Phoenix Municipal Stadium only has one more spring training left in it

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It was announced this morning that 2014 will be the last season the Athletics train at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. They’re going to move into Hohokam Park, where the Cubs currently train, after the Cubs move into their new place in Mesa and after Hohokam gets a $20 million face lift. Arizona State University’s baseball team will take over this place.

Speaking to the scribes this morning Bob Melvin said it’s a good thing because, for whatever you can say about Phoenix Muni, “it’s dated” and “it’s lacking a bit.” He’s not wrong about that. The park has been around since the early 60s. And while they have done a good job of upgrading the concourses and the press area, the stuff the players actually use has been outclassed by the newer construction.  It was probably inevitable that this park would cease to be a spring training home for the majors one day soon.

Still, it makes me a little sad. I have a soft spot for this place. It reminds me of the public schools I went to in the 70s. It was built in a forward-looking, modern/brutalist style in an era where nostalgia simply didn’t exist in the world of sports architecture. Why on Earth would anyone put in some frieze or some quaint feature when there is room for more poured concrete? Poured concrete is cheap and efficient! And, dammit, our resources must be conserved because we have a Cold War to win.

Oh well. Progress.  Other random observations from Phoenix municipal:

  • I did the clubhouse thing this morning. It’s a split squad day for the A’s, so half the team hopped on a bus at 9:30 AM, leaving things pretty dead. I can report, however, that Pat Neshek wears Oakland A’s-colored Zubaz. Just thought you should know.
  • Before he left on the bus Bartolo Colon handed a pair of spandex workout shorts to a clubbie to have a hole sewn up. BARTOLO COLON SPANDEX. They don’t pay clubbies nearly enough money.
  • I like coming back to the same parks each year to see the upgrades young players get in locker placement from year to year. I mentioned Mike Trout the other day. Last year I was here for Yoenis Cespedes’ spring debut and he was down at some crowded end with players with numbers in the 70s. He has a nice big locker with plenty of space this year.
  • In addition to Michele and the Phoenix Bats, some guy was in the clubhouse taking measurements for custom-made suits too. I think if you’re a major leaguer you eventually forget how to do your own shopping.
  • I spoke with Bob Melvin. He seems kind of excited to be playing the Italian team today. He was with the Dbacks when they played Mexico back in the 2006 WBC down in Tucson. He said the crowd was insane and the electricity off the charts. It makes me pretty excited to watch the U.S. vs. Mexico game in Chase Field on Friday night. I’m thinking of rooting for Mexico just to be annoying.

Time to settle in for Italy vs. Athletics.  They just played the Italian National Anthem. It’s not short, but it is quite a pretty tune. Oh, and there are plenty of seats available:

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Fun day.

Astros advance to the World Series with 4-0 finale against Yankees

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The Astros punched their ticket to the World Series on Saturday, shutting out the Yankees 4-0 to take their first Game 7 victory at home. Charlie Morton was nearly untouchable on the mound, holding the Yankees to two hits, a walk and five strikeouts en route to his first career postseason win.

Morton and Sabathia carried their duel through three solid innings. Morton struck out three batters and allowed just one baserunner. Sabathia worked in and out of jams in the second and third innings, supplying and stranding two runners in scoring position.

Evan Gattis was the first to strike. In the fourth inning, he punched a 2-2 slider from Sabathia into the left field wall, where it registered a projected 405 feet and broke a homer-less streak of 115 at-bats by designated hitters in the 2017 postseason. The home run signaled the beginning of the end for the Yankees’ starter. He induced a groundout from Marwin Gonzalez, then walked Brian McCann on six pitches and allowed Josh Reddick his first base hit of the playoffs. That was enough for Joe Girardi, who pulled Sabathia for righty Tommy Kahnle and an inning-ending double play to close out the fourth.

Even with Sabathia gone, there was still some hope that the middle of the order could bail the Yankees out. Greg Bird led off the fifth with a first pitch double and Aaron Hicks took a four-pitch walk. A wild pitch from Morton allowed Bird to reach third base, but Alex Bregman and Brian McCann weren’t about to let the Yankees spoil their starter’s shutout. Todd Frazier bounced a ball toward third base, where Bregman grabbed and fired it to home plate, catching Bird just as McCann put his glove down.

The bottom of the inning wasn’t any easier for Sabathia’s successors. Jose Altuve went oppo-taco on a 1-1 changeup from Kahnle, postmarking it 364 feet into the right field stands. Kahnle labored through the next four at-bats, handing out a pair of singles to Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel before sending Gattis down swinging. The next at-bat was even more troublesome. McCann roped a two-out, two-RBI double to the warning track in right field, clearing the bases and boosting the Astros’ to a cushy 4-0 lead.

The excitement fizzled a little over the next few innings. Brett Gardner muscled a leadoff single off of Lance McCullers, but was later caught at second on a force play to end the sixth. McCullers didn’t let go of the ball again. He was lights-out through the end of the game, scattering a walk and six strikeouts over four innings and clinching the pennant with a 1-2-3 performance in the ninth.

Whatever confidence the Astros had coming off of their three-game sweep in the Division Series was tested and tested again in their pennant run. They battled through three tough losses in Games 3 through 5, staved off elimination with a gem from Justin Verlander in Game 6, and finally emerged victorious tonight. Three days from now, when they enter Dodger Stadium for Game 1 of the World Series, they’ll have the chance to do it all again.