You Really Should Hate the Boston Red Sox as Much as the New York Yankees

Even if you are a casual fan of baseball, you know who the big bad enemy is. The Evil Empire. The Bronx Bombers. The Pinstripers. The New York Yankees. You probably hate most of the teams in your division, simply because they are the rivals of your favorite team. But those Yankees, every fan of the 31 other teams have it inbred in them to hate the NYY. From their entitled fans, to their jerk players, to the capitalistic way they run their team, ask any baseball fan to give you a reason to hate the Yanks and they’ll give you five.

But, I’m here to tell you, that your hate should be directed at another team that likes to market itself as the anti-Yankees. The Boston Red Sox. This anti-NYY sentiment is all a facade, because beneath it all, the Sox and their fans are just as bad as those in the Yankee ballpark. Below, is why.

1. Even their own good players do not return after a successful season

Perhaps you’ve seen the news. Talented BoSox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury has recently signed with the New York Yankees. Which, is quite frankly, embarrassing. Ellsbury was a huge part of the 2013 Boston World Series run and victory. When healthy, he’s one of the best all around players in baseball. According to his contract, he would become a free agent after the 2013 season. Naturally, what a team does after having a World Series winning year is to retain the key players, and attempt to build their success from the past year in an attempt to repeat that success the next year. Now, nobody has been able to win back-to-back World Series since the 1999 and 2000 Yankees (the team to come closest was my Philadelphia Phillies in 08-09), but it is the idea that since you (should) have had the best team in baseball, that you want to keep that team at the same level of play to earn another title.

At least that is the general sentiment for teams outside of Miami. However, for some reason Jacoby thought his chances at winning would be best served in New York, rather than resigning with Boston. Which means, one of three things. Either A) Ellsbury thought the team was not good enough to keep winning, or B) Ellsbury simply wanted out of Boston, or C) Ellsbury only cared about money. Because he is not an old outfielder (still in his baseball prime at 30), and has two World Series rings, a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, Comeback Player of the year,  and 3 time stolen base titles to his name, we can safely assume that not only is he a more than an above-average player, but he is going to get a large contract. Which, the Red Sox with their deep pockets, should be willing to pony up for especially with a classy player like Ellsbury who consistently brings home the bacon.

So is it the money that purely motivates Jacoby? I highly doubt it. A player of his caliber is going to demand a high salary no matter what team he is on, and well, he is a Mormon (insert stereotype here). Could it be option A? Maybe, I never thought this year’s BoSox team was actually very good in the first place, they simply got lucky. But to be honest, I am leaning toward option B, because this is very reminiscent of another Sox outfielder who left the team for the hated Evil Empire. Remember Johnny Damon? Back in 2005, following a playoff run that year and the miraculous 2004 WS the year before, Damon was one of the biggest fan favorites with his Christ-like beard and scrappy play. However, Boston refused to negotiate a deal with Damon that extended beyond three years, so he abandoned ship for a team that actually wanted him, in New York. In this case, Boston should have paid Damon what he wanted, to keep their team in contention and their fan base happy. Instead, their arbitrary front office decided to be stubborn and not negotiate, and thus JD ended up in the Big Apple. I can easily see the same thing happening with Ellsbury this time around.

If a player wants to stick with a team, they will stay with them even if it means taking a pay cut. Look at Cliff Lee when he resigned with the Phillies. He could have signed with the Yankees for more money, yet he wished to return to Philadelphia instead. I can tell you first hand that Philly is not exactly the best place to live or raise a family, nor the most friendly atmosphere to play in. But, he saw something there that was what he wanted, and chose to return. Ellsbury or Damon could have done the same thing, but either Boston was not hospitable enough, or the Sox did not try hard enough to retain them.

2. Their Organizational Crux is a Roider

It was revealed four years ago that David Ortiz tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2003, in a governmental report on an investigation of the sport of baseball. He cheated, plain and simple. You want to know who never tested positive on a drug test? Barry Bonds. Sure, he was embroiled in a scandal involving his personal trainer, but there’s no solid evidence that Bonds was a steroid user, just speculation. Yet, there’s solid evidence that Ortiz cheated, and he is somehow a hero, whereas Bonds is a villain. The truth is though, we probably would not be talking about this if Torii Hunter were two years younger and would have (should have) caught the grand slam ball that Ortiz hit in the ALCS.

3. The Red Sox are Hypocrites

The biggest critique and ammo that Boston had in their arsenal with their 2004 World Series win was that they beat the big bad Yankees, who spent like a liberal who just hiked taxes. This small Boston team embarrassed the giant Yanks, and it was awesome. And yet, between 2006 and 2011, the Red Sox had the second biggest payroll in the Majors, buying several players at high prices. Those players would be Victor Martinez, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Bobby Jenks, Erik Bedard, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Adrian Beltre. Granted, they won the Series again in 2007 (without most of the players I just listed), but it doesn’t change the simple fact that the Sox contradicted themselves and became the team they hated the most.

4. Red Sox fans are also Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins fans

Do I really need to explain this?

5. Nobody outside of Boston wanted them to win the 2013 World Series, which they didn’t deserve anyway

I have family in Colorado that are Rockies fans. As such, you would think that they would harbor an apathetic sentiment toward an American League East Coast team, and a little bit more of a negative sentiment toward the midwest NL team in St Louis. However, for obvious reasons they were all extremely disappointed when Boston won the Series. Why? Because their team was ridiculously obnoxious, and won because the Cardinals lost the series, not because Boston won it. St Louis gave away Game 1 with their ace Adam Wainwright on the mound, with defensive and mental miscues all over. If the Cards could have taken just that one game, it would have forced at the very least a Game 7. Not to mention the fact that the Cardinals got more hits than the Red Sox overall, and despite the Game 1 debacle, made three fewer errors in the entire series than the Sox. And, take away the performance that Senor Steroid had, and Boston is dead in the water to ANY playoff National League team, even the hapless Pittsburgh Pirates. Their annoying team of beards, bellies, and crappy castoffs, was not loveable like they tried to advertise. It was exactly like the first adjective I used to describe their team. Annoying.

6. History aside, Fenway Park sucks

Remember our Ballpark Reviews from the summer? Those are based on ESPN’s ballpark tour in the Summer of ’06. In which, they reviewed Fenway Park where the Red Sox play. They gave it a decent review because of the atmosphere (not because of the merits of the stadium), but let us remember one thing about that atmosphere and how it’s changed. You are going to be surrounded by fans from Bah-stan who think the Red Sax are Gad’s Greatest Gift to Hamanity. And then, if it is September, there is sure to be someone wearing a Brady jersey just saying how the Greatriots are the best football team in the Unated States. When at Fenway, I just find the cheapest beer and pray that whoever is playing against the Sox slaughters them.

Are the Red Sox worse than the Yankees? Depends on the season, honestly. This year, because they were/are in the spotlight, they’re pretty much the worst. The year before, they stank, and it was awesome. The good thing about the Yankees is that they are consistently good and consistently stick to the same routine of creating funds and spending them on large profile players. It’s what they do. They don’t pretend to be anything else, and that’s why you hate them. What makes the Sox so bad is that they do pretend to be something else, when in reality they are not any better. That, and of course the five other reasons that I have listed above.

2013 MLB ALDS and ALCS Playoff Predictions and Analysis

ALDS Expert Analysis and Predictions

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox

I will be the first to say that I did not want the Rays in the postseason. With their first scheduled meeting today at 3:07 PM, Tampa has snuck into the playoffs winning on the road in Toronto to force a play-in game with the Texas Rangers for the Wild Card, beating them, and then defeating the Cleveland Indians in the Wild Card playoff, all on the road. I liked Cleveland, and I wanted to see them win, but Tampa would have none of it thanks to their pitching. Although not as amazing as National League pitching (or that of Detroit), these guys get the job done under pressure in playoff situations. David Price is going to be tough to beat, and has the composure of a veteran in the postseason. Although Jeremy Hellickson has been really iffy this season, with Price and Moore heading their staff, if they can get past Boston after using both Price and Moore to reach this point, they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with. Fernando Rodney out of the bullpen is simply fun to watch (and he’s good), as this young staff compliments the young bats of Tampa well. Rookie Wil Myers has been great so far, to compliment the Rays mainstays of Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria, along with Boston/LAD castoff James Loney. Although these guys are all young hitters and tend to be more aggressive at the plate, I think that will play to their strengths against Boston command and control pitchers in this series.

Personally, I still don’t understand how the Red Sox are here. I simply don’t know how they are this good, in the best division in baseball. I do understand how David Ortiz (despite the basepath liability he is) and Dustin Pedroia are good hitters, and how Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino are quality players (yet not superstars), but the rest of the team? Stephen Drew, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Daniel Nava, Mike Napoli, Will Middlebrooks? They’re average players with average stats. Their pitching has obviously been their superiority and strength, as Clay Bucholz (when he’s healthy) is having a ridiculous year, but beyond that I’m not terribly impressed. John Lackey, Jon Lester, and Jake Peavy are all good pitchers but all very hittable. And Ryan Dumpster isn’t exactly something to brag about, and should be on the roster only for emergency long relief. At the start of the season I would’ve placed them to finish fourth in the AL East, and looking at their statistics now I probably would’ve said the same thing. And yet, they win ballgames, and a lot of them against good teams. I just can’t comprehend it.

Which is why I’m picking them to lose. Until they convincingly demonstrate to me that they’re actually good, I will always pick against them. Especially against the Rays who are coming in red-hot, and are not affected by playing on the road, and while they can start Moore and Price in the first two games at Boston. It’s a real shame that nobody goes to see Rays games in Tampa Bay, because they’re going to punch their ALCS ticket at home. Tampa Bay Rays in 3

Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland Athletics

Why are the Tigers so bad in the playoffs? The past two years they have had great teams, and yet at one point or another (2011 ALCS, 2012 WS) they simply lost all their moxie and got outplayed. Is this the year that they finally shake the monkey off their back and get it all right? It could be, because I don’t think their hitting has ever been better. Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter in all of baseball and just an absolute monster. Then you still have the power of Prince Fielder to deal with, along with the bats of Victor Martinez, Torii Hunter, Jhonny Peralta, and even Omar Infante who all hit above .300 for the season. This team is like the Cardinals, except with more power and a deeper pitching staff. As any baseball fan should know, Max Scherzer is having what should be a Cy Young season. Anibal Sanchez is having a career year, and even though Justin Verlander is having an “off-year, his ERA is still under 3.50 and he’s almost averaging a strikeout per inning. This Detroit team has to put on a good playoff showing though, and convince everyone that they still have life after seeming rather lethargic toward the tail end of the season. If they can do that, there might be no stopping this team.

The A’s on the other hand, are a complete X factor as they always are. They receive very little press, and play in front of sparsely populated crowds, yet consistently win with different pieces every year. And then they win a lot of regular season ballgames, and lose in the Division Series just like last year against Detroit. I want them to win, because besides Bartolo Colon and his diet of Big Macs I like their team. Just like the Braves and Pirates, the A’s strike out a lot and they don’t hit for much average with only two everyday starters even close to hovering around .300, but they have a good amount of pop with Josh Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes, and Brandon Moss. And in traditional Oakland style, their pitching is what counts. Barty Colon has seemingly revitalized his steroid and grease ridden career with a ridiculous 2.65 ERA, supported by a young staff that although they aren’t superstars, throw quality games with ERAs under 4.00. They’re also very like the Red Sox in the fact that they play very well in their division, even though most teams don’t have a tough time playing the likes of Houston and Seattle.

I want Oakland to win, simply because they’re the underdog and they are due for some playoff victories. But when matched up against Detroit, the fact of the matter is that they are overmatched. The A’s should manage to steal a few games and make things interesting, in the end though, the Oakland playoff curse will continue, and the Tigers will be seeing a repeat of last seasons ALDS. Detroit Tigers in 5

Down the Road……

ALCS

Detroit Tigers vs. Tampa Bay Rays

Unless Tampa manages to convincingly sweep Boston, there’s no way they will be able to handle the Tigers and all their weapons. Detroit Tigers in 6

World Series

Detroit Tigers vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

This will be a marquee matchup with fantastic staffs and great teams working together. But, Detroit falls apart again to an NL West squad. Los Angeles Dodgers in 5

2013 MLB NLDS and NLCS Playoff Predictions and Analysis

In my vaunted opinion, the MLB playoffs start this afternoon with Pittsburgh visiting St. Louis at 5:07 PM. Of course, with last year’s addition to the wild card round and a one game playoff, the postseason technically began several days ago. Below, you’ll find my predictions for the NLDS of the major league baseball playoffs, with some expert analysis sprinkled in.

