Monday, December 23, 2013

Memories of 49ers at Candlestick

A Giants Season Ticket Holder Remembers

This is the last season that the San Francisco 49ers will play at Candlestick Park.  Tonight is the last game.  The Giants abandoned the much maligned object for greener pastures in 2000 with the construction of their new downtown gem, PacBell Park, or whatever it's been called over the years.  With this last season, KNBR, the big sports radio station in SF has been airing a series of great memories of the 49ers playing at the 'Stick.  Fans have called in to give their memories.

Well, as a season ticket holder for the Giants' last 15 years at the 'Stick, I have some memories of my own on the 49ers playing in the same yard as my beloved boys of freezing cold summer.

During the 80's when the Giants totally sucked and the 49ers were winning Super Bowls, all "improvements" to the 'Stick authorized by the City were solely for the benefit of the 49ers.  Every baseball season was a 49ers construction zone.  Scaffolding, yellow tape, sections of the stadium blocked off.  Then, construction was miraculously completed and debris was removed coincidentally during the week of the 49ers first pre-season home game in August.  Wow, what an annual coincidence!

The worst slap in the face occurred in the late 80's when the box seats were eliminated.  Each aisle in the box seat sections were filled in with seats to increase 49ers season ticket sales.  Box seats traditionally had two to four seats across, then a bar to divide the small sections for easy seatability.  My box had two seats, then a bar.  Nobody ever climbed over me to reach the aisle.  But when the box seats were eliminated, the section rows grew to maybe 20 seats across.  This was a severe downgrade in seating that caused masses of Giants fans to complain.  The Giants, however, were powerless in the face of 49er-revenue-loving politicos and they caved to the cause of 9er gold.  In typical political spin fashion, the Giants issued a letter to season ticket holders assuring the mass of whiners that filling in the box seats with extra butt holders would actually increase the enjoyability of watching a baseball game at the 'Stick!  The Giants' security and usher staff, having fewer aisles to deal with, would now be better able to patrol the box seats and ensure safety, keeping riff raff out, and would allow ticket holders an increased ease in finding their seats!  What bullshit.  The writer of that letter needs to run for office somewhere.

Then adding insult to injury, after the boxes were completely eliminated from Candlestick Park, the Giants kept calling the lower orange seat seats!  False advertising at its bait-and-switch maximum.  The next season - and every season after that - were filled with drunken morons sitting in the middle of the section climbing all over me and guests to get out to the aisle to buy more beer.  Nothing against drinking beer, but the spill rate was unacceptable.  Having everybody in the middle of the section climb over you every inning for years was unacceptable.  But what could one do?  There was nowhere else to sit that was any better.  Developing a greater dislike for the 49ers was my solution.

I did see a handful of 49er games at the 'Stick, and enjoyed them, but any enjoyment I got out of football pales in comparison to having my favorite baseball team and venue compromised.  Sadly, my most vivid memories of the 49ers playing at Candlestick were negative.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Dodger Downer, Giant Upper

The past six seasons have brought us an NLCS in which we saw the Phillies play three consecutive years ('08, '09, '10), and the Cardinals play three consecutive years ('11, '12, '13).  It also showed us in their opponents the Dodgers play three times ('08, '09, '13) and the Giants twice ('10, '12). 

A curious theme has emerged.  The Giants and Dodgers have had common opponents in their five appearances, with the Phils playing the Dodgers in '08 and '09, then the Giants jumping in to play them in '10.  Likewise, the Cards played the Giants in '12 and Dodgers following in '13.  The Dodgers have lost all three series.  The Giants, on the other hand, have not only won both of their NLCS, they have gone on to win the World Series in each of those years.  And in the last six years, only the Giants of all the MLB teams have won two championships.

It's gotta be frustrating for the boys in blue to see their rivals beat the teams they lose to and bring home a trophy.  I was in attendance for the last WS game the Dodgers played in Oakland in 1988.  It really was a long time ago.  Hopefully this theme can continue, or something similar.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Phillies' Phall to Phutility Phinal

Last night the Philadelphia Phillies lost to the New York Mets - their 82nd loss of the year - clinching a losing season.  It took the Phils five years to fall from World Champs to a losing team.  They did it one notch at a time.

In 2008, they took care of the Rays in the World Series, becoming champs for the first time since 1980.  In 2009 they fell one notch, this time losing the World Series to the Yanks.  In 2010 they lost the NLCS to the Giants.  In 2011 they lost the NLDS to the Cards.  In 2012 they failed to win the division.  In 2013 they end up with a losing record.

