A town in need of some baseball excitement to go with its great barbecue gets the 2012 All-Star Game.
Bud Selig rolled through the Midwest last week and bestowed upon Kauffman Stadium the 2012 All-Star Game. Though the official announcement had been something of an open secret for months, it provided long-suffering Kansas City baseball fans with a rare bit of good news. With their hometown team hovering around last place for the better part of 15 years, it has been a while since Royals fans have been paying much attention by the time the All-Star break rolls around each July. The Royals have not placed multiple players on the American League All-Star team since 2003, when Mike Sweeney and Mike MacDougal turned the trick.
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A look at the four best-of-three series in the NCAA Tournament that begin Saturday.
The first three days of the NCAA Tournament went largely as planned, with nine top seeds advancing and five of the seven regional finales featuring the top two seeded teams. St. John’s and Minnesota were the only three and four seeds to finish the weekend 2-1 and force their regional hosts—Virginia and Cal State Fullerton—to play on Monday. Moreover, all of the top seeds made it past the first weekend, and only one national seed dropped one of their first two games, thereby having to win twice Sunday, and it wasn’t much of a test for Coastal Carolina as it drubbed Stony Brook 25-6. Two other hosts dropped their opening games and were forced to play sudden death doubleheaders Sunday as Auburn ousted Southern Mississippi and Cal State Fullerton finished of New Mexico in their respective first matchups of the day. Then, Auburn, Fullerton, and Coastal Carolina all won their nightcaps against rested foes, each forcing decisive Monday finales for their respective regions. Louisville, Miami, Arkansas, Virginia, and Georgia Tech each failed to win their only games on Sunday that could have punched their tickets to a super regional. While Coastal Carolina and Virginia managed to return to form on Monday and advance, regional host Auburn, as well as national seeds Louisville and Georgia Tech lost again Monday. Arkansas’ loss doesn’t change any travel plans, but with the brackets established to result in the winners of the Auburn and Atlanta regional meeting in the second round, No. 2 seed Clemson will host fellow 2 seed Alabama, despite not hosting a regional.
Here is the look at the four best-of-three super regionals that will be played Saturday-Monday.
Which teams enjoy outsized advantages from playing at home?
Home-field advantage is making a little bit of a comeback this year, with the home team thus far having won 56.2 percent of major league baseball games. This is actually down a few ticks from where it was several weeks ago; at the beginning of June, home teams had won almost 58 percent of their games. Nevertheless, this is quite high by the standards of recent history. Prior to World War II (when travel was more burdensome and road trips much longer), home-field advantage was more profound in baseball, but since then it has been exceptionally stable, with the home team winning about 54 percent of games each season. So, is there something systematic that is causing the home-field numbers to increase this year? Or has it just been some kind of statistical fluke?
Nate uncovers the best spot for the Fish to migrate to, should they choose to swim to other waters.
If you build it, will they come? Cities that are attempting to procure a major league baseball team invariably find some way to spin the numbers in the most favorable light possible. I found a 1989 New York Times article in which Buffalo Bills owner Frank Rich, then trying to land a baseball expansion team in his city, claimed that Buffalo was the eighth-largest TV market in the country "when you include Rochester, Syracuse and the Niagara Peninsula." Backers of the San Antonio Marlins can cite the large population of the city proper, ignoring that its media market is decidedly minor league.
Nate tries to quantify the trade-off in scheduling cold weather games.
Let’s face it: we live in a society that is reactive rather than proactive. In spite of years of warning to the contrary, it took a storm of epic proportions to make us recognize that New Orleans was a disaster waiting to happen. Airport security seems preoccupied with the question of what the terrorists thought of last time, rather than what they’re going to think of next. Less importantly but closer to home, it was only when the All-Star game ended in a tie that we came to recognize that such an outcome was probably inevitable until the rules of the contest were revised.
The Pirates are one of baseball's most inept franchises. Does the small market excuse carry any weight?
Of course, Pittsburgh is a small market club. The real question is how small relative to the other markets. Here's a revised and updated version of the population section of the "Take to Your Beds!" table:
Jim closes out the week with a warning for the Tigers, interesting futility performances for St. Louis and San Diego, a suggestion for the Royals, and more.
No more kiddy table dining for the Tigers. For the next two-plus weeks, they'll be at the big folks' table where they'll have to use the right utensils and won't be able to get away with misbehavior like giving opponents six-run first-inning leads. After this Indians series, they draw the Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox and Blue Jays. That's a 16-game run wherein they will meet every American League team currently at or over .500 save for Texas. To my mind, playing them to a standstill (8-8) will be good enough. Doing only that will put them at 41-22; an excellent record. Anything beyond that I would view as gravy. At the end of their plus-.500 opponent trial they get a seven-game respite against the Rays and Cubs.
We debut our Prospectus Notebook with a look at LaTroy Hawkins' recent arrival in San Francisco, the new-look Kansas City Royals, and a cautious introduction to Braves rookies Kelly Johnson and Kyle Davies.
Brandon Webb has rediscovered his 2003 form, Carlos Guillen joins with Miguel Tejada and Derek Jeter to form a new Trinity, and Zack Greinke's record does not reflect his solid early performance.
Command and Conquer: The Diamondbacks are doing their best to upstage PECOTA, sitting at 27-18, a half-game ahead of San Diego in the NL West. A surprisingly sturdy corps of starters has helped the Snakes stay hot. Chief among those pitchers has been Brandon Webb, who is currently eighth in the National League in pitcher VORP. Webb is second on Arizona's staff with 1.9 wins above replacement, trailing only Javier Vazquez--a victory over Detroit last Friday moved his record to 6-0. In 62.3 IP, Webb has posted a 3.38 ERA, 1.28 WHIP (walks + hits per IP) and 48 strikeouts against just 17 walks. (Vazquez, by the way, has now gone a remarkable 39 innings without allowing a walk.)