How Peanuts and Skittles will spice up baseball in 2015

Opening Day is in nine days, and I haven’t written anything about the Marlins all spring training long. So here’s the wrap of March:

Jose Fernandez pitching1) Jose Fernandez is progressing well in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. The Marlins still hope his return will come in the middle of June. Beat writer Joe Frisaro pointed out that the window for his return begins on June 15, when the Marlins host the Yankees. ESPN, anyone?

2) Giancarlo Stanton still hits long home runs. Against the Cardinals this week, Stanton smashed a fly ball to deep left-center field. It landed on the second-story balcony of the Marlins’ clubhouse. I’ll estimate the distance at 440 feet.

3) Michael Morse, Dee Gordon, and Martin Prado, who all joined the Marlins in the offseason, will join Adeiny Hechavarria in Miami’s infield. They’re all having productive springs with no news being good news.

And now to the intriguing story lines:

Take me out to the ball-gamble

Marlins starting pitcher Jarred Cosart is being investigated by Major League Baseball for allegedly exchanging messages with a gambling firm through Twitter. All reports from the MLB indicate that the pitcher is cooperating fully with the investigation. Cosart, who was traded to Miami from Houston at 2014’s trade deadline, claims that his Twitter account was hacked. He has deleted the account.

He is innocent until proven guilty, but if it is found that Cosart did indeed make wagers on MLB games he could face serious punishment. The penalty for betting on a baseball game in which he is not involved is a one-year suspension. If he made a wager on his own team’s game, he faces a lifetime ban.

This is one of the stranger off-field stories I can remember involving the Marlins. Cosart, though, appears genuine in his cooperation and I personally doubt he was involved in any gambling activities.

Take me out with the crowd

There will surely be crowds at Nationals Park this season–especially for all the giveaways.

Washington released images of the Livan Hernandez bobblehead to be given out on the May 4 game
livan hernandez bobblehead2
against the Marlins at Nationals Park. Hernandez’s figurine is the first to be given out in the ‘Great Moments in Nationals History’ bobblehead series celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Washington Nationals.

The bobblehead depicts the first pitch in Nationals history, delivered by Hernandez in Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia on Opening Day in 2005. As such, Hernandez is depicted in the Nats’ away jersey, the first time an away jersey has been featured on a Nationals bobblehead, according to Scott Allen of the Washington Post.

Hernandez made memories for both the Nationals and Marlins during his career. He was on Florida’s 1997 World Series Championship team. He played for Washington in two separate stints–from 2005-2006 and from 2009-2011.

Buy me some Peanuts and Cracker Jack

The Colorado Rockies are selling a bobblehead of…Charlie Brown?

Cespedes Family Barbeque, a blog/Twitter account with a high satirical concentration run by two college baseball charlie brown rockies bobblheadplayers, tweeted about the bobblehead this morning. Why? Several weeks ago, they posted a gif of the classic Charlie Brown baseball scene in which he stands on the mound, pitches, and watches a fly ball go way, way, way over his head. It was captioned with “Coors Field will feature a lot of this.”

Coors Field’s high altitude makes it conducive to long home runs and overall hard-hit balls. That, coupled with the Rockies’ unimpressive pitching staff this season, inspired the tweet from Cespedes Family Barbeque. Whether or not that tweet inspired the Charlie Brown bobblehead is anyone’s guess. If someone in the Rockies’ marketing department had the foresight to see the tweet and design a bobblehead (and the gusto to make fun of the home team), I may have to make a trip to Denver this summer.

Marlins hope to ‘Taste the Rainbow’

Skittles. That’s all I have to say.

Dee Gordon, Miami’s new second baseman, posted a rather intriguing image to Twitter this week. It was a picture of a letter with a bag full of Skittles packets in the background. The letter read:

Hey Dee,

Do you know the ULTIMATE way to celebrate a team victory? With the Rainbow, of course! To make sure you have plenty of Skittles to go around when the celebrations begin this baseball season, I’m sending you a GIANT backpack jam packed with Rainbow candies…

It sounds to me like Skittles wants to be the official sponsor of walk-off wins at Marlins Park this season. In the last two seasons, it has become a tradition for the Marlins to throw around water when celebrating walk-off victories. So Skittles may just want to add some color to that party. I suppose only time will tell, but I predict that Skittles wants Dee Gordon to throw around the rainbow candies on the field in celebration.

That’s all I’ve got for the month of March. Make sure to watch Dayton’s women’s basketball team on ESPN today at 2:30. They’re in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time ever. And if you’re feeling really adventurous, read about them on FlyerNews.com. Ironically, their women’s basketball reporter is also named Steve Miller.

The Marlins open the season on April 6th at home against the Atlanta Braves.

Retractable dome, promotional gnome, far away home headline Major League Baseball

Marlins awarded 2017 All-Star Game

RF seats Marlins ParkIt’s official, finally. The 2017 All-Star Game will be played at Marlins Park.

The event will symbolize the rejuvenation of a franchise that, after suffering for two decades in an empty football stadium, now shimmers in a gorgeous ballpark in downtown Miami. By 2017, the Fish hope to have a few more winning seasons under their belt, prepping for a championship run.

