Brewery District Reds

The definitive ballpark craft beer ranking

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There have been a lot of articles about craft beer offerings at ballparks in the past couple of years. And a lot of efforts to rank the ballparks by beer selection. Beer is a pretty subjective topic, though, so a lot of that is hit and miss. I think this article at the Washington Post today, however, is the most definitive ranking/offering listing I’ve seen, and does a great job of contextualizing craft beer and its place in major league ballparks.

The rankings are based on (1) quality, as defined by Beer Advocate rankings; (2) locality, as in how much beer is from nearby; and (3) uniqueness of offerings. Then an overall raking is compiled.

The top ranked ballpark for craft beer: Safeco in Seattle. That’s not surprising based on what people have told me about the place. The article notes just how committed that park is to craft beer and how, next year, they’re going to offer suggested food pairings at each concession stand. Seattle is turning into a must-visit for me.

Last: Yankee Stadium. This is not at all surprising based on things we’ve seen there in the past and its generally poor approach to concessions in general.

The two parks I go to most — Comerica Park in Detroit and Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati — rank 6th and 2nd, respectively. Comerica has a fantastic area devoted to Michigan’s many excellent craft beers behind the right field foul pole. I make a beeline there each time I take a trip up there. It probably gets knocked down a bit due to the fact that craft beers are more or less confined to that part of the park while Miller/Coors products are everywhere else. As the article notes, Cincinnati made a big, big commitment to craft beer this year by installing a looooong bar on the third base line with tons and tons of both local and national craft taps of outrageously high quality. It was a total game-changer for a park that, until recently, was pretty meh as far as it goes. It’s amazing how much more enjoyable a trip to Cincy is for a ballgame knowing that treat is waiting for me.

Maybe the biggest takeaway from the article, however, is this passage:

Counting single-day offerings, the Cincinnati Reds’ selection of distinct beers went from 42 to more than 130 – the most in Major League Baseball, according to a Washington Post analysis. Craft sales increased even more dramatically, by 363 percent. The biggest-selling beer at the Brewery District is still Bud Light – not exactly a craft product – but stadium officials found that rather than taking away from existing beer sales, craft consumers were actually creating a new category.

There are a lot of laws around the country which put craft brewers at a disadvantage compared to large brewers or otherwise seek to stifle the growth of the craft industry. Many ballparks — especially those with big beer tie-ins in their name — are less-than-receptive to craft beer as well. I suppose on some level the rise of craft beer is a threat to the big brewers, but it’s not a direct threat and it’s not a zero sum game. One would hope that, in light of this, things would be a bit less tense out in the world of beer. But I suppose that’s asking too much.

(Thanks to Josh R. for the heads up)

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.