picture-taking gaggle), noticed that the big screen not only displayed batting averages but slugging percentages. He asked me what a slugging percentage was. WOW! Someone was actually paying some attention! I was pleased to explain it to him.

I have no report on the food. Since I was watching both my weight and my wallet, I did not buy any comestibles. What came around were cotton candy (circus food, not baseball food as far as I am concerned), ice cream, (not in this weather, even if I weren’t watching my weight), peanuts ($4.50 for a bag the size of which costs $1.49 at my local convenience store) and churros. (No way do I want to spend $3.75 for a long thin tube of fried dough. But every time they came by, I thought of the MLBlog "Buy me some churros and Cracker Jack"). A few rows down from me, a woman came back from a concession stand bearing two small, interesting-looking glasses that I thought might have been filled with either parfait or hot chocolate. I found out a week later that such glasses were characteristic of Irish Coffee.

While I saw precious little of Eric Byrnes, I saw a lot of Barry Bonds. He looks huge even from the top of the third deck. He had a good day: 2-4, including a double, 1 IBB and 2 R. But I could see that he had trouble running, especially on his double. It was a hit into the right field corner that a runner of even average speed would have stretched into a triple.

I am not into the Bonds mania–remember, I went there in the hopes of seeing Eric Byrnes, not a Bonds homer—but I joined in on the heckling when Bonds was intentionally walked in the eighth inning with the score already 7-2 Giants. (Heck, even the picture-takers in front of me stood up for this one!) The scoreboard showed various pictures of chickens and fans hanging another rubber chicken from the wall. And just as Red Sox Chick says "Do NOT Disrespect the Ramirez," I will say "Do NOT Disrespect the Alou." Moises homered right after the walk. Considering how hot Mo was in April, walking Bonds to get to him was pure folly and the D’Backs paid for their mistake.

In addition to Bonds, Alou and Giants starter Jason Schmidt who got the win, I also got to see the major league debut of Giants’ second baseman Kevin Frandsen. His first at-bat was a bummer, a double play. But then he got HBP his second time up and that got him going. (He says his idol is Astros’ 2B Craig Biggio, who now holds the MLB record for HBP). He scored that inning. Frandsen got his first MLB hit, a single, his third time up. The ball was pulled out of play to be given to him. On the night, he had 3 singles and three runs scored, and went on from there to get hit by pitches 5 times in his first 7 games.

On my way out of the park, I saw the statue of the high-kicking Dominican Dandy, Juan Marichal. Some guys were getting their picture taken in front of the all-gray statue. A few others were sitting on the pedestal. It makes a great meeting place if you are in the area.

After the game, I noticed that not all the signage had been changed since they changed the park’s name again. Oh well, I guess we have to create jobs in the Bay Area and changing signage when ballpark names change will keep people working. "Whatever They’re Calling It This Year," it’s beautiful. If you are a baseball fan coming into the Bay Area during the season, put aside some of your vacation  or expense account money for a trip to the ballpark in San Francisco. Just dress in layers for the changing weather.


Random Observations

Red Sox Chick posted a lovely picture of the Full Moon that she took at Fenway. Check it out. I’m pleased to say that I was able to see the same Full Moon in Oakland.

We are not out of the woods, or should I say, the water, in the Bay Area. At least one person in Marin County as died because of a mudslide. The Governor has declared states of emergency in 9 more counties. We are expecting more rain over the weekend, especially on Easter Sunday. There will also be snow in the Sierras, and one local weather forecaster said that it’s expected to take 12 hours to drive from Lake Tahoe to the Bay Area on Sunday. That would be about 5-6 hours longer than it should take if conditions are clear.

But yesterday was gorgeous and it seemed that people were out on the street just to be out. A reporter colleague who gets around by bicycle, even in the rain, said that he was truly looking forward to the ride home. The Astros and the Giants had no weather interference with the second game of their Day-Night doubleheader. which the Astros won 8-0 behind Roy Oswalt. That gave them the split.

