Is a freeway series good for baseball?

Leave a comment

The Dodgers and Angels in the playoffs together for the third time in six seasons, but this is the first time they’ve both made it this far, so people are starting to buzz about the possibility of a freeway series. Given that the Yankees and Phillies don’t have any plans of simply rolling over and dying the freeway series could just as easily be an I-95 series as it could be a 405  an I-5 series (see updates below), but let’s consider the pros and cons of the California version of such a beast:

Pro: Weather.  Last year’s ski-mask series between the Phillies and Rays was not a whole hell of a lot of fun, and given that this year’s Classic is going to stretch into November, the odds of poor weather affecting a series played in either New York or Philadelphia or both is even greater.  It’s still summer in Los Angeles, however. Hell, it’s always basically summer there.  A freeway series means no rain or snow delays and no Elmer Fudd hats. Just baseball in the sunshine.

Con: Strangely enough, that sunshine.  Because of the imperative that every game of the Series be played in east coast prime time, a freeway series is going to be subject to a lot of long shadows and setting-sun glare.  All but one of the NLCS games are set to start at 5:07 p.m Pacific, and the World Series games would presumably start then too.  That will make it tough for guys to pick up the baseball in the first few innings, which would lead to a lot of pitchers’ duels. Personally I love pitchers’ duels, but that’s only when the guys are really dealing, not because the hitters are flailing at balls they can’t see.

Pro: Stereotype busting.  You know the story: East coast fans are intense and knowledgeable. West coast fans are arrive-late, leave-early dilettantes.  Only problem is that that characterization is completely untrue.  I’ve got a brother and some college friends who live out west and because of it I’ve been lucky enough to go to a great number of Dodgers and Angels games over the years. Sure, there are some folks with expensive seats down low in Dodger Stadium who seem more interested in being seen than watching the game, but no more so than the guys down in the legends suites in New York.  Once you get past those guys, you’ll find no more passionate or knowledgeable fans in baseball than you’ll find in Southern California. You remember the explosion from the Dodgers crowd after Gibson hit that dinger in 1988? It was no fluke. I was at a Dodger game two years ago where Olmedo freakin’ Saenz got the same kind of reaction following a walkoff job. ThunderStix or no ThunderStix, Anaheim gets positively raucous as well.  They love their baseball in Los Angeles, and a freeway series will give the national media a chance to show the rest of the national just how much they do.

Con: The national media will probably whiff on that, instead giving us the standard “it’s the World Series, California-style!” coverage. Lots of shots of Hollywood stars in the stands. Lots of skinny blond chicks holding beers and going “wooo!” No less than 50 commercial breaks lead in with that awful Randy Newman song.  Blah.

Pro:  New faces. We get the Yankees on national TV a hundred times a year.  We just saw the Phillies in last year’s World Series.  While no one really needs more Manny Ramirez coverage, the east coast and Midwest haven’t seen nearly enough Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Jered Weaver and Kendry Morales.  Fresh is good.

Con: Low ratings. Sure, L.A. is the second biggest media market in the country, but (a) it’s not as big as New York; and (b) neither the Dodgers nor the Angels have nearly the national fan base the Yankees have.  Will will two L.A. teams draw the kinds of eyes that a series involving the Yankees will draw?  My guess is no.  I don’t own FOX stock so the business implications of this aren’t tremendous, but a low-rated Dodgers-Angels series would probably mean even more Yankees-Red Sox games on national TV next year.  If that’s possible.

Personally I’d love to see a freeway series because it would be a unique matchup of interesting teams with large portions of the action played in daylight.  I’m not sure the rest of the nation feels that way though.  Ignoring the fact that, yes, it’s probably too early to talk about this yet, how do you feel?

UPDATE: Interesting point raised in the comments as to whether my picture should have been of an I-5 sign instead of an I-405 sign.  I’ll grant that the most direct route between the stadiums is I-5.  On the other hand, no one is really going to be driving between the stadiums in this series, are they?  All of the fans rich enough to afford World Series tickets — and the players themselves — probably live in wealthy West L.A. or the beach communities, no?  Wouldn’t 405 be a better option for those folks?  And at least according to Google Maps, the 1-5 route “in traffic” would take considerably longer than 405.

I really have to plead ignorance here. The times I’ve been to the Big A from Los Angeles, I took the 405, but I wasn’t the one doing the navigating.  Angelenos: give me your opinion in the comments.  If 1-5 is a truly better route from the parts of L.A. where actual World Series attendants are likely to live to Anaheim, I’ll change the signs.