Richard Justice, an MLB.com columnist, wrote a brilliant piece on the Marlins and their ballpark today. In it, he said:

In ways large and small, it’s close to perfect. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria oversaw the design of the place and instilled dozens of touches — aquariums behind home plate, bobblehead museum, artwork galore –that are a reflection of a lifetime as a baseball fan two decades as an owner…

Personally, I cannot wait to see what kind of battering the center field home run sculpture will take in the Home Run Marlins fountain at the ParkDerby, which takes place the night before the All-Star Game.

All sources indicate the 2018 game will be played at Nationals Park, which will be MLB’s best gift giver again in 2015…

Chia Pet the new gnome?

The Washington Nationals just released their official 2015 promotional schedule after a “10 Days of Teddy” campaign, which featured the racing president giving away tickets to promotional giveaway games to the Nats fans lucky enough to find him in D.C..

After last year’s Jayson Werth garden gnome-a-palooza drove in hoards of fans and made national sporting news, the Nats spiced up their promotional style this year by announcing a Jayson Werth Chia Pet among their 2015 promotions. 20,000 green beards will be Oprah-ed on August 5th (exactly one year after the werth garden gnomeoriginal gnome game) when the Nationals play the Arizona Diamondbacks.

This season, several other teams are giving away their own player gnomes, including the New York Mets, who are gnome-ifying young Jacob deGrom.

It will be interesting to see if the Chia Pet has a similar effect. And if it does, will other teams follow suit?

I’ve long thought the Nationals have the best bobbleheads, and they’re affirming my proposition this year. Included in the promo schedule are several event-commemorating bobblers. Events such as the 2012 NLDS Werth walk-off, Stephen Strasburg’s MLB debut, and the Jordan Zimmermann no-hitter will somehow be depicted in bobblehead form. I’m assuming these figures will resemble the poses their respective players assumed at the historic moments. Color me intrigued.

But fear not, Natstown, Washington is not leaving its gnomes behind to move onto bigger and better things. Anthony Rendon will appear in gnome form on August 25th when the Nats take on the San Diego Padres…

Padres punctuate potential with Shields

…Who added one more exclamation point to their clamorous off season by signing free agent pitcher James Shields, who led the Kansas City Royals’ pitching staff in their 2014 World Series run. The deal is worth $75 million over four years, with several clauses and strings attached that are not very relevant to the 2015 season in San Diego.

Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Meyers, Derek Norris, and Will Middlebrooks will join Shields as potent new members of this completely revamped roster.

padres hd scoreboardThe Padres are clearly trying to put a quality product in their ballpark as they’re in a similar situation to the Marlins. Remember, PETCO Park will host the 2016 All-Star Game.

PETCO also received an aesthetic upgrade this off season as a brand new HD scoreboard was installed above the left field second deck. The board is the third largest in Major League Baseball, behind the Royal’s in Kauffman Stadium, and the Mariners’ behemoth at Safeco Field

Safeco Field RF with scoreboard

Mariners must brave another year of trekking

…Whose isolated location makes for some jet-lagged baseball players.Mariners meeting on the mound

The Seattle Mariners face baseball’s most strenuous travel schedule this season. It should not come as a surprise since Seattle is an entire day of driving away from the nearest MLB city. Divisional games are in Anaheim and Oakland in California, as well as Houston and Arlington in Texas–hardly quick jaunts from the Pacific Northwest.

According to a recent Yahoo! article, Seattle will clock in this season at about 43,000 miles of travel, more than double what some teams in the NL Central will face.

The Mariners and Colorado Rockies are the only two MLB teams that (wait for this) are alone in their states (aka, no other baseball team within state lines) and do not border another state with an MLB team.

Watching Baseball in the Pacific Northwest: Where to sit at Safeco Field

Lying in the shadow of Mt. Rainier, Seattle is the hub of the Pacific Northwest. A haven of transportation and innovation, the Emerald City is also home to the snazziest-looking baseball team in the nation. And Safeco Field, the Mariners’ glistening ballpark, is a lively environment to behold America’s pastime.View from Mariners Suite

I visited Seattle with my family this past July and attended two Mariners games at Safeco Field, which opened in 1999. The ballpark is situated south of downtown next to CenturyLink Field (home of the Seattle Seahawks) in an up-and-coming sports district.

Here is my analysis of the seating chart and tips for attending an M’s game. The ticket values that I’ve written are estimates or information from last year since the Mariners have not yet released 2015 single game prices.

While it does have its quirks, Safeco Field was an exciting place to watch baseball and I ranked it my second favorite venue–right behind PETCO Park in San Diego.

Mariners in the teal uniformsI found that Mariners tickets were much pricier than what I had been used to in the east (venues like Nationals Park and Turner Field are cheap places to watch baseball). So I looked for a good value when buying tickets for the family, knowing that seat upgrading would likely be a viable option, after all it had worked for me at Fenway Park.

