2020: The Year In Travel

In normal times, this is where I would take a look back at all of the different trips I took this past year and look ahead to what, if any. travel plans I already have for 2021.  Unfortunately, 2020 was far from normal times.  So let’s see, in early April, Michael and I went to Boston to see Angelina and the White Sox battle the Red Sox.  Oh wait, that was cancelled due to the corona virus.  Well, in May, I went to California to see the White Sox do battle against the Giants in San Francisco and then the Padres in San Diego.  Oh yeah, that was cancelled too.

As it turned out, I only ended up making one trip during the hell year that was 2020.  Labor Day weekend, I headed up to Holland, Michigan for a week of relaxation.  Other than a couple of trips to the lakes (both Macatawa and Michigan) and a day spent in Saugatuck, I didn’t see much of the sites, as the rona was still very much a concern.

So that was it.  With vaccines starting to become available, there is hope that 2021 will be different, but, at least at the start, we are still pretty much locked down.

Tearing It Down

A few years from now, we will look back and ask ourselves exactly when did the Cubs rebuild officially begin.  Was it when Theo Epstein decided to walk away from the last year on his contract, leaving $10 million on the table?  Was it a few weeks later when fan-favorite Kyle Schwarber was non-tendered?  Or, was it yesterday, when the Cubs sent Yu Darvish, Victor Caratini, and cash to the Padres in exchange for Zach Davies, Owen Caissie, Reginald Preciado, Yeison Santana, and Ismael Mena.

Darvish, who has three years and $59 million left on the deal he signed before the 2018 season, went 8-3 with a 2.01 ERA in 12 starts for during the COVID-shortened season, finishing in second place in NL Cy Young Award voting.  Caratini was his personal catcher and hit .241 with 16 RBIs last year.  After struggling upon his arrival in Chicago, Darvish started to regain his form midway through 2019 and continued on into 2020, helping the Cubs win the Central Division title and return to the post-season after a one year absence.

Davies, 27, will become a free agent after the 2021 season.  He went 7-4 with a 2.73 ERA in 12 starts for the Padres in 2020.  The prospect package will not be of much help to the Cubs in the immediate future.  Caissie, an 18-year-old outfielder, was the Padres second round pick in this year’s draft.  Preciado, a 17 year old switch hitting shortstop, signed with the Padres in July of 2019 out of Panama.  The 20 year old Santana, also a shortstop, made his pro debut in 2018 in the Dominican Summer League. Outfielder Mena, 18, is a left handed hitting Dominican also signed in 2019.

Given the state of the NL Central, the Cubs may still contend for a division title next year.  Obviously, Jed Hoyer and company would prefer to retool on the fly and build up the farm system while still trying to compete.  But, this move definitely makes the Cubs weaker heading into 2021.  And, barring extensions, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, and Willson Contreras will all become free agents by the end of 2022.  It seems as though the Cubs contention window, which opened with a bang in 2015, closed with a whimper when they were swept out of the playoffs last October.  This trade did little to keep it open, but may have laid the groundwork for the next window.

All Time Team Records

What was planned to be the earliest non-international start in Major League Baseball history turned into the latest, thanks to a combination of the corona virus pandemic and pointless bickering between the MLBPA and team owners.  With the 2020 baseball season finally set to get underway today, although with no fans in the stands, it is time once again to look at the all-time team records for games that I have identified as having attended dating back to 1984.  Thanks to some eBaying of pocket schedules from the 80s, I was able to identify one additional game that I attended in 1988, a California Angels victory at Comiskey Park against the White Sox.

The Cubs look to bounce back from last year’s September collapse that kept them out of the postseason for the first time since 2014, while the White Sox hope their offseason additions push them towards contention as their young talent starts to blossom.  With only 60 games to make their mark, the 2020 season should be an interesting one on both sides of town.