NLDS

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates

The Cardinals are the #1 seed in the National League, and for pretty good reason. They are probably the best team in baseball over the past ten years, with a squad that consistently plays at a higher level. Although they’re missing the big names of Pujols and Berkman, this team plays such solid ball that those big names don’t terribly matter. With four starters batting .300 or over, and seven of the starting nine hitting over .275, this team gets hits and spreads them around. Although the non-avilability of Allen Craig will inevitably hurt, the offense should be fine without him. As far as pitching goes, when you have Adam Wainwright available to pitch at two games of a division series, finding the third game to win to close it out shouldn’t be all that hard. Both Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller are solid, if playoff untested, second and third options to take the mound, with Edward Mujica anchoring the bullpen with a solid 2.78 ERA as a closer.

The Pirates on the other hand, came into the playoffs as the #4 seed, after losing out on winning the division to the Cardinals. In the Wild Card round, they defeated a sorely unprepared and inferior Cincinnati Reds team, using their signature long balls and solid starting pitching. Third in baseball with a 3.25 team ERA, the hodge-podge of starters that the Pirates have thrown together has worked wonders, with castoffs such as Francisco Liriano and AJ Burnett finally putting together good seasons. Their main weakness is their hitting, which only compiled a .245 team average for the year, which puts them in the lower 25% of MLB teams. They also had the third most strikeouts, compiling lots of big swings and misses. Only Andrew McCutchen hit over .300 on the year, with Pedro Alvarez, their biggest power hitter, posting a weak .233 BA. But, they have the fire and the team unity and motivation to win, and although they’re not playing ridiculously hot baseball, they may have enough moxie on their side to stage an upset.

Overall, with St Louis having home field advantage and two of those games at home probably being pitched by Adam Wainwright (if the series goes to five), the Cardinals have the advantage in this series. If Wainwright can produce those swings and misses, and St Louis can play small ball and just string together hits like they have all season, Pittsburgh doesn’t stand a chance. Even though the Pirates had the advantage over the Cards in the season series, posting a 10-9 record against them, the Cardinals swept the most recent series, a four game set in September. Pittsburgh will win one at home, but overall will fall to St Louis in four games. St. Louis Cardinals in 4

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Atlanta Braves

This series will start tonight after the first NLDS game, at 8:07 EST. The Dodgers will send probable 2013 Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw to the mound, and it doesn’t really matter who you put up against him (as good as Kris Medlen really is). With a dominating 1.83 ERA on the season Kershaw is just part of the buzzsaw called the Dodgers pitching rotation, with Kershaw, Zack Greinke, rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Ricky Nolasco (probably the dullest blade on the saw). Kenley Jansen and Brian Wilson create a duo in the bullpen that if any starter can go 7 innings (which Kershaw and Greinke should do easily), the game might as well be over. As far as offense goes, with the second highest payroll in all of baseball, one would hope that the Dodgers could at least score some runs for their potent pitchers. Even with such a slow start to the season, they managed to come in fifth in all of baseball in team batting average, although phenom Yasiel Puig has come down to the level of mere mortals as the season has progressed. Still, with Puig, Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez, and Adrian Gonzalez, this playoff lineup is poised to score some runs. Unfortunately, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are both injured, with Ethier limited to pinch-hitting and Kemp completely out, hindering this offense from reaching their true potential. The Dodgers also haven’t been to the playoffs since 2009, and the majority of their team outside of reliever Brian Wilson is very green as far as postseason experience goes.

For the Braves, it’s all been about pitching (sense a trend in the NL playoff teams?). With a MLB best team 3.18 ERA, even without staff ace Tim Hudson this rotation has been dominant with Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, and Juilo Teheran. Even though their ‘pen is missing the absence of Johnny Venters, Craig Kimbrell is one of the best, if not the best fireballing closer in baseball. The one thing the Braves do not have going for them is the fact that their team is rather playoff untested, as is their franchise as a whole, since they have not won a postseason series since 2001. Their hitting, very much like the Pirates, relies rather much on home runs, generating a metric ton of swings and misses, striking out the second most in all of baseball. Dan Uggla and BJ Upton have been disasters, both supposed to be quality starting position players and producing averages under the Mendoza line, and as such are riding the bench for the playoffs. Both Freddie Freeman and Chris Johnson are actually good hitters, as are Brian McCann and Jason Heyward who simply haven’t produced other than the longball this year. This Braves team can hit, let there be no doubt, but will they? They also had the benefit of playing in the softest division by far this year, as the NL East is mostly hapless and pathetic.

Just like in the other NLDS matchup, anticipate swings and misses from the Braves at the hands of Kershaw and Greinke. I don’t think the Dodgers will pile on a ton of runs, but scoring two or three off the Atlanta rotation should be good enough to win. The only way that Atlanta has a chance is if they can produce timely home runs that aren’t solo shots. The trouble with slim leads and a team like the Braves is that they can close the gap in a lead pretty darn quick. Will they though? I think not. The Dodgers will win this series once it heads back to SoCal. Los Angeles Dodgers in 4

Down the Road……….

NLCS

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals

This might be the best series of the entire playoffs when it comes to fruition, as the Cardinals are the more experienced and better hitting club as well as having Wainwright, but the Dodgers have a deeper rotation and bullpen, along with the big names in the lineup. In the end, Kershaw and Greinke will be too much for St Louis…….but it’ll be close. Los Angeles Dodgers in 7

A Trip Down Memory Lane: Ballpark Review of Orioles Stadium at Camden Yards

Review 4 of our Ballpark Tour: Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, MD

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Oriole Park at Camden Yards has a special place in my heart.  (Be prepared for a slightly bias review).  As a child my father was able to get tickets to Oriole games through his work, so he, my brother and I would frequent the ballpark to see the Orioles compete.  Even though for the past 15 years the Orioles have been one of the most laughable teams in the major leagues, they have still been the team I rooted for.  However, with the resurgence of talent at the plate and on the field, as well as mastery in the dugout, my brother, Quintus Dellius and I bought partial season tickets for the 2013 season.  With 13 games this season in the Upper Box, I have frequented the Yard more often this year than all others combined.

On this occasion Quintus was unable to attend, so Daniel California and myself ventured down to Baltimore for a Sunday afternoon game in which the Orioles faced off against the Colorado Rockies in an inter-league rubber match.  As it happened, Thurston Howell and his compatriots were also in attendance, so it was bound to be an enjoyable experience.

1. Accessibility and Parking

Because Oriole Park is located within the city itself, getting to the park itself is a little intimidating.  For some, driving in a city is a very stressful situation filled with one-way streets and congestion.  Baltimore is no exception.  However, with a decent set of directions or a GPS, the drive in is very simple and straight forward.  Parking is a much more interesting situation.  There are many lots provided by Camden Yards, however depending on what game you attend and when you purchase your parking pass, you may have to make sure you pack your sneakers.  When just doing a little research there was parking available for around $10.  However, there are many alternatives to parking in these lots.  One could also park in the many hotel lots surrounding the Yard in which event parking is usually priced at $20 for the closest garages.  There is also the option of the Light Rail, which is the Baltimore train system.  This would allow you to park at a much farther lot for much cheaper and just catch the train for a grand total of $3.20 round trip.  I personally have never ventured on the Light Rail, even though the station is literally right next to the stadium.

Every time I take the hour and a half trip down to Baltimore to see a game, I park in the Sheraton garage and just pony up the bills for the convenient three block walk to the stadium along Conway St.  This allows me to get my $4 bag of peanuts at the street vendor outside the park and take in the parade of fans cascading into the Yard.  Once the game ends, the ease of driving through the city instantaneously becomes a menagerie of drunken fools.  This makes driving much more stressful and complicated.  Couple this with the increased congestion and you have yourself a downright crap show.  And the fun is not over, in order to get on route 83 N out of the city one must find the hidden on ramp in the middle of the not-so-nice end of town.  All things considered, the Orioles and the city of Baltimore have made Camden Yards very accessible to fans through many different avenues.  However, I do not enjoy the fact that I have to sit through a game without an arm and leg due to the fee for parking, as well as having to fight through a throng of cars and fans to exit the city. 5.5/10

2. Tickets

As a “season” ticket holder, Quintus and myself, received our bundle of tickets at the beginning of the season.  These were your typical ticket with Orioles star Adam Jones on every one.  Our seats are located in the Upper Box, Section 340, Row 3, Seats 1 & 2.  Because of the design of the ballpark, there is truly not a bad seat in the house.  Our seats, however, are just fantastic, especially for the special price of $20 a game.  A perk of being a season ticket holder, being that the seats are normally listed for $26.  Our seats are located almost directly above the commentators booth, allowing us to have a great view of the game.  In the middle of the 4th inning, just as the woman in front of us opened her umbrella directly obstructing our view of the pitcher and home plate,  we moved over to the Left Field Upper Reserve to join with the rest of the group.  I have personally never sat in the outfield, (the tickets my father would get were always on the third base side), so I was very curious to see what the view would be like from these new seats.  The game was unusually empty as far as attendance was concerned so we were able to sit right with Thurston and the others.  These seats were still fantastic even though they were much farther from the action.  Overall, I do not have much to complain about as far as the tickets and seats are concerned. 9/10

3. Beer and Hot Dogs

Camden Yards is home to a professional baseball team.  I wanted to make this statement to put this next section into perspective.  The prices of concessions are vastly inflated compared to previous parks we have attended, especially Beer and Hot Dogs.  Camden Yards offers a great variety of beers.  Of course you have your classics, Budweiser, Bud Light, Bud LIght Lime, Miller Light, Coors Light and Natural Bohemian A.K.A. Natty Boh (Baltimore’s local brew) are all on draft at $7.75 for a 20 oz.  In addition to these you have craft brews available including Third Shift, Blue Moon, Blue Moon Agave Nectar Ale, Redd’s Apple Ale, Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, Guiness, Goosehead, Flying Dog microbrews and IPAs, and Heavy Sea’s IPAs.  Because these beers have flavor, they will run you $8.50 for a 16 oz. draft or 16 oz. can.  Stella and Shock Top are also available (only in 16 oz. cans) for $8.50.  If you are either too lazy to get up or too drunk, there are wandering beer vendors that will peddle their Miller Light, Coors Light, Bud Light and Natty Boh’s in 16 oz. cans for $8 bucks a piece.  All beer transactions are limited to two per person per transaction.  Beer lines will occasionally get long, especially on the lower concourse before the game and in-between innings.  All alcohol sales stop in the eighth inning or three and a half hours after the scheduled start time for the game.  I have personally never complained about the selection of beers at the Yard.  There are plenty of viable options even for those in the “nose-bleeds”, that are not your typical light beers.  Hot Dogs are another thing all together.  For a standard Esskay ballpark frank you will have to shell out a hard $5.50.  This is very ridiculous and thus neither Daniel nor I bought one.  I’m sure it tasted exactly like a hot dog would normally.  Except, I can normally purchase multiple packs of hot dogs for less than that monstrous up-charge.  Overall, there is a great selection of beer available to the fans, even though they are outrageously expensive, but the real kicker is the $5.50 hot dog.  6.5/10

4. Architecture and Design

Oriole Park at Camden Yards was constructed in 1992, replacing the historic Memorial Stadium.  Oriole Park was the first park constructed that was considered “retro-classic” in its design.  This design is much more fan friendly and increased the average attendance from around 25,000 fans at Memorial Stadium to approximately to 40,000 fans at Camden Yards.  Because of the massive success of the park and its design, Oriole Park became the template for all new modern parks being constructed, as well as renovations to those already existing.  Oriole Park is located on the old Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) railroad station.  The B&O warehouse is the only thing left of the railroad, and is now the home of the box office, Majestic Team Store, Dempsey’s Brewpub, The Art of the Game (Memorabilia Shop), the teams front offices, as well as a private club for the team.  The warehouse is the biggest brick building on the East Coast and is located on Eutaw Street, a street that is closed off to public traffic.  Eutaw Street runs along the right field side of the park and is the home to many concession areas including Boog’s Barbeque.  Eutaw Street is also one of the coolest features that the park has to offer.  As you walk along the street towards the entrance to the lower concourse you begin to see small plaques by your feet of baseballs.  These plaques commemorate every home run that has been hit and landed on the street.  For a fan that has had so much of my own history at Camden Yards, it is awesome to see that the organization really takes pride in the history of the team and the park itself.  Each ball has the player’s name that hit the home run, the team they play(ed) for and the date the home run was hit.  Oriole Park opens out to the Baltimore skyline, which has been slightly obstructed by the construction of the Hilton Hotel in 2009.  Unfortunately this 757-room hotel obstructs the view of arguable the most memorable sight at the Yard, the Bromo Seltzer Tower.

