Just a quick update on the 30-Park Geas. It happens that I'll be in New York on 31st March for an unrelated reason, but as the Yankees will be in town that day, I can knock off my 28th park. Which means I'll have 4 left. So today I booked a trip to Arlington, Texas, and Denver in April (yes, I'll be in Denver on 4/20), and plan to catch the last two parks in June.
The last one, of course, will be the Cubs at St. Louis.
Updates as conditions warrant.
Major League Baseball is contemplating going straight to the Bad Place:
Major League Baseball and its union have had substantive discussions in recent days over a series of proposals, among the most drastic proposed changes in years, that could bring significant rule changes to the sport in 2019 and beyond, according to two sources familiar with those talks. The discussions have included both on-field rule changes, pushed by Commissioner Rob Manfred, and proposals from the union to improve competitive balance.
The specific rule-change proposals, first reported by The Athletic and confirmed by a person familiar with the discussions, include:
- The adoption of the designated hitter in the National League, making the DH universal across both leagues.
- A rule requiring pitchers to face a minimum of three batters, except in the case of injury or when finishing an inning.
- The expansion of rosters from 25 to 26 players, with a maximum of 12 pitchers.
- A reduction in mound visits from six to five.
- A rule, which would be tested in spring training and the All-Star Game, in which each half-inning in extra innings would begin with a runner on second base.
Of all the proposed changes, the universal DH arguably would be the most significant to the game on the field. Since 1973, baseball has operated with different rules for the National and American Leagues — with pitchers hitting in the former, but not the latter — and necessitating shifting rules and roster manipulation for interleague and World Series games.
Just, no. In the immortal words of Crash Davis, "I believe there ought to be a Constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter."
The Cubs tied with the Brewers this season for the best record in the National League, with 94 wins each. Unfortunately they're in the same division, so they had to play a one-game tiebreaker on Monday to determine who actually won the division.
You will be shocked to learn it was Milwaukee.
Now, normally, the 4th-place team in the league gets the Wild Card, but this year the West Division also had a tie, between the Colorado Rockies and L.A. Dodgers. Which meant that last night, the loser of that game (the Rockies) and the loser of Monday's game (ahem) played to break the Wild Card tie.
You will be shocked to learn that it was Colorado.
Note, if you will, that had the Cubs won exactly one more game at any point in the season, they would have won the Central Division and would play the Dodgers in the NLDS tomorrow night.
Nope. They choked. They couldn't do it, not even in 13 innings, losing 2-1 well after midnight.
This is why I stopped caring years ago.
This year, Major League Baseball had more weather-related postponements than ever before recorded:
In the 2018 season, 53 games have been postponed because of weather, tied for the second most since Major League Baseball began keeping track in 1986. It wasn't just rain-outs that disrupted the schedule but a lingering April cold snap in the Midwest and Northeast that resulted in 28 games postponed that month — an all-time high.
Although the baseball season got off to its earliest start ever to give players more off days during the 162-game regular season, rest has been elusive for clubs that have had to make up multiple games, including the Cubs, who have had a league-leading nine games scratched for bad weather (tied with the Yankees), the most in more than a decade.
While MLB’s collective bargaining agreement states teams cannot play more than 20 dates without a scheduled day off, the Cubs endured a punishing 30-day stretch of scheduled games in August and September. The make-up games also forced a rigorous travel schedule that, at one point, flung them to three cities, in three time zones, in six days, including scrambling to the East Coast as Hurricane Florence approached.
Scientists have pointed to climate change as a contributing factor to the warming of the atmosphere, carrying the chance for more rain in some areas since warmer air can hold more moisture. According to state climatologist Jim Angel, northern and central Illinois are experiencing warmer, wetter springs. But some scientists believe the rapid warming of the Arctic is causing fluctuations in the polar jet stream that can bring unusual bouts of cold like the region saw in April, Angel said.
Just one more unintended consequence of anthropogenic climate change, and possibly the reason the Cubs are playing a second tie-breaker game today for the right to take their league-topping 94 wins to the playoffs.
On 8 August 1988, the Chicago Cubs played their first night game at Wrigley Field. The Tribune rounds up memories from people who supported and opposed the installation of lights at the park:
Ryne Sandberg, Cubs second baseman, 1982-1997: Leading up to ’88, the talk within the organization was that lights were necessary to create a schedule more conducive to resting the home team, getting us out of the sun. Before that, with some of those 10-day homestands with all day games (it was) in 90-plus temperatures.