All-Time Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
California Angels 2 0 1.000
Arizona Diamondbacks 13 2 0.867
Florida Marlins 15 8 0.652
Colorado Rockies 10 6 0.625
Boston Red Sox 18 13 0.581
Toronto Blue Jays 15 11 0.577
New York Yankees 15 11 0.577
Los Angeles Angels 19 14 0.576
Cleveland Indians 28 24 0.538
Chicago Cubs 219 197 0.526
Philadelphia Phillies 10 9 0.526
Houston Astros 22 20 0.524
Chicago White Sox 306 287 0.516
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Changes In The Radio Booth

Now that the start of the baseball season is set, WGN and the White Sox have announced that Andy Masur would replace Ed Farmer in the radio booth for the 2020 season.  Masur, who was the pre-game host and had filled in for Farmer last season and was planned to fill in again when Farmer stepped away in spring training before the sport shut down because of the corona virus pandemic, spent 8 years at WGN, starting in 1999, before leaving to become the voice of the Padres in 2007.  He returned to the station in 2014 and started working with the White Sox when they moved to WGN in 2018.  He will join the returning Darrin Jackson, who has been the color man in the booth since 2009.

Farmer, who had spent 28 years in the White Sox radio booth and was the main play-by-play man since 2006, passed away following a long illness on April 2nd.

It’s Still Been A While

Exactly 8 months since my last baseball game, the longest drought I’ve experienced since 1998 into 1999, I figured it was a good time to take another look at the last time I saw each of the 30 major league teams. For someone with season tickets to two teams, one in each league, you would think that I would cycle through each team every few years or so.  And, for the most part, that does seem to be the case.  I saw 21 of the 30 teams in 2019, going back to 2018, that number jumps to 23.  That’s nearly 77% of the league in the past 2 seasons.

What about those remaining 7 teams?  The Dodgers, Rays, Braves, and Padres last appeared in 2017, while 2016 takes care of the Reds.  I somehow haven’t seen the Diamondbacks since 2014, despite being inside their home ballpark more recently than that.  That leaves the Marlins, who I have somehow not managed to see in person since 2013.  Anyway, here’s a look at each team and the last time I saw them play.

Team Name Date
Miami Marlins 5/26/2013
Arizona Diamondbacks 5/10/2014
Cincinnati Reds 4/11/2016
San Diego Padres 5/13/2017
Atlanta Braves 9/2/2017
Tampa Bay Rays 9/3/2017
Los Angeles Dodgers 10/19/2017
Houston Astros 4/22/2018
Colorado Rockies 10/2/2018
Seattle Mariners 4/6/2019
Pittsburgh Pirates 4/8/2019
Kansas City Royals 4/15/2019
Boston Red Sox 5/5/2019
St. Louis Cardinals 5/5/2019
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Padres All Time Leaders – Through 2019

With baseball shut down because of the corona virus, I thought it would be an interesting time to look back at the all time leaders in both offensive and defensive categories for all 30 teams. We continue today with the San Diego Padres.

The Padres began life in 1969, joining the National League along with the Montreal Expos.  I’ve seen them play 19 times at 5 different ballparks, first in 1985 at Wrigley Field and, most recently, in 2017.  I was supposed to take in the 3 game series between them and the White Sox next month at PETCO Park.

Home Runs

Name Total
Adrian Gonzalez 2
Ramon Hernandez 2
Mike Cameron 2
Khalil Greene 2

Hits

Name Total
Ryan Klesko 9
Sean Burroughs 9
Brian Giles 8

Runs

Name Total
Adrian Gonzalez 7
Mark Loretta 5
Ramon Hernandez 4
Mike Cameron 4

RBI

Name Total
Khalil Greene 8
Ramon Hernandez 6
Ryan Klesko 6

Doubles

Name Total
Ryan Klesko 3
Adrian Gonzalez 3
Will Venable 3

Triples Continue reading →

Corona Update

The CDC issued a guidance on Sunday that any in-person events that consist of 50 or more people should be canceled or postponed for the next 8 weeks.  Assuming the need to re-prepare for a season following a 2 month layoff, that means that the 2020 baseball season is unlikely to begin before June, with some rumors saying things wouldn’t get started until July.  This would put the kibosh on my west coast trip in mid-May to see the White Sox battle the Giants and the Padres.

In more local news, schools, restaurants, and bars have been closed throughout Illinois for the remainder of the month, after revelers disregarded warnings to stay home and packed bars on Saturday to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  Plus, I’ll be working from home until further notice, after a call on Sunday night to not come in.

