Posts Tagged ‘baseball’

American Sports Teams and Geographic Deception

Posted in Sports and Games on July 24th, 2015 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, currently only one game ahead of the Houston Astros for control of the AL West, are visiting town next week in a series that will prove to be tense and interesting. Hopefully the Astros will regain the lead of the division during the series, but regardless of how things turn out, the Astros have one thing to be proud of: they're not geographically deceptive.

See, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are, as the latter half of their name suggests, based in Anaheim, CA. A city, that, for the record, is not even in Los Angeles County. These Orange County wannabes look to their northwest and see love for the Los Angeles Dodgers, based in, believe it or not, Los Angeles. They are understandably envious of the admiration that big city living gives you. And frankly, I can't blame them. When they changed their name from "Anaheim Angels" in 2005, they gave a nod to their beginnings, they created a more easily marketable franchise name, and they began their geographic deception.

After thinking about the Angels, I got interested: are other baseball teams practicing geographic deception of the same caliber? What about teams of other sports?

As it happens, in baseball, they are the only team to lie about their location, and even that's not quite a full lie, as they maintain the "of Anaheim" qualifier. The other twenty-nine MLB teams are accurate about where they are located, although five (Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, and Tampa Bay Rays) are vague enough to facilitate a possible future-though-nearby move.

And it turns out that this geographic deception is actually not very rampant outside of football: the NFL is by far the most egregious pit of lies. Of thirty-tw teams, only twenty-six play where they call home, and six of those (Carolina Panthers, Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals, and Minnesota Vikings) are quite vague, hedging where they actually play. That leaves a whopping SIX teams that are geographically deceptive in the NFL: New York Giants (East Rutherford, NJ), New York Jets (East Rutherford, NJ), Dallas Cowboys (Arlington, TX), The Washington Professional Football Team (Landover, MD), Buffalo Bills (Orchard Park, NY), and the San Francisco 49ers (Santa Clara, CA). After all, what's in a name?

The NBA and NHL are much more honest, basically on the same level as baseball. The NBA has only four 'hedgers' (Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors, and Minnesota Timberwolves) and only one liar: the Detroit Pistons (Auburn Hills, MI, but can you blame them?) Frankly, the NBA should get bonus points for their aboveboard honesty in the form of the Brooklyn Nets. Where every other NY-centric team in any sport claims just "New York," the Nets are specific enough to name their borough. The NHL, similarly, has six 'hedgers' (Florida Panthers, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, and Minnesota Wild) and only one liar: The Ottawa Senators (Kanata, Ontario – I expected better from you, Canada… shame.)

The conclusion from all this? Minnesota is one big state with no individual cities, at least as far as sports are concerned.

The Wonderful World of Stadium Naming Rights!

Posted in Sports and Games on February 13th, 2015 by Nathan – 1 Comment

When I was a kid, the Astros and Oilers played in the Astrodome, and the Rockets and Aeros played in the Summit. Today, the Oilers are no more, the Aeros are no more, the Astros play in Minute Maid Park, the Rockets play in the Toyota Center, and the Texans play in NRG Stadium.

In between my childhood and now, Houston has been graced by even more names: the Astros went from the Astrodome to the Ballpark at Union Station to Enron Field to MMP. (Those last three being the same location.) The Rockets and Aeros went from the Summit to the Compaq Center to the Toyota center. (Those first two being the same location.) And the Texans began life at Reliant Stadium before NRG Stadium. (Yes, those are also the same location.)

Naming rights are fascinating to me when I consider this: as a child, every stadium I knew was unnamed, an advertisement for sports only, yet today, I see cars, juice, and electricity. And in traveling, I find that there's fewer and fewer unnamed sports complexes. My uncle once took me to see games at both Cowboys Stadium and the Ballpark at Arlington, but those are now gone, and their teams instead play at AT&T Stadium and Globe Life Park in Arlington. Even while in college, I watched as Shea Stadium was replaced by Citi Field. The unnamed building is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

Given this, I decided to do some simple research to answer some questions. What industries are most prevalent in naming rights? Does that differ by sport? What stadiums/arenas/ballparks still don't have paid naming rights and what are they named for? Etc. Here's what I've found:

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Links to full size images: MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, Overall. And the data I used (excel format).