Section 108 in right field is in prime home run territory and had tickets on StubHub for under $30 each, so I went for it. And that’s where I’ll begin my analysis of the Safeco Field seating map. Please refer to the below seating chart of Safeco Field, color-coded with section numbers:Safeco Field seating chart

102-108: Right field lower-level

Safeco Field, RF glareYou’ll notice the sections in purple in the lower level of right field. 108 is the second one from the foul line. When I was in that area during batting practice, the glare from the sun was intense. The sun sets along the third base line, which caused me to lose almost every fly ball hit towards me in right field during BP. In the middle innings after the sun has retreated, the glare is not bad. However, for clear days during the summer I would avoid seats in this area. If for some reason you know the roof will be in use or it’s an overcast day, these seats are perfectly fine. Like I said, expect the $30 range on StubHub, anything much higher than that for a regular season game is just not worth the trouble.

Hit-It-Here

Directly above (and behind) those lower right field sections is the optimistically named “Hit-it-Here Cafe.” Due to its sheer distance from home plate, only a handful of home runs over the season’s course ever reach the windows of the eatery, much less land in the seating for any of the fans to enjoy. I never ventured up there, but I’ve read that the food is sub-par and not worth the $45 value of the ticket. The ticket does, however, come with an $18 food voucher. So if you’re planning to eat that much during the game, I guess it’s a $27 ticket for an indoor seating area in high right field. I’m not here to deter, but that’s just not how I like to experience baseball. Also, the sun would be in your sightline.

110-118, 142-150

Moving around the foul pole along the right field line are the sections in red. The angle of these seats reduces theView from right field side glare, but they are still in the sun for the initial parts of an evening game. On the left field side, sections 142-150, the sun would not be a factor. Face value on these tickets range around $50, but if you use StubHub expect a $15~ price reduction. Foul balls down here are sparse, just like at any stadium. But if it’s empty enough on a weeknight, you might be in luck. This is a good area for seat upgrading. I noticed that the ushers on the right field/first base side of the park were lenient about fans entering an exiting throughout the games, very seldom checking tickets. My parents sat on the left field side throughout the first game and reported that the usher they encountered was much more strict. I don’t know if this will remain unchanged for next season, but last year it seemed like the right side was the place to be if you plan to sit in an area other than your ticketed section. I’m also not here to encourage questionable behavior, but you get the hint.

119-141

I spent both my games in the green sections 119 and 120. The upper thirds of these sections as well as those colored in red are covered by the overhang of the second deck. If you’re worried about the sun, this provides nice shade, especially during day games I presume. Also, before the game many of the Mariners warm up in the outfield grass in front of 118 and 119. So if you’re looking for a pregame autograph or souvenir, it’s a good place to camp out. I did not have any close calls with fouls in this region, but the closer to home plate you get the higher the chances are that a ball will wind up flying your way.

As you can see, the 128-133 region is the closest to the plate. I always like to sit at an angle to the action, on either side of the plate. It provides better depth perception while being in better foul ball territory. Remember, the closer to home plate you sit, the higher the expected ticket price. I will say, however, that I was able to freely roam throughout these sections in the first game to take pictures from different angles. I never stuck around long enough to talk to be suspected by an usher. Move at your own risk.

Face value of the outer parts of the green sections is in the $50-60 range, all depending on location. From what I recall, face value closer to home plate approached $90. StubHub wasn’t immensely better, so I’d advise buying within budget and then moving before the game.

Lower Left Field

One of Safeco’s most unique traits is that there is almost no traditional seating in lower left field. Instead, the ‘Pen Joe on the 'Pen party deckparty area dominates that side of the stadium on the field level. Both bullpens run parallel to the warning track, swallowing up most homers by right-handed hitters. There is a standing room section behind the bullpens, which provides an opportunity to interact with pitchers before the game, but is good for little else.

In left-center field, a large, flat concrete swath allows fans to stand right up against the outfield wall. However, the sheer distance this section is from the plate is not conducive to catching home runs. Even in batting practice, few flies land out there.

For cheap beers before the game and a fun fan atmosphere, the ‘Pen is the place to be. Check the Mariners website for promotional details about the ‘Pen. For the 2014 season, they had half-priced beers for a few hours before first pitch. But if there’s anything for which I am worth nothing when it comes to baseball fandom, it’s beer.

Upper Left Field

Safeco Field from the third deckBecause of the party zone on field level, the only place to sit and watch the game in left field is from up above (save two mini sections by the foul pole). There’s not much here besides possibly a decent view. The sun sets behind the third base/left field line, so depending on the seat’s proximity to the line, shade will vary. It’s high up, so home run chances are slim to none. Maybe Nelson Cruz will put one up there this year, but do not count on snagging anything.

Lookout Landing

The 300 and 400 sections of Safeco Field are nothing spectacular. I also did not spend any game time in the club level, so I cannot provide any insightful information. What I can promise is a nice view from Lookout Landing, aMe at top of Safeco Field/Lookout Landing modest platform of the upper deck in the deepest left field corner. It provides interesting sight lines of the Seattle’s skyline, the harbor, and neighboring CenturyLink Field. From Lookout Landing, you can also see directly down into the bullpens and the stands below. It’s a Logan Morrison pre gameperfect picture spot and a location any fan should visit on a Seattle baseball trip to juxtapose the fantastic sport with a unique city.