Ballpark Tour: Reds

Spring training is in full swing and opening day is coming up in a little less than 3 weeks, as we continue our tour of all of the baseball stadiums I’ve been to over the years.  My most visited city, outside of Chicago, for baseball contains the homes of the Cincinnati Reds.  Between the two stadiums that have been located on the riverfront of the Ohio River, I’ve seen 8 games.  So, without further ado, let’s take a deeper look at my history with Cinergy Field and Great American Ball Park.

Stadium Name: Riverfront Stadium/Cinergy Field

Years in Service: 1970 – 2002

Visits: 1

Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati’s version of the cookie cutter stadium that popped up in the late 60s and early 70s, opened on June 30, 1970 as the Reds hosted the Atlanta Braves.  In 1996, the stadium was renamed Cinergy Field thanks to a sponsorship deal with the local energy company.  Prior to the 2001 season, after the Bengals moved to their new home down the street, the stadium was reconfigured for baseball-only use, and portions of the outfield stands were removed to make room for the construction of the Reds’ new home, the future Great American Ball Park.  The 2002 season was the final one for the stadium, with the final game played on September 22 and the stadium was imploded on December 29.

In 2000, Ken Griffey Jr. joined the Cincinnati Reds, which put two of the most feared sluggers in the game in the NL Central.  When Sammy Sosa and the Chicago Cubs were scheduled to make an opening week visit to Cincinnati in 2000 to face Griffey for the first time, the idea a roadtrip was hatched.  Friday, April 7, 2000 started with Krispy Kreme donuts at the house before heading towards Cincinnati.  Along the way, there was a brief stop at Purdue. because why not, and the trifecta of a KFC/Taco Bell/Pizza Hut seemed like a good place to stop for lunch.  We arrived in Cincinnati well before the stadium opened, so some time was spent walking around the bustling metropolis that was, and continues to be, Cincinnati.

Our tickets were in the upper deck and, to be honest, I have little to no recollection of the game itself.  My one and only memory of the game is losing my balance and tumbling down 5-10 rows, landing on a group of fans below.  Certainly not my proudest moment.  I do recall some of the drive home after the game, which included listening to the White Sox/A’s game where Jose Valentin committed a number of errors for the eventual AL Central champs.

Stadium Name: Great American Ball Park

Years in Service: 2003 – Present

Visits: 7

After 32 1/2 seasons at Riverfront Stadium, the Reds moved next door to the newly built Great American Ball Park for the 2003 season, opening against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Bronze statues of former stars Joe Nuxhall, Ernie Lombardi, Ted Kluszewski, and Frank Robinson are located in front of the main entrance.

Less than a month into the stadium’s existence, I made my first trip to the GABP with my friend Scott, who had moved to the Cincinnati area, to see the Reds take on the Padres.  The next season, the Cubs opened their season in Cincinnati against the Reds, so another trip was in order, where Vice President Dick Cheney threw out the first pitch..  In August of 2005, I attended the Reds game against the Diamondbacks, kicking off a string of 3 stadiums in 3 states in 9 days.  In 2006, the Cubs once again opened their season on the road against the Reds and again it constituted a road trip down to see, where this time President George W Bush threw out the first pitch.  I made a return trip that summer for interleague play to see the White Sox battle the Reds.  In 2007, when the Cubs were looking the clinch the division, I made the trip down, but missed it by one day.  The next year, I made my final, to date, trip down to Cincinnati and saw the Rockies defeat the Reds.

Of all the newer stadiums that have opened over the past 20 years, Great American Ball Park does not often illicit the praise that the others get.  However, I like it.  It’s a fine place to see a game and has plenty of the modern amenities that are required here in the 21st century.  I wouldn’t hesitate to return, despite the fact that it has been over 11 years since I’ve been there.

Ballpark Tour: Padres

Spring training is right around the corner as we continue our tour of all of the baseball stadiums I’ve been to over the years. Today we travel to southern California for the baseball homes of the San Diego Padres. Between the two stadiums that have been located in the paradise that is San Diego, I’ve seen 4 games. So, without further ado, let’s take a deeper look at my history with Qualcomm Stadium and PETCO Park.

