Friday, August 29, 2008

Ballpark Grandness

There's a moment unlike any other in baseball for me. It's when I walk into a ballpark for the very first time. Coming through the tunnel, or through the doors, or out from underneath the overhang of the deck above. It's the moment when I can see the inside of the park from the inside of the park. All of it.

Each of my 18 times I've entered a ballpark for the first time (Oakland Coliseum excluded since I grew up with it), I had previously seen the park on TV or in photos a million times. I had developed a flavor for the feeling of the park - a grossly distorted one. But a distorted feeling that only lends to the grandness of the park itself from how it really looks and feels. Television and photographs give a distorted sense of the horizontal. Especially the depth dimension. The vertical dimension isn't distorted much at all. So the overall sense is that the stands of the park are tall, yet far away. Fans sitting on the other side of the park look like ants.

But upon entering, the horizontal distortions are immediately corrected. The distant verticalness of the stands are suddenly brought up close and personal. Two opposing feelings are generated simultaneously, and mixed together. The vertical suddenly becomes more vertical, giving a feeling of extra largeness, yet the corrected closeness brings the vertical toward me, giving a feeling of greater intimacy. The mix is far more wonderful than can be expected.

My first experience with another ballpark outside the Bay Area was at Anaheim Stadium in 1985. The exterior facade from the parking lot was one thing, but entering the park was another. I will never forget walking into that tunnel. I caught a glimpse of the stands on the opposite side of the park. But all I had was tunnel vision of that group of seats. It was so much closer than I could have imagined! Then, breaking out of the end of the tunnel brought the whole ballpark into my sight, overwhelming me with a grandness and intimacy that would be experienced another fifteen times to this date. I love ballparks.

Don't Piss Off (or On?) King George

I really can't decide whether this is a cruel hoax or is reality. Apparently a baseball fan was forcibly ejected from Yankee Stadium by overly physical cops for simply having to go to the bathroom. Yankee owner George Steinbrenner has taken on a streak of American "patriotism" in placing a ban on fan movement during the singing of "God Bless America" during the seventh inning stretch at Yankee games. Stadium security uses chains to contain fans from moving about during this time.

Well, a certain fan, ignorant of such a policy, had to go pee, but was stopped by police on his way to the bathroom. They also confiscated his ticket stub. Read the article in here. Hat tip:

Hey, King George, private property rights are one thing, but treating guests in your own house that way is being an ass.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Instant Replay

Instant replay starts tomorrow in Major League Baseball. It will be limited to two types of calls (initially, of course): 1. fair or foul calls on home runs, and 2. home run calls where the extent of the fence is in view. The first type of call is simply this: the ball is obviously a home run, but the question is whether it is fair of foul. The second type is this: did the ball clear the fence (or yellow line as the case may be), or did it hit the fence or other object making it unclear whether it should be called a home run.

I'm divided on instant replay in baseball as of right now. I've always been against the concept, but the current system has a few positives. I can see it in football. Seven referees need to watch 22 players plus a ball (with an eye on all those standing on the sidelines too) all moving in different directions at the same time. In baseball, plays are not as complicated to call. The strike zone is set up by the home plate umpire so that even if it isn't correct, it is consistent in most cases. Limiting its use to home run calls, just to get them right, might not be a bad idea.

In recent years, baseball has undergone a ballpark building boom, often with quirky fence conditions, and the fans are placed right on top of the action, making it difficult on umpires to call something from 250 feet away. Back in the "sterile ashtray" ballpark days, where stadiums were designed for 38 different sporting events, there was often a solid fence with plenty of space behind it. Home run calls were relatively easy.

Tonight during the Giants game, Giants executive Larry Baer was interviewed as to instant replay. He stated that had the current plan been in place on opening day, there would have been only sixteen calls in all of baseball all year long where instant replay would have been used.

Even though, something tells me that giving an inch will result in a mile being taken. We'll have to wait and see.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Giants Loss Projection Through August 15

August 1 through August 15:

45-63, 95; 46-63, 94; 46-64, 94; 47-64, 93; 47-65, 94; 48-65, 93; 48-66, 94; 49-66, 93; 50-66, 92; 50-67, 93; 50-68, 93; 50-69, 94; 50-70, 95; 51-70, 94.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Giants Loss Projection Through July 31

July 18 through July 31:

40-56, 95; 40-57, 95; 40-58, 96; 41-58, 95; 42-58, 94; 43-58, 93; 43-59, 94; 43-60, 94; 43-61, 95; 44-61, 94; 44-62, 95; 44-63, 95.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Baseball In The Olympics

Baseball and softball will no longer be Olympic sports after this year, according to news reports I heard. I agree with this. I don't see why baseball should be an Olympic sport anyway. It's not an athletic competition the way other Olympic sports are. When I played baseball back in school, I never thought of myself as an athlete, but I did think of the track team as athletes.

The 2008 games are marked by "controversy" anyway on the diamond. The USA and China had quite a clash going with seven bean balls, two plate collisions and three ejections. Giants up and comer Nate Schierholtz had a plate collision with catcher Yang Yang which was pretty bruising. I spoke to others at work about the game, and one said it was a travesty for relations with China, while the other said that is the way baseball is played. I lean toward the latter.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Giants Not On TV For Some Reason

The Giants aren't on TV this afternoon, playing the Braves from Atlanta. They're scheduled to play on Comcast Sports Net, both on their pocket schedule and on their broadcast schedule on their website. They're not on TBS, the Braves station, either, nor their flagship station (an NBC affiliate) due to the Olympics. But the A's pregame show was on instead.