The Roof

It’s worth noting that Safeco Field does have a roof, so on damp days the fans can stay comfortable. But it is purely a retractable roof rather than an indoor-outdoor stadium. The park is still open air regardless of roof usage, meaning you should dress for the temperature regardless.

There you have it–a rundown of the best ballpark north of the 47th parallel (also the only one). My only gripe about Seattle is that it’s incredibly far from the nearest MLB city. Oakland is the closest, and it’s nearly a 12-hour drive. But that also purifies Seattle’s baseball culture as fans won’t spill out of neighboring cities to come root for opposing teams. In fact, the only influx of opposing fans that Seattle sees is when Toronto comes to town each season. Why do Blue Jays fans flock to Safeco? Because Canada is only a 2-hour drive from Seattle. And since there’s only one Canadian baseball team, I guess all Canadians are Blue Jays fans.

Fun Facts about things related and unrelated:

Washington became the 42nd United State in 1889.

Safeco Field is the farthest-north MLB stadium.

The Space Needle was build for the 1962 World’s Fair, and was supposed to predict what homes might be like in 50 years’ time.

In 2007, the American Institute of Architects came out with a list of Americans’ 150 favorite structures. Two Seattle buildings made the list: Seattle Central Library and Safeco Field.

Marlins add Ichiro, Mariners add new uniforms, Braves progress on stadium

Marlins add Ichiro as fourth outfielder

Reports surfaced today that the Marlins signed 41-year-old outfielder Ichiro Suzuki to a one-year deal worth about $2 million. He will join a young outfield corps that includes Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich, who are 25, 24, and 23 years of age respectively. If nothing else, he will be a fun presence of leadership in the clubhouse.Marlins Park

Ichiro has long played in the American League, for the Mariners and Yankees, and hardly resembles his once-premier self. 10 years ago, the Mariners were cutting the infield grass at Safeco Field a bit longer so he could leg out infield hits. In 2005, he became the first player to record 200 hits in each of his first five MLB seasons. And 2011 was the first year he failed to record 200 hits in his career. Between his professional time in Japan and Major League career, Ichiro has eclipsed the 4,000 hit mark. He is a hallmark and fan-favorite in the Mariners community and across baseball.

A left-handed hitter who makes contact and sprays the ball around as well as anyone in the game, Ichiro is an asset to come off the bench late in games and start as needed. Ichiro has never played at Marlins Park, and has only ever recorded 41 at-bats against the Marlins in his career.

One more note: In 2007, Ichiro became the first, and to this day only, player to hit an inside-the-park home run in the MLB All-Star Game.

Mariners unveil new alternate uniforms

Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Charlie Furbush, Nelson CruzOn Friday, the Seattle Mariners unveiled a new uniform set that they plan to wear primarily during Sunday afternoon home games. The color scheme is the old blue and gold that Seattle donned before 1993. The colors overlay the modern Mariners font for a nifty new look. The jerseys are cream-colored with blue piping, and the hat is a royal blue with a yellow (call it gold if you want to) “S.”

The socks to go along with this getup are blue with horizontal yellow stripes towards the knee. They come in stirrup style to. This has Brad Miller written all over it.

As slick as these are, the Mariners’ teal jerseys are still the best the team has–the best baseball has for that matter. By the way, Seattle is no longer a push-over in the AL West. They have added Nelson Cruz, who led the Major Leagues in home runs last season, and still have the American League’s best pitcher in Felix Hernandez.

SunTrust Park Update

The Braves still plan to open SunTrust Park as their new home for the start of the 2017 season. This development is a wholeSunTrust Park outfield development new approach to baseball.

The last revolution of baseball stadiums incorporated the ballparks into the existing city. Baltimore started it, San Diego, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Seattle, and more did fantastic jobs. Atlanta, however, is building the park miles from downtown, but is putting up an entire complex of entertainment to go along with the stadium. Branding it as a “play, work, stay” destination, the Braves promise the mixed-use facility will be utilized year round.

They broke ground back in September, and the land has been completely cleared. For the latest renderings, photos, and information on SunTrust Park, visit HomeOfTheBraves.com. This park will be the newest MLB venue since Marlins Park opened in 2012.SunTrust Park development

All Star Game Outlook: San Diego to host 2016 Mid-Summer Classic

In one of his final actions as commissioner of Major League Baseball, Bud Selig awarded the 2016 All Star Game to the San Diego Padres, who will host the event for the first time at PETCO Park. Selig said in a presentation:Left field at PETCO Park

“San Diego is one of America’s most beautiful cities, and showcasing PETCO Park in its thriving downtown will be a remarkable opportunity for the Padres franchise and all of Major League Baseball.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. PETCO is my favorite MLB venue, and San Diego is deserving of an All Star Game. The city has hosted two previous Mid-Summer Classics, in 1978 and 1992. PETCO Park opened in 2004 and is a gem among MLB stadiums.