  • Outside of the MLB, there's very few places that haven't sold naming rights. Fully one-third of MLB ballparks have avoided doing so, but the other three sports combine to produce the same number (ten: two in the NBA, six in the NFL, and three in the NHL).
  • Financial institutions hold the most naming rights (twenty-one overall), followed closely by Tech/Communications (fourteen), Insurance (eleven), and Retail/Consumer Goods (eleven).
  • There are two Casinos, one in the NBA and one in the NHL, that have naming rights, yet sports gambling is illegal in most of the country.
  • There's something called a Scotiabank Saddledome.
  • When the Dallas Mavericks played the Miami Heat in the 2011 Finals, American Airlines won. Both teams play at AA-branded arenas.
  • Of the twenty venues without naming rights, six are named for a team owner, six are named for the team itself, three for a place, three as a memorial, and two just as a pleasant flourish (The Palace of Auburn Hills and Arrowhead Stadium, where the Kansas City Chiefs play).
  • There are some interesting choices in the non-Finance/Retail/Insurance sectors. For example, four NBA stadiums/NHL arenas have airline naming rights, yet there are no airlines in any other sport. Similarly, the MLB has five Food/Beverage ballparks (Coors, Minute Maid, Miller, Busch, Tropicana), whereas the other sports combine for three (NBA: Pepsi, NBA/NHL: Smoothie King; NFL: Heinz).
  • And finally, in case you were unsure just how much of a scam for-profit colleges are, in 2006, University of Phoenix (which, it should be noted, has a higher student-loan-default rate than graduation rate) paid $154.5 million for twenty years of naming rights for the Arizona Cardinals' stadium.

Bostons defeated by the St. Louis, 20-6

Posted in Sports and Games on May 31st, 2013 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

A bit of whimsy: I was looking for the most errors committed by a team in a single game of baseball and found that the answer was 24, on June 14, 1876. I couldn't at first find the box score, but after searching through old newspapers, found this story from the Boston Globe, June 15, 1876.

[Some notes: I tried to preserve a few spelling and grammar mistakes so those are of the Globe, not of me; I also relied on a box score found in the Chicago Tribune to correct the mistakes that were found in the original article. Both originals are below as well. When the Tribune disagreed with the Globe, I went with the Globe (on account of geography), unless the Tribune resolved a math error. (Such as for the line score.) Note that the Tribune claims Boston had 25 errors, but the original search that led me here in the first place stated 24; The Tribune only has a box score but does editorialize: "Following is the score of the worst professional game on record:"]

SUMMER PLEASURES.
—-
BASE BALL AND TURF EVENTS YESTERDAY.

The Bostons Defeated by the St. Louis, 20 to 6—The Athletics Defeat the Cincinnatis, and the Louisvilles Beat the New Havens—Races at Mystic and Point Breeze Parks

The St. Louis nine put in an appearance on the Boston grounds yesterday afternoon, for the first time this season, and played their first game for the championship with the Bostons. The attendance was small, it being generally thought that the St. Louisians would have very little difficulty in defeating their Boston adversaries on this occasion, and as Chadwick says: "when such a condition of things exists, there is not that inducement to invest a half a dollar," particularly when the crowd can get disgusted reading the game by innings on THE GLOBE bulletin. The visitors came on in fine form, and their play and deportment fully sustained their previous reputation. The Bostons had their usual team, with McBride as pitcher, but it was evident after the first innings that the visitors could hit him as they pleased, and it was not until the seventh innings that the captain (whoever that person is) could be induced to put in Manning in his place. The change worked well, as but two safe hits were made in the remaining innings. The St. Louis nine defeated the Bostons at every point, the only real damaging errors to their nine being passed balls by Clapp. The play of the Bostons was simply disgusting and the only players who are worthy of notice, are O'Rourke and Whitney. Leonard's play at second base was terrible, nine errors marking his score, and still the management think he can ply the position. George Wright attempted great things, but failed. Schafer also made two bad muffs. Morrill was a trifle "off," probably owing to the fact that he had lost all confidence in throwing to second base. The fielding of Bradley was the finest yet seen on these grounds. The visitors' batting was good, every player being credited with safe hits McGeary and Cuthbert made four each. The game really deserves no mention, except such as contained in the following score:

