NOTE: Here is the seventh in an occasional series of Features describing the author’s visits to various MLB ballparks around the country. After finishing his cross-country trip at the end of June, the author went back to the most familiar baseball ground of all: the Oakland Coliseum, home of the Oakland Athletics and the closest major league park to your correspondent’s home.
How bad has it gotten for baseball in Oakland? After completing my transcontinental trip at the end of June, I made a point of going out to the local team’s digs, with the full intent of writing up a review of the Oakland Coliseum soon thereafter.
That was over a month ago. Let’s just say, interest in East Bay baseball has fallen off a bit in recent years.
It is probably fitting that the game I saw, an Athletics contest versus the Tampa Bay Rays on the night of Monday, July 17th, was the worst attended game at the Coliseum in several years. But all things come to pass eventually, and here, at last, is that long-delayed review of the Oakland ballpark experience.
It’s been a while since MLB went through another expansion phase. No new teams have entered the sport since the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Rays came into the leagues in 1998.
That expansion brought the number of major league teams to 30, and as such, it can be said to have been incomplete. The number of teams, while even, still left MLB with a lack of balance in the composition of the leagues. The movement of teams between leagues (Milwaukee to the NL, then the Astros to the AL) tried to accommodate the lack of balance in the league structures and schedules, as did the move to introduce interleague play, but there remains, even to this day, oddities that no amount of jiggering with the division formats, unbalanced schedules, and expanded playoffs have been able to smooth out.
Baseball in Harlem: How about something more than a cameo appearance?
So another expansion, which could bring the number of teams up to a far more workable total of 32, might seem like a good idea. The sport–despite doomsaying from the short-sighted–is thriving, thanks to aggressive programs of stadium building, strong marketing efforts, some wise negotiating on both sides of the labor table, and intelligent utilization of digital media to maximize the fans’ experience.
That brings us to the obvious question: where would you put two more teams if you expand MLB today? There are a number of candidates out there for one of the two putative teams, but there’s one market that everyone seems to agree should get another team (even if everyone also says it’s impossible to place a team there for territorial reasons). Let’s, as they say, “start spreading the news.”
Yu Darvish: the Dodgers’ answer, but was there really a question?
Most of the talking heads said they needed to make that move. One wonders what season those babblers have been watching lately, because they’re quite wrong. The Dodgers didn’t need to pick up Darvish–they just did it because they could, and as likely as not, they did it to keep him away from the rest of the competition.
They’re not likely to regret the move, but there may be one small downside to the trade: a boost to expectations that were already sky high…which could upset their balance and lead to major disappointment down the road. Continue reading Gilding The Chrysanthemum→
Baseball fans, you can be forgiven if a wave of nostalgia swept over you Monday afternoon.
It used to be that the New York Yankees always plucked up the best talent via a trade with lesser, poorer teams around the league. Their dynasties of the past were built on such transactions. In particular, the Athletics franchise–in Philly or KC–often served as an unofficial farm team for the Bronx Bombers; that’s how they got Roger Maris, for instance, to keep the good times rolling out of the ’50s and into the ’60s.
Apparently, the good old days have returned to Gotham. With the Yanks acquiring Sonny Gray in a fleecing trade with the Oakland A’s, not only has the team set itself up to get better and make a run this year, but they’ll almost certainly have Gray to anchor the top of their rotation for many years to come. Continue reading It’s Now Very Sonny in Yankee Stadium→