McKechnie Field

McKechnie Field and imminent gentrification


BRADENTON — It stinks that there’s probably not going to be baseball here today, because this park is pretty sweet:


I love McKechnie Field. It’s old, and despite recent renovations, it still has that old-timey feel. And of course the renovations make it more comfortable. And the food here is great. Just a wonderful park.

As many note when talking about this place, the area in which it sits is not exactly prosperous. I parked my car right across 17th Avenue from the park, right behind a homeless shelter/soup kitchen/free clinic. There are a lot of auto repair and body shops nearby. These are the sorts of elements which people cite when disparaging Maryvale Baseball Park where the Brewers train and Citi Field in New York.

My view: baseball is part of life. We shouldn’t consider it a bad thing when life happens next to a ballpark. If anything, it’d be better if the luxuries of society were closer and more accessible to more people and their necessities. That they not cloistered away in prosperous areas as though they were playgrounds for rich people. People in Bradenton work in and around this ballpark. And I can’t help but think that even if they don’t get here very often, seeing it as they walk to where they need to go makes the fabric of society a bit stronger. We already have too many things for rich people separated from the majority of people by virtual moats. Going to a baseball game isn’t cheap these days, but it’s nice to see a ballpark less characterized by that sort of thing.

Not that there isn’t some sort of gentrification going on here. Right next door to the free clinic is this, under construction:


It may be hard to tell from the photo, but looking inside you see beer tanks and a couple dozen taps in what will be a dining area. Yep, they’re putting a brewpub across from the park.  And now gone from the park?


That was Popi’s Place, a good old fashioned greasy spoon. I ate there back in 2010 and it was one of the best breakfasts I ever had. And the palce had all kinds of character. The Pirates bought it last month and closed it down. They’ll use the site for parking now, but it’ll eventually be part of a ballpark expansion. The owners weren’t forced out or anything — this story explains that they were ready to retire — but it is hard to feel great about the closing of this sort of place.

Especially when, again, according to that article, it’s part of “the City’s and the Pirates’ strategy for redeveloping the area around McKechnie Field as an arts and entertainment district.” “Arts and entertainment districts” tend not to be aimed at a neighborhood clientele. Indeed, it often means people in the neighborhood need to find new neighborhoods in which to live or work due to increased rents.

I’ll admit that I’m a naive idealist/utopianist. I have this vision of a civil society in which people come together in order to get the business of living done. That they use the banks and post offices and sidewalks and public squares more or less together. That the services and businesses that tend to serve the rich aren’t so profoundly separate and apart from the services and businesses that tend to serve the poor. That people see those who are different from them more often than we do now — literally see them — and as such, don’t forget their existence when plans and policies are made. I feel like such a thing would make our society stronger.

Maybe that’ll never exist. Maybe it never truly existed in the past either. Maybe the fact that I live in an upscale suburb specifically so my kids can go to better schools makes me a way bigger part of the problem than someone who builds a spring training complex in gated-off parking lot in a rich suburb or gentrifies a working-class neighborhood to the point were the workers actually have to leave.

I don’t know. But this is the stuff I think about when it’s raining at a ballpark.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.