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Even though this addition to the skyline slightly diminishes some of the sentimental value of being at the game, the park is one of the most beautiful places to spend an afternoon, watching a great game. 10/10

5. Atmosphere

Baltimore Oriole fans have a fairly good reputation throughout the league.  If there is fan sitting near you of the opposing team (even Yankee fans), 9 out of 10 times they will get treated very well.  However, when the Orioles are losing in a close game and fans of the opposing team are cheering loudly or just making a scene in general, then they will start to receive the stereotypical Baltimore treatment.  The fans in Baltimore love the Orioles.  However, because of their marred past and cheap ticket prices, you get a lot of casual fans or just fans of baseball, not the Orioles.  This does not detract any from the experience of being at an O’s game.  The “Oh” in the National anthem will always be shouted, and we will always thank God we are Country Boys (especially during the 7th inning stretch).  Most of the Orioles have entertaining and fitting walk-up music playing before each of their at-bats, and you have your general PA system that announces players, and the musical selections were appropriate and entertaining.  In general, Oriole Park is a great place to watch a game no matter if you like the O’s or not, or even if you don’t like baseball at all.  The staff is very friendly and if you so choose will engage in intelligent conversation, while also supplying all of the expected treatment you would expect at a ballpark.  8/10

6. Concessions

Baltimore is most famous for their crabs.  Maryland Blue in particular, and Camden Yards takes advantage of this.  There are Flying Dog kiosks on both the upper and lower concourse that serve crab dip waffle fries ($10) or crab cake sandwiches ($10).  However, there is a plethora of other options for food around the ballpark.  The Yard offers the usual ballpark fare, chicken fingers and fries, cheeseburger and fries (both for $10), pizza ($5 per slice) and your overpriced hot dog, but with some added surprises.  These included Roma sausages with all the fixens ($7), Turkey burgers and fries ($10) as well as Old Bay seasoning for your fries and chicken.  However, if you want to venture away from the classic fare you can indulge in Boog’s Barbeque, Dempsey’s Brewpub, or one of the Korean food Kiosks located on the lower concourse.  Boog’s Barbeque greets you as one of the mainstays on Eutaw street with Boog Powell always sitting out in front of the stand signing autographs and getting pictures with eager fans.  With three choices of meat, beef, pork, or chicken, you select your sandwich either a regular or a Big Boog (double meat).  The regular sandwich is $10 and the Big Boog is $15 but comes with kettle cooked Old Bay chips, sold individually for $4.  Drinks are pricey, a bottled soda will cost $4, a regular fountain will be $4.50 and a Souvenir cup will cost $6.50.  Carnavel Ice Cream in also available if you are still hungry for dessert.  So there is a lot to choose from, as far as food goes, however you need to be willing to part with a large portion of the money that you came with. If it wasn’t for Boog’s I would probably give Concessions a 6 but with the quality and quantity of food that you get, I have to award a 7/10.

7. ADD Generation Appeal

Oriole Park is the ideal place for people to just see a game.  Attendees need not be fans of the Orioles or even baseball to have a great time at Camden Yards.  This is mainly due to all the other things they have going on while the game is not actually being played.  In-between innings there is always some kind of “attraction”.  For example, after the first inning the Orioles will give away a pair of Hershey Park tickets to the fan that best pretends to ride a roller coaster.  This allows the little kids to jump around and scream and hopefully see themselves on the Jumbo-tron.  After the fourth inning there is always the “crab shuffle” in which three crabs appear on the screen.  Then the middle crab hides a baseball, the crabs then proceed to be shuffled, on the ground or in the air, hide under the sand so that only their O’s hats are seen, then either juggled by an octopus or scattered and thrown by a pelican.  This is a very fun activity that really keeps your attention and once they settle the crowd yells their prediction and friends revel in the others foolishness.  Obviously, drinking only adds to the enjoyment of this mid-inning entertainment.  There are also other attractions such as the Smile Cam and the Kiss Cam that allow people to engage in the activity that they enjoy most, looking at themselves.  At the end of the fifth inning there is the Esskay Hot Dog Race.  This is where three animated hot dogs race each other around the bases.  This allows the fans to pick their favorite hot dog and cheer/yell at them.  This is, of course, ridiculous and slightly juvenile… but I will continue to cheer on Relish.  Then you have your other typical in-between inning attractions, where they play a song over the PA and just show the crowd dancing and just making general fools of themselves.  In addition to all of these things, once the first pitching change takes place, the crowd gets to play “What’s The Year”.  This is a little video of a song, a cultural event and an Orioles event that have taken place in the same year and then fans guess what that year was.  This is a great way to pass the time and it is always interesting to hear the years being shouted by the crowd and your friends.

Another great thing about the Camden Yards entertainment staff is the montages that they put on after the Orioles score.  Every time an Oriole reaches home, the Big Screen lights up with clips from a variety of movies in which the characters are giving high fives.  This montage then changes if the O’s score of a home run.  For me this is just the icing on the cake.  All in all, if you have a hard time paying attention to a game that is often laborious and uneventful, then the Orioles do a more than adequate job of keeping the attention of the crowd. 8.5/10

8. Intangibles

For me this is an easy category.  The Orioles supporting staff (ushers, concession workers, beer-men, etc.) are excellent and always welcoming.  Being a “season ticket holder” the usher for our section now recognizes my brother and I.  In the most recent game I attended, Chris Davis hit a line-drive straight back into the seats.  After the drama, a little kid gets up off the ground screaming and holding his chest, having taken it straight off the bat.  Immediately two ushers are their escorting him and his dad to the nearest first aid station.  This is common place.  After every foul ball an usher makes sure that everyone is okay and unharmed.  Depending on where you sit, you may get a cup-holder, and if you pay the man, you can get a cushioned seat. There are plenty of bathrooms, which are kept clean and free of lines even for the ladies room. All in all, there is nothing that stands out to me as a mark against the park in this category. 10/10

9. Warm-up Entertainment

I alluded to the between-innings entertainment beforehand, so although there are some enjoyable factors, I’m not going to award too many points twice. For the sake of the category, the degree of difficulty and entertainment of the crab shuffle in and of itself is worth a point. Other than that,  there is virtually nothing for fans before the game.  Unless you arrive at the park two hours before game time you will not see batting practice.  And if you do, then after BP the only thing for you is watching players stretch on the field or watching the grounds crew prepare the field for the day’s game.  One redemptive quality that the O’s have is that they usually have someone “important” throw out the first pitch, even in mediocre, middle of the season games.  For example, Kevin Spacey tossed out the first pitch on July 14th in a game where we beat the Blue Jays, 7-4.  Another in the plus column for Camden Yards, is the fact that they always have someone to sing the National Anthem before the game and “God Bless America” in the middle of the 7th inning.  This is often a local military member.  Other than these two redemptive qualities, the Warm-up Entertainment leaves something to be desired. 5.5/10

10. Game Quality

If I were to have written this review three years ago, this section would be much different.  However, now under the leadership of the masterful Buck Showalter, the game play of the Orioles has dramatically increased.  In the game that Daniel and I attended this was evident.  The Orioles put on a show routing the Colorado Rockies 7-2 powered by long balls from Chris Davis and Adam Jones.  Even though Scott Feldman is usually inconsistent, he put on a great performance, pitching 6 and 2/3 innings allowing 5 hits and 2 runs.  There were no errors in the game and the defensive play was very good.  In all, the game quality is what you would expect from individuals that get paid a boat-load of money to play a game, also known as professionals. 10/10

EC: There is nothing that I really see as being extra credit worthy.  I was generous in my scoring so I will leave this blank.

Final Score: 80/100

Conclusion: This is the highest score out of the four parks we have reviewed and rightfully so.  The others have been minor league and Atlantic league parks.  Not that this means that the park will be any less fun, but the Orioles and all major league teams have more money to put into their parks and attractions.  Going to an Orioles game is always a fantastic time.  Win or lose, I always enjoy myself.  The fans are a fantastic group that loves their team.  The stadium is amazing and has so much history.  The game play is exciting and just fun to watch.  And even if all of these things weren’t there, our group can make any situation a crazy and entertaining one (See Review #2).  Luckily, this isn’t the case with Baltimore.  No matter what is going on, once you step onto Eutaw St. there is only one thing that matters…  The Baltimore Orioles.

My Expenses:

Ticket: $20

Parking: $20

Big Boog: $15

Souvenir Drink: $6.50

Peanuts: $4

Total: $65.50

This is rather steep, I know.  But if you plan ahead you can avoid these costs and save… or spend it on beer.  If I had eaten before the game, I could have saved the $21.50 I spent on food and drink.  Plus, if your arrive with friends, then you can split the cost of parking.  However, when we compare this to the other parks, the amount of money spent is astronomical.  We have to chalk this up to it being a professional game.  These prices are consistent from what I have seen from other MLB parks I have attended.  The true test will come in the next review of the Washington Nationals park, Nationals Park.

Ballpark Review #4 – Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles), Baltimore MD

Ballpark Review #3 – Sovereign Bank Stadium (York Revolution), York PA

Ballpark Review #2 – Clipper Magazine Stadium (Lancaster Barnstormers), Lancaster PA

Ballpark Review #1 – Metro Bank Park (Harrisburg Senators), Harrisburg PA

You Say You Wanna Revolution? : A York Ballpark Review

Review 3 of our Ballpark Tour : Sovereign Bank Stadium, York PA

Like Lancaster, York had once upon a time been a baseball town, home of the White Roses team that was affiliated with MLB’s Baltimore Orioles. Oriole great Brooks Robinson once played for the White Roses, and was one of the owners credited with returning semi-pro baseball to York in 2007. This is the planned ballpark on our tour that I had never been to, so I didn’t know what exactly to expect. By a stroke of luck, it turns out that I know the guy that for this game, ran all the sound effects and music for the team (even though he usually does camera or replay), and was able to score free tickets to the game through this connection. Amped for my cheapest review yet, I rallied my friends Thurston, The Secretary, and Scarlett O’hara to go to the game with me. Of course, both Henry Kissinger and Scarlett dropped out, leaving Thurston and I to try and fill seats to not let free tickets go to waste. Fortunately, via a Twitter advert by myself, my friend Susan Calvin who attends nearby York College had an afternoon free (in other words, it was an excuse for her to not do homework or study) and attended with us. The York Revolution were slated to face off against the Long Island Ducks (again), in which the Revs blew a dominant 2-0 lead en route to a 4-2 loss. With one ticket sadly going unused, we walked into unfamiliar territory in York and started our third ballpark review.

Revs v Riversharks

1. Accessibility and Parking

Sovereign Bank Stadium is located just off Route 30 in pretty much the downtown of York. So, unless you live in York city or know of a parking lot to park in nearby, you’re going to do stadium parking. Which, they charge you for. And, isn’t adjacent to the stadium, being a good 5 minute walk across the railroad tracks (literally). On a close, packed out game, traffic is probably a nightmare, as even on a hot day with a sparse crowd 30 was a bit backed up as we took it toward Lancaster. Dr. Calvin was charged $3 to park a little further away, and we were charged $4 for prime parking. In comparison to the easy access of Harrisburg, and the freedom that Lancaster offers, this is going to amount to our poorest category score yet. 5/10

2. Tickets

FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. Well, at least it was for us (my man Dru gives his employer bonus points for this review). Otherwise, we would’ve paid about $12 a piece for the seats that we had. Lawn seats are $8, so prices were about $1 more per seat than in Lancaster. Just as at Clipper Magazine Stadium, the views were great and the action close. If you aren’t getting free tickets, pay the man the extra $2 for the field box seats ($14 for the frontish row seats) and you won’t regret it. The only problem was because this Sunday afternoon game started at 2:05 instead of the usual 5:35, the hot summer sun beat down on us for a good three and a half innings, and sitting further front on the third base side would have kept the sun on us longer. Physically, the tickets are a pretty dreadful mess of blue and white, with a random coupon on the back. Without the free tickets, this score would have warranted a 7, but without having to mess with a service charge, mailing fee, or any fee at all, thanks to Dru, York gets a points bump to 8.5/10.

