U.S. Cellular Field

Wrigley Field by day, U.S. Cellular Field by night

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source:  I was out on Friday because I went to Chicago for the weekend for various reasons. High among those reasons was to take in a Chicago doubleheader: Cubs day game and White Sox night game. I did and had a nice time.

My first visit to Wrigley came 13 years ago. I was young and able to handle much more foolishness than I can now, so naturally I sat with my young friends in the bleachers and consumed all manner of beverages and kinda sorta watched Sammy Sosa hit a home run and paid a little bit of attention to the game and then sort of lost track of time until I was somehow transported to a place called Ace Liquors in West Chicago at 11pm and then told everyone for the next couple of days that I had a fine time at Wrigley and how, yes, it makes total sense for every Big Ten graduate to migrate to Lincoln Park and boy it would probably be nice to have a beer with that George W. Bush guy who’s running and aren’t the 2000s shaping up to be just like the 90s only more prosperous and peaceful?

Which is to say that one’s opinions and tastes change, as does the world, and you never know exactly how it will change.

My view of Wrigley certainly has changed. It’s hard to say anything about Wrigley Field that hasn’t already been said. Thing is, almost everything that has been said about it, no matter how superficially contradictory, is pretty much true. It is charming. It is a dump. It is a great place to watch baseball. It does contain a whole hell of a lot of people not watching baseball. I can’t think of a park which has the whole of baseball experiences in it, both bad and good, like Wrigley Field does.

This time I sat in good seats along the first base line and was responsible and aware and apart from being absolutely frozen by a stiff wind blowing in directly at me from left field on an already chilly day for June, I found the place to be peaceful and conducive to good baseball-watching. Part of that is me being an old fogey now, and enjoying the fact that the organ music-to-crappy pop ratio is very nice at Wrigley, as are the relative lack of promotional announcements and general noise pollution. I didn’t focus 100% on the game as I wanted to move around some and see the park from different angles, and because I had some friends up in the upper deck I wanted to go visit, but I walked away from Wrigley feeling like the place still has something baseball needs.

Yes, it’s decaying in many ways and has to get that renovation the team is proposing, yes there is still a lot of nonsense out in the Bleachers and, no, it’s not some Field of Dreams-style jewel that must be preserved lest baseball lose its very soul. But the essence is right. If they can keep the place a building that is about presenting you a nicely unadorned baseball game in an urban setting, the Cubs will have done a great service. I sure hope the don’t mess up the good parts while they fix all the bad stuff.

source:  The evening meant the A’s and White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. It’s an underrated park. So much of my opinion of that place — which I had never visited before Friday — was based on outdated information. It was the last of the parks to be built before Camden Yards revolutionized ballpark construction, and for that reason I assumed it was coldly utilitarian in the way all of those 1960s-80s multi-use parks used to be. I guess I maybe knew that at some point in the 90s there were major renovations to cozy the place up, make the upper deck a less harrowing and severe place and all of that, but it just didn’t register in my gut somehow. Fact is, it is rather indistinguishable from most of the post-Camden Yards parks, both for good and for bad.

U.S. Cellular does all of the things a modern park is supposed to do: it’s clean and easy to get to and spacious and the food is good and the sight lines are great. I got to the park early, sat in the Bullpen Bar, which is just beyond the right field fence at field level, and watched the A’s take batting practice. As the sun went down I took a nice stroll around the concourse, taking the long way to my seats — my inexpensive seats — behind home plate. I had a great Italian Sausage and my companions had what they, in their expert opinion, said were the second-best helmet nachos at a major league park (Texas wins). The bathrooms were clean with short lines. It was easy in the way you want the ballpark experience to be easy.

And while, no, it does not have that baseball-only essence of Wrigley, it’s a quite enjoyable place to see a game. White Sox fans seem to care. At least the ones at the game on Friday did. Maybe that’s just a 2013 White Sox thing borne of the fact that no one is going to seek this team out on a chilly night unless they really like baseball, but it seemed like a very good baseball crowd in spirit if not in size. U.S. Cellular has one of the more assaulting “let’s make some noise” features of any ballpark — it pits the fans on the right side of the park against those on the left in a screaming contest — but it seems pretty superfluous here. White Sox fans know when to cheer.

