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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Book 1 (of 52) – Hawk

Hawk: I Did It My Way – Ken Harrelson with Jeff Snook

As his broadcast career was winding down, Ken Harrelson decided to move his stories to a different medium, looking back at his life and career in Hawk: I Did It My Way.  He chronicles his life, from being born in South Carolina and raised in Savannah, Georgia, to the minor leagues, the big leagues, the PGA tour, and, eventually, the broadcast booth.  Harrelson has crossed paths with everybody who was anybody, from his former A’s boss Charlie O. Finley to Arnold Palmer to Frank Sinatra to, as you may not have known, Carl Yastrzemski.

While Harrelson’s exploits during his playing days and his attempt to make it as a professional golfer offer interesting stories, its his time as a broadcaster that was most appealing to this White Sox fan.  Originally hired in 1982, along with Don Drysdale, to replace fan favorite Harry Caray, Harrelson spent 32 years broadcasting for the White Sox, with a break after his ill-fated tenure as the team’s general manager in 1986.

If anything, I would have liked to hear more about that season.  Harrelson did go over some of the moves that he made, including firing Tony LaRussa and trading Rule 5 draft pick (and future star) Bobby Bonilla back to the Pirates, but there were other controversies that went untouched, like moving Carlton Fisk to left field.  In fact, given how often the two must have crossed paths between Boston and Chicago, there is only one mention of Fisk at all, a throwaway tale from spring training in the late 60s where Hawk and Yaz quipped that he’d never make the big leagues.

This is a must read for any White Sox fan, regardless of your thoughts on Harrelson.  He was the voice of the team for a generation and his stories offer a unique insight in to one of the most successful eras in White Sox history.

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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Ballpark Tour: Pirates

With 2020 upon us and spring training about a month away, we continue our tour of all of the different baseball stadiums I’ve been to over the years. This week, we head to the steel city of Pittsburgh for a look at the Pittsburgh Pirates. So, without further ado, let’s take a deeper look at my history with PNC Park.

Stadium Name: PNC Park

Years in Service: 2001 – Present

Visits: 1

After 30 1/2 seasons at Three Rivers Stadium, the Pittsburgh Pirates moved into their new home for the 2001 season, starting with an 8-2 loss against the Reds on April 9th. Since then, the stadium has placed at or near the top of most rankings, with the only drawback being the woeful state of its main occupant.

I made my one trip to PNC Park on May 15, 2005 to see the Cubs defeat the Pirates 3-2. Southwest Airlines was introducing service from Chicago to Pittsburgh and was offering fares for $30 each way, so plans were made for a daytrip out to Pittsburgh. We arrived in town and took a bus from the airport to the stadium, where we ate a pregame meal of ribs at the in-stadium Outback Steakhouse. Yeah, you read that right. There was an Outback Steakhouse in the stadium. After the game, there was another bus trip back to the airport for the flight back to Chicago, which seemed to be made up strictly of people who were at the game, as a rousing rendition of Take Me Out To The Ballgame broke out mid-flight.

Ballpark Tour: Mets

With the offseason underway, we continue our tour of all of the different baseball stadiums I’ve been to over the years. This week, we look at Apu’s favorite squadron, the New York Mets. So, without further ado, let’s take a deeper look at my one game history with Shea Stadium.

 

Stadium Name: Shea Stadium

Years in Service: 1964 – 2008

Visits: 1

After a delay caused by labor woes and an exceptionally harsh winter, Shea Stadium, home of the expansion New York Mets, opened on April 17, 1964, with the Pittsburgh Pirates beating the Mets 4–3 before a crowd of 50,312. It continued to be the home of the Mets until September 28, 2008, when the Mets lost to the Florida Marlins. Along the way, the stadium was also the home of the Yankees for 2 seasons while Yankee Stadium was being renovated and, for the 1975 season, it served as the home of both New York MLB teams and both New York NFL teams, the first time a stadium has had that many main major tenants at one time.

My one trip to Shea Stadium was for opening day in 2003 to see the Chicago Cub take on the Mets. The last day of March was Tom Glavine’s first appearance with the Mets after coming over from the Braves via free agency. His grace period with the Mets faithful did not last long, as he was booed after throwing a ball on the second pitch. The baseball gods were not on the Mets side that day, as the Cubs, behind 2 Corey Patterson home runs, routed the Mets 15-2. I remember the stadium itself being pretty decent, though we did have some of the best seats in the house, which may have tainted my impression somewhat.

2019 Final Standings

For the second straight year, the Cubs faltered down the stretch and, for the first time since 2014, they failed to make the postseason, thus bringing my game-attending portion of the 2019 season to an end.  I made it to 37 games this season, my highest total since 2016.  I did manage to attend games at 7 different stadiums, my highest single season total and bringing my total up to 25.  Here are the final standings for those games and the 21 different teams I saw in person.

