Besides more than doubling their payroll from 2012 to 2013, the Los Angeles Dodgers also spent about $100 million on upgrades to every level of their 51-year-old stadium. Here’s a quick rundown of what those inside Dodger Stadium have been doing all winter.
I went to my first game at the refurbished stadium this past Friday as the Dodgers faced the Pirates. I couldn’t wait to see exactly what had changed around my seats on the reserve level, where I attend every game. It’s the best mixture of view and price, especially if you grab heavily discounted tickets off StubHub.
This isn’t a full review of the entire makeover, just everything I could see on and from my little area. I hope to explore more of the park in the 15-20 games I make it to later this season. But for now, here are the pros and definite cons of what a portion of $100 million bought.
PRO: I got to the stadium before the gates at parking lot B opened to give myself as much time as possible to see what awaited me inside. But the first good change was actually outside the stadium. The number of disabled parking spots have at least doubled from last season, big news for someone like me. As mentioned in the video linked above, the gates have been pushed back, a huge team store has been installed as well as a nice garden walkway. A couple of jumbo-sized, cartoon-looking Dodger figures will be popular among newcomers with a camera.
But seriously, there were, like, 40 disabled parking spaces in that one lot. In my mind, the $100 million was all worth it before I even had my ticket scanned
CON: The concession lines feel like a trap.
By now, you’ve heard about all of the staff aces who got blow’d up on Sunday. David Price, Cole Hamels, Stephen Strasburg, Matt Cain and R.A. Dickey all allowed at least six earned runs. And there’s that really cool note about how Cain’s performance — nine earned runs, all in the fourth inning — hadn’t been replicated in Giants history since 1902.
But the offensive onslaughts got the best of some other great pitchers, too.
Jered Weaver, Yu Darvish, Yovani Gallardo, and Ian Kennedy combined to give up 16 earned runs in 22 innings and compiled a WHIP of 1.86. None of them were as spectacularly bad as anyone in the above quintet, but all were much less than what we expect from them.
Even more, Johnny Cueto wasn’t exactly sharp in his duel with Strasburg. That Nationals-Reds game was tied, 3-3, in the top of the second inning, and Cueto allowed 10 baserunners through six innings.
If you want to be really nitpicky, you could throw Justin Verlander into this crowd. He was much better than many of these guys — 7.1 innings, three earned. But you probably expected more out of him at home versus this edition of the Bronx Bombers. You certainly didn’t expect him to get owned by Francisco Cervelli and Jayson Nix (5-for-7, HR, 3 runs, 4 RBIs). It was Verlander’s first home loss since June 3, 2012, against the Yankees. But at least that lineup contained Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixiera, Nick Swisher, so it was a little more understandable than Sunday’s struggle.
Between the nine starters who really got hit around, you’ve got 16 All-Star appearances and 14 finishes inside the top 10 in the Cy Young voting. But, no, it was Justin Masterson and Jhoulys Chacin who were near-untouchable today.
Baseball: It’s back, and it’s just nuts.
We have all witnessed gruesome injuries in sports on TV, the ones with limbs turned in positions that nature never intended. Just off the top of my head, you’ve got Joe Theismann’s near-iconic broken leg; Jason Kendall hitting the first base bag wrong in 1999 and suffering a dislocated ankle, which came through the skin; Shaun Livingston’s knee injury with the Clippers in 2007 that almost led to his leg being amputated; South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore’s leg dangled in the air after he dislocated his kneecap and tore three ligaments in a game last year.
That’s just what I could remember without looking. I refreshed my memory on a few more through searching. I don’t think anything will “top” what happened to NHL goalie Clint Malarchuk in 1989 when an opponent’s skate cut his carotid artery. He nearly bled to death on the ice.
Four years ago, the World Baseball Classic served as a welcome distraction during a long spring training. With the WBC’s help, February and March flew by. Punxsutawney Phil’s forecast became real; he must not have seen his shadow in 2009, because spring arrived mighty early. It was MLB Opening Day after a couple of blinks.
Or maybe that was all a dream? I don’t know. Maybe the fact that I spent all of March 2009 attending spring training and WBC games in Florida made the days pass quickly. I don’t have a good explanation, because this spring dragged on like a filibuster, and the World Baseball Classic actually made it seem even longer. It’s been torturous. However, the Rangers and Astros played a game that actually mattered tonight, and we are now mere hours outside of baseball salvation known as Opening Day. So, it’s time to roll out everybody’s favorite dart-throwing contest: season predictions.