UPDATE #2:  OK, I’m getting a lot of emails and stuff now and the overwhelming sentiment is that it has to be I-5, and if that’s the way the winds are blowing, let no one say I don’t also blow. I have changed it to I-5.  Which is probably for the best considering that the rest of the media will probably go with that too.  Of course, if the forces of 405 make a convincing case later in the day, I’ll change it back again, because I’m a spineless flip-flopper. 

White Sox ballpark to be renamed “Guaranteed Rate Field”

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 10:  General view as members of the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins stand for the National Anthem before the White Sox home opener at U.S. Cellular Field on April 10, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Getty Images
5 Comments

Stadium naming rights have long been with us. They’re just a part of the sports landscape now. Some are pretty spiffy despite their corporate underwriting: “Great American Ballpark” could be the name of a sports facility even if it wasn’t also the name of an insurance company. “Progressive Field” could be the name of a field even an anti-corporate dude like Bernie Sanders could appreciate, at least if he’s sloppy with capitalization.

Others are clunky: “Globe Life Park in Arlington” seems to have both adjective and preposition problems, as if it were run through a foreign language translator and then back again to English. The joint in Oakland went by the name O.co Coliseum for a spell. That was for Overstock.com, but it didn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

At the risk of being snobbish, I think it’s fair to say that there are also higher and lower rent names as well. Banks, airlines and beer companies, however crassly commercial they are, seem a bit more respectable and venerable than, say, the fly-by-night dot com companies which named sports facilities for several years. “Chase” and “Coors” aren’t going anyplace. Those places are named after American institutions, even if they’re still corporate institutions. I’m pretty sure that circa 2001 half the stadiums and arenas in the country were named after businesses still being run out of tech incubators in nondescript office parks, their first biggest investment being the naming rights, their second biggest investment being the ping pong table in the break room.

The White Sox have long played in “U.S. Cellular Field.” This is pretty dicey as it is, given that that company is only a regional wireless provider. Fifth largest in the country. Certainly not A-list, and likely far more identifiable to more Americans as the name of a ballpark than the name of a going telecommunications concern, thereby sort of defeating the purpose of naming rights. Which must be why U.S. Cellular is getting out of the naming rights business, leaving the White Sox to find a different naming rights partner:

As the tenth largest mortgage company in the country, is there even any guarantee that Guaranteed Rate will be in business in 2030? If the choices are “it goes under,” “it gets purchased by a larger lender” and “it’s still there,” I am not putting money on the latter choice.

That aside, it’s just a goofy name for a ballpark. It’ll better lend itself to columnist jokes about bad guaranteed contracts for bust veterans than it will to spreading awareness of a financial services company. And don’t even get me started on the dissonance between the ballpark name and its tenant’s ticket price policies:

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 4.48.18 PM

Best work on that, guys.

UPDATE: LOL

 

Phillies’ Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz cleared waivers

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 10:  Ryan Howard #6 of the Philadelphia Phillies follows through on a 3 RBI double in the ninth inning off of Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on August 10,  2016 in Los Angeles, California. Phillies won 6-2.  (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
Leave a comment

ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and catcher Carlos Ruiz have both cleared waivers, which means the club can attempt to trade either player unimpeded. Stark adds that two teams are mulling a pursuit of Ruiz, but Howard is “virtually certain” to stay with the Phillies.

Howard, 36, has unimpressive overall stats, as he’s carrying a .198/.252/.445 triple-slash line with 19 home runs and 43 RBI in 286 plate appearances. The Phillies have limited Howard to right-handed pitching by platooning him with Tommy Joseph.

Shockingly, Howard has been one of the best hitters of the second half, as Corinne Landrey explains at FanGraphs. Using wRC+, an all encompassing offensive statistic that sets 100 at average, only Joey Votto has been a more productive hitter since the All-Star break, owning a 226 wRC+ to Howard’s 191. Howard is trailed by Freddie Freeman (179), Adrian Gonzalez (149), and Paul Goldschmidt (140).

Howard is owed the remainder of his $25 million salary for the 2016 season as well as a $10 million buyout for ’17. Despite Howard’s productive second half and even if the Phillies were to cover all of the remaining money owed, there won’t be much of a market for an inconsistent 1B/DH in his mid-30’s who can’t field, can’t run, and can’t hit left-handed pitching.

Ruiz, 37, has had a solid season, batting .261/.368/.352 in 193 plate appearances. Like Howard, Ruiz has lost playing time at his primary position to a younger player — Cameron Rupp, in this case. Ruiz is owed the remainder of his $8.5 million salary and is under contract next season if his controlling club picks up his $4.5 million option. That option may make him even more attractive to interested clubs, as Ruiz is still a valuable catcher. He has accrued 1.3 Wins Above Replacement despite limited playing time and has a reputation for working well with his pitchers. A playoff-bound club could do a lot worse.