August | 2011 | The Golden Sombrero Baseball Blog | MLB, Fantasy, College & High School Baseball News

Articles from August 2011

Come on out to the ballpark with us, Part II: One fan’s top five MLB venues

5. Angel Stadium of Anaheim (Anaheim, CA)

Angel Stadium, despite being the fourth-oldest ballpark in the Majors today, is definitely an interesting ballpark and a fun place to watch a ballgame.  One of its notable features is the rockpile in left center field.  Scattered with a few palm trees and set against a background of hundreds of parked cars beyond the outfield gates, the rockpile gives Angel Stadium a unique feel.  A couple of blocks away in the parking lot, a huge Angels logo known as “The Big A” lights up after all Angels victories.  But perhaps my favorite feature of Angel Stadium is the famous Rally Monkey, who of course earned national prominence in the 2002 World Series.  Late in the game, with the Angels down a run against the lowly Indians, a playoff berth well out of reach, southern California’s favorite primate made a dramatic appearance on the video board, shown saving the world from Armageddon much to the delight of the hometown crowd.  The Angels went quietly in the ninth and lost the game 3-2, but the Rally Monkey no doubt made for some excitement in the late innings, even during a lost season for the Halos.

4. Busch Stadium (St. Louis, MO)

Busch Stadium may have been placed unfairly high on this list due to the fact that my most memorable game there was the Cardinals’ 2006 Series-clinching win over the Tigers in Game 5, enjoyed in the comfort of the exclusive Redbird Club.  Every part of the ballpark was state-of-the-art, including the gourmet pizzas served in the Redbird Club.  Still, the downtown location of the five-year-old ballpark and the rabid St. Louis fans also helped make this ballpark special.  Despite boasting football and hockey teams, St. Louis is and always has been a baseball town, and the fans there love their Cardinals.  Of course, having stars like Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter around certainly doesn’t hurt, but I quickly got the feeling that that fans would fill Busch Stadium night after night even to see a seventy-win team.  And since the Golden Sombrero’s base of operations is still located in the St. Louis area, I know one day I’ll be back at Busch Stadium, and I certainly look forward to that day.

3. Yankee Stadium (Bronx, NY)

Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009, is the newest ballpark I have visited, and it obviously has several features that set it apart from other venues.  Among the most notable of these are the legendary “Bleacher Creatures” in right field.  The Creatures are known chiefly for their “roll call” in the top of the first inning, when they chant the names of each Yankee infielder and outfielder until they offer their acknowledgment.  The creatures are also known to mercilessly heckle opposing teams, fans and (especially) right fielders.  Fortunately for Eric Young Jr., the Rockies do not inspire too much venom in opposing fans, because his bumbling performance the last time I was there left much to be heckled.

I think the mere words “Yankee Stadium” raised my expectations to the point where I was somehow expecting the hallowed grounds of Ruth, Gehrig and so many others to be something more than just a nice place to watch a ballgame.  Make no mistake—it’s a very nice ballpark, and the Yankee Museum inside the ballpark (which I had time to visit while the Bombers were crushing a hapless Aaron Cook) is also a very cool feature of the park.  Watching Mariano Rivera nail down a save to clinch the AL East title (on their way to a world championship) over the Red Sox was certainly one of the more memorable events in baseball that I’ve witnessed in person.  Yankee Stadium misses the #1 slot not for any shortcoming in its own right, but merely because as a non-Yankee fan, I suppose I never felt its “Yankee mystique” that I assumed would touch every fan to pass through its gates.

2. Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Baltimore, MD)

Camden Yards ushered in a new era of ballparks when it opened in 1992.  Just two years later, Jacobs Field opened in Cleveland, mercifully shutting the doors on Cleveland Municipal Stadium.  Coors Field opened the following year, and others such as PETCO and AT&T Park quickly sprang up before the decade was out.  Located in Baltimore’s beautiful Inner Harbor neighborhood, by far the nicest area of the city, Camden is truly a choice destination for any night on the town.  It’s also easily accessible from Washington via a quick trip on the Camden line of a local commuter rail.  Although fans are very casual about the game and largely treat it as more of an event, much like in PETCO Park or Dodger Stadium, the actual ballpark itself is very well-constructed and there’s hardly a bad seat in the house.  With Eutaw Street fronting a red brick building in the background, it has a true baseball feel, even though it was built in an era when many facilities were used for baseball and football.  The ballpark has never hosted a World Series game, and has only been home to two playoff teams in its twenty-year history, but is still a fun place to enjoy a ballgame.

