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Deep thoughts: The Astrodome as Modernist statement

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Sticking with the Astros for a moment, I just read a bit in Design Observer about how its imminent destruction could be a rallying point for Modernist architecture. As in, if it’s allowed to be destroyed, maybe people will realize that a notable piece of architecture was lost and thereby inspire them to save and preserve other Modernist masterpieces:

In a recent article in Architect magazine tied to the destruction of Prentice Hospital in Chicago—another travesty—my Design Observer colleague Alexandra Lange suggested the modern preservation movement was in need of a Penn Station Moment; the destruction of a monument so beloved that it would galvanize a movement to prevent future travesties. The Astrodome is as good a test case for that theory as one could hope to find.

With the caveat that I am a sucker for Mid-century Modernism, this Modernist sentiment about the Astrodome is a bit rich.

Modernism is all about form following function. The Astrodome has literally no function now. The impulse to preserve it is almost entirely about sentiment and nostalgia, with its backers casting about for possible uses for the place and with pipe-dream hopes to renovate and retro-fit the joint into some new function.  These are traits the Modernists were explicitly rejecting. And while, yes, form following function is most specifically about the actual design of buildings, the notion can and should extend to a building’s very purpose, construction and, in the case of the Astrodome, preservation.

I get wanting to save the Astrodome on nostalgic or sentimental grounds. Or, if the argument could’ve been made, grounds of efficiency and utilitarianism.  But I can’t see the Modernist case for it.  If the Modernists were being true to themselves they’d argue for the building of a convention center anew with form following function. Same with any new sports arenas that may be needed.

And they’d admit that, however much of a masterpiece they wish to call the Astrodome, it was built to handle a function for, roughly, 30 years before it became obsolete.

White Sox sign first baseman Travis Ishikawa

Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Travis Ishikawa hits an RBI-single off Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Raisel Iglesias to drive home Neil Walker in the seventh inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015, in Cincinnati. The Reds won 4-3. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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First baseman Travis Ishikawa has agreed to a minor-league contract with the White Sox that includes an invitation to spring training.

Ishikawa was previously reported to have a minor-league deal with the Mariners last month, but the signing was never finalized. Now he joins the White Sox, who have Jose Abreu and Andy LaRoche ahead of him on the first base/designated hitter depth chart.

Ishikawa had some big moments for the Giants in the 2014 playoffs, but he’s a 32-year-old journeyman with a lifetime .255 batting average and .712 OPS in 488 games as a big leaguer.

It’s possible the White Sox could keep him around as a bench bat and backup first baseman/left fielder, but Ishikawa seems more likely to begin the season at Triple-A.

Mariners sign reliever Joel Peralta

Joel Peralta
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Right-hander Joel Peralta has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mariners that includes an invitation to spring training.

Peralta spent last season with the Dodgers and was limited to 29 innings by neck and back problems, posting a 4.34 ERA and 24/8 K/BB ratio. Los Angeles declined his $2.5 million option, making him a free agent.

He was one of the most underrated relievers in baseball from 2010-2014, logging a total of 318 innings with a 3.34 ERA and 342 strikeouts, but at age 40 he’s shown signs of decline. Still, for a minor-league deal and no real commitment Peralta has a chance to be a nice pickup for Seattle’s bullpen.

White Sox sign Mat Latos

Mat Latos
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Jerry Crasnick reports that the Chicago White Sox have signed Mat Latos.

Latos was pretty spiffy between 2010-2014, posting sub-3.50 ERAs each year.  Then the injuries came and he fell apart. He pitched for three teams in 2015 — the Dodgers, Angels, and Marlins — with a combined 4.95 ERA in 113 innings. And he didn’t make friends on those clubs either, with reports of clubhouse strife left in his wake.

In Chicago he gets a fresh start. It doesn’t come in a park that will do him any favors — Latos and U.S. Cellular Field don’t seem like a great match — but at this point beggars can’t be choosers.

 

Jason Castro loses arbitration hearing against Astros

Jason Castro
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Veteran catcher Jason Castro and the Astros went through with an arbitration hearing over a difference of $250,000 and the three-person panel ruled in favor of the team.

That means Castro will make $5 million this season rather than his requested amount of $5.25 million. This is his final year of arbitration eligibility, so the 29-year-old catcher will be a free agent after the season.

Castro showed a lot of promise early on, including making the All-Star team at age 26 in 2013, but since then he’s hit just .217 with a .650 OPS in 230 games. His power and pitch-framing skills are a valuable combination even within sub par overall production, so 2016 will be a key year for the former first-round draft pick.