August 2010


Ever since I started watching baseball on TV and learning the history of all the teams and ballparks, I’ve always wanted to visit and see a game in select ballparks like Wrigley Field, Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium. I was fortunate enough to make the trip to Wrigley twice a couple of years ago when I was living in West Michigan, and it was fantastic. But that’s another talk for another day.

While I made it to Wrigley, for whatever lame reasons I could offer it wouldn’t make up for it—I simply blew it with Yankee Stadium. The old stadium is no longer in use. I wasn’t going to let that happen with Fenway Park and thus begins my logic for making an impromptu day-and-a-half trip to Boston last week. In my opinion, Fenway is the Mecca of baseball or what Lambeau Field is to the NFL.

A friend and I made the 9-hour plus trek to Boston Tuesday afternoon and arrived in town a good three hours before last call at the local pubs. After shaking off the hangover the next morning, we went out and saw as much as the city as we could. As a side and unrelated baseball note, Boston is filled with incredible America history at almost every corner all within blocks of each other that I highly suggest to anyone given the time and means to visit. Anyway by 5 p.m., it was time for Fenway.

My first experience with the atmosphere was turning the corner after parking and seeing Yawkey Way loading with people prior to the gates being open. The atmosphere was electric with street sellers, merchandise, food and a sea of Red Sox nation. Being that we arrived well before the gates opened, we walked around the entire outside of the ballpark and came across the former legends banners seen below. Any team that can put up a banner for Cy Young is a team that encompasses a very rich franchise history.

The brick and the green exterior blended right in with the neighborhood as one of the great things about Fenway is how it’s located directly in one street block and not out in the middle of nowhere parking lot outside out of the city. We finally made our way inside and walking up the steps to the concourse opening and seeing the stadium for the first team was amazing. Suddenly, the place that I had seen on TV my whole life exploded into my viewpoint and came to life. There was the massive Green Monster, Pesky’s Pole (the 302-foot foul pole which is the shortest in the majors), the John Hancock scoreboard, the center field triangle, the manual left field scoreboard and so on and so forth. No park in America has so many recognizable and historic aspects in it, and all of it came alive five seconds into the seating area.

The pillars holding the grandstand up and obstructing certain views also stands out. Our seats were behind one of these pillars so it was a constant bob and weaving to see the pitcher in his delivery, which is one of the drawbacks to old parks like this, but with everything else it has to offer who cares?

Another noticeable aspect is the stellar condition the place is in considering it was built in 1912. The crew does a really nice job keeping the place looking old school, but new at the same time. Also, it was nice to see there are no gimmicks at Fenway as you will probably see in the majority of other ballparks. They didn’t mess around pregame: here’s the national anthem, here are the lineups, let’s play ball. This was a very refreshing concept that I wish more teams would implement.

As for the game, it was just what we thought it would be, a slugfest between the Sox and Angels since John Lackey and Scott Kazmir were on the mounds for their respective teams. Neither pitcher was very effective as there were four dingers hit in the first five innings. The Angels held a brief 5-2 lead before the Red Sox rallied for two runs in the bottom of the fifth on a Adrian Beltre homer and two runs in the seventh inning (off a wild pitch and HBP) to complete the comeback. Jonathan Papelbon came on in the ninth and struck out the side to slam the door on the Halos for a  7-5 Boston victory. Lackey somehow picked up the win despite allowing five runs on 10 hits (two homers). And what I thought was pretty fitting—the game ended with Erick Aybar…caught looking. Go figure!

Some other random observations from the Fenway experience:

– Dustin Pedroia is a god in that town. He had just come off the DL to play again, and the fans love him. He’s probably even more popular these days than Big Papi. Of course, Pedroia would hurt his foot again in the game, miss the next night and then shut down for the rest of the season. Tough year for him.

– Not gonna lie, singing “Sweet Caroline” in the eighth inning was pretty cool. It might of even given me goosebumps

– It’s ridiculous to watch a game there and start thinking about the amount of history that was played in this baseball landmark. The fact that Babe Ruth and Ted Williams called the playing field their home was enough to amaze me.

– Red Sox games are looooooooooooooong. It’s really noticeable when you’re there. I can see the argument of game length by people when the Sox and Yankees meet up. I obviously love baseball, but at some point it’s unbearable with how slow they are. It’s obviously attributed to the fact that it’s a hitting park, they take a lot of pitches, but the amount of time wasted in between pitches with time being called and batters stepping out of the box is ridiculous.