           BOSTONS            |           ST. LOUIS
                R IB PO  A  E |                 R IB PO  A  E
G. Wright, s.s  0  0  0  2  4 | Cuthbert, l.f.  1  4  3  0  1
Leonard, 2b...  1  1  4  4  9 | Clapp, c......  1  4  6  2  6
O'Rourke, c.f.  0  0  2  0  0 | McGeary, 2b...  2  4  4  4  2
Murnan, 1b....  0  1  9  0  1 | Pike, c.f.....  2  2  0  0  0
Manning, r.f..  0  0  2  0  3 | Battin, 3b....  4  4  1  0  0
Morrill, c....  0  0  5  2  3 | Blong, r.f....  2  2  1  0  1
Schafer, 3b...  1  1  2  2  3 | Bradley, p....  4  2  0  4  3
Whitney, l.f..  2  1  3  0  0 | Dehlman, 1b...  2  2 11  0  0
McBride, p....  2  2  0  1  1 | Mack, s.s.....  2  1  1  3  3
               -- -- -- -- -- |                -- -- -- -- --
 Totals.......  6  6 27 11 24 |  Totals....... 20 25 27 13 16

 Innings .......................1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9
Bostons ........................0  0  0  1  1  0  2  0  2 - 6
St. Louis ......................1  0  0  4  5  7  0  0  3 -20

Runs Earned – Bostons 0; St. Louis, 5.
First base on errors – Bostons 1, St. Louis, 7.
Bases on Called Balls – Bostons, 3; St. Louis, 3.
Wild Pitch – McBride, 1; Bradley, 0.
Fly Catches – Bostons, 7: St Louis, 6.
Foul Catches – Murnan, 1; Merrill, 3; Clapp, 2; Battin, 1; Dehlman, 1.
Struck Out – G. Wright, 2; Murnan, 1; Dehlman, 1.
Double Plays – G Wright, Leonard, and Murnan, 2.
Passed Balls – Morrill, 2; Clapp, 4.
Umpire – Mr. Hodges of the Suffolks Club.
Time of Game – 2 hour 40 minutes.
The second game between the Boston and St. Louis will be played this afternoon on the Boston Grounds.

Original Images:

Embracing the nadir (Astros 2013)

Posted in Sports and Games on April 5th, 2013 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

After two consecutive "worst in franchise history" seasons, it appears the Astros, despite their stellar performance on Opening Night, are poised for a third. This is not a good thing: no one wants to see their team lose, and no one wants to see their team at the bottom of the league standings, the laughing stock of others, the perpetual target of every sportswriter's "incompetence" musings. But it's not necessarily a bad thing either, if losing paves the way to future victory. And that's the promise, from the leadership of this team, that holds a lot of fans today.

Rebuilding is the name of the game, and in the process, there will be losses. There will be trades and there will be minor league success. There will be #1 draft picks. There will be times where every hack makes a joke about the players who get paid more than the entire Astros' roster. There will be embarrassing games. There will be times where Marwin Gonzalez is interviewed in the same vein as he would be for a walk-off home run in the playoffs, all for getting a single hit in the bottom of the ninth to break up what would have been a perfect game. And then one day, there will be wins.

But before those wins come, I recommend embracing the nadir. Take pride in our team, knowing that they will probably never again be as bad as they are now. There's something to be said there. Something proud about losing so badly that you lose better than you've ever lost before. This team doesn't have much hope this year, and that's been admitted. But if they have to lose, let's, as fans, ask them to lose in glorious fashion. And that means breaking "unbreakable" records.