The decision to let San Diego host the 2016 All Star Game disrupts the alternating nature of the venue between American and National League parks. The site has shifted between and AL and NL park each year since the 1970s, with the exception of the 2006 and 2007 games both being hosted at National League stadiums (Pittsburgh and San Francisco). As this year’s game will be played in Cincinnati, the National League will host consecutive games again from 2015-2016.

Marlins ParkMarlins beat reporter Joe Frisaro stated that the reason for this change is that teams who built new parks in the recent years were given a chance at hosting the All Star Game as incentive by Major League Baseball to do so. Comparatively, more NL teams have built new parks recently than those in the AL. Frisaro also stated that Miami is likely to be awareded the 2017 game. Fans and writers of the Washington Nationals are confident in hosting the 2018 game.

Baltimore reportedly felt cheated about losing out to San Diego on the 2016 game, as the Orioles felt they had the best bid of American League teams. Oriole Park at Camden Yards has previously hosted an All Star Game, in 1993. Oriole Park was the pioneer stadium in the recent ballpark revolution. PETCO has a similar design to Camden Yards in that the streets and buildings of the city are incorporated into the structure.

Meanwhile, the All Star Game has never been hosted in the state of Florida as the Marlins and Rays both came about in the 1990s. Neither Floridian team had a decent stadium until the Marlins built their jewel in 2012. Tampa Bay will not likely host the All Star Game until they have a new park, unless such a project is long delayed and Major League Baseball decides to cave.

If predictions hold true, it is likely that the next five Mid-Summer Classics could all be held in National League Nationals Park scoreboardStadiums. After Cincinnati, San Diego, Miami, and Washington, Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia is the next logical choice as a host venue. It also opened in 2004 and is the only other NL park aside from the ones above that has never hosted the game.

In the American League (aside from Tampa Bay), the new Yankee Stadium is the only park yet to host an All Star Game. It opened in 2009. The Yankees hosted the 2008 game at the old Yankee Stadium, and the Mets hosted the 2013 game at Citi Field, so it is unlikely New York will see another All Star Game for some time.

Assuming the next six All Star Games are played in Cincinnati, San Diego, Miami, Washington, Philadelphia, and Baltimore (not necessarily in that order), Atlanta would be the next logical choice after it opens up the new park in 2017. After that, Oakland and Tampa Bay would both make sense in terms of pecking order, but neither has a stadium suitable to such a glamorous event.

Even more exciting for me, these cities line up with my personal interests perfectly. I go to college in southwestern Ohio, I love the city of San Diego, I’m a huge Marlins fan, my family resides in the DC area, (I don’t care about Philadelphia), and Baltimore is also really close to my home. I have a decent reason to attend five of the next six All Star Games! I’ll play it year-by-year though.

Preferentially Ranking All 30 MLB Teams

2014 has come and gone, and it was certainly a fantastic year in the baseball world. I attended several parks for the first time including Fenway and Safeco Field. There’s much to talk about for the 2015 Marlins season, but I will save that for the spring. Instead, for this final post of the year, I am ranking all 30 MLB teams in order of my allegiance. Which team would I pull for over which other teams?

Throughout the season, these may change game-by-game or inning-by-inning. For instance, I was Me at Nationals Parkpulling for the Nationals and Jordan Zimmermann during the no-hitter for the final game of the 2014 season (over the Marlins). Otherwise, this order should remain fairly constant.

1) Marlins: If you did not know this, I’ve never met you.

2) Nationals: Home team! I’ve visited Nationals Park more than any other sporting venue. It might be slightly weird since Miami and Washington are likely to vie for the NL East in the coming years. But that just means I can’t lose, right?

3) Mariners: I love the teal, Brad Miller is awesome, and Seattle is a cool city.

4) Padres: PETCO Park is my favorite stadium I’ve visited, and it’s always good to root for underdogs. San Diego is even a cooler city than Seattle, and the Padres have decently slick uniforms as well.

5) Diamondbacks: I played on two Diamondbacks teams as a youngster. Also, I like purple. I remember watching part of Randy Johnson’s perfect game against Atlanta when he was flame-throwing for Arizona. They used to be a really fun squad to watch.Joe and Me at PETCO Park 2012

6) Rays: I generally root for Florida teams because, until I was 11, Florida was more or less my home state.

7) Royals: Again, underdogs. Also, the powder blue jerseys are second only to Seattle’s teal.

8) Rockies: Purple. Mountains. Underdogs. Why not? I’d like to visit Denver. Colorado is one of the healthiest states because of all the outdoor and adventurous activities in which its citizens partake.

9) Cubs: I figured if the Cubs made it to the World Series, I’d pull for them over every remaining team on this list.

10) Orioles: They were the home town team for me until 2005. My dad grew up in southern Maryland. Camden Yards is also an exciting environment. It was the building that really set the trend for the new baseball parks of the last two decades such as San Diego’s, Pittsburgh’s, and Minnesota’s.

11) Astros: I really like Minute Maid Park. And again…underdogs. I also like the nature of Houston’s nickname, alluding to the NASA mission control at the city’s Johnson Space Center.

