Sunday, January 28, 2007

Four Bums

circa 1987, Oakland bleachers. Okay, here, from left to right, is Mac, me, Young Mike and Alan. I've written about Mac and Young Mike before, and Alan will come in due time. Dig the crazy hair and Mac's comb. My beer is part of the bleacher pose. This is one of my favorite baseball pictures in that it captures so much of the bleacher culture in the 80's. Notice also the multiple colored seats in the upper deck. The Coliseum replaced seats as they broke, and the stock color was different than the original.

Friday, January 26, 2007

A New A's Ballpark

The Oakland A's are proposing a new ballpark, called Cisco Field after the main sponsor, in the Bay Area suburb of Fremont. Fremont is located in the East Bay, almost midway between Oakland and San Jose. The artist's renderings look really cool. The proposal is for more than a ballpark, it includes a baseball "village." There are hotel rooms and condos that overlook the field. Not from a distance, either. These are part of the overall structure. [Edit 1-26-07. A closer look reveals that these are across the street on both outfield sides, but the left field stands cantilever up and over the street to meet the building over the opposite sidewalk.] Retail and other types of businesses will be built in as well. This might well be the vision for baseball future.

This move from the A's ownership has several interesting aspects. The move south toward San Jose almost guarantees big money sponsorship from Silicon Valley corporations. Since Fremont is much closer to Silicon Valley than San Francisco is, the A's stand to steal business away from the Giants. Fremont (Alameda County) is the southernmost city within exclusive A's territorial rights. The proposed site is in the southernmost part of Fremont. They can move there without permission from the Giants. The Giants have already indicated in the past that any move to the South Bay including San Jose or Santa Clara would be vetoed.

This is a bold and smart move from the A's. For me, it represents a further drive, as the new park wouldn't be at a BART station. But build it and I will come. Maybe not a whole lot, but enough for a while. Traffic on I-880 at 5pm is the worst in the universe, so maybe I'll go to any 2am games.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Our Two Year Old Ticket Holder

Our youngest child turns two this year. At two years of age, both the Giants and A's require tickets. Meanwhile, down in San Diego, tickets are required based not on age, but height. In 2004, we saw the new ballpark. Our oldest son was three, but since he wasn't yet 36", he didn't require a ticket. Our youngest is small, so he might get in free at Petco for quite a few years.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Active HOF'ers - Should Their Careers End Today

James Leroy Wilson seems to be leading me into my next posts as of late with logical next-step questions in the comments. Which active players and managers would I put in the Hall of Fame should their careers end today? This is a great question, one that should spark good debate. I'm a bit tighter with my standards than the writers have traditionally been, but in light of a previous post about baseball's latest golden era, my list has more than a couple of names.

Here's my list of locks for the Hall:
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Ken Griffey Jr., Pedro Martinez.

And my list for most probably, and I'd be willing to vote for them:
Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson, Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Piazza, Trevor Hoffman

Darn close:
Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling, John Smoltz, Omar Vizquel

On the right track, but a few more years of dominating:
Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera, Jeff Kent, Albert Puljols, Derek Jeter

Careers I'll be watching:
Every other player

I have issues, and could start a debate:
Gary Sheffield, Mike Mussina, Frank Thomas, Jim Thome

Managing has changed a bit and trying to view today's managers in light of past HOF managers is a bit difficult. Managers have something that players don't have - the potential to manage until their late 70's. I might look at Jim Leyland, and I'm certainly projecting Tony LaRussa into the future as a HOF'er. Frank Robinson might make it in someday, but I'm not his biggest fan and probably wouldn't vote for him. My mind might be blank right now, and if I think of others, I'll post again.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

2007 HOF Election: The Leftovers

Was anybody left out of this year's Hall of Fame election? It depends on who you ask. See the complete voting results here. The two biggest names left off the list were Goose Gossage and Mark McGwire. Gossage narrowly missed the magic 75% vote with 71.2%, finishing 3rd in voting. McGwire was snubbed at 23.5%, ninth in voting.

There are two standards I look at when considering if a player should be in The Hall. One is the established standard (however tight or loose that may be or have become) derived from the history of voting and the list of inductees. The other is my own standard, which is generally higher. When I look at the list of those in the Hall, I see names that I would not put there. My ideal is to have a list of not the greatest of all time, but the greatest of the greatest.

