PNC Park

Nate Silver ranks baseball’s ballparks. Though he gets a little help.

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Nate Silver tends to do in-depth poll-crunching, but yesterday — as a bit of palate-cleanser —  he just presented the results of Yelp.com polling and ranked the major league ballparks from best to worst, based on average ratings by Yelp users.  The result: PNC Park on top, Rogers Centre on the bottom and, for the most part, results that tend to adhere to conventional wisdom in the middle.

Surprises: how low Dodger Stadium is (25). Yes, I know that it’s now in vogue to hate on the place, but it traditionally rates quite high among fans. Silver notes that the standard deviation on the ratings for Dodger Stadium suggest that it’s a love-hate thing, with traffic probably causing a lot of low ratings. I assume the same is happening for the New York parks, with people unfamiliar with the city in general reacting negatively to crowds and expense and all of that kind of thing. Of course there’s also the possibility that people who hated their experience at any ballpark are more likely to log on to slam it, while happy people don’t bother.

My biggest takeaway from the article, however, is when Silver reminds us that, from time to time, some writer gets his paper/station/website to pay for a 30-ballpark review trip:

Every now and then, some writer is lucky enough to earn a book advance or a freelance contract for visiting every major league stadium and rating them (see 1988’s Dodger Dogs and Fenway Franks or ESPN’s Stadium Tour for some well-executed examples). But most of these efforts are out of date — and of course, they reflect just one fan’s opinion.

Out of date, eh? Which means we need it updated?  Well, I suppose that would require a person who (a) is knowledgeable about baseball and ballparks; (b) loves travel; and (c) has the time on their hands to do such a thing and/or can consider going to baseball games as part of his job description.

Now, if you’ll please excuse me, I have to write an urgent email to my boss.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.