Rick Sutcliffe, Cubs pitcher, 1984-1991: There's nothing better than playing a day game and going home to have dinner with your family. But when you come back from a West Coast trip, and let’s say you had a long game … sometimes we went straight from the airport to the ballpark. It’s really difficult that whole homestand. You just feel wiped out. … I would throw nine innings at Dodger Stadium and might lose anywhere from 2 to 4 pounds. There were times at Wrigley Field during that heat that I lost 10 to 15 pounds. I would love to go start a game to lose 15 right now!
Did lights help the Cubs? Probably; but there's no definitive way to say.
It's the 99th day of 2018, and I'm looking out my office window at 25 mm of snow on the ground. It was -7°C on Saturday and -6°C last night. This isn't April; it's February. Come on, Chicago.
The Cubs' home opener originally scheduled for today will be played tomorrow. This is the second time in my memory that the home opener got snowed out. I didn't have tickets to today's game, but I did have tickets to the game on 15 April 1994, which also got snowed out.
(Cubs official photo.)
Because it's Chicago. (Actually, there's a blocking mass of warm air to the east of us causing a bulge in the polar jet stream and pushing cool Canadian air down into the U.S. That sort of thing feels really nice in July; not so much in April.)
Well, that's it for the Cubs this year.
I haven't actually seen the Anno Catuli sign this season. If they haven't changed it to reflect last night's horrible loss to the Dodgers, I'll try to get a snap of it reading AC0000000. But officially, today, the Cubs have gone one year from their last World Series and pennant wins.
Fans are still in denial. But an 11-1 loss looks to me like the old Cubs.
Just a few kilometers from where I was having dinner in Washington, the Cubs beat the Nationals 9-8 in a game I'm sure the four members of my team who went will be talking about all. Damn. Day. But hey: go, Cubs, go!
Since this was at Nationals Park, though, one has to wonder: did they let Teddy win?
The 30-Park Geas (only 5 to go!) may be in hiatus this year, but for next year, the Post has a guide to all of them:
The experience at Wrigley begins far before you set foot inside, maybe the moment you order your first Old Style at Murphy’s or attack a gargantuan sandwich at Lucky’s. The ivy on the brick outfield walls remains one of the most identifiable, and gorgeous, features in baseball. Recent updates made it more comfortable and modern, without robbing Wrigley of its inherent charm. It’s cramped in the concourse, but you’ll be having too much fun to care.
Player insight: “I like the classic [ballparks] the best. … It’s nice sometimes to sit around in the dugout or the bullpen and look around and think of the history of it.” — Nationals relief pitcher Shawn Kelley
The Experts Rankings: 5th
Since they put AT&T Park, PNC Park, Camden Yards, and Fenway ahead of Wrigley, I might have to agree with the experts here.
Yesterday, Major League Baseball agreed with its players union to ditch the four-pitch intentional walk:
Major League Baseball and its Players Association agreed to replace it with an automatic walk triggered by a signal from the dugout. The curious part was its cause of death: It was sacrificed in the name of shorter games.
That is curious, to say the least, because the intentional walk had neither the frequency of use nor the potential time-savings to make it an obvious target of league officials, led by Commissioner Rob Manfred, who want to speed up the pace of play. Last year, intentional walks occurred at a rate of one every 2.6 games. Their elimination would save perhaps a minute with each instance — a statistically insignificant improvement for a sport that averaged a record-high 3 hours 6 minutes per game in 2016.
Even something as seemingly innocuous and frivolous as the intentional walk has a long history, full of occasional mishaps (pitchers lobbing the ball to the backstop), sneaky swings (as when a batter reaches across the plate and pokes a wide pitch into the outfield for a hit) and even the famous fake intentional walk in the 1972 World Series, when Oakland A's reliever Rollie Fingers struck out Cincinnati's Johnny Bench with a pitch over the plate after the A's feigned walking him intentionally.
In many of those instances, the intentional walk was the most exciting and memorable thing that happened in that particular game. Sure, those zany plays were infrequent, and in the vast majority of instances, the intentional walk was simply a banal, goofy and sometimes counterintuitive exercise in run-prevention.
But will the no-pitch walk still be scored IBB?