12) Twins: Target Field looks really cool and I’m looking forward to visiting. Minneapolis has got to be a lovely city between April and September. The rest of the year? I’d rather be a Cubs fan than live in Minnesota.Yu Darvish at Nats Park

13) Rangers: I named my parakeet “Ranger” when I was in first grade. Also, they reside in the great state of Texas. And Yu is fun to watch. No, not me. Yu. Yes, Yu (pictured right).

14) Blue Jays: The 2013 Blue Jays were basically the 2012 Marlins, right?

15) Tigers: Miguel Cabrera and Anibal Sanchez were two of my favorite Marlins to ever play.

16) Athletics: Underdogs. Moneyball. The Oakland Coliseum is dreadful, however.

17) Angels: I like the water and rocks in center field. Mike Trout is one of my favorite players to watch. He’s basically Giancarlo Stanton with a little more speed and a little less power.

18) Reds: In Dayton, they’re kind of another home town team. I’ve yet to visit, however.

My seat at Dodger Stadium19) Pirates: PNC Park I imagine would rival PETCO as my favorite stadium, but I’ve yet to visit. I reluctantly ever root for a Pittsburgh team due to the attitude of the Steelers fans I’ve known.

20) Brewers: Other than their underdog-ed-ness, I have no reason to really ever pull for these peeps. Bernier Brewer’s center field slide is a nifty stadium feature, though.

21) Dodgers: Dodger Blue. LA lifestyle. Neither are good nor bad. I consider them underdogs because they seem to have a habit of always choking as soon as it appears they will be in the World Series.

22) Cardinals: If they weren’t so good every year, they’d be much Kwaj Cardinals teamhigher on the list. I love the baseball fans of St. Louis, and (don’t ask) I root for the Rams in the NFL. I also played on a Cardinals team when I was in elementary school. The Marlins share the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, FL with St. Louis for spring training, so I’ve seen the redbirds in action a fair amount.

23) Indians: Cleveland…Name the last time you were made to think Wow, I should really visit Cleveland. I’ll be honest, I did like watching Travis Hafner play in the 2006-2009 range. I in fact traded for him in my Marlins franchise on the video game MLB 2K7. He hit behind Miguel Cabrera, and it was the best lineup I could have imagined.

My dad, Joe, and me at Turner Field 201324) White Sox: They wear black socks. I don’t get it. Their home park is U.S. Cellular Field, and is the least distinct ballpark in baseball. There is essentially nothing about it that makes it memorable.

25) Braves: Chop shop. Death music. No me gusta. I did use to live in the Atlanta area, however briefly, and I do like the city. That’s about all the Braves have going for them. I must admit, the spectacularly and laughably dreadful experience I had at Turner Field in April made for a fun post. And when the Braves open up their new stadium in 2017, I’ll visit as soon as I can.

26) Mets: I guess the fact that they aren’t any good makes them underdogs in my book. Therefore, they rank ahead of the rest. I had a dream about catching a Gaby Sanchez home run at Citi Field one time, although I have still never been to the stadium.

27) Giants: Kind of like St. Louis. Had they not won three of the last five World Series, they’d be much higher. AT&T Park is spectacular. But, I’ve never been.

28) Red Sox: I do like Fenway Park. But the Red Sox are just too mainstream. They’ve also won three World Series in the last 11 seasons.Me on the Green Monster

29) Yankees: I hated the 2009 World Series. It was the only time in my life I ever rooted for the Yankees. During my younger years, my dad was an O’s fan; therefore, even before I picked a favorite team, I had a least favorite. They’ve since been leapfrogged, but every baseball fan that doesn’t support New York is by default against them.

30) Phillies: (The team the Yankees beat in the 2009 World Series) They won the NL East for several seasons at the onset of my Marlins fandom. They’re at the bottom of this list because I am not fond of the city of Philadelphia, and the Phils are just a nuisance to play. Even if Philly is at the bottom of the division, they’ll still be at the bottom of this list.

Best of the Best from the 2014 Marlins

After the 2012 season, I recapped a few Marlins highlights with the “Flying Fish Awards.” I did not do soMarlins Park Easter Sunday in 2013 because it was too dismal of a season on which to reflect. But a bounce-back year in 2014 got my hopes up, so here are the highlights from an exciting year in south Florida baseball.

Game of the year:

7.28.14: 7-6 win over Washington. Some of the most exciting games of the Marlins’ season came against Washington, including a 15-7 Miami win and a Jordan Zimmermann no-hitter in the final series of the year. But there was no better illustration of the Marlins’ resilience than this victory over the Nationals. Battling back  from 6-0 with a battered bullpen, Miami waited until the late innings to spark the offense, but scored four in the ninth to cap a wild comeback.

Throw of the year:

6.20.14 by Marcell Ozuna. This video shows two plays that Ozuna made late in a game against the Mets to ensure the Marlins’ victory. The final one particularly, a laser on the fly from deep in left field to seal a game-ending double play, was one of the best defensive plays I’d ever seen an outfielder make.