That said, I think that of the list voted on, Gossage will eventually make the Hall. The steroids controversy aside, I believe McGwire would have made the cut on this ballot, although with votes in the high 70's or low 80's. Personally, I would put both of these players in the Hall, but by the slimmest of margins. It remains to be seen how McGwire will fare in the future, but if history is any indication, his sins will be forgiven and future voters will embrace him.

I think Gossage's problem with induction has been that he was a transition player with respect to his role. The relief pitcher was still developing as a major role, and it takes time to not only develop new standards for these new positions, but to accept those standards.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Congratulations Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr.

Congratulations to the two newest elected members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. I was priviledged to watch both Ripken's and Gwynn's careers from start to finish. Each played his entire career with one team, a rarity. I saw Gwynn play in person fairly often because the Padres are division rivals with the Giants, and also because I visited San Diego a number of times during his career.

Both players were highly respected by everybody, and I had as much respect for Gwynn as almost any player I ever saw play. Each had an entire career full of something to watch. Ripken's chase of Lou Gehrig's record was realized early in his career, and because the nature of his record was playing every day, it could be projected into the future. Just as Ruth brought the game back from the gambling scandal of 1919, Ripken helped the game's image from the strike of '94.

Gwynn broke in with immediately hitting in the high .300's, and never looked back. Ironically, it was the '94 strike that ended his bid for a .400 season, stopping it prematurely (on the way up) at .396. His attention to detail and his study of the art of hitting were unparalleled. Both were fixtures on the 11 o'clock news.

Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr.: Hall of Famers

Monday, January 8, 2007

This Time Of Year

Years ago when I started traveling to other ballparks, I got into the habit of writing to every major league team to ask for a pocket schedule, so I would have the complete major league schedule in advance. This made it easy to plan trips. I also made a point of finding odd occurrences so I might be able to go for a look. Nowadays, each team posts its schedule on its website so I don't have to buy a bunch of stamps.

But it was fun to see each team's marketing skills (or lack thereof) at work. Each had a different design for its schedule. Some sent ticket order forms, some didn't, even though I requested them. Some teams sent additional little souvenirs like window stickers or iron-on patches. Some came within a week. Some didn't show up until the start of the season. Some had easy-to-read schedules with clear fonts and color schemes, lining up the months vertically so one month blended into the next; some were a real chore with a million different colors depending on what time of day the game started and information scattered all over the place. There were a variety of abbreviations for teams' names. Pittsburgh could be either PIT or PGH. PGH? Huh? Philly could be PHI or PHA. PHA? Do, Re, Me, Pha? Montreal could be MON or MTL, Houston as HOU or HSN, Boston as BOS or BSN.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Scoreboard Triggers Nixon Thrashing

The wake of Gerald Ford's death brings to mind the most vicious verbal attack of another human being, living or dead, I've ever heard. It came just a few days after Richard Nixon's death. Interestingly, this hate-filled assault of Nixon, came in the left field bleachers at an A's baseball game. Oddly (or maybe not so) the assailants were those kind, compassionate, "tolerant" souls otherwise known as liberals, many from Berkeley. But the most bizarre aspect of this is that it was triggered by the routine operation of the A's scoreboard. Nixon's death came on April 22, 1994, and this incident occurred just five days later at the A's first game of a homestand vs. the Boston Red Sox. Many of my bleacher friends were hippies in the Sixties and had no loss of love for Nixon. Faces turned purple, veins bulged out of necks, and I thought some of them might have a heart attack. This started well before the start of the game and lasted for hours.

Started by the scoreboard? The gates would open two hours before game time in Oakland, and I was there early quite often to catch batting practice. Well, the scoreboard would be turned on early, the appropriate zeros filled in, and what seemed like tradition, the name of the visitor's leadoff hitter and his batting average would be shown, ready for the start of the game. Even though the managers had yet to give their official batting orders, if a team's leadoff hitter were fairly automatic, there was usually no reason not to show the name. This was the case on that day in Oakland. The leadoff hitter? Well his first name was Otis... and his last name? NIXON. See the box score here.