– Despite the ballpark being completely sold out, including hundreds of standing room only tickets, the bathrooms and concession stands never appeared to be overly packed. Maybe this is due to people not leaving their seat more in Fenway than other places, or maybe there’s just a good number of concessions, but down the third base side was not bad at all for concourse traffic. I actually really noticed it more when I attended the Mets-Pirates game Saturday night and thought the concourse was too crowded at PNC Park. Something this old ballpark also has on new ones perhaps?

– While taking pictures down by the Angels dugout during pregame, I started chatting with two guys who were in the midst of a baseball park tour. They were hitting 10 ballparks in 10 days with the cities being as far as I can remember: Boston, New York (Yankees), Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Chicago (Cubs and White Sox). They were actually heading to Pittsburgh on Friday, so I gave them some tips about what to check out and food and drinks to find once there. They used Jay Buckley Baseball Tours website, which I was not familiar with, but visit the website to see a number of tours (that range in time and number of parks) this summer that you can pay for in one price and ride a bus around to all of them. This is something I know I will check out in the future as possible great roadtrip next summer.

All in all, what a great trip it was even though I was only there for one game and in Boston for less than two full days. I can’t compare it to Wrigley and say that it was better or not because both were classic parks that exceeding my expectations each time. They were different experiences, but still gave me that nostalgic feel that this is way baseball was meant to be played. I only wish I had gone to an afternoon game. The pictures (all taken by me by the way) filtered throughout this text and below in no way does justice for this ballpark. I recommend Fenway Park to anyone who has never gone or even if you’ve made it to a game before. I know that I plan on returning to Yawkey Way to experience the classic feel again.

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Every so often life just gets in the way of doing things I enjoy such as writing on here everyday. It’s been a busy week to say the least as I’m in the middle of moving…don’t worry though, I’m not moving away from Western Pennsylvania, but only closer to the great city of Pittsburgh.

Anyway, with a couple of days off to enjoy I’ve decided to head northeast to Boston, Massachusetts to see historic Fenway Park. I’m making the 10-hour drive today and will be in attendance for the Red Sox-Angels game Wednesday night. I’ve never been there, but I’ve been meaning to see this place sooner or later.

Since the old Yankee Stadium is no longer in use, Fenway and Wrigley Field are the two great old parks left in the country. I’ve been fortunate enough to make a couple of trips to Wrigley Field, and it was an amazing atmosphere.

Now I will be able to cross Fenway Park off the list of iconic baseball parks to see. Along with Wrigley, Fenway is the Mecca of baseball in my eyes. I can’t wait to enjoy a game there. I’ll update everyone on the trip once I return.

On Saturday night I followed the Pirates-Rockies gamecast online while official scoring a game for a local collegiate Prospect League team. The Pirates held a comfortable three-run lead as a I left our game…or so I thought. While driving home, I tuned to the game on the radio station and was disappointed, but not shocked, that the game was in extra innings and the Pirates were down two runs.

“Here we go again,” I thought. Pirates blew another one in front of a sellout crowd nonetheless. I actually turned the station for a couple of minutes too disgusted to listen. Well, something pulled at me to turn it back on for the bottom of the 10th. Andrew McCutchen had doubled, two outs were made and Garrett Jones drew a walk to bring Pedro Alvarez up as I pulled into my driveway. I hurried to turn the TV on as soon as I entered the door to my house. PNC Park appeared on my screen just moments prior to Alvarez depositing Huston Street‘s 0-1 pitch into the porch above the Clemente Wall for a walkoff 8-7 Pirates victory. I about lost it right there in my living room

I’m not going to sit here today and say that these Pirates rookies are different from the past ones—I can hope, but I don’t know if they are. But Alvarez is the best hitting prospect since Barry Bonds and he continues to prove himself on the field. They need to continue doing that if anything is ever going to really change, but I haven’t been this excited about the future status of the Pirates than right now. Somehow this kid makes it easier to believe. I will say that I think his three-run walkoff blast is easily the greatest moment in PNC Park history and probably the top moment in the last 18 years of the franchise. It was the “Pedro has arrived” moment. And it’s unbelievable to see.

And you thought I was excited? Check out the radio call below. I absolutely love how Steve Blass loses it and screams over Greg Brown’s call. “OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD…”

Finally, the attention and live at-bats come to an end. Alex Rodriguez blasted his 600th career home run off the arm of Shaun Marcum in Yankee Stadium Wednesday. The baseball world and media can now move on to something else.

Frankly, I was becoming sick of hearing about A-Rod and when it’s going to happen, mostly because the topic of steroids always came up. I haven’t talked about steroids too much on CL, because the league finally has installed a decent steroid testing policy. Second, we just don’t know, and never will, all the facts related to steroids, HGH, performance-enhancing drugs, etc.

