Showing posts with label Tony Gwynn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tony Gwynn. Show all posts

Monday, April 24, 2017

My April 20 visit to Petco Park in San Diego

Petco Park in San Diego
While on vacation in Southern California, I had the opportunity to take in a game between the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks at Petco Park.

The Padres won, 4-1, behind a solid performance from former White Sox left-hander Clayton Richard, but that's not all that important. I went because I wanted to check out a ballpark I had never visited before, and I must say I came away impressed.

When I visit other parks around the country, I inevitably think to myself, "Man, the Sox could learn a thing or two from how they do things here."

The Padres, much like the Sox, are not contenders this year. They are rebuilding and everybody knows it. The announced crowd was 17,000-and-some people. That attendance figure for a Thursday night is similar to Chicago. There wasn't a lot of interest in the game despite the beautiful weather because, well, there are other things to do in San Diego, and people know the Padres are bad.

But there were several things that were not similar to Chicago that I found refreshing. For example:
  • There is ample street parking around the ballpark, and I think I paid 20 cents to park. That's right: 20 cents, not 20 dollars. The meters are not enforced after 6 p.m., and this particular game started at 6:10. We had a meter with some time remaining on it, and it didn't take much to get across the 6 p.m. threshold.
  • The ushers were friendly and knowledgeable. This is something common at places not named Guaranteed Rate Field, where the ballpark staff grunts at you, can't answer any questions and seems to get off on telling fans what they *can't* do. Petco Park ushers are mostly retired folks working a part-time job, and they were kind and helpful to us as out-of-towners who were not familiar with the ballpark.
  • Petco Park has a hockey-style "wait for the whistle" rule. That means, if you get up to use the restroom or to visit the concession stand, you have to stay on the concourse until there is a break in play, instead of being allowed to walk in front of everyone while the game is going on. Fans are allowed to come and go in between batters or in between innings. That works for me. As a grumpy curmudgeon who just wants to watch the damn game, I love it.
    Me, standing next to Tony Gwynn's retired No. 19
  • The Padres have a Hall of Fame area that is awesome. They have replica plaques for everyone who played for the Padres and is in the baseball Hall of Fame. They have an interactive area with videos and pictures of some of the best moments in Padres history, and they have a film that plays on loop highlighting the great career of Tony Gwynn. The Padres have a very modest  history, but they aren't shy about showing off some of the individual and team accomplishments they've had through the years. On the wall in there, they have a chart showing the top five players in franchise history in various categories. Gwynn is San Diego's leader in every offensive category except home runs (Nate Colbert is first in home runs), and he is the Padres' all-time hits leader by more than 2,000 hits. (Garry Templeton is a distant second.)
  • If you need to exit the ballpark during the game, you can re-enter. How awesome is that? I've always thought the Sox should allow that, especially since we get our share of rain delays in Chicago. (That's something they don't worry about much in San Diego). But as we've discussed before, the Sox have been known to make up rules as they go, and they have all kinds of bizarre rules in the name of "fan safety." Frankly, I've never felt as if I'm in danger at any ballpark in America, other than in Milwaukee, where the fans have an inferiority complex about anyone and anything that comes from Chicago. 
If you're ever in San Diego at the same time as the Padres, I'd recommend taking in a game at Petco. The sight lines are great, even if the team isn't, and the people are friendly and happy to have you there. The locals say Petco is "America's No. 1 ballpark," and it's hard for me to say that, because I haven't seen every ballpark in America, but they are correct that they have a nice place to watch a game.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Myth-busting: Single-team career stars are *not* becoming more rare

You know who played 3,308 career games all with the Boston Red Sox?

YAZ!

Indeed, Ken "Hawk" Harrelson's oft-mentioned former teammate, Carl Yastrzemski, tops a list of 36 players in major league history who have played at least 2,000 career games all with the same team.

If you've watched ESPN or MLB Network at any point during the last two months, you are no doubt aware that longtime New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is retiring at the end of the season. Jeter is among those 36 players, having played each of his 2,610 career games (entering Thursday) in a Yankee uniform.

On a recent MLB Network broadcast, I heard one of the commentators note that Jeter has spent his entire career in New York. They added that in this era of free agency, "you just don't see that too often anymore." That's conventional wisdom. Heck, I think I've probably said things like that myself.

But every now and then I like to research the facts behind the conventional wisdom, just to see if they are accurate. In this case, they are not.

Of the 36 players on that list, 23 are players who have played in my lifetime. For the record, I was born in 1976.

So, that means between the years of 1901 and 1976, a span of 75 years, there were only 13 players who played 2,000 games or more all with the same team. In the 38 years since 1976, 23 players have played 2,000 or more games all with the same team

Contrary to conventional wisdom, it's actually more common nowadays for a player to have a long career with the same team.

I won't bore you by listing all the players on the list, but among the 36 are some star players I recall watching during my 1980s childhood: Tony Gwynn, George Brett, Robin Yount, Mike Schmidt, Cal Ripken.

Others, like Jeter, are names familiar to fans who have followed baseball over the last 10 or 15 years: Barry Larkin, Craig Biggio, Edgar Martinez, Chipper Jones, Jeff Bagwell, Todd Helton.

Don't get me wrong: Given the sheer volume of players who make it to the major leagues, it is still uncommon for a guy to spend a career that spans more than a decade in the same city. At some point, most guys get traded, or leave their original franchise via free agency. But the conventional wisdom that says single-team career stars like Jeter are becoming more and more rare is just plain wrong.

In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if this list continues to grow over the next decade. You can find examples of players who are candidates to join the list. Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia has played 1,025 career games (entering Thursday). He is under contract with the Red Sox until 2021, when he will be 38 years old. How about Evan Longoria? He's played 807 career games (entering Thursday) and is under contract with the Tampa Bay Rays through 2023. There's two possibilities right there. I'm sure there are others.

You see, this old-school lament that "players just don't stay in the same place anymore" is not quite right. They didn't stay in the same place all that often back in the old days either. If I ever try to tell you otherwise, remind me I'm wrong.