As I write, the game just appeared on Comcast Sports Net Plus, starting at 7pm with the 9th inning, just as the A's game was starting on Comcast Sports Net regular. But the listing on CSN+ says the A's game is on. Go figure it all. The Giants are winning 4-1 in the ninth. We'll see if they can hang on now that they're appearing on the tube.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Manny Watches Dodger Meltdowns From Left Field

In game one of the Giants/Dodgers series, the Giants merely brought the tying run to the plate in their last at bat. In games two and three, they won with last at bat, come from behind walkoff wins with Manny watching it all from left field. Just coming from the hot and coming Red Sox, Manny must be wondering what the heck these Bums in blue are doing.

Saturday, the Dodgers scored in the top of the 10th inning only to see the Giants rally in the bottom of the frame to win. Today (Sunday) the Giants hit four consecutive balls within the infield; including an error, a tardy game-ending double pay attempt and a ball that went through the pitcher's legs and booted by the shortstop for the game winner.

I love this rivalry, even when both teams are not in contention.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Manny Being Fanny

All week long the big buzz in the Bay Area sports media has been a question. What are you going to be doing Friday night? With three major sporting events, talk radio hosts wanted to know. There was a Raiders/49ers football game in Oakland, the great Giants/Dodgers rivalry in San Francisco, made even more intense by the first appearance at AT&T Park by Manny Ramirez as a Dodger, then there was the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics from Beijing.

Completely unaware of the possible conflict, my decision was made last winter when my buyers and I divided up the season tickets. Mike and I had a pair of tickets to the Giants/Dodger game. Nevermind that it was the Dodgers, nevermind it was Manny, they could have been playing the Washington Nationals and I would have gone to the baseball game. That's how much of a priority baseball is.

Barry Zito gave up a 5 spot in an early inning, and the Giants were toast until they loaded the bases in the bottom of the 9th with the tying run at the plate before passing away. Manny, with all his attention, went 0 for 5, nearly invisible in the Dodger win. Welcome to San Francisco, Manny. You suck even more now because you're a Dodger.

Friday, August 8, 2008

John Armstrong and Baseball

Wednesday I sat with my friend John Armstrong and two of his friends as we watched the Giants beat the Braves, 3-2 at AT&T Park. Tim Lincecum provided the pitching highlights, scattering 5 hits over 8 innings in winning his 12th of the year. It was his 13th start this year following a Giants loss. I think this qualifies him as a stopper. He struck out eight, including the entire side in the 8th to a standing ovation.
John is an ordained minister who lives in Chicago and is a lifelong Braves fan and provided all the necessary info on his team. He even answered my attempt at a Braves trivia question: who is the only Brave to make the All-Star team his first three years? The answer isn't Henry Aaron. It is catcher Brian McCann. Braves disappointment Chuck James was on the mound, bringing a 9.91 ERA to the game, and John promised a double digit game for the Giants. I explained that the last time the Giants scored 10 runs in a game was against their wives in a celebrity softball game. The first inning seemed to ring true as James let two runs score. He only lasted four innings, allowing 3 earned runs, so his ERA dropped slightly. Brian Wilson closed it out for the Giants with yet another save.
A good crowd, almost a sellout, was on hand for what seems so commonplace these days. A midweek day game on a getaway day seems so short and to the point. With planes to catch, neither the teams or the umpires goof around. The game lasted only 2 hours, 14 minutes, but with arriving two hours early for batting practice it was a full day. The highlight of the day for the Braves came when Jeff Francoeur threw out Fred Lewis at the plate after he tagged up on a fly ball. John and I heard it on the radio - in the men's room. Oh, well.
All in all, it was a great day, one I will always remember. Thanks so much John, Don and Tyler for the memories. Box Score

Eight, Eight, Eighty Eight

Today is 08-08-08. Twenty years ago today was 8-8-88. An interesting thing happened on 8-8-88. Jose Canseco of the A's collected his 88th RBI.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Joe Morgan on Trevor Hoffman

We have Comcast cable hooked up to our TV. They have some special features, one of which is sports programming on demand. Over the winter, they replayed classic games from the Giants past, and you can view it anytime during the several week span it is offered. We watched a replay of the Giants opening day 1993, that magical (and title-less) year that they won 103 games but lost the pennant on the last day. It was Bonds' first home game as a Giant, and he hit a homer in his first at bat.

Later in the game, a very young Florida Marlin named Trevor Hoffman appeared for some middle relief. His baby face, well manicured intro version of his trademark beard, and bright teal hat made him look about 18. Hall of famer Joe Morgan, a Giants TV announcer at the time, remarked that although Hoffman had some good stuff, he really wondered if Hoffman should be in the majors, and felt that he needed more time in the minors. Okay, the Marlins were in their expansion year and really sucked, so such a thing is not uncommon. Little did Morgan know at the time that Trevor would become the all-time saves leader, a lights-out closer and future hall of famer. Say it ain't so, Joe!

Manny Uses Dodger Dugout Urinal For First Time

Manny Ramirez today used the urinal in the Dodger dugout for the first time. See a full report on ESPN tonight, and if you miss it, it will be repeated every hour on the half hour all night.