A-Rod’s name and stellar career will forever be linked to steroids after he admitted in 2009 that he took some form of steroids early in the decade. So now when accomplishments like his 600th home run comes up, pundits will say he’s a cheater and argue until they are blue in the face that he should not be in the record book, or with an asterisk, etc.

Are they wrong? A-Rod did knowingly take steroids along with our superstars to get an edge. So they are not necessarily wrong on that point. The problem I have with what to do with the record books and how these players are viewed is we still do not know a lot of things about steroids. Here’s what I know about steroids:

– We know some players have taken steroids in baseball. We do not know who exactly.

– While steroids are known to give players an edge, it has not been proven how much steroids factor in to a player’s ability to hit doubles, home runs and recover from injury. How much of a player’s overall numbers are from raw talent and hard work as compared to steroids? Does steroids help your bat speed? No one has the answer to that.

– Even the players that tested positive in the past couple of seasons of testing, we do not know how long they were on them and what impact they caused.

– Hitters are not the only ones to have taken steroids. Pitchers have taken them before too. What is the effect on pitchers who are using? Once again, we do not know.

With all that said, A-Rod’s accomplishment should be celebrated as the great feat that it is. Only seven players in the history of baseball are in the 600 home run club. You don’t just get there by shooting some drug into your arm especially when we’re not even sure of the effects from it. Endurance, will power and talent all play a part to get to this club. Anyway, the A-Rod 600 hunt is over. Now, on to your regularly scheduled baseball season.

Indians catching prospect has had an interesting couple of months in the big leagues. He made his ML debut on June 11 and has been hitting the ball fairly well for a rookie (.265/.404/.476) with 13 doubles and six homers in 45 games.

In his third career game, do you remember the play where Adam Dunn annihilated Santana at home plate when he didn’t see him coming? That was brutal. Fortunately for him that game, Santana was not seriously injured.

Well now this from Monday night in Boston. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

If you watch that video and don’t immediately begin hurling obscenities left and right then you may have problems. Ryan Kalish and Santana meet at home plate on a violent collision that rips Santana’s knee/ankle apart. Early word is he’s out for the year with a torn ACL. Tough year, kid.

It’s the first of August and that can only mean good news for the Yankees, White Sox, Rangers, Braves, Cardinals and Padres. Historically speaking, the numbers show that teams leading their respective divisions on August 1 are pretty good bets to be winning that division at the end of the season.

Don’t believe me? Well let’s just take a look at the numbers. Since 1995 when MLB went to its six-division format (actually began in 1994, but there were no playoffs due to the strike), teams leading their division on Aug. 1 end up winning the division 82 percent (74-for-90) of the time. I’ll be honest, I knew the numbers were in favor of it, but until I researched it I never thought it was that high.

Breaking it down by league:

American League teams win the pennant 78% (35-for-45) of the time.
National League teams hold onto the division lead 87% (39-for-45) of the time.

Here are some other interesting notes:

– Two AL division leaders on August 1—Seattle in 2000 and Detroit in 2006—did not go on to win their division, but they still made the playoffs by earning the wildcard. So that adds two more teams to the numbers of division leaders making the playoffs.

– Speaking of the wildcard, the team that holds the wildcard spot on August 1 ends up as the wildcard 47 percent of the time. That’s decent news for the Giants and Rays, who currently hold those spots in each league.

– A very interesting finding is that it’s rare to see teams that are leading the wildcard race on August 1 come back to win the division at season’s end. There’s been only three in 15 years, which is 30 tries (10 percent) with both leagues. Oakland did it in 2000 when Seattle was the division leader and fell to the wildcard in October. The Diamondbacks did it in 2001, which was the year they won the World Series, and Cleveland made up the ground in 2007 to win the AL Central pennant.

– The National League had a bit of a run in the late ’90s. Every Aug.1 division leader ended up winning the division in the final two months from 1996 through 2000. The same occurred from 2004 through 2006 for the NL. The AL was generally more inconsistent with its biggest streak coming two straight years in ’98-’99.

– Last note is that the last three teams in the AL to blow the division lead in the final two months after leading in early August have all been the Detroit Tigers. The ’09, ’07 and ’06 Tigers all lost their divisions, including a blown 7.5 game lead over the Twins in ’06. Ouch.

So does this mean the division leaders today are shoe ins for the playoffs? Absolutely not. Anything can happen especially with the plethora of close division races currently taking place. The largest division lead is Texas over the A’s by 8.0 games in the AL West. The next closest is the Braves 3.5 lead over the Phillies while the Cardinals-Reds and the White Sox-Twins are each within a half game of each other. The Yankees hold a two game lead over the Rays in the AL East, and the Padres only have a 1.5 lead on the Giants. But historically speaking, it may not be wise to bet against 80 percent of them making the postseason.