Carlos Lee made a great homer-robbing catch in the bottom of the 10th of the Brewers-Cardinals game yesterday and then hit the gamer, a homer, in the top of the 11th, to help the Brew Crew avert a sweep in Busch III. A day like yesterday shows why Carlos Lee is the guy on the Brewers you don’t want to beat you. But sometimes he does it anyway.

Congrats to the New York Mets, who are 7-1 and off to their best start since 1985. Lets Go Mets! Fourteen is enough.

And an aside to Bobby of Deep Fried Fish: You weren’t the only person to notice the pathetic attendance at yesterday’s Marlins home game. I caught ESPN at the gym this morning. The guys doing the morning sports news noticed it, too.

I have a lot of things to do today, so I’m not going to get into anything about the D’Backs right now, other than to say that Luis Gonzalez did not hit his 500th double last night. :+(

Kéllia Ramares
Oakland, CA

Cardinals Nearly Snatch Defeat from the Jaws of Victory: Cards 6 Brewers 4

No, Eric Byrnes has not been traded to St. Louis…yet. (Though it wouldn’t surprise me if someday he ended up there. Tony LaRussa seems to always have places on his roster for ex-A’s: Eckersley, McGwire, Isringhausen, Mulder; I sometimes think of St. Louis as Oakland-East. And La Russa had a chance to take the measure of the man on Dec. 10, 2005, when Byrnes was one of the ballplayers who joined LaRussa for an ARF event). It’s just that with the Diamondbacks having an off day before their Home Opener tomorrow, I figured I’d watch the Cards open their 2006 home season in their still-to-be-completed ballpark, Busch 3. Christel, Tiffany, and Mollie, three big Cardinal-bloggers here, have been looking forward to this for ages. So I thought I would check out the fun.

The new park looks nice. Like many of the new-generation ballparks, it’s made of brick and made me think immediately of Camden Yards in Baltimore and Whatever-the-Heck-They’re-Calling-It-This-Year in San Francisco. The grass looked so lush that I left a note for Murray the Groundskeeper asking how one grows great grass on "new ground." (Not that this apartment dweller has any plans to grow any grass, great or not-so-great, on any ground, new or otherwise). There’s also a lot of exposed steel decorating the edifice, giving Busch 3 a rather industrial look that befits its downtown surroundings. (At one point, a freeway is only 40 feet from the stadium).

The place was filled with a crowd reputed to be among the best, if not THE best fans in baseball. So many of them were wearing Cardinal red and white that it was hard to see any other colors in the stands. And the place was as packed as the incomplete status of the stadium allowed it to be.

There were two simultaneous ceremonial "first pitches."  Reigning NL Cy Young Winner Chris Carpenter threw to a previous Cardinal Cy Young, the incomparable Bob Gibson. Meanwhile, reigning NL MVP Albert Pujols threw to a previous Cardinal MVP, Willie McGee. Both Gibson and McGee looked fit enough to play today.

And I wonder if Gibby was thinking, especially around the ninth inning, about how pitching philosophy has changed since his heyday. Can any of you who are old enough to remember Gibson in the late 60’s imagine him having a four-run lead in the ninth, and being removed because he gave up a single? No manager of that era would have considered it, and Gibby would have glared his skipper back into the dugout if he had.

But today, LaRussa lifted starter (and ex-Athletic) Mark Mulder in just such a situation. Broadcasters Joe Buck and Al "The Mad Hungarian" Hrabosky, who doesn’t look "mad" at all now that his graying hair and beard are neatly trimmed, had said earlier that Mulder would be removed if he got in trouble…and they defined "trouble" as a guy getting on. C’mon Al, Buck is a puppy, but you’re old enough to know better. One guy getting on first when you’ve got a four-run lead is NOT trouble. The tying run coming to the plate…now THAT’s TROUBLE. And that’s what the St. Louis relief corps got into…and worse.