3. Beer and Hot Dogs

First things first, the beer. Being a putrid hot day, asking for anything that’s not a light beer should and would throw red flags of potential alcoholism. That being said, at York’s stadium, if you’re a fan of beer, you should definitely go here. There’s every domestic on tap ($5.50), and several classier local beers such as Troeg’s and some other ones that I haven’t even heard of for $7. They have 12 and 16 ounce cans for cheap ($4.25 for a 16 ounce), which include Corona, Pabst’s Blue Ribbon, Molson, and a smattering of domestics as well. There’s also “The Hop Corner”, that during Thursday, Friday, and Saturday games features microbrew bottles of Dog Fish 60 Minute, Spring House Seven Gates, Roy Pitz Best Blonde, Kona Hawaii Beer, Wolavers Wildflower Wheat, and Magic Hat all for $7. There is enough beer to make even the pickiest beer drinker happy, and even a wide enough selection to satisfy the snob. And, it’s all the cheapest we’ve seen yet. As far as hot dogs go, it’s standard fare. Although they do have an interesting chili dog, they’ll charge you $2.25 for the normal sized Downtown dog, or $3.50 for the all-beef jumbo dog. Fantastic beer, average hot dogs warrant a 7.5/10.

4. Architecture and Design

Featuring the highest outfield wall in baseball with the Arch-Nemesis at 37 feet 8 inches, the Nemesis is higher than even Fenway Park’s Green Monster by six inches. Just like Fenway, the left field scoreboard is also hand-operated, which is a really neat feature. At the home plate entrance of the park is Brooks Robinson Plaza, with a lot of benches around a life-size statue of Brooks Robinson, which is a cool touch. Although almost identical to Lancaster with the brick home plate entrance, it is nonetheless a nice design (coincidentally, both ballparks were also designed by the same architect). Again similar to the Barnstormer’s park is “Capitol Hill” in right field, a grassy knoll with bleachers to offer a different view of the game, with the name alluding to when York was the capital of the United States during the American Revolution. The seating design isn’t nearly as nice as Lancaster, and the architecture of it feels a bit too similar. The Arch Nemesis, manual scoreboard, and Plaza get this score rather high. However, the unoriginality of the Nemesis and poorer (in comparison) interior architecture prevent this score from being perfect. It almost feels like the architects tried a little too hard to make a few aspects totally unique, whereas everything else in the park feels overlooked making it seem simply ordinary. 9/10

5. Atmosphere

Right off the bat, my friend Dru who was operating the sound was getting some demerits for playing Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus at the game’s warm ups. However, he had a chance to explain himself later when explained that he was simply playing off a predetermined playlist, and that he isn’t he usual sound operator. He (or the playlist) more than redeemed himself by letting some Kanye West and Rise Against off the chain during the opening innings. Unfortunately, Mark Teahen’s (yes the same one that played for the Royals, and the ChiSox signed to a hilarious three year $14 million deal back in 2009) walk up music was “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke which is rather disappointing for a player I used to like. The Revolution are family friendly, but not overtly, which is nice in that it seems they try and cater to more than just families. There are several of options for kids (which I’ll go into detail a little further down), but the ballpark on a whole it seems appeals to a vaster demographic. Although it wasn’t a predominantly young crowd at the game, it was a good mix of families, teens, young adults, and the older generations. People didn’t seem as fanatical about wearing team merch, and the absence of Yankees jerseys and such garbage was a nice sight to behold. Although I question a few of the sound effects that Dru played (burping and farting noises for the beefier opposing players?) up to this point, the game Atmosphere would warrant a 6.5 or 7.

And then, the cannon happened. In right field, operated by Cannonball Charlie (who happens to be a professor at York College for his other job), is a cannon that although it doesn’t appear very large, is the most memorable thing about the ballpark. Test fired during the beginning of the game, whenever a Revolution player hits a home run, Cannonball Charlie lights the cannon and it goes off. And I mean it seriously goes off. I jumped the first time he lit it, and the noise is deafening, and totally awesome. According to Dru, it’s so loud that when it went off during an All-Star game held at Sovereign Bank Stadium, the visiting right fielder hit the grass in the fetal position in reaction to the blast. I wanted the Revoution to win on a walk off home run just to see how much he would stuff that bad boy and how loud it would go off. It’s seriously the coolest thing ever, and instead of giving it bonus points I’m going to award this category a 10/10.

6. Concessions

For some odd reason, I wasn’t hungry during the game, or maybe my wallet just didn’t feel like opening up and dumping its contents out into food. I wish I was hungry, because the basic smorgasboard that York lays out in front of you is fantastic. In left center field are Bricker’s famous french fries, on the third base side is the Downtown Alehouse and a Pizza Hut stand, along with your regular ballpark concessions. There are salads, speciality sandwiches named after every team in the Atlantic League, local Turkey Hill ice cream (soft and hard serve) and teas, Martin’s Potato Chips, and even a fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich. There’s walking tacos, kettle corn popcorn, hand twisted pretzels, and even hot or iced coffee or frappes. It’s the widest selection I have ever seen, and for decent prices too. A cheeseburger is $5, or you could get a bacon cheeseburger or grilled chicken sandwich for $1 more. I’m almost thankful that I didn’t buy anything other than a hot dog and beer, as if I would’ve been hungry and tempted, I would have wanted to try everything, and been considerably poorer because of it. 9.5/10

7. ADD Generation Appeal

This is in the middle of York City, so if you’re going outside the ballpark just remember to hide yo’ kids and yo’ wife, cuz you in da hood son. I don’t remember what it’s like to have the mindset of a kid, so I do not really recall how long it takes for something to get old, but it seems that if I were a child at York I might get bored. Sure, in centerfield there’s the Downtown Playground with a carousel and bouncy houses and some other kiddie games mixed in, but other than the obligatory overpriced souvenir shop and begging for snacks, you’re pretty much out of options unless you like playing on the grassy knoll in right field. There could be enough to occupy a child for a good part of a ballgame, but then again, I’m not really sure. Maybe the Playground is enough, but in my opinion, there should be more options. 5.5/10

8. Intangibles

York sports a friendly staff who didn’t question as to why I was in the Press Box at game’s end, and that checked on a family near us when a foul ball created a large wake. As in Lancaster, the program was free and horrible, and came without a writing utensil yet again (this time I was prepared though). Bathrooms are spacious, clean, and without lines, and the seats were again nearly identical to Lancaster by being spacious and cushioned the better the seat you had. It wasn’t as fun as an intangible experience we had at the Barnstormers stadium (with midget ushers and a nice downpour), but when I don’t have any major complaints (other than the program), this score will always be high. 8.5/10

9. Warm-Up Entertainment

I hate the Revolution’s mascot, Downtown. He’s anthropomorphic and strange, and has a stupid name. Also, the MC isn’t nearly as fun as IM FUN, and is rather forgettable, as he needs a wider variety of outfits to be interesting (a Cat in the Hat hat would be the perfect touch). However, there’s an applesauce chugging race which I found to be very entertaining and creative. Being York College day at the Sovereign Bank, a lot of the between innings games featured York College kids which I feel like they should have taken advantage of. Am I the only one that wants to watch drunk college kids make fools of themselves by playing dizzy bats in between innings? This needs to happen somewhere. 5.5/10

10. Game Quality

I’m a fan of the all-white Revolution jerseys, although the Ducks I’ve already taken some shots at for making some of the portlier players look like The Great Pumpkin. As far as quality of play, I know that Atlantic League baseball isn’t well-played. But, with the presence of several actually good ex-major leaguers such as Lew Ford and Mark Teahen, I had some higher hopes. And, these were met in what seemed to be a good game that was low on walks, mistakes, or Little League-esque plays. Until, the Revolution catcher started to throw the ball around, and eventually into right field opening the gates for runs to come in, and eventually what would be the loss. This was the only major bonehead of note, but was just an ugly reminder of the semi-professional play of the Atlantic League. 6/10

EC: I want to add more points for the cannon, but I really shouldn’t. +1 for getting Lew Ford to smile and wave at me though when we were touring center field. +1 as well for the Press Box tour by Dru, and another +1 for free tickets.

Final Score : 78/100

Conclusion : I can’t call the food prices “low”, but they were “fair enough” along with an amazing selection, free tickets, and THE CANNON. If I had a car full of friends going to a game, I would choose to go to York. If I had to meet a bunch of people at the stadium, I’d go to Lancaster. $4 to park just makes that much of a difference to me (and everybody else), which totally kills the wrap-up. With a good MC and better parking options, Sovereign Bank Stadium would be a practically immovable object atop our rankings. Instead, it ekes out a victory over Clipper Magazine Stadium by just one point. It’s safe to say that I will plan on returning to this ballpark at some point next year, simply because of the lower prices on the whole, and spread of food that York offers. The other thing is, if I hadn’t been given free tickets, the ticket rating would have dropped at least a point, perhaps even a point and a half, putting it at a tie or slight loss to Lancaster. Maybe if the revenue stream that they develop outside of parking fees increases, Sovereign Bank Stadium could realize true ballpark greatness. Until then, they merely teeter on the edge, not yet achieving their total potential as a venue.

My Expenses

1. Parking (split) – $2

2. Downtown Dog – $2.25

3. Bud Light Lime Draft – $5.50

Total Expenses : $9.75

Don’t let this price chart deceive you. Although it is obviously the lowest sum of any outing yet, it’s also the least I have consumed at any park, and excludes the price of a ticket. For $15 more, I could have eaten like a King (additional beer, sandwich, snack), and with the $12 seat we were in still came out beneath the price total of Lancaster by four or five dollars, even with parking cost. Take into consideration that Lancaster was a beer special night, and it becomes obvious that York’s prices are superior, for a vaster variety and the same if not better quality. Unfortunately, what Lancaster lacks in higher priced concessions, York makes up for in slightly more expensive tickets and paying to park. In comparison to Harrisburg, parking and the ticket were more expensive (although the seat was better), but beer was cheaper and normal concessions are about the same, if not slightly cheaper with more variety.

Ballpark Review #4 – Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles), Baltimore MD

Ballpark Review #3 – Sovereign Bank Stadium (York Revolution), York PA

Ballpark Review #2 – Clipper Magazine Stadium (Lancaster Barnstormers), Lancaster PA

Ballpark Review #1 – Metro Bank Park (Harrisburg Senators), Harrisburg PA

Can Clipper Magazine Stadium Barnstorm Our Grading Scale?

Review 2 of our Ballpark Tour : Clipper Magazine Stadium, Lancaster PA

Forty-four years after the Lancaster Red Roses were shut down, Clipper Magazine Stadium opened up in 2005, once again bringing semi-professional baseball back to Lancaster County. With a brand new $23 million stadium that could hold up to 7500 fans, there was a lot to be excited about for baseball fans in the county. However, they lost their bid to become an actual minor league affiliate, and instead ended up in the Atlantic League, probably made most famous for Jose Offerman charging the mound in 2007 wielding a bat. My early memories of Clipper Magazine Stadium were tarnished by laughably high food prices and sub par games. Atlantic League lineups mostly consist of nobodies and washed-up pro-ball players, so watching guys like Ryan Minor or Daryle Ward gets old, even though they usually tear up the league. There are no rehab starts or rising stars playing in the Atlantic League, so if you’re looking for some serious baseball, Lancaster isn’t quite the spot for you. However, when you have a crew of guys that include Jonathan Drama, Thurston Howell, Henry Kissinger and newcomers Sitting Bull and Julian Eastman on $2 beer night, you’re bound to have a good time even with the scattered thunderstorms that were predicted for game time. That being said, let’s jump into the actual grades.