Unbreakable records are those that, thanks to changes in the game or the fact that the level of science or talent has shifted, are no longer reachable. Of course, there are only a few actual unbreakable records, such as Old Hoss Radbourn's fifty-nine (or possibly sixty) wins in one season. But there's a large number of records that seem unattainable, such as Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game, but are not actually unbreakable. These are the ones that this Astros team should reach for.

  • Team Season Strikeout Record (1529) – Currently held by the 2010 Diamondbacks, this seems to be the easiest to break thanks to advances in the science of pitching. The Astros are currently on pace for 2322. This should come down a little, but 1530 is certainly in sight.
  • Team Single Game Strikeout Record (20) – This one will be really hard to break, but there's even more of an incentive to do so: currently the '98 Astros hold the record but are tied with the '86 Mariners, '96 Tigers, and '12 Mariners. It's time to break ahead of the pack and hold this solely. In a typical home game, the Astros will face at minimum twenty-seven at-bats, so twenty-one strikeouts is not unattainable. Just difficult.
  • Most Consecutive Scoreless Innings (56) – The 1903 Pirates hold this record and it doesn't look like it'll fall any time soon. It requires at least six consecutive shutouts, plus an additional three shutout innings to break. The Astros are currently working on this, with eighteen, but that's not even close.
  • Most No-Hitters Against a Team in One Season (2) – Two no-hitters suffered in one season has happened fifteen times, most recently the 2010 Tampa Bay Rays. No team has ever been no-hit three times in one season though, and now's as good a time as any.
  • Most Consecutive Losses (26) – The 1889 Louisville Colonels managed to put together the worst skid ever, and it has stood for 124 years. But the time is ripe!
  • Most Grounds-Into-Double-Play (174) – This one, currently held by the 1990 Red Sox, is probably the least likely for this team to break, as it requires actually getting to base in the first place. There have been no GIDPs for the Astros this year. Don't count on this growing too fast.
  • Fewest Intentional Walks (10) – The 1961 Kansas City Athletics only received ten intentional passes, the record by far. Can the Astros break this? Certainly seems possible: if there's no base runners, there's no reason for a pitcher to intentionally add one.

While some of these records may seem daunting, they're worth breaking, or attempting to break. On the surface, there's no pride in being the worst. But there is an investment of pride. Imagine, when the rebuilding has found success and the Astros aim for a title, how much more impressive it will be in the face of record-setting failure only a few years prior. When your children ask if you were there for that nadir, you can say you were there, you remember it, and you embraced it.

Who is the worst sports commissioner?

Posted in Sports and Games on September 26th, 2012 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

Roger Goodell. Like the other commissioners, it's hard for me to believe they are actually acting in bad faith. Outdated? Serving the wrong interests? Yes. And that's a good reason for term limits.After Monday night's refereeing debacle, some people are calling not just for the return of the regular officials (who, again, I don't think are that much better than these replacements) but also for the head of Roger Goodell, the NFL's commissioner. Most who approach this replacement ref from an economic vantage point out that the NFL has no real incentive to back down in the face of the referees demand: the replacements are an adequate (economic) substitute. This means that as long as people watch, there's no real reason to pay more to get the same result. NFL viewership is relatively inelastic in relation to refereeing. Thus far.

Of course, if things change, you have to expect that the NFL will give in. If viewership drops off precipitously, the regular refs will be back shortly. But in the meantime, those who look at it in a less pure-economics sense have a different point, one equally valid: aren't there more things than money that dictate these decisions? Certainly player safety has to be an issue. And long-term economic viability of football relies on player safety. With replacement refs on the field, an argument could be made that player safety is at risk.

And of course, there's an even better argument that Roger Goodell has done nothing, or very little, to improve player safety over his tenure. He has consistently pushed for an eighteen game season, knowing full well it will increase concussions, while making small strides to punish the players for such hits rather than the greed of the owners for more revenue. He is universally hated by players (who treat his fines as a joke and sometimes even ask to be fined), fans, and now even officials (though probably not the replacements). On the other hand, under his watch, the NFL has grown to greater international recognition and has become the most profitable American sport. He has done good for the league, he has also done bad.

