As is always the case at this time of year, I’m at a bit of a loss. My brain and body still think it’s baseball season. The hot stove stuff doesn’t seem very real yet. And, even though we’ll totally get into it like crazy now, it does feel like a step down from where we’ve been.
Indeed, I feel like someone who just came back from a grand adventure or a fantastic journey who has trouble slipping back into the ho-hum of daily life. Free agency is fun, but it’s not a baseball game. Damn far from it. And it seems even farther from it this year, what with just how thrilling the playoffs and World Series were. How did a medieval French soldier go back to farming after surviving the Second Crusade? How did Neil Armstrong teach undergrads at the University of Cincinnati after walking on the moon? How do you come back down from something that harrowing and wonderful?
I have no idea, but onward we must go.
If you missed it over the weekend, we learned that Bud Selig is going to step in and deal with Theo-compensation. We also heard that the Angels’ 2012 payroll isn’t going up. Jason Giambi and the Rockies decided to stay together, making him one of the only gigantic stars to actually have a third act to his career. The Indians kept Fausto Carmona because they realized that pitching does not grow on trees. The Yankees exercised their options on Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano. Javier Lopez (Giants) and Marco Scutaro (Red Sox) learned that they’d be staying put. In the biggest news so far — though when it’s all done it will likely be no big deal — we learned that CC Sabathia will opt out of his contract.
There will be other twists and turns. Pujols. Darvish. The new collective bargaining agreement. Big splashy free agent signings that we’ll talk about as if Carl Crawford and Adam Dunn never happened. Some deals so minor that we’ll almost completely overlook them as if Mike Napoli never happened. I’ll go to the Winter Meetings and once again realize that it’s far more interesting to talk about them as a happening than it is to talk about what actually happens there. I’ll devote a solid two weeks to alienating the entire professional baseball press when I rail against the Hall of Fame voting. I assume that a good two dozen guys will be in The Best Shape of Their Lives. It will all be fun. And within a few days I’ll be totally into it and the 2011 season will seem like a distant memory.
But I’m not quite there yet. For now, I want to close my eyes and try to recapture the wonder of everything we just experienced. I want to savor the 2011 season for one last moment before it ceases to be a present happening and, instead, becomes forever consigned to history …
… There. OK. Forward. Onward. Into the offseason we go.
The Nationals began the year with Blake Treinen as their closer. That didn’t last long, and now Koda Glover seems to be Dusty Baker’s man in the ninth inning. He earned a save for the second consecutive game yesterday. Glover has been pretty darn good in the early going, posting a 2.35 ERA and striking out six batters and walking only one in seven and two-thirds. That obviously a small sample size, and anything can happen. If it does, Baker has Shawn Kelley as an option.
Not many household names there, which is probably why the Nationals are reported to be interested in the White Sox’ David Robertson and Alex Colome of the Rays. That report comes from Jim Bowden of ESPN, who also notes that the A’s have a number of guys with closing experience on staff and are likely to be sellers too. The David Robertson thing may have more legs, though, given that Mike Rizzo and Rick Hahn pulled off a pretty major trade in the offseason. If you know a guy well, you call that guy first, right?
As far as problems go this isn’t a huge one. The Nats sit at 13-5 and, as expected by most prognosticators, are in first place in the National League East. The Cubs had some questions in the pen this time last year too. They had the luxury of trying to figure it out before making a massive trade for a closer. The Nats do too, and likely will. But expect them to be a part of any trade rumor conversation for the next couple of months.
Travis Sawchik writes about the post-Camden Yards generation of ballparks over at FanGraphs. The ones everyone loves because they’re nice and clean and friendly and are full of amenities. And that’s true! They are nice! But they all have a huge flaw: unless you’re in expensive seats, you’re too far away from the action.
Sawchik uses cross sections of ballparks — available at Andrew Clem’s website — to show that fans sitting in the upper decks of ballparks are way higher and way farther back than they used to be at many old ballparks such as Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, Old Comiskey, Tiger Stadium and Ebbets Field.
A lot of this has to do with an admirable impulse: to eliminate the beams which obstructed the view of many seats in those old parks. If you want to move that upper deck closer to the field, you have to have the beams because one can only achieve so much via cantilever effect. But that’s not the only impulse and probably not the primary one. More expansive lower bowls — which feature more expensive tickets — push the upper deck back and up. As do the luxury suites and club level amenities in between the lower and upper decks. Exacerbating this is the fact that most newer parks are built on vast tracts of land with few architectural constraints. If you can sprawl, you will, which leaves the most affordable seats in the land of binoculars.
I don’t agree with everything Sawchik writes here. He spends a lot of time talking about how much better neighborhood parks like Wrigley Field are and how it’d be better if newer parks were built in neighborhoods. I agree, neighborhood parks are ideal, but the fact is, most places don’t have mass transit like Chicago does. In most cities you have to have a place for 40,000 people to park.
That’s a quibble, though. Mostly, it’s a good look at an important thing most folks overlook when they praise the new parks. Important because, if you don’t have an enjoyable experience at the ballpark, you’re not likely to come back. And if you’re not fortunate enough to be able to buy expensive tickets, you may not have a great experience at the ballpark.