800px-Clipper3

1. Accessibility and Parking

Located just off Fruitville Pike/North Prince Street in downtown Lancaster, Clipper Magazine Stadium is accessible by multiple parking lots all around the area. However, unless you live in Lancaster, driving is the only way you’re really going to go to get to the ballyard. I suppose you could take the train because the train station is a five-minute walk from the park, but if you’re that serious about going to a Barnstormers game, you might want to get your head checked. You’d be a fool to not drive though, because any Barnstormers lot is 100% FREE to park in, which is a beautiful thing. If you arrive late you might find yourself parking far away with a 5-10 minute walk, but you don’t have to pay. And, there’s not just a main gate entrance, but one in center field as well to shorten your walking distance. It can be kind of a jam to get out if it’s a packed out close game, but with a rain delay and a Thursday night I got out of the lot in 30 seconds flat. Free goes a long, long way, ladies and gentlemen. 9.5/10

2. Tickets

For the six of us going to the game, we were coming from four different directions so it was imperative to have the physical tickets in our possession before game time, as we’d all be arriving at different times from different places. We bought second row field box seats for $13 (for a dollar less we could have sat six rows back, no thanks) plus $2 to mail them to us, and a $1 service charge on each. I could have literally put my arm out and touched the on-deck batter for the visiting Long Island Ducks, because as nobody was in the seats in front of us, we traded up for first row seats. And for thirteen bucks, I’ll take that any day of the week, especially with how the stadium is built close to the field. At Harrisburg it might not have been worth it, but here it’s a sure thing. We could’ve bought bleacher/grass seats for $7 each and still probably traded up, but at the time of reservation these seemed like our best bet. Physically, the tickets are worse than the Senators though. Ugly font and a bad washed out background, with the obligatory coupon on the back make for nothing even remotely special. Great inexpensive seats and ease of purchase, but ugly physicality and garbage service charges hinder the overall score. 7.5/10

3. Beer and Hot Dogs

We went on Thirsty Thursday $2 beer night, which is going to slightly skew the score because that’s so freaking cheap for pretty much anywhere outside of a distributor. On the first base side (I wish I would’ve discovered this sooner) was Coors Light for $2 and on the third base side where we were sitting was Miller Lite (gross) for the same price from 6-7 PM. They said you were limited to 3, but not only did they never card me, but nobody kept any such tally. Had we been serious alcoholics we could have gone wild, but we limited ourselves to four brews in the first hour and a half. Other than the sale price, it’s $4.50 for a 12 oz domestic or $7 for a 20 oz, or $7.50 if you go to the wrong stand like the genius Sitting Bull. Everything is domestic, sporting a decent selection of standard fare. Coors, Bud and Miller Light are all on tap, along with Redd’s Apple Ale, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Shock Top, Samuel Adams Summer Lager, Third Shift and Yuengling Lager. A few girly drinks like Mike’s Hard and Twisted Tea are available in 20 oz cans for $6.50 as well. Take out the Thirsty Thursday discount, and you have a completely average beer experience, with semi-pro baseball prices, and simply an okay selection. As far as hot dogs go, the story is somewhat similar. You can pay $1.25 for a junior hot dog or $3.50 for a jumbo dog, where, just like Metro Bank Park in Harrisburg, the jumbo dog is a complete ripoff. Points are awarded for Kunzler hot dogs and good buns, but nothing special as far as condiments go. Demerits for a bad deal for the jumbo dog which is all-beef, but those points are gained right back for the cheapness of the junior dog. Play it safe and get two juniors instead of one jumbo, and save that extra dollar for something else. At least the hot dogs were warm and tasty as they should be. Average prices and selection, bolstered by beer specials, cheap junior dogs, and Kunzler. 6/10

4. Architecture and Design

Built to reflect the old brick buildings and warehouse feel of Lancaster’s Northwest Corridor, Clipper Magazine Stadium is a work of art. With design reminiscent of the Major’s Coors Field, the brick facade and steel beams make for a very pretty stadium. The seats are all a nice dark shade of dark green, and there’s nothing tacky about the colors or design. The stadium includes wide concourses and bleacher seats along a grassy hill in left field, where one can sit and heckle the visiting bullpen or left fielder with complete ease. And, over near the Hess BBQ picnic pavilion, there’s more than enough tables and bar style seating to buy food and watch the game from along the right field line. The only drawback is that center field kind of feels like a gaping hole with nothing there, it’s as if they planned to add something but instead just continued the walking path around the stadium haphazardly. 9.5/10

5. Atmosphere

The Barnstormers are very, very family friendly. It’s a serious PG atmosphere, with a few knowledgeable fans in the seats. We even got reprimanded by a father a few rows back for our heckling of the players, which for the most part was fairly innocuous. I’m sure we let a few colorful metaphors loose (I know the indian chief did for sure), but the most offensive thing I can recall saying is that a player was wearing women’s underwear or that their girlfriend was ugly. Of course, Drama had to be the father of our motley crew, apologizing for whatever nonsense we said and claiming he was trying to keep reigns on us. It didn’t help that we were rooting against Lancaster, with only a few Long Island fans finding our jokes amusing. No matter, people in Lancaster absolutely love the Barnstormers. Their players might go in and out every month, and they might not always be a competitive team, but the games are usually well attended with lots of Lancaster gear being sported by fans. Nobody commented on my obvious troll of the fanbase though, as I sported my Sugar Land Skeeters shirt to the game, who are in first place and the only team ahead of the ‘Stomers in the division. The PA system wasn’t terribly special and the music played wasn’t anything memorable. Points for loyalty and well attended games, but that’s about all the positives about the atmosphere. No baseball scholars, or memorable public address moments make for simply an average score. 5.5/10

6. Concessions

There used to be more Lancaster County staples available at the ballpark such as the whoopie pie, but those have since gone the way of the dinosaur, probably due to their incredibly inflated pricing. Turkey Hill Ice Cream is quality and plentiful, as are Auntie Anne’s soft pretzels, both Lancaster staples and relatively inexpensive. Normal ballpark fare such as burgers, fries, and chicken strips are available at prices to be expected ($5.75 for a cheeseburger with all the fixings, $4.00 for a “Normal” french fry). Snacks such as cracker jack, peanuts, chips, and popcorn are all there too. I purchased a slice of Parma hand-spun deck oven pepperoni pizza for $3.75, which wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. I also got what was advertised as “fresh baked cookies” for $3.50, which sadly turned out to be only one cookie (they really have to fix the grammar on the sign) which was large and delicious, but a little expensive for just one. Mr. Howell claimed that his Pulled Pork sandwich from the Carvery which featured Hess’s BBQ was fantastic, which I totally believe upon watching him wolf it down and smelling it. Outside of junior dogs and beer, stick to the Lancaster County specialties, as they’ll give you the most unique and best taste, not to mention bang for your buck. 7/10

7. ADD Generation Appeal

As I said earlier, the Barnstormers are very family friendly. There’s an arcade, a playground and a reservable birthday area for kids to play on. Plus, in right-center field, there is located a pool called “Home Run Harbor” that has bumper boats with water cannons that frequently attracts kids. And in left field, there’s plenty of open grassy space for kids to just play or hang out, chasing each other up and down the hill like sixth graders at a high school football game. You may not think this is enough stuff for kids to do, but that’s only because you don’t remember how much time children can spend at a simple playground. The souvenir shop is also very kid friendly featuring many different toys and stuffed animals, all for outrageous prices. If you’re not making stacks on stacks, I would say keep your kid out of the Barnstormers team store, because you’ll either have to buy a muzzle and blinders for your kid, or spend away your life savings. I feel like there could be more options of things to do, but Clipper Magazine Stadium isn’t terribly large so trying to fit more into the park might make it cheesier. It’s not City Island, but it does a good job of utilizing the space it has. 7.5/10

8. Intangibles

Very spacious and clean bathrooms, with no lines at all. The “push” to turn water on sinks are annoying as sin, but the bathrooms get a perfect score other than that drawback. The seats are large and have cushions on them where we sat, and were so close to the action. The staff was very friendly even to us obvious trolls, wiping our seats off with a Shamwow after the rain delay and even complimenting our obvious attractiveness as fine young men. Even as the ballpark emptied and our heckling escalated, they never said a harsh word to us knowing that we were within our bounds as fans. If we had one dollar bills we would’ve tipped him but at that point we had invested most of our money in our various appetites. The program was free and horrible, and I had to ask an usher for a writing utensil so I could take notes on the game, which he didn’t have nor could he find. I’m not sure why they would give you a scoresheet in your program but not even a chinsy little pencil to go with it. At least it was free, even though once it got waterlogged it turned into garbage. Oh, and a midget usher tried to evict us from our seats, until I showed him the error of his ways and that the tickets the guests he was escorting had were in fact for Tuesday’s game, not Thursday’s. I wanted to ask him what he was doing away from the set of “Game of Thrones” but I was too busy making sure our seats were secure. Great bathrooms, great seats, good staff, cruddy program. 9.5/10

9. Warm-Up Entertainment

At the game’s start, a few boring looking females that worked for the Barnstormers approached us and asked if four of us wanted to participate in an in-between innings game. Of course I was immediately on board, picturing myself getting into a fight with Cylo the mascot like Tucker Max at a minor league hockey game, but all the other morons with me weren’t interested. The girls even told us to keep drinking $2 beers and then play, which I was all for, but the girly men in my group aside from Thurston all declined. I told the girls not to waste their time on wimps such as my friends and they moved on. Usually, the actually fun stadium MC “I.M. FUN” hosts the various games in between innings, but much to my major dismay he was for some reason not in attendance, instead with a pudgy hairy man awkwardly taking his place as Master of Ceremonies, whom we dubbed “I.M. NOT FUN”. The beautiful thing about Lancaster’s in between innings entertainment is that it’s all live, with nothing on their JumboTron to waste my time with. With a rain-delay impacted sparse crowd by the 7th inning stretch, the “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” song was pretty weak as expected. I.M. Fun wins points for just the fact that he’s usually there, because he’s the type of guy that would set himself on fire and run across the field. Take away half a point for I.M. NOT FUN and the Barnstormers brass giving our regular MC a vacation of any sort. 8/10

10. Game Quality

This is where the score suffers. Atlantic League baseball is not very well-played. Yes, their uniforms are very well designed and neat, but the team names are horrendous. The Ducks? Skeeters? Blue Crabs? Revolution? They’re creative, but just plain weird and usually picked via fan vote. Back to the actual game though, the quality is just bad. Lots of walks, full counts, swings and misses, errors, misplays and mental mistakes. If you have any major league experience, you’re going to clean up in this league. Bill Hall and Ramon Castro both play for the Ducks and were responsible for all of the 3 Long Island runs which propelled them to victory. Castro homered to right and Hall hit a towering ground rule double to left, which everyone thought was a home run. The Barnstormers’ offense couldn’t manage to do much even with opportunities aplenty, and there were a fair amount of fundamental lapses during the game. It wasn’t quite Little League, but the emphasis in Semi-Professional should be on the “semi” part. 2/10

EC:

The fact that by the fifth inning we owned the third base seats is worth two points of extra credit alone. With a sparse crowd because of the weather and it being a Thursday night, our presence was felt up and down the line by everyone within listening distance. Whether in reality that’s a good thing or not, I’m awarding it points because I had a straight up blast. +2

I’m also awarding three additional points of extra credit simply because I had a great time and I feel like the score should be higher. Even though the players are bad or washed up, you’re really not going to an Atlantic League game to see the players. There’s bound to be washed up ex-Major Leaguers on both squads, and it’s fun to see where they’ve ended up after their good playing years have come to an end.  +3

Final Score : 77/100

Conclusion: Clipper Magazine Stadium is a very pretty place to go see a semi-professional baseball game at for inexpensive seating wise. It’s a great stadium with a loyal fanbase and friendly staff, that is very family friendly by keeping even us boys at a PG rating several beers deep. However, if you’re in it for the baseball or saving money on concessions, this is a place to avoid. The regular ballpark fare’s quality isn’t up to the prices unless you know specifically what to get as I’ve managed to detail above. My advice is to eat beforehand and buy only one or two things to consume at the game, unless you specifically go on cheap beer nights as we did. The Barnstormers offer a great public hangout experience, if not the best baseball experience around. On a regular night, $20 will get you a great ticket, a beer, and two junior hot dogs, and you’ll have a great time. If you’re not the biggest baseball fan, or are looking for a place to take your family, I definitely recommend Clipper Magazine Stadium as the ballpark to visit so far in the Susquehanna Valley.