Catch of the year:

5.21.14 by Giancarlo Stanton. The other side of outfield defense is of course tracking and catching. As far as timeliness goes, there was no better catch than this sensational dive by Stanton against the Phillies with the bases loaded and two outs in the middle innings. Batted by a left-handed hitter, the ball was surely tailing towards center field, away from Stanton. He dove completely off the ground and fully extended to make the play. Perfection!

Hit of the year:

8.11.14 by Giancarlo Stanton. Surprised? There’s a reason Stanton received the largest contract in the history of professional sports after this season. He was the National League’s home run leader, and best overall hitter. In this August game against St. Louis, he belted two homers and made a fantastic diving catch in right field. You can watch his highlights from that game on this post from On Cloud Conine. Watch where the hit lands, and then notice as it bounces up and hits the glass panels behind the concourse in left-center field. Had those been opened, the ball would have bounced clear out of the stadium.

Here’s another home run that put Stanton on SportsCenter. It came on Memorial Day at Nationals Park Giancarlo Stanton Marlinsagainst then-hot Tanner Roark. Stanton mis-hit the ball, he got under it too much. It still traveled 447 feet, off the back wall of Washington’s batters’ eye. Most of the publicity from this bomb came in response to Giancarlo’s patriotic arm sleeve.

Nationals pave way for garden gnome giveaways in 2015

While the Nationals have had some lousy postseason luck these last few seasons, they have been the best at somethingwerth garden gnome consistently. Stadium promotions. We can all agree that the Jayson Werth garden gnome was the epitome of 2014 baseball promotions, and sure set the standard high for the rest of the league.

That’s why I was not at all surprised when I looked at the Los Angeles Dodgers’ preliminary promotional schedule for next season. Listed for Monday, May 25 against Atlanta is a “Garden Gnome.” Right now, it’s unspecified as to who or what the gnome will actually resemble, but due to the extreme publicity that the Nationals received last season, it’s sure to garner a crowd.

Other teams around the country will likely conduct similar promotions until such items don’t draw sell-out crowds. But to me, no other garden gnome at this point will carry quite the same lovable significance as Werth’s. See, it all started as an accident when a fan photoshopped Werth’s bearded visage onto a garden gnome. From there, fans took a liking and the Nationals pursued it to please their faithful. And it could not have gone better for anyone involved–except, that is, the 25,001st fan.

span bobbleheadRegardless of whether or not it’s “original” from this point forward, a garden gnome of any bearded player would probably do the trick. In the Dodgers’ case, Brian Wilson may be a safe bet as the subject. And the Red Sox could honestly fashion a gnome out of any number of members of their 2013 World Series team.

As for bobbleheads, however, the Nationals do those better than any other team as well. League-wide, clubs give away plasticy, unimaginative, and detail-less figurines that please children for several minutes and then serve as decent office paperweights. The Nats not only design detailed dolls that eerily resemble their players, but they also position the players to incite meaningful memories. For instance, Michael Morse’s bobblehead in 2012 featured his little on-deck practice swing in which he raised his left knee as he brought his hands forward. And Denard Span’s this year depicted a mesmerizing catch he made against the outfield wall.

Thank you to PNC Bank, who generally sponsors the bobbleheads. I’ll have to get myself to some more promotional days in DC next summer.

For now, the Dodgers may be copy cats, but they’re making a smart and potentially very exciting business move. I can’t wait jacob degromto see how it turns out.

UPDATE: The New York Mets have released their 2015 promotional schedule and are returning thegarden gnome favor to the Nationals. On Saturday, May 2, the Mets will hand out 15,000 Jacob deGrom garden gnomes. The 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom is relatively clean-shaven but sports lacrosse-style flow in the back. This may be a reverse-hair-garden-gnome if you will. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can be in New York on May 2.

How the Reds and Buster Posey’s Leg could have changed the World Series

It’s the question that every curious baseball fan is wondering right now. What would have happened?

What would have happened if Kansas City’s third base coach, Mike Jirschele, had sent Alex Gordon home with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning in Alex Gordongame seven of the World Series? San Francisco had already made two blunders on the play. Was another one imminent?

Let’s look at this by numbers first. Brandon Crawford, the Giants’ shortstop, received the throw on a bounce about 150 feet from home plate at the time Gordon was scampering into third base. A clean transition and an on target throw would have surely beaten the runner. Gordon would have been dead by at least 15 feet. A bobble on the transition or an offline throw would have made for an interesting play at the plate, but the Giants had  a little bit of extra time to play with.

Was there a higher chance that Crawford make an error than the next batter record another base hit off Madison Bumgarner? Crawford’s fielding percentage this season was .971. That means 97% of the time there was an opportunity for him to mess up, he didn’t. The on-deck batter was Salvador Perez whose postseason batting average was just above .200. That’s not a high mark, but even still it means he recorded a hit in 20% of his postseason at bats. While it’s likely his chances go way down with Madison Bumgarner on the mound, remember it was Perez who had homered of the Giants’ ace in game one of the Series. Regardless, I still think the chance of another hit would be above 3%–Crawford’s error percentage. I stand with Jirschele’s decision to hold Gordon at third.

However, had Gordon run home and the play happen at the plate, there is a chance the 2014 season would have had a more-than-ironic ending. And this is where two Marlins-related incidents could have changed the game.