On Saturday I had some time to kill in the afternoon and found myself walking around down by the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium. On the way back to my hotel I went by Soldier Field. It’s an old stadium with a new one rudely dropped on top of it, making it one of the uglier and sadder buildings I’ve ever seen. One look at that and Chicago baseball fans have to consider themselves lucky. They have the old where the old makes sense and the new where the new makes sense and oh my god how easy it could have been to mess that up.

Joe Panik says he’s “100 percent” recovered from back injury

San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik follows through on a single off Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Scott Oberg in the eighth inning of Game 1 of a baseball doubleheader Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Denver. The Giants won 10-8. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Giants second baseman Joe Panik missed nearly all of August and September last season due to a nagging back injury, but he told Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com on Friday that he’s feeling “100 percent.”

Panik, who earned his first All-Star selection last season, originally landed on the disabled list in early August due to what was described as lower back inflammation. He made his return in September, but appeared in just three games before being shut down. The good news is that he was cleared by doctors in mid-December and considers himself “back to normal.”

“It was right around the time of all the signings,” he said, smiling. “I was able to fly under the radar. I got tested and everything had healed up. I got cleared and was able to have my full offseason workouts. I’m good to go. I’m happy to be feeling good and going back out on the field to show that I’m healthy. My swing feels strong.”

Panik altered his offseason workout routine and plans to spend less time in his spikes in the early part of spring training. The hope is that these changes will prevent future issues.

After a strong showing as a rookie in 2014, the 25-year-old Panik proved to be one of the best second baseman in the majors last season by batting .312/.378/.455 with eight home runs and 37 RBI over 100 games while playing solid defense.

Baseball America names Corey Seager as baseball’s top prospect

Los Angeles Dodgers' Corey Seager follows through a single that scored Austin Barnes, in front of Colorado Rockies' Wilin Rosario during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
AP Photo/Danny Moloshok
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Baseball America unveiled their top 100 prospect list Friday night during a special on MLB Network. It should come as no surprise that Dodgers infielder Corey Seager came in at No. 1.

This makes Seager the consensus top prospect in the game. He was also ranked first by MLB.com, Baseball Prospectus, and ESPN’s Keith Law. Twins outfielder Byron Buxton was ranked second on all four lists.

Baseball America has the most aggressive ranking of Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada from the Red Sox, who checked in at No. 3. He was followed by pitching prospects Lucas Giolito from the Nationals and Julio Urias from the Dodgers to round out the top five.

You can see Baseball America’s full top 100 list here.

Jenrry Mejia: “It is not like they say. I am sure that I did not use anything.”

New York Mets' Jenrry Mejia reacts after getting the last out against the Milwaukee Brewers during the ninth inning of a baseball game Friday, July 25, 2014, in Milwaukee. The Mets won 3-2. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps
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Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia was permanently suspended on Friday after testing positive for a third time for a performance-enhancing drug. The right-hander is maintaining his innocence, as ESPN’s Adam Rubin notes in quoting Dominican sports journalist Hector Gomez. Mejia said, “It is not like they say. I am sure that I did not use anything.”

Mejia has the opportunity to petition commissioner Rob Manfred in one year for reinstatement to Major League Baseball. However, he must sit out at least two years before becoming eligible to pitch in the majors again, which would mean Mejia would be 28 years old.

Over parts of five seasons, Mejia has a career 3.68 ERA with 162 strikeouts and 76 walks over 183 1/3 innings. He was once a top prospect in the Mets’ minor league system and a top-100 overall prospect heading into the 2010 and ’11 seasons.

Bryce Harper on potential $400 million contract: “Don’t sell me short.”

Bryce Harper
AP Photo/Nick Wass
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Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is at least three years away from free agency, but people are already contemplating just how large a contract the phenom will be able to negotiate, especially after taking home the National League Most Valuable Player Award for his performance this past season.

When the likes of David Price and Zack Greinke are signing for over $200 million at the age of 30 or older, it stands to reason that Harper could draw more as a 26-year-old if he can maintain MVP-esque levels of production over the next several seasons. $400 million might not be enough for Harper, though, as MLB.com’s Jamal Collier reports. He said, “Don’t sell me short,” which is a fantastic response.

During the 2015 season, Harper led the majors with a .460 on-base percentage and a .649 slugging percentage while leading the National League with 42 home runs and 118 runs scored. He also knocked in 99 runs for good measure. Harper and Ted Williams are the only hitters in baseball history to put up an adjusted OPS of 195 or better (100 is average) at the age of 22 or younger.