My Expenses

1. Ticket – $13

2. Convenience Charge + Mail Charge – $1.33

3. 4 12 oz Miller Lite Drafts (Specials Night) – $8

4.  20 oz Redd’s Apple Ale – $7

5. Slice of Pepperoni Pizza – $3.75

6. Large Chocolate Chip Cookie(s)(screw the grammar on the sign) – $3.50

7. Junior Hot Dog – $1.25

8. Jumbo Hot Dog – $3.50

My Total Expenses – $41.33

Compared to the Senators, I spent an extra $5.33 and got two and a half more beers, a cookie and a junior hot dog, if we equivocate the pizza slice and jumbo hot dog from the Barnstormers with the regular hot dog and chicken sandwich from the Senators. I got a way better and more expensive seat in Lancaster, and all those extra concessions for a mere $5 and chump change. I still think that their food is overpriced, but when you don’t have to pay for parking or a program, you have money freed up to spend on whatever else you desire.

Ballpark Review #4 – Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles), Baltimore MD

Ballpark Review #3 – Sovereign Bank Stadium (York Revolution), York PA

Ballpark Review #2 – Clipper Magazine Stadium (Lancaster Barnstormers), Lancaster PA

Ballpark Review #1 – Metro Bank Park (Harrisburg Senators), Harrisburg PA

Ruben Amaro Jr Has Got to Go

I wish my work computer had Photoshop or at least GIMP, but it seems that I’m just going to have to make do with Microsoft Paint, to attempt to organize my illustration of Philadelphia Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr.  As the photo suggests, he’s basically a spineless dunce that should not be a part of this organization anymore, as he is almost singlehandedly running it into the ground. Let’s go back, and get some background on the GM of my favorite professional sports team…..

At the conclusion of the 2005 season, owner David Montgomery decided not to renew former GM Ed Wade’s contract, and instead brought in Pat Gillick to run his team. He inherited a squad that had mixed success over the previous years, yet had failed to make the playoffs each year in a division dominated mostly by any team outside of Washington/Montreal and Philadelphia. The team had some young talent in the minor leagues, led by Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels, and featured some popular veterans on the roster such as Jim Thome and Bobby Abreu. The pitching staff was spotty at best, with Jon Lieber, Vincente Padilla and Brett Myers anchoring a mediocre rotation, with Billy Wagner pitching lights-out in the ninth. Without a doubt, the team needed some major work.

And, despite the consequences, Gillick got to work. It took him one season of re-working the team to get them to the playoffs, and at the conclusion of his third season (2008) he had his third World Series Championship under his belt. How did he manage to turnaround this team so quickly?

His very first move was to deal fan favorite veteran Jim Thome. Although not a popular move, with slugger Ryan Howard waiting in the minors this was a no-brainer. He also let Billy Wagner leave after the 2005 season, bringing in veteran closer Tom Gordon to work the ninth until 2008, where he signed Brad Lidge, who didn’t blow a save the entire 2008 season. The anchor of the Philadelphia outfield since 1998, Bobby Abreu, was even traded halfway through 2006 to free up more cash and gain more prospects for the team’s farm system. Gillick then (cheaply) signed highly touted but oft-injured outfielder Jayson Werth, and cheap but quality journeymen such as Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton to help bolster the staff, which Gillick cleaned house on since inheriting the team. With Howard and Hamels now in the majors, and system talent such as Pat Burrell, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins hitting their prime, the Phillies had one of the most, if not the most, formidable offense in baseball. And as 2008 hit, when their pitching rotation started to click, following a fall playoff push, the Philadelphia Phillies won the division and the following World Series.

And then, to screw the Phillies over for the next 10 years, Pat Gillick left, retiring as General Manager and turning the organizational keys over to his assistant, Ruben Amaro Jr.

To be honest, things started out great for Amaro and the Phillies, as they were back in the World Series in 2009 with great pickups such as Cliff Lee and Raul Ibanez. Even though they lost the Series, they had great success and reason to believe in the next year’s squad, as in the offseason they added Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, making a fantastic pitching staff even with the loss of Cliff Lee, as Cole Hamels remained a constant on the rotation. Although, Amaro’s questionable decisions started in 2010. Ryan Howard was signed to a mammoth 5 year $125 million contract extension at the age of 31, extending his 3 year $54 million contract he signed the previous year, tying the Phillies up with him through 2017, when he will be 38 years old. The pitching buzzsaw seemed unstoppable however, as Philadelphia cruised to the best record in the league, aiming their sights on a third straight World Series appearance. In the playoffs, after cuffing the Cincinnati Reds bats in the NLDS, they ran up against the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS, who sported a much better pitching staff than Cincy. In what ended up being a six game series, the Phillies scored 20 runs in six games, with 11 of them coming in two games, one of those two ending up as a loss. Aside from Jayson Werth who was somehow involved in more than half of the Phillies runs scored in the series, their offense was pathetically lethargic , batting .216 with their AVG w/ RISP being even worse. Heading into the offseason, the hope was that Philadelphia would pursue some hitting to go along with their dynamic pitching rotation.

So, in order to bolster their lineup, Amaro (again) signed Cliff Lee and let go of their best postseason hitter in Jayson Werth. Those moves would definitely help the teams hitting, right?? It wasn’t until panic-time hit (see, when Chase Utley was injured for a good part of the season) at the trading deadline that Amaro realized he needed another bat, and traded for outfielder Hunter Pence. With this addition, the Phillies set a franchise record with 102 regular season wins, and were again poised to make a lengthy playoff run as they matched up against the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2012 NLDS. After scoring 11 runs in the first game of the series, it looked as if the offensive woes of the previous year had been solved, until over the next four games the Phillies only managed to squeeze out ten runs, being shut out in the finale by Chris Carpenter who pitched a three-hit complete game. Ryan Howard injured himself on the last play of the season, and again the Phillies got to watch the rest of the playoffs on their own personal television sets.

Again, the question was how to solve postseason and clutch hitting in the lineup. And again, Amaro’s decision was to let go of Raul Ibanez and sign closer Jonathan Papelbon to another lucrative and ludicrous deal, at four years and $50 million. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Roy Halladay spent the majority of the season on the disabled list, and the ace of the staff in Cliff Lee was provided with so little run support that in one game, he pitched ten shutout innings and the Phillies still lost the game. Injured for the better part of this season and the one previous, the Phillies have more than $10 million a year tied up in Utley at this point, not to mention the money due to Halladay and Howard, and the more than $20 million/year tied up in Cliff Lee, who is the only one actually earning his insane amount of money. This, on top of the $11 million/year due to Jimmy Rollins, and at the trading deadline of 2012, the now $20+ million/year due to Cole Hamels, makes the Phillies players some of the most expensive, and oldest (Papelbon, Howard, Utley, Rollins, Halladay and Lee are above age 32) overpaid players in all of baseball. With Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino departing via trades at the 2012 deadline, Amaro had started to clean house with some of the smaller contracted, less popular players, but was balking about doing the job completely. The Phillies finished third at the season’s end, with hope for a rebound the following season.

In 2013, the Phillies core needs were outfielders, a third baseman, and some bullpen help. To assist in the bullpen, Amaro signed 35 year-old veteran Mike Adams to a two-year, $12 million deal. Another poor investment, Adams sat and is sitting on the DL for most of the year. He also signed Delmon Young to a cheap deal, but Young put on some weight and outside of the batter’s box is a detriment to the team, on the base paths and in the field, not to mention the fact that he sat on the disabled list for the first month and a half of the season. Amaro also traded for Michael Young, to fill the gap at third base. Although 36 years old and with most of his power lost in his youth, Young was a good utility pickup to hit for average wherever he’s at in the lineup. In another marginal move, Amaro traded for Minnesota Twins outfielder Ben Revere, adding speed to the Philadelphia outfield. As it would turn out however, Howard and Halladay would be parked on the DL for another good portion of the year, as Revere would also miss a month and a half due to breaking his foot. Amaro’s chief problem continues to be the fact that he does his best George McClellan impression, and does NOTHING AT ALL.

The Phillies have three things currently. Old players, fat contracts, and a losing record. Of these things, two of them could and probably should change (you can’t make them win ballgames). They need to dump a good amount of these fat contracts, or else be cursed to continual losing seasons with a depleted farm system. Lee, Utley, Howard, Young, Young, and Papelbon ALL have value to other teams and should be traded accordingly. I understand that both Utley and Lee are fan favorites in Philadelphia, but there comes a time when despite how many old stars you have on your team, people just do not come to see the games anymore, which generates less profit for your franchise. From 2007-2011, every single home game at Citizens’ Bank Park was designated as a sellout, something that the team couldn’t brag in 2012 or 2013 simply because they were/are not very competitive, which in turn did not bring as many fans out to the ballpark. Injuries to Halladay, Howard, and Utley are recurring problems, especially when it comes to Utley’s knees being at second base. Although they may have to eat a portion of their contracts, there are plenty of teams out there willing to take any of the players aforementioned. The two I would hold onto would be Lee and Halladay, Lee simply because no other team will take on the full amount of his ridiculous contract and he pitches the best consistently, and Halladay to see how he performs coming off of surgery toward the middle of August.

Other than that, Amaro needs to set up shop and start a fire sale with Utley, Howard, Young, Young, and Papelbon. Unload some huge contracts and stock up on young talent for the farm system, as it’s fun to watch good young players such as Dominic Brown come up and play for the big league club. The money tied up in Rollins is basically chump change and on par for a shortstop of his caliber, and young players who have shown promise such as Revere and Brown need to be rewarded when the time comes. Darin Ruf is a viable option at first base, and anyone in the horrid Phils’ pen can do just as well as Papelbon, seeing as he hardly needs to pitch with the Phillies winning as few games as they have been recently.

Bottom line is, Amaro needs to take a page out of predecessor Pat Gillick’s book and start to clean house. Gillick wasn’t afraid to part with beloved stars such as Thome and Abreu, in which case Amaro shouldn’t be afraid to part with Utley and Lee (and company) to restore the team’s future. In my opinion, if he can’t provide for the future of the franchise, then he shouldn’t be a part of planning the franchise for the present. He’s made mostly bad moves, and hasn’t had the balls to make the moves he should. Give him the rest of the season and the offseason following, and if he hasn’t done anything to restore the franchise to its former glory, then can him and move on. Amaro is simply wasting too much money and time into a team that simply does not win, thanks in part to him.

MLB Trade Deadline Special

A quick rundown of every MLB team and what their status is and what their plans should be.

Baltimore Orioles-Moderate Buyers=They already acquired Feldman to lengthen the rotation and K-Rod in the back end of the pen but a DH bat would be intriguing. Kendrys Morales or Marlon Byrd would fit.

Boston Red Sox-Moderate Buyers-They don’t need much unless they are willing to pony up and acquire Jake Peavy which I don’t think they will or should. Fly ball righty in Fenway.

New York Yankees-Moderate Sellers-If the phone rings about Joba Chamberlain and or Phil Hughes answer it. The compensation for Hughes has to mitigate the potentially lost first round pick compensation that would be received once he leaves in free agency so that decreases the likelihood of getting a deal done. If Michael Young could be acquired cheaply, a suspended A-Rod could easily be replaced at 3B.

Toronto Blue Jays-Sellers-They will do nothing, which is what they should’ve done last November before acquiring those winning studs from the Marlins. Trade Johnson and Buehrle and Jannsen but they won’t. Lind should go too.

Tampa Bay Rays-Moderate Buyers-This risky acquisition of injured Jesse Crain makes sense. They don’t have much else to add however.

Chicago White Sox-Fire sale sellers-Rangers are out for Alex Rios but they should listen to calls about Rios, Alexei Ramirez, Alejandro De Aza for sure, and Peavy but only at the right price. Peavy is a bargain next year at 14.5 million for one year so they would have to bring back a decent haul.

Cleveland Indians-Buyers-They could still use starting pitching depth but this market is lacking. It would have been conceivable to deal Asdrubal Cabrera at one point in time but now their success forbids them from doing so. The bullpen is weak and could be upgraded.

Detroit Tigers-Moderate Buyers-They added Jose Veras which was cheaper than Joe Nathan so I think they are done. However, left field should be addressed. This team is awful defensively and Dirks is not a strength so a utility outfielder with speed would be beneficial.

Kansas City Royals-Nothing-They won’t trade Ervin Santana because they won’t get enough in return so, beyond that, there is nothing to discuss. In my opinion, they should trade Greg Holland because he would instantly become the top reliever on the market. The Red Sox and Pirates would be calling immediately. His value is at its highest now but they won’t pull the trigger.