2019 Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
San Francisco Giants 2 0 1.000
Washington Nationals 2 0 1.000
New York Mets 1 0 1.000
Texas Rangers 1 0 1.000
Boston Red Sox 1 0 1.000
Toronto Blue Jays 2 1 0.667
Cleveland Indians 2 1 0.667
Los Angeles Angels 2 1 0.667
Chicago Cubs 6 5 0.545
New York Yankees 1 1 0.500
Oakland Athletics 1 1 0.500
Seattle Mariners 1 1 0.500
Minnesota Twins 1 1 0.500
Chicago White Sox 13 15 0.464
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Looking Ahead To 2020

Major League Baseball released their tentative 2020 schedule earlier this week.  While the local squads have differing goals in mind as 2019 winds down, with the Cubs struggling for their 8th straight trip to post-season and the White Sox playing out the string in year three of their rebuild, it’s time to turn our attention to next summer for both teams.

For the third year in a row, the White Sox open their season against the Royals, but will be at home for the first time.  They follow that with a trip to Cleveland and Boston.

The interleague schedule pits the White Sox against the NL West, with trips to Colorado, San Francisco, and San Diego and home series against the Rockies, Diamondbacks, and the Dodgers.  The rivalry with their north side foes continues with a 2 game series at home and a 2 game series at Wrigley Field, both in July in the weeks surrounding the All Star Break.

In August, they will travel to Iowa to battle the Yankees in the first Field of Dreams game, hosted where the film of the same name was filmed in 1989 and played in an 8000 seat stadium that will be inspired by the original Comiskey Park.

The season ends with 10 games against their Central Division rivals, which hopefully will be important.

On the north side, the Cubs open their season up north in Milwaukee, before returning home the following Monday to kick off the home portion of their schedule against the Pirates.

The interleague schedule pits the Cubs against the AL East, with trips to Baltimore, New York, and Toronto and home series against the Orioles, Red Sox, and the Rays.

In June, they will head to London for a two-game tilt against the Cardinals

The Cubs end the year with a 16 of their final 22 games against the NL Central, with 13 of those coming against the Pirates and the Cardinals, who are likely to challenge them for the NL Central crown.

2019 All Star Break Standings

As the baseball world turns its sights to Cleveland for Tuesday night’s All Star Game, it’s time to take a look at the team records for the 23 games I attended in the first half of the baseball season, with the rebuild on the south side finally showing progress and the window of contention on the north side looking like it may be ending sooner rather than later.

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All Time Team Records

The 2019 baseball season got underway yesterday, with the now early start brought about due to the last collective bargaining agreement.  To celebrate, 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. The Cubs look to avenge last year’s loss in the Wild Card and hope to make it back to the World Series, while the rebuilding White Sox hope to finally start seeing some of their young talent blossom.  The 2019 season should be an exciting one on both sides of town.

All-Time Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
California Angels 1 0 1.000
Arizona Diamondbacks 13 2 0.867
Florida Marlins 15 8 0.652
Colorado Rockies 10 6 0.625
Philadelphia Phillies 10 7 0.588
New York Yankees 14 10 0.583
Boston Red Sox 17 13 0.567
Los Angeles Angels 17 13 0.567
Toronto Blue Jays 13 10 0.565
Cleveland Indians 26 23 0.531
Detroit Tigers 27 24 0.529
Chicago Cubs 213 192 0.526
Houston Astros 22 20 0.524
Chicago White Sox 293 271 0.520
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Retooling For 2019

The White Sox made a trio of acquisitions over the past week, bolstering their roster for 2019.  Things started on Tuesday, when a trade with the Pirates netted the Sox right hander Ivan Nova in exchange for minor leaguer Yordi Rosario and international bonus money.  Yesterday, it was reported that the White Sox came to an agreement with free agent catcher James McCann.  Finally, the White Sox announced earlier this morning that they had acquired first baseman Yonder Alonso from the Indians for minor league outfielder Alex Call.

Nova, signed through 2019, basically steps in to the James Shields role as innings eater and mentor, though he should offer better results on the mound.  Over the past 3 years, Nova surpasses Shields in games, innings pitched, HR allowed, ERA, and FIP.  While he has given up more hits, that should be more than offset by a drastic reduction in walks.  Rosario is a lottery ticket at this point and, due to the Luis Robert signing, the White Sox couldn’t use the bonus money anyway, so the cost to get Nova was minimal.

With Omar Narvaez and Kevan Smith off to other organizations and Seby Zavala and Zack Collins still a year or so away, the White Sox needed a catcher to team with Welington Castillo for 2019.  McCann will fill that role, though he rates as sub-par both offensively and defensively.  His main pluses are the occasional home run and a strong arm to control the running game.

The trade for Alonso, at first glance, is a bit of a head scratcher.  Assuming there is nothing in the works on the Jose Abreu front, the two will split time between first base and designated hitter.  Another reported use is recruiting, as Alonso’s brother-in-law just happens to be Manny Machado, one of the two biggest fish in the free agency pond.  Who knows if it will help, but the White Sox reportedly have a meeting set with Machado for next week.  If that doesn’t pay off, then the move basically helps a division rival clear salary space in exchange for someone who isn’t likely to be a long term part of the rebuilding process.