The Phillies' fall was gradual, but steady.  Champs to chumps in five years.

The Giants, of course, only took five weeks to accomplish the same thing.  After their second world championship in three years, the G-men were once again in first place in mid-to-late May, with one of the best records in baseball.  It took only five weeks, from late May to early July, to find themselves in the NL West cellar, where they have spent most of the season.  Which team will recover first?  What's a worse way to lose?  A total collapse or a slow fade?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Can Instant Replay Work?

For the longest time I have been against baseball using instant replay for any reason.  You could call this an "old school" approach.  But I have been re-thinking this in light of what I see as technologically possible now.

One reason I have been against instant replay is that, quite frankly, nobody yet has come up with a system of replay that makes any sense.  So, I'd like to investigate that here.

One problem with proposed instant replay solutions is that these solutions get their cue from football's failed instant replay system.  Many people are in favor of importing the red hanky type of instant replay, where the manager gets to wave his red hanky when he wants a call reviewed.  Of course, inherent in this system is the flaw of deciding how many challenges to calls each manager gets.  Some propose one challenge (so use it wisely!), others several.  The problem with this is that it conflicts with the idea of "getting the call right."  I take more of a "getting the call right" approach.  So, if the manager needs more than the allotted number of red hankies, then he's screwed.  So if we take the "getting the call right" approach, the manager would need an unlimited number of challenges to any call, and the game would be ruined by seven or eight hour games.

So, the idea of letting managers have challenges to calls on the field is one that cannot be used.  Period.  But what can be used instead, I think, is having umpires that are dedicated to instant replay.  It's simply amazing how often TV broadcast crews are able to review umpire's calls and "get the call right" in the TV booth before the next batter starts hacking away.  The technology is easily available to make quick calls.  One thing that completely hampers the failed instant replay systems in football and baseball, is that the on-the-field umps and refs must leave the field to go to another location to review video.  Then, they only get to view the videos that are piped into them on microscopic screens on some camera somewhere that must have a shield to protect it from sunlight, etc.

What baseball could do is have one or more umpires on the crew who are dedicated to nothing but instant replay in a booth somewhere in the park.  They could be part of the normal crews.  Baseball umpiring crews rotate around the bases one base each day.  Home one day, first the next, then second, then third, and back to the plate again.  Well, with instant replay, they could rotate from home to first, second, third, the replay booth, then back to the plate.  The ump(s) doing reviews that game would have access to all camera angles and could review every call, in hi-def on big screens, split screens, whatever, and give the correct call to the crew chief on the field in a matter of seconds. We all know what a "close call" is, and that ump could instantly (hehehe, instant replay!) check the call.

Baseball is a much easier game to call than football.  Twenty-two players plus a ball, all in motion at the same time in different and changing directions vs. fair/foul or out/safe or homer/in play.  Baseball should have little problem solving the instant replay controversy.  But they won't because as usual, idiots are in charge.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Post-Season Wild Card Success

Recent baseball wisdom holds that wild-card teams can be more successful in the post-season than their division winning counterparts because they are usually the hotter team right at the end of the season.  And, since more teams can be involved in a wild-card race than a division race, the team with the latest hot streak usually wins the wild-card.  I've been thinking about wild-card teams a lot in the past several years, so I decided to do a study of wild-card teams in the post-season.  The results were interesting.

There have been 18 post-seasons in the wild-card era; 1995-2012 (the strike in 1994 eliminated the first post-season with the wild-card format), with one wild-card team from each league.  That totals 36 wild-card teams.  For the sake of clarity, I'm only counting the wild-card team that won the one-game play-in for the 2012 season.

Overall, wild-card teams have won 34 post-season series and lost 31, for a .523 winning percentage of series.  In the NL, the results have been even better: wild-card teams have a 20-15 series record, for a .571 winning percentage.  If the Cardinals had won either of games 5, 6 or 7 against the Giants in the NLCS last year, that record would be 21-14, or a .600 winning percentage.

NL wild-card teams have fared better than AL teams overall, with NL teams going 10-8 in the NLDS compared to 9-9 for AL wild-cards in the ALDS.  Those NL teams that make the NLCS have won a startling 70% of those, compared to only 33% in the AL.  Wild-card teams have ten World Series appearances, winning 5 and losing five.  The NL teams are 3-4 in the WS and AL teams are 2-1.  One year, 2002, saw the two wild-card teams facing each other in the WS.

Looking at the data I compiled, it does seem true that the wild-card teams have an advantage in the post-season.