Minnesota Twins-Fire Sale-Justin Morneau must be traded. The Orioles could be a destination. Glen Perkins and Jared Burton should also be dealt from the pen along with Jamey Carroll as a utility player.

Houston Astros-Moderate Sellers-They did what they had to do in trading Jose Veras. Now, sit back and wait in case the Braves or Red Sox overwhelm you for Bud Norris but that is doubtful.

Los Angeles Angels-Moderate Sellers-They dealt Downs which they should have. Beyond that, this team is going nowhere so if the right offer for Howie Kendrick comes along, or Erick Aybar to say the Cardinals or Kendrick to the Dodgers? Take it.

Oakland Athletics-Buyers-They have young talent to deal. Jake Peavy would be a perfect fit for the ballpark and the team at the right asking price. A veteran hitter like Michael Cuddyer could be a nice lineup strengthener too.

Seattle Mariners-Nothing-This team is mostly young so they won’t do much at the deadline. They want Morales back next year so they will hold onto him.

Texas Rangers-Buyers-Nelson Cruz will be suspended, so who fills in? My guess is Hunter Pence but it won’t be cheap. They could look at Delmon Young as a cheaper option as well. Hold onto Joe Nathan. I don’t foresee a big deal coming however because they gave up a decent amount for Garza who they desperately needed.

San Francisco Giants-Sellers-Sergio Romo, Tim Lincecum, and Hunter Pence should all be marketed heavily. Scutaro could be dealt as well. The asking prices will and should be high but one of those players should be unloaded.

San Diego Padres-Nothing-You can’t trade Headley because there is no team. Marquis is on the DL so he can’t be dealt. Joe Thatcher and Huston Street should DEFINITELY be dealt but their unwillingness to do so in the past makes me cautious to predict that they will deal either one.

Los Angeles Dodgers-Buyers-Shocking I know. They could use infield depth for sure and it would be nice to find a taker for Andre Ethier who will most certainly be put on waivers. The bullpen needs help but the rotation is squared away now. Unfortunately they missed out on Scott Downs.

Colorado Rockies-Sellers-Cuddyer has incredible value right now but has one year remaining on his deal which will make for a tough decision. Betancourt is on the DL so all in all, there isn’t much to sell here unless someone calls about Tyler Colvin.

Arizona Diamondbacks-Buyers-They could use a starting pitcher like Jake Peavy, Phil Hughes, Bud Norris and so on. Michael Young would be an interesting addition here.

St. Louis Cardinals-Buyers-Cliff Lee is in their prospect price range but they are extremely and justifiably hesitant to part with Wacha, Martinez, Rosenthal, and others. I think they will stand pat but Alexei Ramirez could be a nice addition at shortstop.

Pittsburgh Pirates-Buyers-Trade for Alex Rios. That would be a big splash, but maybe only for the sake of making one, so that would be a tough internal decision. The bullpen has been overworked so a veteran arm or even a Joba Chamberlain would be a nice fit to help deepen their pen.

Milwaukee Brewers-Sellers-Not sure what they are selling though. Aoki maybe. No one wants Yovani Gallardo or John Axford and Jim Henderson doesn’t command enough to necessitate a deal.

Cincinnati Reds-Buyers-They need an outfielder. De Aza or Byrd would fill in nicely until Ludwick maybe returns.

Chicago Cubs-Nothing-They don’t have much less to sell and have done well so far in their three deals.

Washington Nationals-Sellers-Gasp, yes they should sell. Drew Storen and or Tyler Clippard could bring in some value. Adam LaRoche to Baltimore makes some sense too but I think they are done for the playoffs.

Philadelphia Phillies-Fire Sale-They won’t do it but they should. Trade Lee and his absurd contract, trade Michael Young because he has value, trade Delmon Young because he is stealing potential playing time and cotton candy from the cotton candy vendor and trade Carlos Ruiz. Why not? Oh and get a muzzle in one of those trades so you can shut Jonathan Papelbon up.

New York Mets-Sellers-Byrd should go. Parnell at the right price would be a good deal to make also because they are not going to compete until 2015.

Miami Marlins-Sellers-Trade Justin Ruggiano. The Rangers and others would listen. Trade Steve Cishek. The Pirates and Red Sox and Dodgers would listen.

Atlanta Braves-Buyers-They need another starter. Maholm is hurt and declining anyway. I would give Chicago what they want for Peavy who could replace Tim Hudson on the mound and in the clubhouse. The Scott Downs pickup was solid.

Is the Harrisburg Senators Stadium Money in the (Metro) Bank?

Review 1 of our Ballpark Tour : Metro Bank Ballpark, Harrisburg PA

This past weekend, my esteemed colleague Mr. Thurston Howell and myself hit the Capital City of Pennsylvania for a day baseball game on Harrisburg’s city island for a Harrisburg Senators (AA affiliate of the Washington Nationals) game, who they played host to the Akron Aeros (AA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians). In our first stadium review, we ate, we drank, we were merry, and we were hot as hell’s half-acre, burning up in the afternoon sun. The consensus of Metro Bank Park is mixed, some very surprising and some very typical of semi-professional baseball.

When as a kid I went to Senators games, I always got a scorecard and kept score, and knew all the names of the prospects of both teams (from Vlad Gurerro to Ryan Howard to Pat Burrell to Bryce Harper (except I wasn’t a kid for that last one)) playing. Although my major league knowledge has significantly expanded, I can say that I’m much more apathetic to the Senators and their version of baseball being played on the banks of the Susquehanna River. The one thing that I do remember as a child though, was that whenever I went with my parents we never spent any money. I was raised very frugally, and getting one hot dog at a game was a complete gift that was hardly to be expected. From what I recalled then, was that the food was good and it was cheap, two things that made everyone who went happy. It wasn’t quite a Dollar Dog Night, where in Philadelphia one time my father stood in line for three innings waiting to get hot dogs (bless him), but they were relatively inexpensive for most ballpark concessions. I was hoping, that coming into a conscious review and having a good sum of money of my own, that I would find the same thing as I remembered.

Metro Bank Park Panorama

1. Accessibility and Parking

City Island is very accessible in Harrisburg, whether you park in the downtown part of the city (or live there) and walk across the river on the bridge to the park, or if you’re driving in from either shore of the Susquehanna. If it’s a busy game, parking and traffic can get a little backed up on the bridge, but we had no trouble at all and got a very close spot when we showed up about 50 minutes prior to game time. Parking is a flat fee of $3 which is negligible, but if you have to park in the Parking Garage in the far back of the lot, you get kind of screwed. It’s easier to get out if you park there, but the walk back and forth isn’t exactly what I’d call fun. It’s not perfect, but if you know what you’re doing, you have no problems what so ever. 8.5/10

2. Tickets

We bought our tickets online for $10 a piece, in the “200” section on the first base side behind home plate. Pretty darn good seats (you have to try really hard to get a bad seat), and for about six bucks more you can get some really great box seats. That’s still a lot of money to see semi-professional ball, so you really shouldn’t be $16 passionate about it, so $10 is a good fit. However, since everyone orders tickets online, they feel that it’s necessary to tack on a $3 convenience charge. Honestly, screw that. I’m making their life easier, not just mine. It should be like 25 cents a ticket, not $3 per transaction. You can print your tickets if you don’t want to stand in line at will-call, but they’re really ugly and boring. However, as it ended up, so are the actual tickets. The only real color in them is advertising the stadium sponsor, and the coupon for $10 off a purchase of $50 or more at Dick’s Sporting Goods on the reverse side. Not worth it. 6/10

3. Beer and Hot Dogs

These are the two main ballpark staples, so I thought that I’d group them into one category by themselves. As far as the beer goes, I was impressed. All your domestics are on tap, including the dreaded Michelob, with many more found in big cans, ranging from Twisted Tea to Mike’s Hard Lemonade to Bud Light Lime, Labatt Blue Light,  etc. Pabst’s Blue Ribbon is also (strangely?) featured on tap, along with some fantastic IPAs from the local Troegs brewery and Appalachian Brewing Company. Fantastically, Angry Orchard hard Cider is also on tap, which is worth a point by itself. It’s cold, it’s plentiful, and it’s easy to find…..just not cheap. $6.50 for 20 ounces of any type, or $7.50 for a can of light or weaker beer. As far as hot dogs go, a Yelp review claimed there was such thing as an “Ollie Dog” that had to be tried, but we couldn’t find it despite asking around. So, we instead each got one hot dog, I got a regular and Mr. Howell got a “jumbo dog” for a dollar extra. The difference is size is hardly noticeable, so save your money and get the regular one. The dogs themselves weren’t anything special, and the buns actually kind of rather stale. Props for having a special kind of salsa mustard available though. Hot dog quality and beer prices kill what could be a great score, instead…..7/10

4. Architecture and Design

The ballpark is pretty ugly. A lot of steel and concrete, with the obligatory ads populating the fence and a huge blow-up Ollie from “Ollie’s Discount Warehouse” dominating the left field seats. The boardwalk/deck is made of that recycled  polyurethane crap that playgrounds are made of in the projects. The seats are very plasticy and kind of pathetic feeling. Since it is right next to the river, the May Flies can get really bad, and when it rains the field is very susceptible to flooding which is pretty much just poor planning. At least some of the stadium decorations and the ability to stand out above the center field fence, and walk in a ring around the field are nice features. 3.5/10

5. Atmosphere 

A sparsely attended day game on a weekend with a first place team? The stadium is designed to hold 6,187 (even though the record crowd with Stephen Strasburg pitching was 8,637)  and the paid attendance was announced as 3,357, which means that at peak there were probably 2500 people actually there. And, with the game ending up as an Akron slaughter of Harrisburg (11-2), at the end of the game the total butts in seats was probably about 1000. The fans we sat around seemed rather knowledgeable about the team, a few admittedly being regulars to the park. Although they didn’t really seem terribly knowledgeable about Major League Baseball, because the only conversation they joined in of ours was about how we were supposedly not allowed to have beer in our section. If you can’t talk about the 1997 World Series with me, you’re not a baseball expert. Major props go to the sound crew though, who played the theme from The Walking Dead when the opponents lineups were announced. Demerits however for using the FOX Sports theme for the hometown lineup announcing. Other quality music played was “Help” by the Beatles and “Call Me” by Blondie when going to the bullpen, and Rick Ross and Kanye West being played during some walkups. More congrats are due for Cee Lo Green’s Forget You (edited of course) being played during an Akron three run homer, and a nice, NHL reminiscent home run siren for the home team. FOX Sports music is a major negative, and sparse attendance doesn’t help…..but an otherwise good ballpark DJ bails this score out from being downright terrible…..5/10

6. Concessions

Another mixed bag here. Having reasonably priced normal ballpark-fare will get you a score of a five. Which, The Senators had plenty of. Mediocre prices for nachos, soft pretzels, soft drinks, peanuts, popcorn, pizza, chips, etc etc. The ballpark specialties are Hershey’s Ice Cream (which has NOTHING to do with the Hershey Chocolate Company), and local bar Arooga’s wings. Honestly, Hershey’s Ice Cream is nothing special, and a dollar for a wing ($6 for half a dozen) on a hot day isn’t very enticing. Where this score increases is their grill, which has a very solid grilled chicken sandwich and 1/3 pound burger, both for under $6. DO NOT make the mistake of putting ketchup on the chicken sandwich, the piece I got was massive and seasoned wonderfully, and saves this concessions score from mediocrity. 6.5/10

7. ADD Generation Appeal

The ballpark located on city island. There’s pony rides, mini golf, batting cages, an arcade, a miniature train that goes around the island, all within two minutes walking distance from the ballpark entrance. Inside, there’s the obligatory speed pitch, bouncy castles, mascots galore, on-field activities, scoreboard activities, and colorful stuff to look at. Plus, ice cream in a baseball helmet? Kids love that stuff. AND there’s the game, which can hold some kids short attention spans, depending on their interests. The ONLY thing that is a drawback is the souvenir shop. There isn’t anything terribly creative and interesting, and everything is priced ridiculously high. 8.5/10