But is he the worst sports commissioner right now? Some would suggest as much but I'm not sure. Let's take a look at the other Big Four commissioners: Gary Bettman, David Stern, and Bud Selig.

Gary Bettman has, during his tenure, massively increased the size and scope of the NHL. He added six new teams and in almost twenty years has nearly octupled league revenue. However, also during that time he has seen three lockouts, including a shortened season, a canceled season, and the ongoing lockout now. Players don't like him and fans routinely boo him, including when he awards the Stanley Cup. Two of his expansion teams have undergone troubles including bankruptcy and relocation. Some suggest he over-expanded, and international exposure suffered because of it.

David Stern has done a lot of good for the NBA. He helped found the WNBA and has done countless wonders for international exposure, arguably more so than any other commissioner of any other sport ever. During his reign, league revenues have improved, and though much of this is directly attributable to international exposure (Yao Ming, for example), a lot of credit goes to Michael Jordan. Since Jordan left, basketball's value has been more stagnant, with several teams failing to be profitable. He's also overseen four player lockouts, including two shortened seasons. He's been accused of tampering with the draft, he has interfered with trades and contracts (including trades with league-owned teams), and he's hated by players and fans, especially fans in Seattle who frequently blame him for being instrumental in the relocation of their team.

Bud Selig reversed the MLB's revenue decline and in two decades has quadrupled revenue. He introduced revenue sharing, made interleague play part of the schedule, and served a crucial part in creating the World Baseball Classic, possibly the only thing that has even attempted to make baseball an internationally-recognized sport. Though he's avoided most possibilities for work stoppages, he canceled the 1994 World Series in response to the player strike, the first canceled World Series in ninety years. He's consistently acted in different, inconsistent manners toward teams, leading many fans and even some owners to question his loyalties. He canceled the Dodgers' media contract during the sale of their team though did not do the same to the Mets. He mishandled Hurricane Ike, sending the streaking Astros to Milwaukee for a "home" series against Chicago (one hour away) when Dallas was available. The resulting losses pushed Milwaukee (Selig previously owned the Brewers) into the playoffs. He forced the hand of Jim Crane to move the same Astros to the American League upon his purchase. And most importantly, he willfully looked the other way (according to the Mitchell report and common sense) as players beefed up during the steroid era. He ignored a serious problem in the integrity of the sport and has only halfway-decently attempted to combat the problem since the MLB took a reputational hit due to steroids.

Is Roger Goodell the worst commissioner of a sport right now? It seems like they're all pretty bad. Having the same job for twenty or so years with no real checks and balances on power will likely make anyone become a bad commissioner. They will act according to their interests or the interests they perceived to be important twenty years prior. They will fail to adapt. They will not do a good job of dealing with stains on their sports. And they will be unfair and hated.

Goodell is bad, and ultimately player safety may end up being the tarnish that paints him as the worst. Right now, I have to believe Selig is worse, but I can't say what we'll know about player safety and Goodell's role in these issues in the future. I can say one thing though: with commissioners this bad, it shocks me that they don't have term limits. Were I to own a team, I would demand such a thing. As a fan, I have to wonder why the owners don't push for such a limit.

What if Clemens pitched for the Astros?

Posted in Sports and Games on August 25th, 2012 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

Remember those days? All the way to the World Series. And even if he probably can't help that much on the field, maybe Roger will somehow help the Astros get there again.Again, that is.

Roger Clemens is pitching for the Sugar Land Skeeters tonight, and Astros scouts will be available. If he still has some stuff, expect a high chance of him signing to the Astros. Why would he do this? Probably not love of the game, but much more likely to delay his Hall of Fame eligibility five years so as to increase the likelihood of his election into Cooperstown on the first ballot.

Some people suggest that this would be a circus sideshow for the worst team in baseball, and I’ve also heard talk that this would be a way for Jim Crane to recoup some of his investment and nothing more. These people are giving up on the Astros future by assuming that Crane is interested only in the immediate payout and not in building a long-term winner.