1. Coors Field (Denver, CO)

Coors Field, home of my beloved Rockies, has truly set the standard for me as to what the ideal ballpark experience should be like.  Aside from one game in the old Mile High Stadium when I was six years old, Coors Field was the first major league park I ever visited, and the other nine ballparks I’ve visited (some newer, some with more tradition, some with more features to keep fans entertained) simply have failed to top the experience of watching a ballgame at Coors Field.  The ballpark is located in the heart of downtown Denver on 20th and Blake Street, surrounded by bars, restaurants and entertainment as far as the eye can see.  $15 will buy you a spot in a parking lot just a five-minute stroll from the home-plate gate.  And once inside the ballpark, nothing can get me ready for baseball like the PA announcer’s booming voice proclaiming, “This is Coors Field—home of the Colorado Rockies!”

The Rockies have struggled as a franchise for many years.  Outside of a strike-shortened 1995 season, the second half of September 2007 and a few months of the 2009 season, the team has been mediocre at best.  And without a rich, tradition-filled history, it can sometimes be tough to get people excited at the ballpark, especially when the home team falls behind early.  Not so at Coors Field.  From the Blake Street Bombers era of 1995 (which saw the Rockies routinely pound out double-digit runs and cobble together game-winning rallies in the late innings) to the more mainstream brand of baseball today, the game is simply never over at Coors Field.  Fans know this too, and it’s why you won’t see anyone head for the exits trying to beat the Denver traffic with the Rockies down three in the bottom of the ninth.  It is this element of Coors Field that I like most of all—the fact that, humidor or no, Rockies fans have simply been trained never to give up on their team, and they enthusiastically support the hometown nine until the final out is recorded–or, in more cases than rival NL West teams would care to count, not recorded.

Coors Field certainly isn’t the newest ballpark I’ve ever visited.  It doesn’t have the best concession-stand food, nicest bathrooms or most comfortable seats.  And it definitely doesn’t sport an array of pennants along the outfield wall marking World Series titles of long ago.  But there is simply nothing like the experience of watching a game at Coors Field.  So come on out to the ballpark with us—and let’s go Rockies.

Changeups and Screwballs: A Southpaw’s Perspective for 8/30/11

–       What a night for southpaws last night.  As predicted here yesterday, Wandy Rodriguez was masterful.  He struck out a career high 13 through seven-innings.  I’m glad the Astros kept him around, as he could be a solid No. 2 for years to come.

–       Did Cole Hamels forget that this was his first start back off the DL?  His breaker was Razor Ramon sharp last night.  It must be the most stress-free environment he has ever pitched in before, what with him being a No. 3 behind Doc and Cliff.

–       Another lefty, Clayton Kershaw looked brilliant (again) last night.  It’s hard to believe that this guy is only 23.  To put it in perspective, he is 6 months younger than my little sister (Big ups to my sister Blaire btw, who just recently became engaged and has the most beautiful 1 year old baby in the world) and is basically a veteran ace in his 4th big league season.  NL Cy Young anybody?

–       Sticking with lefties, albeit from the NFL, how about Mike Vick?!  Only NFL player in history to sign two $100,000,000 contracts.  I know this is a baseball blog, but I just had to show some proppers to the fellow southpaw.

–       Mark Teixeira made it 8 straight seasons of 30 HR and 100 RBI last night.  Is he the greatest switch hitter of all-time?  Not yet, but definitely the best of my generation.  If he can keep this up I see no reason why he won’t be the greatest.

–       While watching highlights of Carlos Santana hitting another bomb last, I had to listen to the sports anchors discuss whether or not Santana should stay behind the dish or not.  First, I hate listening to almost every sports anchor talk about things of this nature.  Not all, just most.  Secondly, it made me think about what baseball is turning into.  I understand the logic behind moving a strong hitter to a position that promotes longevity.  Heck, I’m not even sure if I’m against such a move.  It is something to think about though.

