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parks department

by now you've probably heard that weaver is bound elsewhere; seattle, for more money. the cards have revealed their negotiating position to the media, a sure sign that the negotiations have failed:

Terms of Weaver's pending deal remain unknown but are thought to include significantly more guaranteed money than the Cardinals' standing two-year offer, according to a source familiar with talks.

The Cardinals guaranteed a base salary below $6 million per season but offered numerous incentives based on Weaver's innings pitched. (Weaver earned $8.325 million last season after signing a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels last January.) Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty and Boras negotiated this week; but the Cardinals' modified proposal failed to meet the agent's demands for up-front money.

the news is producing a mixed reaction at Lookout Landing, the mariner blog on SB Nation. (add'l reaction here and here.) i have similarly mixed feelings. on the one hand, weaver reportedly is going to accept a 1-year deal from the mariners, and in this marketplace any 1-year deal is a bargain. the dollars almost aren't worth haggling over --- we say $6 million, you say $12 million? let's just call it $9m and get the deal done. other than carpenter, none of the cardinals' rotation candidates has thrown 200 innings or won 10 games in a season since 2004; weaver would have provided a nice security blanket, added some durability and eliminated some uncertainty.

but on the other hand, weaver isn't a very good pitcher; in his case, "certainty" amounts to mediocrity. even if he returns to his "peak" form of 2004-05 --- and that comeback can't be taken for granted --- he is a slightly above-average starter, a presentable #3. that's the best-case scenario. the worst-case is that he becomes this year's version of jason marquis, the struggling veteran hurler who stays in the rotation and gets chance after chance to turn the corner, while younger but potentially better pitchers languish in the bullpen or in the minors. to the extent that weaver might have caused tony to move wainwright back to a relief role (a not-unlikely scenario), then the cardinals are better off not having signed him; wainwright will probably outpitch weaver this year. indeed, even if the cards had signed weaver, chances are he would have been their 4th-best starting pitcher, behind wainwright reyes and carpenter.

there was a case to be made for acquiring him, and the cards might regret that they didn't --- especially when he's apparently willing to sign for 1 year. but they might have had regrets just as big (or bigger) if they did sign him. i wouldn't have been elated if they'd brought him on board; accordingly, i'm not particularly disappointed that he's going elsewhere.

thanks for last october; besta luck to you, jeff.

on a completely different subject . . . . .

a couple weeks i came across this ranking of the 30 big-league ballparks. i'm not particularly interested in the rankings themselves; they're just one man's opinion, and who really cares. to each his own. what struck me about the list was how few of these places i have seen. about 15 years ago i had attended a game at nearly half the big-league parks then in use; but there are four more teams now, and even more new stadiums. as of today i've seen barely a fourth of the active venues, and when shea and oakland-alameda (or whatever it is called now) come down a few years from now, i'll have seen just 6 of the 30 major-league stages. what a paltry frame of reference for a supposed devotee of the sport. collecting ballparks used to be a semi-serious hobby of mine, but the set is looking rather ragged and dusty at the moment. i don't know whether this is attributable to my particular life-choices and circumstances, or whether it's just another aspect of the degradation that naturally comes with age. in any case --- i thought maybe i'd feel better if i shared a few ballpark stories and threw it out there for general discussion.

these are the big-league parks i've seen games at --- still-active parks in boldface:

  1. busch II (stl)
  2. busch III (stl)
  3. wrigley (chi)
  4. new comiskey (chi)
  5. royals stadium (kc)
  6. mile high (den)
  7. coors field (den)
  8. candlestick (sf)
  9. oakland-alameda (oak)
  10. jack murphy (sd)
  11. dodger stadium (la)
  12. veterans stadium (pha)
  13. shea stadium (ny)
  14. fenway (bos)
the glaring omission on this list is yankee stadium, which i suppose i'd better see before they blow it up; already missed my chances to see old comiskey and tiger stadium (may they rest in peace). a few cherished memories from the above:

oakland-alameda. the first game i saw at this place (and the first american-league game i ever attended) was a no-hitter by a nobody named mike warren. he threw it against tony la russa's powerful division-winning chicago white sox. oakland outfielder mike davis made the play of the game, hauling in a drive to the right-field fence off the bat off mike squires. i was in the right-field bleachers and the ball was hit right at me; the seats were deserted. had the ball cleared the fence it would surely have been mine, my first and only home-run souvenir. but it dipped at the track and davis caught it crashing into the fence; great play. i also remember this game because it was the first time i saw "The Wave" --- and the last time i ever found it interesting.

fenway park: here's the first game i saw at fenway --- also involving the athletics, by sheer coincidence (and by further coincidence, the a's were by then a la russa-managed team). i was close to field level down the left-field line, about halfway between 3d and the Monster. oakland led 3-2 with two outs in the 9th, and jim rice came to the plate with the bases empty. the crowd booed him mercilessly; he'd struck out with the sacks full to end one threat and, in his previous at-bat, had fanned with 2 on to end the 7th inning. "this guy's a great player," i said idly to the fan next to me (who was not booing). "i hope he shuts these fans up." warming to my indignation, i went on: "here's what i'd like to see. i hope he hits one over the Monster and then jogs verrrry slowly and calmly around the bases --- head down, no emotion." eckersley was on for the save; he wasn't "The Eck" quite yet, was only in the process of becoming a relief ace. he left one up, and rice took him out --- right over the Monster. then he trotted around the bases without once looking up at the crowd, now aroar with forgiveness; my prophecy fulfilled. the guy next to me was mightily impressed. eckersley gave up another homer the next inning to dave henderson, and the bosox won 5 to 3.

shea stadium: only ever saw one game there; this one. i'd just flown in from overseas the previous night and, with the cardinals in town, scheduled a couple days' layover. i'd had tickets to the previous night's game but missed it when the plane came in late. my younger brother had a friend doing a summer internship up at columbia, and we crashed at her place and rode the subway out to shea. right in front of the stadium i ran into a guy who'd been a good friend my freshman year in college --- charlie murphy of brooklyn. huge met fan. i hadn't seen him for five years, not since i switched schools and moved out to california. a lot had transpired (in our lives, and in the met-cardinal rivalry) since we'd last sat around the dorm talking baseball; we spent the game in the right-field mezzanine, overlooking the met bullpen, catching up. after the game (a blunt, dull affair) he asked: you gonna be here tomorrow night? i told him i had tickets. he said: i'm gonna call george lembesis, who's living up in poughkeepsie; he'll wanna drive down and see you. george was another old dorm-mate, an even more rabid met fan than charlie. i told him great, i'll see you guys then; went back to manhattan and became violently ill. by 6 am i was literally crawling to the john, i was so weak from throwing up. i tried to rally, but the gut wasn't up to it. this was long before the days of cellphones or the internet; i didn't have charlie's number, didn't know how to reach george. so my poor brother had to go out the next night and hang with george and charlie, reminiscing about old times he'd never had. hey mark, did larry ever tell you about the time . . . ? no, he never mentioned it. well, you should've been there. . . . the cardinals lost, 6-4, to fall 10 games back of the mets. i ate a bagel and kept it down.

never did get to see george; haven't seen charlie since.

that's prob'y enough outta me. . . . . hope a few of you'll share your own impressions of big-league parks, former and current.