Archive for August 2009
With his Major League leading eighth blown save, Philadelphia Phillies closer Brad Lidge is ever closer to fulfilling his boyhood dream of being in the record books for most blown saves in a single season.
“When I was a young boy, I always dreamed of breaking records in baseball,” said Lidge after literally throwing away a game with the Atlanta Braves. “But there was always one that was near to my heart, the holy grail. The single season blown saves record.”
The current record for blown saves in a season is fourteen, held by four different players. The last pitcher to do it was the Minnesota Twins’ Ron Davis in 1984.
Lidge was visibly choked up when talking about the record.
“That was a magical year, 1984,” said Lidge wistfully. “It takes a special kind of situation. You can’t just suck. You have to suck in a special way.
“Kind of like I do this year.”
Lidge was in danger of saving the Braves game yesterday. With his Phillies leading 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, it started off well enough for Lidge with Braves OF Garret Anderson singling to right, just under the glove of Gold Glove second baseman Chase Utley.
“That was a break right there,” said Lidge.
Then Matt Diaz laid down a bunt just to the right of Lidge. He had time to throw to second and start the double play.
“That went through my mind as I reached for the ball,” said Lidge. “But then I thought, the record!
“I bobbled the ball and threw it into right field. I had no choice, really.”
With that, Anderson scored. Lidge, charged with two errors on the same play, knew his work was not done yet. He then walked the next two batters, one intentionally, then struck out Ryan Church.
“It was more dramatic that way,” he said.
Then, to the surprise of no one, Lidge left a slider over the plate that Omar Infante hit into left field for the win.
More importantly for Lidge, the blown save.
“I really think I can do it if I get the opportunities,” said Lidge. “I’m glad Kim (Myers) hit (her husband and injured Phillies pitcher) Brett (Myers) in the eye like I asked her to. That should buy me a couple extra chances.”
When told that Kim denied that and that the Myers claimed that Brett fell out of his car, Lidge chuckled and said, “Sure, ok, whatever.”
“Six more to go. Wow, I can’t believe I am actually this close to history.”
On April 6, 1992, Oriole Park at Camden Yards became the new home of the Baltimore Orioles. It was the first of a wave of retro stadiums, new stadiums built to look like the old-school stadiums along the lines of Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. It marked the (long overdue) death knell for the multi-purpose monstrosities such as Memorial, Veterans and Three Rivers Stadiums. Often imitated but never duplicated, it remains the touchstone on which all new ballparks are measured.
Several years later, they all still have a lot to live up to.
Here is the FANFARE rating for ORIOLE PARK AT CAMDEN YARDS:
Food & Beverage: 5 (out of 5)
Oriole Park gets a full 5 here for one word: Boog’s. If you are in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on game night, it is worth buying a cheap ticket just to gain admittance to get some Boog’s BBQ. It is sinful by any BBQ measure, but for a ballpark? Out of this world. Located behind the outfield, Eutaw Street (don’t worry, that will make sense when you get there) is where all of your food variety is. Along with Boog’s, there’s a pretty decent spot called the Warehouse Bar out there. Extremely friendly, it is a lot like your run of the mill neighborhood pub. There are lots of beer vendors there as well; good variety for beer is present all around the park, prices range from $6.50 to $7.50. For healthy options, try Pastimes Café, with a surprising array of healthy and vegetarian options, at great prices. Other than that stretch of Eutaw Street, and the stand called Charm City Seafood (where you can get your obligatory Baltimore crab cake and a huge pile of steamed shrimp, along with a soft pretzel covered in crab dip), the rest of the park is just your standard modern ballpark fare. If you try nothing else, please get some Boog’s. It’s so good, it’ll make you slap your mama.
The picture below is from the last row of seats in the stadium. There is not a bad seat in the house. The stadium is clean and still has the new stadium feel.
Full disclosure: I am not an Orioles fan, nor am I a fan of the city of Baltimore, frankly. In fact, after the cancellation of the 1994 World Series, I was no longer a baseball fan. I was done. They can keep their money and their game. Then came September 6, 1995. On that night, Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game streak. I don’t know why I was watching it, but I was, and Cal, being a humble guy was urged by his teammates to take a lap around the field. As he rounded the field at Oriole Park, tears streamed down my eyes. As far as I am concerned, Cal Ripken saved baseball that night. And it happened at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Space does not permit the description of the greatness of this area. The park is a 15 minute, leisurely stroll from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. But before you get there, you have to pass Pickles. If you are an Oriole fan, or like to be with hometown fans, or just like $1 bottles of beer, Pickles is the spot. Located stumbling distance from the park, it is the unofficial bar of the Orioles. The food is generic pub food, but, come on, $1 a beer, who cares about the food? There are a number (a large number, I stopped counting at 10) of bars also very close to the ballpark, including The Nest on Pratt Street, which is actually the official bar of the Orioles. It’s OK, but frankly, it wants to be Pickles when it grows up. It gets a mention only because it sells a drink called a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, which is hysterical if you are a fan of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, not so much if you aren’t.