This seems ridiculous because as a businessman, Crane is best served by a long-term good team with steady attendance draws. He will have the best investment if he builds a juggernaut.

Unfortunately, adding Roger Clemens to the team will not create that juggernaut. What would it do? What if Clemens played for the Astros, again?

Attendance/Revenue

Unquestionably attendance would go up, a large reason why Jim Crane would even consider signing him. This would in fact generate revenue, likely more than the cost of Clemens. And this is good. At this point, any profit can go into rebuilding the team and making it better. The park is usually empty and I can’t imagine that fares well for the future.

Pitching Help

Forget about winning: it’s not going to happen, nor is it desired. We’d rather have more first round picks than be mediocre. But Clemens can help down the road with pitching coaching. There’s a lot of coaching on the chopping block these days and if Clemens pitches for the Astros and gets along well with everyone, he’d make a great coach in the future, should he desire such a job.

ESPN

Anything that gets Houston on ESPN is a good thing. Sure, the Astros are dead last, but they are dead last in a way that doesn’t scream “Pirates” and instead sounds a lot more like “Rays.” Rebuilding is a long process but it helps if the national sports media is paying attention again. With Jeremy Lin on the Rockets and the Rocket on the Astros, there could be a little more national excitement, enough to drum up more local excitement.

All in all, I don’t think it’s as likely as others suggest for Roger Clemens to pitch for the Astros again. But if he does, I think we owe him a welcome and I think we ought to give Crane a little more leeway to make moves like this. It’s not a circus sideshow if it ultimately helps, and there is no perceptible downside: the salary of the Astros is too low for a signing like this to possibly hurt.

This "lost" Astros season feels less "lost"

Posted in Sports and Games on July 25th, 2012 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

Wandy Rodriguez joins the long line of fire sale players traded away by the Astros.Not a lot of people were expecting the Astros to be better out of the gate than last year. Last year's team was in fact slightly better positioned for wins, and yet managed to produce the worst record the Astros have ever seen. This year, they're on pace to win only one more game. Not much in the way of improvement there.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Pirates look like they will finally end their streak of nineteen consecutive losing seasons, and maybe even have a shot at a playoff appearance. Nineteen seasons is harsh, but the Astros are currently working on four consecutive losing seasons, two consecutive below .400.

But I'm optimistic. Though I don't believe the Astros will turn it around this season, maybe not even next season, I don't think we have to wait too long. This isn't, as some claim, another "lost season" as last year unquestionably was. This is a season in which the rebuilding begins. Unlike last year, where Drayton McLane didn't care about the numbers on the scoreboard so much as the numbers on the contract selling the team, it seems like the future ahead is bright.

Jim Crane started the season well with some moves designed to please fans, but perhaps his greatest move was hiring Jeff Luhnow as general manager. Luhnow has completed a few trades that have been fantastic, and a few trades that look to have an upside but are so fresh we don't yet know.

He got rid of Carlos Lee. He flipped Mark Melancon (the letdown we got in exchange for Lance Berkman a while back) to the Red Sox for Jed Lowrie, who has been this year's most valuable Astro in terms of WAR (though only 2.1, so hardly anything compared to Berkman's 6.6, 5.7, and 6.3 in the three years he led the team in this category). And he has put a strong emphasis on the youth movement, by trading away Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez for prospects with upside.

It's crazy to think that Wandy, the last Astro from the 2005 World Series team, will no longer wear an Astros jersey. Seeing him on the Pirates will be even stranger. But now the Astros are ready to rebuild, having received more and more prospects from others. And maybe it means that Wandy won't end the season as the leader in tough-luck losses.

It's easy to look at things bleakly, but it's more realistic to realize that though the Astros are losing, they are using these losses to position themselves for future wins. Maybe not right away (though I would doubt another sub-.400 season next year, a losing season is almost certain) but not too far away either. There's a lot of good coming, and most of the credit belongs to Luhnow. Dropping Brad Mills is the next step, and hopefully that'll be done soon.