8. Intangibles

No bathroom lines (at least not on a sparsely attended game like we attended), although not the cleanest things you’ll ever run into with overflowing trash cans by the ninth inning. The seats though plain suck. Both Thurston and I are rather slender individuals and we found the seats bothersome. I can’t imagine how they would feel if you were, let’s say, “shapely.” At least there were cupholders. The staff was very outgoing and friendly, and in fact quite bored because of the amount of people there and the score on the scoreboard. Maybe some of them should have been sent to go clean the bathrooms instead of watching the game, but that isn’t exactly my call. We could have traded up to behind home plate with ease, but at that point in time it didn’t really matter. No major food lines either, and the condiments were always full and plentiful. Plus, we got a free bobblehead of Roger Bernadina. The only other thing was that the program really sucked. Thankfully it was only $2, but it’s all black and white and full of ads not to mention about 10 pages long. Uninteresting, and their pencils suck.  The seats and disorganized bathrooms aren’t exactly the greatest, but there wasn’t anything that obviously stuck in our craw. Not an exceptional experience, but one that didn’t really piss us off. 6.5/10

9. Warm-Up Entertainment

There’s the hot dog races by little kids on field, the Red Robin burger shuffle, t-shirt launches, The Kiss Cam with Love Shack playing (and a hilarious moment when at the end they put Akron’s bullpen on the Cam). And of course, during the seventh inning stretch a fairly bland version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” followed by something a little more original, “Cotton Eye Joe.” Mostly played safe without anything terribly creative, props for Cotton Eye Joe and putting the Kiss Cam on the Aero’s pen. I like dangerous and exciting things during innings though, like launching bottle rockets out of the MC’s butt at targets on the field (which would grant an automatic 11/10). 6/10

10. Game Quality

Surprisingly, even though this is semi-professional baseball it was a fun game to watch. The starter for the Sens was cruising through the first four and seemed to be rather talented, but then the flood gates opened and he got torn apart. A few plays of questionable effort on defense for both sides, but no errors or plain boneheaded moments. Both teams had very nice jersey designs, with the Senators being very reminiscent of the Nationals home unis, and Akrons away numbers looking like the purple Colorado Rockies alternates which I absolutely love. It was a pitchers duel for the first half of the game, but when the Aeros started tearing into Harrisburg’s pitching, you could tell that on a hot summer afternoon that they started to tire quicly. If you were an Akron fan like the many wearing Cleveland jerseys at the game, I’m sure you had a good time. The game was still fun and well-played, so….8/10

EC (Extra Credit) : Free Roger Bernadina bobblehead that is actually well made gives the Harrisburg Senators their only point and aspect of extra credit. 1

Final Score : 66.5/100

The good thing about the Senators? It’s a small park where you can find everything, there is plenty to do, and you are always going to be close to the action. The bad parts? You’re going to pay pretty dearly for anything of quality, and for a team that’s in first place, the general apathy of the crowd was somewhat surprising. Not to mention that the park isn’t particularly pretty, and that the seats are uncomfortable. And, if you plan it wrong, you end up going to a game where all the May Flies gather by the outfield lights, and die in droves, littering the seats with dead bugs. If you’re local, and you have money to blow, and you pick the right game to go to with a bunch of friends I guarantee you’ll have a good time. Other than that, Metro Bank Park simply isn’t terribly special. Especially when you consider our list of expenses below, which amounts to about four hours of entertainment.

Thurston Howell’s Expenses

1. Ticket – $10

2. Convenience Charge – $1.50 (split)

3. Parking – $1.50 (split)

4. Jumbo Hot Dog – $3.50

5. 1/3 Pound Burger – $5.75

6. Troeg’s Beer – $6.50

7. Angry Orchard Hard Cider – $6.50

Thurston’s Total Expenses – $35.25

My Expenses

1. Ticket – $10

2. Convenience Charge – $1.50 (split)

3. Parking – $1.50 (split)

4. Program – $2

5. Hot Dog – $2.50

6. Grilled Chicken Sandwich – $5.50

7. Shock Top Beer – $6.50

8. Angry Orchard Hard Cider – $6.50

My Total Expenses – $36

I could drop $36 on a pretty darn good date (and pay for two people), and have more to walk away with than seeing a semi-pro baseball game and a Roger Bernadina bobblehead. I’m not saying it wasn’t fun, it was just that in order to have fun consistently there I need to have the wallet of Jay Gatsby. Two beers and two concession items isn’t unreasonable for a hot afternoon at the ballpark, but the prices just seemed a bit outlandish. We’ll see how it compares to the next park when we review it soon, stay tuned for more details!

Ballpark Review #4 – Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles), Baltimore MD

Ballpark Review #3 – Sovereign Bank Stadium (York Revolution), York PA

Ballpark Review #2 – Clipper Magazine Stadium (Lancaster Barnstormers), Lancaster PA

Ballpark Review #1 – Metro Bank Park (Harrisburg Senators), Harrisburg PA

2013 Midsummer Classic Live Blog

11:25 And, Alvarez pops up to end it. By divine intervention, it wasn’t a strikeout. No clear ASG MVP, but Joe Buck wants to award it to either himself or a New York player. Because he knows best. 3-0 American League win, the National League is just straight up. – DC

11:22 Paul Goldschmidt hits a 2 out double off Joe Nathan. And then the umpire calls an obvious ball a strike on Pedro Alvarez (a Pirate). He’ll strike out anyway though. – DC

11:20 Why is the National League so bad? The Pirates. Andrew McCutchen just struck out again. – DC

11:19 The Umpire just wants to go home. Those were some borderlined pitches that Matt Carpenter took that home plate blue rung him up on. Of course, if I were him, I’d call those pitches strikes all day too. The National league just refuses to get their bats off their shoulders. 2 hits through 8 1/3. – DC

11:11 Make a wish, I wish for a NL win. Of course, Jason Grilli gave up the triple to Prince. A Pirate. Go figure. Back to back groundouts though, as the NL infield looks Fielder back to third base. Who is still catching his breath from running 270 feet. – DC

11:10 Prince Fielder just does the impossible and runs, but Fox needs to give Rivera a 5 minute interview.  Why do I expect anything different? – JD

11:07 And hit triples, thanks to Carlos Gomez. – DC

11:06 Prince Fielder also likes to eat. – DC

11:04 Me : (on Blue Diamond Almond commercial) “Almonds are really expensive, and brand name ones? They cost so much.”

Thurston Howell : “I wonder how expensive that hot mama is.” – DC

10:59 Is Tim McCarver really dissecting Metallica lyrics and how they relate to Mariano? I think enter night is a racial term, at least. And off to Never-Never Land can be a good time if Peter Pan is telling it to you. – DC

10:52 #EnterSandman as FOX Sports assumes the position for Mariano Rivera. Joe Buck just went six to midnight. – DC

10:47 I never knew that one could strike out on a 2-1 count, thanks for the education Fox Sports and the incomparable Joe Buck. -JD

10:44 Dom Brown is too busy gazing into Elysium that a double by Jason Kipnis goes over his head for an RBI and a 3-0 AL lead following a double play ball by Torii Hunter. Also, Machado just swung at one that bounced way up there LOL. Newb. – DC

10:40 Back to back hits to start the top of the eighth  by Salvador Perez and Jhonny Peralta off Craig Kimbrel. Joe Buck is dissecting about how it makes so much sense to bring Mo Rivera in for the eighth rather than the ninth, but he’s actually wrong. He just wants to talk about New York more, who probably is paying him per mention. – DC

10:34 No, it’s okay NL. Swing at pitches that are balls, and take pitches that are strikes. Blue Jays pitchers tag-team for back to back strikeouts of Brown and Buster Posey. This offense is pathetic. – DC

10:28 Jim Leyland is afraid of Dom Brown and how he’s gonna hit a game tying home run here following a David Wright single. 2-0 AL, bottom 7. – DC

10:27 Manny Machado. Self-explanatory. -JD

10:25 What a play by Machado. Only 21 years old. I still hate Joe Buck, though. -TH

10:19 I think a better way to Bless America would be Jennifer Lopez streaking across the outfield, instead of her ex-husband Marc Anthony singing a song. – DC

10:16 A fat slug, I mean, Bartolo Colon, could beat Edwin Encarnacion in a race. – DC

10:09 Andrew McCutchen strikes out with a runner on. I bet all the Steelers fans out there are thinking up excuses for why he didn’t get a hit. Fact of the matter is, the Pirates strike out too much, which is why they suck. – DC

10:04 mikey thomasJust realized that Bartolo Colon looks just like Mikey Thomas from Backyard Baseball -TH

10:03 Grant Balfour is kind of losing it. Four pitch walk to Michael Cuddyer, and then the camera cuts quick to Bartolo Colon, who they paged seconds before to tell him to put down the cheeseburger he was eating, as they were about to show him on camera. Also, the only reason he came to New York to play was because they told him there was unlimited free food. And steroids. – DC

10:02 My heart sank when I realized that I would have to listen to the mindless commentary of Joe Buck again in the post-season. -JD

9:52 Jose Fernandez is only 20 years old and is pitching in the All Star Game, which is amazing because when Joe Buck was 20 years old, he was still in 10th grade. -TH

9:48 I feel like I am beating a dead horse but if I see one more blatant endorsement during this game, I may lose all respect I have for Fox sports and the MLB. -JD

9:44 A Phillies pitcher always gives up runs in the All-Star game. Ugh, Cliff Lee. 2-0 AL, bottom 5. Branny Phillips is showboating like a boss though, barehanding double play balls like it’s his job. Wait……… – DC

9:35 Joe Buck should be like the streaking fan. Neither seen nor heard. -TH

9:34 Adam Jones representing Baltimore well. Joe Buck is still talking about the Yankees. -TH

9:33 I am waiting for Joe Buck to gaze upon the faces of Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington in the New York skyline.  Two of his favorite things to do, sell out and blow smoke up the butt of the Big Apple. -JD

9:33 If Joe Buck can see Elysium in the New York sky, I wonder if he can find love in a man’s eyes? – DC

9:32 I guess with all issues surrounding steroids and baseball, the MLB has started to try and find other avenues for revenue. -JD

9:29 Elysium is about as real as Joe Buck’s friends. – TH

(At this point in time, the camera shows the outfield sky, and Joe Buck says “There it is, Elysium” in an attempt to promote the trailer of the movie that was just shown during commercials. It comes off awkward and flat, and there’s a long pause afterward where I imagine everyone hit the mute button to cover up the laughter at how idiotic a comment it was.)

9:27 Joey Votto has “Paint it Black” as his walkup music. Boss. Also, shut up Joe Buck. The Pirates aren’t fun to watch. They strike out the third most in all of baseball. Can’t wait for their second half tank. Still 1-0 AL, bottom of the fourth. Wright up to bat, McCutchen on third pinch running for Beltran, after stealing second and reaching third on a groundout. I bet he gets stranded. (Update) – He does. – DC

9:25 Of course King Felix only is hittable when he’s pitching with the Orioles on his team. – TH

9:25 How much can Fox and the MLB  suck up to the city of New York? Like I thought this was about the players not the host city. -JD

9:17 Joey Votto sucks at fielding, but not as bad as Miguel Cabrera sucks at running. In unrelated news, I wonder if mouth cancer is giving Chris Davis his superpowers this year? – DC

9:13 Hopefully that bat hit Joe Buck -TH

9:11 Nobody likes Mr. Met. Phanatic all the way. – DC

9:09 All Star games are supposed to be a showcase of the best players in the league. Not just a pitching match-up.  I want to see big hits and clutch plays like Ichiro in 2007.  The AL could have the most potent line-up in the game’s history and they have one hit through 3? -JD

9:01 I don’t want to see commercials about women, trucks, or horses. Or country music. Or any of that garbage. Just stop, truck companies. None of that is good. – DC

8:59 Robinson Cano getting beaned is the highlight of the night so far. -TH

8:57 Nomar Garciaparra is a better SS today than JJ Hardy. And, his batting routine is way more fun. – DC

8:50 All right, Chris Sale is dirty. That slider? Making Carlos Gonzalez (the best NL hitter) look like Desi Relaford. – DC

8:47 Darryl Strawberry probably hit up his crack dealer for tickets to the game just for old times sake. Also, why is David Wright hitting cleanup? Is this just a giant NYC lovefest tonight? Besides Robbie Cano getting hit by a Matt Harvey fastball and having to go for X-Rays, that is.  -DC

8:43 Is Matt Harvey, as a young pitcher, really good enough to strike out a batter with the skills like Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista and Adam Jones? – JD

8:37 Looking at the starting lineups, I must say that I agree with Bryce Harper batting ninth. Superstars like Edgardo Alfonzo hit ninth for the NL in the past. – DC