Baltimore fans, as a rule, are intelligent and involved. They were a solid four points here, with my thinking that a five point score would require more of an edge. Then, in the third inning, a fan caught a foul ball and, while holding the ball up, the crowd booed him viciously because he was wearing a Yankees jersey. No big deal, you say?
It was a ten year old kid.
This stadium is right off I-95, the main interstate on the East Coast. It is easy to find. Parking is plentiful and cheap. Since it is downtown, there is no shortage of garages. If you pay more than $10, you are getting ripped off. Okay, $12 at the most. There are plenty of clean bathrooms.
Return on Investment: 5
An absolutely great place to watch a ballgame, great prices, and lots of great deals. They have a section where for $40, you get a club level seat plus all the hot dogs, peanuts, popcorn, nachos, ice cream, soda and lemonade you can eat and drink. They have lots of other deals, including the “Birdland Stimulus Package.” For details on them, see www.orioles.com.
Extra Points: 3
I can’t say enough about this stadium. The only way it could be better would be if they played National League baseball here. They brought the original foul poles from Memorial Stadium. Boog’s. Cal. Pickles. Great seating everywhere. And the seats are all the same color, instead of the multicolored mess you see in so many parks. The neighborhood is a perfect mix of old school ballyard and new, modern restaurants. Did I mention Boog’s?
FANFARE Total: 33 (out of 35)
There is a short list of stadiums I believe every fan needs to see before they die. Fenway. Wrigley. Chase Field (it has a POOL, come ON, and the cheapest beers in baseball). Tropicana Field (just kidding). Oriole Park at Camden Yards needs to be on that list. It is worth a trip to Charm City just to take in a game here. You will not be disappointed.
For this and other reviews as well as more information on the FANFARE rating system go to www.stadiumjourney.com.
Hey, Brad, you got a second? We, the fans of Philadelphia, just wanted to say thanks. Thanks, Brad, for the magical perfect ride last season. That run of 48 straight saves in a Phillies uniform last year, from April through the World Series was amazing, thanks. Don’t let the bullpen door hit you on the way out.
It’s over. Brett Myers is coming back.
No, it’s cool, we know you’re a great guy and everything. It’s just that, well, you know, you really have been a terrible pitcher this year.
We can live with the major league leading seven blown saves. The law of averages says that’s probably about right with the perfect season last year. It really isn’t about the ERA either, really, although an ERA over 7 is ridiculous.
No, it is the way you are blowing saves that concerns us, to the point where we need to end this now.
Your success is dependent on people chasing that nasty slider, because you can’t throw it for a strike. (Well, you can, but when you do, it gets hit hard.) People are on to this. They know that they can just wait out the sliders until you have to throw a fastball for a strike to hit, or a slider for a strike to hit, or continuous sliders off the plate or in the dirt until you walk them.
Let’s take Tuesday night in Chicago. You walked Kosuke Fukudome, who was then sacrificed to second. Behind in the count to Milton Bradley, you threw your slider over the plate, which, predictably, got smacked into center for a game tying RBI single.
After the game, you wanted to focus on the walk. Regarding the pitches to Fukudome you said, “I guess I could have made them a little closer so they could be called strikes.”
Yes, Brad, you could have thrown them over the plate instead of trying to nibble. A pitcher working a perfect closing season gets those calls. A guy with six blown saves and an ERA north of a touchdown does not.
Look, you don’t have to explain. It’s not that we don’t love you, we do. You’re a great guy. It’s not you, it’s us. We just need more consistency, like Phillies’ pitching coach Rich Dubee says. You aren’t giving us what we need.
Look, Brad, don’t make this harder than it already is. It was fun, right? You can keep the ring. No, we insist . You can – wait, that’s our cell phone, hold on, we need to take this – hello? Hey, Brett, how’s it going? You threw two simulated innings yesterday? No pain? You think you might be pitching in a rehab start within a week? Great! Hold on, what? Yes, he’s still here. We’re telling him now, hold on a second.
Look, Brad, we gotta go. Actually, you gotta go. Thanks again for last year. No, now. Goodbye, Brad.
On approach, from the outside, Nationals Park looks like a large, round office building. There is a real feel of the old 70’s multipurpose stadiums like Veterans’, Three Rivers’ and Riverfront Stadiums. But once inside, it is clear that this is every bit the modern stadium, complete with great food, drinks and activities. Oh, yeah, they play baseball here, too. The best way to describe it would be to imagine that Three Rivers and Camden Yards got together and had an ugly baby with a great personality and disposition. It never cries, is always happy and laughing, but, man, is it hard to look at.