I usually put a lot of thought into this exercise, but now I view it much like composing a March Madness bracket: You can do all the research you want, but you are still going to be very, very wrong. So with zero abandon for what lies ahead, I closed my eyes and jotted down season standings, award winners and postseason results. Let’s see what my idle hands came up with.
American League East
1. Toronto Blue Jays
Yes, this division could go a thousand different ways (Actually, it could go 120 ways, mathematically speaking. But let’s not get caught up in the details). I’m not worried about chemistry or “learning how to win” or playing in a historically stout division. This team is loaded. When you have Josh Johnson as your fourth starter, you’ve got a pretty damn good squad.
2. Tampa Bay Rays
Here is my first Wild Card winner. I’m expecting a big step forward from Seth MacFarlane, errrrr, I mean, Matt Moore. News flash: It would really help if Evan Longoria could stay healthy.
3. Boston Red Sox:
You know the AL East is crazy when the Blue Jays and the Rays are the steadiest teams in the division, without question. There are a whole lot more questions than answers after those two. The Red Sox may have the most issues of any team in this division as they are filled with injury-prone hitters, and pitchers looking to rebound. But if everything breaks right, they’ll be good enough to barely miss the playoffs.
4. New York Yankees
It’s a long season, but how many bad omens and big injuries can one franchise stand? If Robinson Cano gets hurt … mother of God.
5. Baltimore Orioles
I picked the O’s to finish fifth last year. Look at how well that turned out. Seriously, there is no way that pitching staff, especially the relievers, can be that good again.
The time for random baseball occurrences set against history has arrived!
If you have stumbled upon this blog in the past, you probably know that I have a fetish when it comes to the sorts of baseball oddities as mentioned in the title. Of the 48 baseball-related posts I wrote during last season, 37 of them were focused around quirky statistics for which I wanted to draw some sort of historical perspective.
Some of the numbers were important; some of them were just me digging way to deep to find something interesting about something that is completely not; some were completely meaningless.
Speaking of which, spring training numbers are meaningless, but hey, 16 runs without an extra-base hit? That seems (Miley Cyrus voice) pretty cool.
The Red Sox beat the Pirates, 16-6, with the help of 14 singles and 15 walks last night.
First of all, 15 walks?!
Too Bad It’s Only Spring Training, Because That Means We Will Never Know How Far This Miguel Cabrera Home Run Traveled
It didn’t quite go over the tiki bar as the color analyst suggested, but one thing is known: Ball go far.
“The ball nearly landed in the players’ parking lot behind the stadium. A bartender at one of the tiki bars along the left-field concourse said the ball hit the back fence behind the bar, about 100 feet beyond the left-field fence.”
My official guess — using an actual tape measure, Google Maps’ satellite view of the stadium, the park’s dimensions and a careful eye on what that ball soared over as it exited the stadium — is 445 feet. That feels extremely conservative. Alas, we will never know the official footage because most teams don’t do homer measurements in spring training, which is just lazy.
More amazing to me than just this sheer show of force is how Cabrera hit that ball. Watch the replay of Cabrera’s swing from the first-base dugout at the 0:45 mark. That pitch is up by his letters and doesn’t allow him to extend his arms. Look at just far he has to pull his hands in to get to that ball.
So, Cabrera faced a pitch above the strike zone, cutting into his body, that kind of handcuffed him. And he hit it into Georgia.
I’d say he’s ready for the regular season.
The NFL Combine is attractive viewing because we like to watch the elemental power of the human body. Faster, higher, stronger. Just how far can we go as a species? The combine is the answer to that question within a certain segment of the population.
Way too many people — usually those who gab at your local pub or get paid to gab on local talk radio — use the numbers that come out of the combine to predict a player’s future in the NFL.
Instead of gleaning the most about a football player looking for a football-playing job by watching them actually play football, these prospective employees get run through a glorified physical fitness test, the results of which could either add or subtract millions of dollars from their bank account.
There are some teams (read: Raiders) that put too much weight into the overall value of the combine as well. So, what happens to these “Workout Warriors”? Here is a recap of the best performers in the top four combine events (40-yard dash, broad jump, vertical leap and bench press, in my opinion) over the past 10 years.
Screw the shuttle drills. There is a raw appeal to faster, stronger, higher. Agility is the offspring. Plus, no one ever watches in awe as someone runs around a series of small orange cones.
Notes: The lengths of the jumps and leaps will be presented in inches. Each player in the bench press does reps of 225 pounds, and the 40-yard dash, obviously, is presented in seconds.
On to the feats of athleticism!