After that little single, Mulder was replaced by Braden Looper–I can feel Mets fans shuddering as I type this–and he got Carlos Lee to hit into a double play. But then he couldn’t close the deal. Bill Hall doubled, Rickie Weeks singled him in, and LaRussa brought in his ex-A’s closer,  Izzy, while Buck and Hrabosky talked of the need to show confidence in the relief corps, and LaRussa making changes in order to win the game. Meanwhile, the fans were getting fidgety. And I was wondering if the Brewers, whose previous wins this season were all come-from-behind victories, were about to do it again.

Weeks took second on defensive indifference and Prince Fielder singled him home. Then up came pinch-hitter Corey Koskie as the tying run, a.k.a.Trouble.

Fielder took second on defensive indifference and then Koskie walked. Now the go-ahead run, a.k.a. Big Trouble, was at the plate in the form of Gabe Gross, a very good pinch hitter. I could feel the "here we go again" energy in Oakland.

Fortunately for the fans in St. Louis, Gabe Gross grounded an 0-2 pitch to first, giving Mulder the first victory at Busch 3. It should be noted that Mulder helped himself with the bat by going 2-3 with a double, a homer (his first in the majors), two runs scored and two RBIs. (In other words, the kind of day I’m looking for from Byrnesie). Given what happened in the ninth, those two runs made the difference. Isringhausen got the save. So it was a good day for old A’s in a new park.

But all that turmoil never would have happened in the days when Bob Gibson was king of the hill. 

Kéllia Ramares
Oakland, CA

It’s Called Padding…

News Item from Carrie Muskat/MLB.com 1/10/06

CHICAGO — Wrigley Field may be just what Jacque Jones needs. The natural grass will be welcome for the new Chicago Cubs right fielder after spending seven years on the Metrodome’s harsh turf.

"My body was saying, ‘Thank you,’" Jones said Tuesday at an introductory news conference. "There’s no substitute for grass."

There indeed may be no substitute for a well-watered lawn when it comes to keeping baseball (and football) players healthy while running, diving, sliding, falling or otherwise pounding the ground in practice and in games. But there is something that could help the players deal better with artificial turf. It’s called padding. They use it under carpets. Why not put more of it under the turf for a softer, more user-friendly field?

Yes, I know things are a lot better than in the days of the original Astroturf. But players are still suffering turf-related wear and tear that is subtracting from their productivity and longevity.

Now, "My Friend, the Yankees Fan" would simply say, "Ditch the domes." But, in some places where it gets outrageously hot, like Houston and Phoenix, you are seeing at least retractable domes. I think other really hot-summer places, like Denver and Baltimore, should have included retractable domes on their new stadiums, and not just for the players: fans shouldn’t have to risk heat stroke to attend a game, especially given what it costs to buy a ticket to a major league game in most cities.

Likewise, a dome makes sense in places where it rains a lot, such as Seattle. In fact, from what I can gather from the Deep Fried Fish blog, regular afternoon showers in Miami discourage attendance at day games. Who the heck wants to ditch work early to get soggy? (Well, not THAT kind of soggy, anyway!) Rainouts (and early in the season, a few snowouts in the northern cities) are bad for business. And if any place needs a retractable dome, it’s Arlington, Texas, where the public address announcer asked third-deck fans to evacuate when dry lightning came into the area during the two Rangers’ home games to which I listened in 2005. Why pay to risk electrocution?

Then, of course, there are the places like Tampa Bay and Jones’ former professional home, the Minnesota Metrodome, where the permanent dome always blocks the sun. Blocking the sun kills the grass, so they need artificial turf. But they don’t need artificial turf’s attendant subtle and not-so-subtle injuries.

How is it that we can put robots on Mars, but we can’t come up with safer, more comfortable playing surfaces?

Soft landings, Jacque!

Kéllia Ramares
Oakland, CA