Flash back to May of 2011 when the Marlins were on a hot streak in San Francisco. The two squads were locked in a tie in the twelfth inning when young outfielder Scott Cousins tried his luck on scoring on a shallow fly ball. After catcher Buster Posey mishandled the hop, Cousins plowed right into him and scored the run. However, Posey’s missed the remainder of the season with a fractured fibula and torn ankle ligaments.

This incident sparked much debate over whether or not collisions at home plate should be regulated further or banned. And thus became the new rule 7.13, which was instituted this season and provided more drama than it resolved.

The rule is meant to protect catchers, but simultaneously gives very vague circumstances in which a catcher can occupy a the third baseline while receiving a throw from the field. Previously, a catcher was allowed to use his body to block the path to the plate while the throw came in, but the new rules state that he must leave a clear path unless he physically has the ball or the throw carries him into the baseline. But in the case that the catcher violates the rule and occupies the baseline without the ball, the runner shall be ruled safe even if he does not attempt to slide into home. That rule, plus the new replay additions for this year, caused runners to be ruled safe many times they never would have been in the past.

Scott Cousins in Jupiter, FL (2010)Fast forward to July 31, 2014 when the Marlins were playing the Reds in Miami. With a 1-0 lead in the top of the eighth inning, the Marlins secured an inning-ending double play when Giancarlo Stanton caught a fly ball in right and threw home to nail the Reds’ runner by a solid ten feet. Great play, right? Wrong. The Reds called for a review, claiming catcher Jeff Mathis was in the baseline before he received the throw. Sure enough, a six minute plus challenge determined that Mathis was indeed out of line and the Reds were rewarded a run.

This play was really the cherry on top of a long season of controversy over the new home plate rule, which effectively granted a team a run if the catcher at any point stood between third and home on a play regardless of how far the runner was from scoring on the grounds of “protection” for the catcher. As a result, Joe Torre, MLB’s Vice President of Baseball Operations, sent a memo to all the umpires and clubs explaining that if a runner would have been out regardless of the catcher’s position, he should not be deemed safe by review. However, this still left room for interpretation and controversy. Remember, all this was in place so that catchers could not be legally run into thanks to Scott Cousins and Buster Posey.

Now let’s jump back to the World Series and wonder what would have happened had Gordon ran home and Crawford’s throw not been on time and on line. Well, it could have brought Buster Posey into the path of the runner. Posey could have accidentally blocked the plate out of instinct. The play could have been reviewed and forced the replay umpire to make an arbitrary decision over whether or not Posey was illegally in the pathway of the runner. Thus, it could have ended or extended the World Series by a process that brought more distress to the baseball world in 2014 than the looming return of Alex Rodriguez.

The latter is what I would have hoped for. Not because I wanted to see the Royals or Giants go out like that, but because it would have been a major insult the the already-injured baseball replay industry. And it likely would have sparked significant enough outrage to bring about lengthy off season discussions. And a major modification to the home plate rule would likely bring moral justice to Jeff Mathis, and uphold the excitement and legitimacy of physical plays at the plate for which Scott Cousins received all to much scrutiny.

Chances are, Alex Gordon would have been a dead duck and San Francisco would still be World Series champions. But we have to wonder what if. And this is the role that the Cincinnati Reds, Buster Posey, and two lowly Marlins could have played in saving the Royals’ season.

Flying with Natitude

The Nats are in the playoffs again, which means I have someone for whom to passionately root in October. But this year it comes with an extra incentive. As I mentioned in my last post, Washington has two pitchers from the University of Dayton, where October weather resembles late November temperatures in Virginia.

Anyway, here is the column that I wrote for Flyer News about Craig Stammen and Jerry Blevins. Unfortunately, I cannot Jerry Blevins 7.1.14legally post it on my blog.

I will be writing another Nationals piece in the near future regarding Jordan Zimmermann’s no hitter on Sunday. In that game, I was honestly rooting for the Nationals from the sixth inning on–the first time I can ever remember specifically being against the Marlins. Once I realized how much it’d mean for Washington to finish off the season in such a brilliant fashion, it was easy for me to turn my back on the Fish. As my roommate Collin can attest, I enjoyed the final day of the 2014’s regular season:

“Even though I’m not a baseball fan I knew this game was a big deal. Steve was as giddy as a kid on Christmas Eve. I’m not going to lie, I was hoping the Nationals would lose so I could see how devastated he would be and laugh at him. I thought I would finally get my laugh when whoever was last person to bat hit the ball into the outfield but it was caught. Lucky hick.”

I’m not sure who the “hick” is because, according to Collin, “you’ll never know.”

Many people here at Dayton are Cincinnati or Cleveland fans, and there are a good number of Pittsburgh faithful. Especially since the Pirates are in the postseason and may go on to play Washington, it will not be easy to convert the Bucco company. But using the bait of fellow-Flyers Stammen and Blevins, I think I should have a decent shot at infusing some Natitude into Dayton. And I’m confident that fervor will extend through the World Series this year. Stay Tuned

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