–       It’s always nice to have guys from other clubs make pitches to get you on their team; especially when that team is the Texas Rangers and you are from Texas.  But, c’mon C.J. Wilson, how do you think those comments made David Murphy feel?

–       Rough one for Timmy Jim.  Those Cubbies made him look like a jail cell bottom last night.  It’s OK though, Lincecum…it happens to everybody.

Golden Sombrero: Danny Espinosa

Top 1: Danny Espinosa hit RBI single to center against Johnny Cueto

Top 3: Espinosa struck out swinging against Cueto

Top 5: Espinosa called out on strikes against Cueto

Top 8: Espinosa drew a walk against Aroldis Chapman

Top 9: Espinosa struck out swinging against Nick Masset

Top 11: Espinosa struck out on a foul tip against Jose Arrendondo

Top 13: Espinosa grounded out to first against Arrendondo

Final Line: 1-for-6, RBI, BB, 4 K

Notes: In a game that lasted 14-innings and featured 34 total strikeouts, Espinosa was miraculously the only player to register a sombrero.  Despite the low batting average (.230) and frequent strikeouts (24% K%), the Nats’ rookie has turned in a solid rookie campaign—18 home runs, 13 stolen bases, 59 RBI and 2.9 fWAR—and could receive some third, fourth and fifth place votes for Rookie of the Year.

Total 2011 Sombreros: 101

2011’s 100th Golden Sombrero: Kelly Johnson (again)

Bottom 2: Kelly Johnson struck out swinging against David Price

Bottom 4: Johnson called out strikes against Price

Bottom 7: Johnson called out on strikes against Price

Bottom 9: Johnson struck out swinging against Cesar Ramos

Final Line: 0-for-4, 4 K

Notes: Johnson’s golden sombrero on Sunday was his second of the season, as he became the only player to accomplish the feat in both leagues.  Johnson and the Blue Jays collected three hits against David Price, who fanned a career-high 14 hitters over seven scoreless frames.

Total 2011 Sombreros: 100

Changeups and Screwballs: A Southpaw’s Perspective for 8/29/11

–       Sure, the Yankees are one of, if not the most storied franchise in baseball.  They have a history of being larger than life, no doubt.  However, do they really believe that they are in a position to complain about rescheduling a couple games due to a freaking hurricane?  Forget being happy about the fact that they were not the ones trying to gather the pieces of their lives and put them back together.  Forget the fact that the payroll of that organization could provide a lending hand and still turn a profit of a billion dollars.  Nope, they want to complain about rescheduling baseball games.  Go be the whales you are NY, and blow it out your hole.

–       Congrats to the kids from Cali.  They took home the LLWS title in a most dramatic, walk-off fashion over the weekend.  The only way this game could have been better would have been if the SS from Japan had not booted the opportunity to turn two the batter before, and the game went to extras for a walk off victory.  I feel for the little guy.

–       It might just be that I am a former Tommy John victim, but following Stephen Strasburg’s Phoenix-like rise from the ashes of an operating table is remarkable.  The fact that he will return to the Nationals around September 6th is downright absurd.  Man, am I glad to say I saw him pitch live once in my lifetime.  An arm like that is once in a lifetime folks.  I suggest you watch it every chance you get.

–       Jamie Moyer is still rehabbing from his own Tommy John surgery and believes he will be ready and able to pitch again in the bigs next season.  The dude turns 49 in just a few months.  Good luck, partner.  I am definitely in your corner.

–       I can’t wait to see the Moneyball movie next month.  I only hope that Hollywood does not ruin it for me.  I also am afraid that the average person who goes to that movie will not be able to truly understand, or appreciate what that story is about.  It forever changed the way that not only baseball, but all sports, are viewed, played, and managed from the front office on down.

–       I am not sure what is happening at The Ballpark in Arlington, but this is starting to become downright ridiculous.

–       Go Astros!  We were able to win in extra innings last night, despite the fact that we are basically a Triple-A team right now.  Wandy Rodriguez on the bump tonight (a fellow southpaw), and I expect him to record 8 K’s against the Pirates.