Here is the FANFARE rating for NATIONALS PARK:
Food & Beverage: 5 (out of 5)
Here is where Nationals Park truly shines. Between all of its vendors and bars (yes, bars, we’ll get to that in a moment) it boasts dozens of different kinds of beers on tap, everything from Budweiser to Peroni, Coors Light to Stella Artois. There are micro brews that even the most discerning beer lover will enjoy. They all cost $7.50, which is great for a ballpark Stella, not so much for a ballpark Bud.
The variety of food is impressive. It ranges from great local legends such as Five Guys (best burger you’ll ever have outside of a sit down restaurant, and better than most of those as well, fries are as addictive as heroin), Ben’s Chili Bowl, home of the legendary half-smoke sausage (think about the best kielbasa you ever had, only a hundred times better), and the Hard Times Café. They also have a couple of stands called “Taste of the Majors,” which, as the name implies, carry foods from the other four cities of the NL East. They include a Philly Cheesesteak, a Florida Cuban Sandwich, an Atlanta BBQ pork sandwich and a NY meatball sub. There are even several vegetarian and kosher options available. Truly, an impressive display, and all are reasonably priced. For a ballpark.
This is not a bad place to watch a game. Sightlines are great. One complaint is that if you are sitting in the lower level bleachers from center to left, you cannot see the main scoreboard at all, and the mini scoreboards on the sides that you can see are replaced by advertising at key situations sometimes. Hey, I get it; Papa John’s makes great pizza, what’s the count? But hey, it’s clean, has great food and drink, and still has that fun, new stadium feel. I would go back.
There is a tent covered bar called The Bullpen outside the park, but, really, there is nothing to do here. Nothing. Unless you are fascinated by the DC water and sewer headquarters or that of the U. S. Department of Transportation. I walked four blocks before I even saw a Starbucks.
Part of the problem is that the neighborhood is largely still under construction. The stadium is supposed to be the centerpiece of the revitalized DC waterfront. But the cool DC waterfront is in Georgetown, on the other side of town. But there’s a lot to do in the stadium!
The announced attendance on the day I went was 23,691. No chance there were over 10,000 people in there. There were several – several – whole sections empty. It was a pretty good game, too, the Nats came back to win after being down six, and it was almost like the crowd had to be told to cheer. When it is the top of the ninth, and there are two strikes, the scoreboard operator should not have to tell the crowd to stand up and applaud – or any time there are two strikes, really. The only reason they get one point here instead of zero is because I spoke to two knowledgeable fans and saw a third doing scorekeeping. So they are there, there are just not enough of them yet.
Parking is brutal. Brutal. Take public transit. The access from public transit is great. Parking ranges in price from $10 to $40. The $40 and $35 parking are on-site and very limited and are recommended to be pre purchased to guarantee a spot. The $20 and $15 parking is limited as well, and you are walking six to eight blocks to get there, in SE DC, an improving, but, let’s be honest, notoriously sketchy neighborhood. Look, it’s not Boston’s Combat Zone, or south central LA or anything, but, trust me, just take public transit. If you are coming from out of town, find a metro station here (www.wmata.com), in the Virginia or Maryland suburbs, and park there. Metro has plenty of parking, they cater to tourists, and the fare will be much cheaper than parking anyway.
Bathrooms are clean and plentiful. There are even family bathrooms for Dad to take his little girl or Mom to take the little guy. The great job on bathrooms here saves this from being a zero.
Return on Investment: 3
If you happen to be in DC and want to see a ballgame and eat well while doing it, Nationals Park is your place. This is not a park worth traveling to DC specifically; there are plenty of better things to do in this town. But for watching a game? Good place.
Extra Points: 3
If you do come for a game, be sure to check out the Red Porch Restaurant. With a two level, full, upscale bar in right center field, it is THE spot to watch the game. The menu is small, and slightly overpriced (but not quite ballpark overpriced), but with surprisingly good variety. It opens two and an half hours before game time, so you can do dinner, and then watch the game in the upstairs bar.
Another extra point feature is that you can buy “tickets” and have them sent to your mobile phone. When this option is selected, a text message is sent to your phone (separate texts are sent for each ticket), which is then scanned at the entrance. A receipt is printed as a stub to get to your seat, but since you will be following this guide, you won’t need it because you will have purchased the cheapest ticket available and be hanging out at the bar in right center.
FANFARE Total: 17 out of 35
Overall, this is a decent place to go if you like the Nats or your team is visiting. There is no history, it is not nice to look at and there is nothing to do outside the park. Inside it’s great. There are plenty of food and beverage options to please everyone, and lots of stuff for the kids, including video games and a Build-A-Bear workshop. If you like to sit in the outfield, bring your internet ready mobile device so you can follow the stats, because you won’t always be able to see them.
For a detailed explanation of the FANFARE rating scale or to see this and other stadium reviews go to www.stadiumjourney.com.