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.

Great Moments in Not Understanding The Rules

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Bill Livingston of the Cleveland Plain Dealer is a Hall of Fame voter. In the past he has voted for players who used PEDs, but he’s never been totally happy with it, seeing the whole PED mess as a dilemma for voters.

On the one hand he doesn’t like voting for users and doesn’t like harming those who were clean by shifting votes away from them, but on the other hand, he doesn’t want to pretend history didn’t happen and that baseball hasn’t been filled with cheaters forever. What to do?

This year he decided to abstain altogether. A fair and noble act if one is as conflicted as Livingston happens to be. Except . . . he didn’t actually abstain:

Major league baseball will confer bronzed immortality on a few players Wednesday when the results of the national baseball writers’ balloting for the Hall of Fame will be announced.

I had a 2017 ballot. I returned it signed, but blank, with an explanatory note.

A blank ballot, signed and submitted, is not an abstention. It’s counted as a vote for no one. Each “no” vote increases the denominator in the calculation of whether or not a candidate has received 75% of the vote and has gained induction. An abstention, however, would not. So, in effect, Livingston has voted against all of the players on the ballot, both PED-tainted and clean, even though it appears that that was not his intention.

This is the second time in three years a Cleveland writer has had . . . issues with his Hall of Fame ballot. In the 2014-15 voting period, Paul Hoynes simply lost his ballot. Now Livingston misunderstood how to abstain.

I worry quite often that Ohio is gonna mess up a major election. I guess I’m just worrying about the wrong election.

Hall of Fame voters are making news, not exercising democratic rights

Cooperstown
Associated Press
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Last month the Baseball Writers Association of America voted to make all Hall of Fame ballots public beginning with next year’s vote for the 2018 induction class. In the past 24 hours or so, as this year’s Hall of Fame voting period comes to a close, a lot of folks have been talking about that. Most notably in Jayson Stark’s piece over at ESPN regarding next year’s brave new public world.

Stark is pro-transparency on the ballots, as are the vast majority of BBWAA members who voted on the public ballot measure (it passed 80-9). Not everyone Stark quotes in his article is on board with it, though:

“I’ve already seen a lot of people change their votes from one year to the next,” said one of the strongest dissenters to this decision, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. “People have changed their votes based on public opinion.”

Two other sources in the story, Scott Miller of Bleacher Report and a voter who asked to remain anonymous equated their Hall of Fame vote with democracy and invoked the sanctity of the secret ballot. “The No. 1 reason I was against this rule is that in this country, it’s a democracy, and everyone has a vote on different things. And I hate to see a blanket rule that forces everyone to go in one direction,” Miller said. Here’s what the anonymous guy said:

“To me, a secret ballot is a fundamental of democracy. You should be able to vote your conscience without having to explain your vote. But once it’s public, you’re open to public pressure. And that’s not what we want in a democracy. We’re not elected representatives. We’re chosen to be part of a voting group.”

This is ridiculous of course. Voting for the Hall of Fame is not exercising democratic rights. It is making news and making history. Hall of Fame voters are making decisions which will fundamentally alter baseball history and which matter greatly to a large number of baseball fans. They are not advancing their own or society’s interests at the ballot box the way citizens do on election day. Despite the fact that the form of their action here is, technically speaking, a ballot, they are making news in the same way a GM makes a news with a trade, the commissioner makes news with a rule change or a team makes news by winning a World Series.

Would any of these voters — who are credentialed members of the media, by the way, and like to style themselves as truth-seeking members of the Fourth Estate — accept silence from the people who make the news on the beat they cover? Would they be content if the newsmakers whose acts they chronicle demanded anonymity the way they themselves do now? Of course they wouldn’t. And if they got the same silent treatment they’d prefer to give, they’d write one of those petulant little columns they love about players who “duck the press” after a game.

Suck it up, journalists. Act the way you expect the newsmakers you cover to act and own your decisions. Don’t pretend for a moment that you’re not the subject of, and not the reporter of, the story when Hall of Fame season comes around.