Stadium Name: Jack Murphy Stadium/Qualcomm Stadium

Years in Service: 1969 – 2003

Visits: 1

San Diego Stadium opened on August 20, 1967 as the home of the AFL’s Chargers and opened for baseball the following spring for the final season of the minor league San Diego Padres.  The following season, San Diego’s expansion team, also named the Padres, moved in and stayed as the main tenants until the end of the 2003 season.  The stadium was renamed in 1980 for local sportswriter Jack Murphy, who had championed support for the building of the stadium, after he passed away.  That name stuck until 1997, when the naming rights were sold to technology company Qualcomm.

In 2003, I was in San Diego for what, to date, was my 3rd and final Comic Con.  On the afternoon of July 17, I skipped out on the con and took the trolley out to Mission Valley to take in the day’s contest between the Padres and the Diamondbacks.  I don’t remember much about the game, which the Diamondbacks won handidly 9-1, other than Curt Schilling taking the bump for the Dbacks.  The park, one of the last remaining cookie cutter stadiums that popped up in the late 60s and early 70s and designed to house both baseball and football teams while doing service to neither, did not really register one way or the other and hold’s no particular space in my memory.  I do seem to remember a giant outdoor escalator, but that might have been Candlestick.

Stadium Name: PETCO Park

Years in Service: 2004 – Present

Visits: 3

After 35 seasons at the Murph, the Padres moved downtown in 2004 with the opening of PETCO Park.  The new stadium was initially supposed to open for the 2002 season, but legal battles and political tomfoolery delayed the project for two years.  The first event held at PETCO Park was an NCAA invitational tournament hosted by San Diego State University, whose head coach was former Padres great Tony Gwynn.  The Padres themselves christened the stadium on April 8 with a 10 inning victory over the Giants.

With the Cubs, coming off their surprising run towards the NL title in 2003, scheduled for a weekend series at the newly opened PETCO Park in the middle of May in 2004, a trip out to the coast was in order.  The Cubs swept the three game series against the Padres, and a tremendous weekend was had.  The new park was a vast improvement over the old Jack Murphy.  One of these days, I’ll need to take a return trip.

The Decade In Baseball – Team Records

The 2010s have drawn to a close and its time to take a look back at the previous decade.  Today, we are starting with baseball, specifically the performance of all 30 MLB teams in games I attended between 2010 and 2019.  Locally, things were good on the north side of town, as the Cubs finished their rebuild with 3 straight NLCS appearances in the middle of the decade, including a World Series championship in 2016.  It was much bleaker on the south side, as the White Sox failed to compete after a late collapse in 2012, finishing the decade on a string of 7 consecutive losing seasons.

I managed to take in 385 games over the past 10 years at 12 different stadiums from coast (Dodger Stadium) to coast (Fenway Park).  2010 was my high water mark, with 52 games, while 2013 and 2018 tied for the lowest total of the decade with only 29 games.

Games Per Year
Year Total Games
2010 52
2011 43
2012 33
2013 29
2014 35
2015 39
2016 39
2017 49
2018 29
2019 37

Two franchises went through the decade undefeated in games I attended, while another 2 teams went winless.  Both local teams finished just a shade under .500.  The White Sox are far and away the team I saw most often, while the Diamondbacks bring up the rear with only 2 appearances over the past 10 years.

2019 Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
Colorado Rockies 4 0 1.000
New York Mets 3 0 1.000
Boston Red Sox 9 3 0.750
New York Yankees 9 4 0.692
Washington Nationals 6 3 0.667
Houston Astros 6 3 0.667
Florida Marlins 2 1 0.667
Los Angeles Angels 9 5 0.643
Detroit Tigers 22 13 0.629
Pittsburgh Pirates 5 3 0.625
Kansas City Royals 21 17 0.553
Cleveland Indians 17 14 0.548
Toronto Blue Jays 8 7 0.533
Minnesota Twins 19 17 0.528
Oakland Athletics 7 7 0.500
St. Louis Cardinals 2 2 0.500
San Diego Padres 2 2 0.500
Arizona Diamondbacks 1 1 0.500
Chicago White Sox 159 164 0.492
Chicago Cubs 40 43 0.482
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