MLB stadiums I have not visited

I have now been to 22 different MLB stadiums (20 still active), and I often think about which ones I would put at the top of my “to-do” list that I have not yet been to. Obviously, I’d go to any MLB stadium on any given day if I had the chance, but there are those that I’d rather visit than certain others. So, I put together my list of the 10 remaining stadiums that I have not been to, and ranked them from worst (I’d least like to visit) to best (I’d most like to visit).

10. OAKLAND COLISEUM: A’S

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It’s old, hasn’t really been touched up, and also plays host to NFL games. Enough said.

9. TROPICANA FIELD: RAYS

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I hate indoor stadiums, I hate artificial turf, and I highly dislike the fact that Tampa Bay even has a team, considering their fans don’t exist.

8. TURNER FIELD: BRAVES

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First of all, I’ve heard multiple times that this park is located in a bad area of town. Second of all, there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of uniqueness to Turner other than the fact it hosted the Olympics. To put the whipped cream on top, Atlanta fans are some of the worst in sports.

7. MARLINS PARK: MARLINS

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For being such a new stadium, one would think it would be more attractive than it is. However, I’m sure there is some cool, modern stuff to it. Too bad this thing was built for a team that has zero fan support.

6. COMERICA PARK: TIGERS

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Honestly, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Comerica. I just don’t exactly have the burning desire to go to Detroit.

5. GLOBE LIFE PARK IN ARLINGTON: RANGERS

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(They need to quit re-naming this place) The park looks really interesting, and I love the way the exterior of the park looks in pictures. This is a stadium I would really like to see.

4. KAUFFMAN STADIUM: ROYALS

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After being renovated in 2009, Kauffman Stadium appears to be one of the more attractive parks in baseball. It has many unique features and would make a good road trip.

3. CITIZENS BANK PARK: PHILLIES

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Built in 2004, this is a relatively new stadium and it seems to be quite an attractive one as well. I’m sure there are many good vantage points to watch the game around this park.

2. CITI FIELD: METS

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Again, one of baseball’s newer parks, which instantly makes it intriguing. Add in the fact that it’s in New York City, and there’s really no reason to not want to go here.

1. SAFECO FIELD: MARINERS

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I’ve heard nothing but great things about this park and the city of Seattle. Can’t say that about the rest of the stadiums on this list. If only the Mariners drew a bit better…

So there it is. Hopefully I’ll be writing my reviews about these parks before too long.

Blackhawks’ future cap problems

139990-330-0Now that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have signed identical 8-year, $84 million contracts that go into effect for the 2015-16 season, Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks can focus on continuing to build a strong roster around those two guys. The problem is, with Kane and Toews each due to make $10.5 million per year starting in 2015, the Blackhawks won’t have a whole lot of cap space to sign and re-sign certain players. This is a topic that has come up a ton over the last week and a half since both 88 and 19 signed their extensions.

As of right now, with both Kane and Toews still on their previous contracts of $6.3 million per year, the Blackhawks are just over $2 million over the salary cap. That means that between now and the beginning of this upcoming season, someone on the team has to go via a trade. All signs indicate it will be Oduya, Leddy, or Rozsival. That will take care of this year’s cap problem. Let’s move ahead to next year (2015-16).

Beginning with the ’15-’16 season, Kane and Toews will each see a $4.2 million increase in their salaries as previously mentioned. Granted, the NHL salary cap is expected to rise between now and then to possibly a bit over $70 million, but the Blackhawks will also be paying Kane and Toews roughly $8 million more (combined) than they are now. They will also have a number of players becoming either restricted or unrestricted free agents after this upcoming season. Richards, Kruger, Saad, Regin, Oduya, Leddy, Rozsival, and Rundblad will all need new contracts after this year. Count on one of Oduya, Leddy, or Rozsival to be traded soon here, shortening that list by one.

Odds are that the Blackhawks will only aggressively pursue Saad, Kruger, Oduya, and Leddy, assuming both Leddy and/or Oduya are still around at that point in time which may not be the case. Brandon Saad is going to see a big pay raise, as he should. The Blackhawks have also made it clear that he is not going anywhere, basically solidifying the fact that they’ll be giving Saad a new deal once he becomes an RFA after this season. Marcus Kruger, who will also be an RFA after the 2014-15 season, will most likely see a pay raise as well.

7327531Since the Hawks will have a very limited amount of money to spend next off-season, I would expect a “bridge-deal” for Brandon Saad, meaning they may give him a two-year extension worth $4 million per year instead of a six-year, $25 million extension. Maybe we see the same with Kruger, but I’d expect something more along the lines of a three to four year extension worth $2.5 million per year. So why give Saad a bridge-deal? Here’s the answer.

Following the 2016-17 season, both Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell become unrestricted free agents. Neither should see an increase in pay at that point, and maybe one doesn’t even return to the Hawks (assuming neither is traded between now and then). Between the two of them, they will be making $9.9 million/year for the next three seasons, which means once their contracts are up, the Hawks will have that much more money to give guys like Saad a much bigger contract.

As for the other players I listed earlier like Richards, Regin, and Rundblad, they probably won’t be Blackhawks at this time next year. Expect some of the Hawks’ prospects to fill the holes left by those guys. Players like Phillip Danault, Stephen Johns, Adam Clendening, and a few others will be making the jump to the NHL and can fill some of the vacancies left by departing Blackhawks. For what it’s worth, there is an extremely good chance we will see Clendening and/or Johns in the NHL this season.

So as you can see, the new contracts for Kane and Toews will create some cap problems for Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks. That does NOT mean that the new contracts for those two players are bad. They are two of the most elite players in the NHL and deserve every penny they are getting paid. If they had opted for free agency, they’d be getting even more money. Most teams would kill to have either Kane or Toews on their team, and the Hawks have both.

While trying to come up with a Stanley Cup-caliber roster with limited money to do so won’t be easy, you can count on the Blackhawks always being a contender for as long as Kane and Toews remain on the team. They are that good and make everyone around them that much better. I also trust that Stan Bowman and his staff will continue to put the Hawks in position to win the Cup on a yearly basis. It won’t be easy, but if any team can find a way to work and be successful around the cap numbers, it’s the Blackhawks.

Carmelo stays in New York; Bulls getting Gasol

7327531After what seemed like a month of speculation, Carmelo Anthony finally confirmed today that he will be staying in New York to play with the Knicks. It would appear he’ll be signing a 5-year deal worth more than $122 million, but less than $129 million. As a result, the Bulls look to be close to acquiring Pau Gasol. They’ve been saying all along that Gasol is their “plan B” if they miss out on Anthony, but I’m not entirely sure why.

First, let’s get this Carmelo stuff out of the way. He had stated a while back that he simply “wants to win.” The Knicks and Bulls emerged over the past few days as the only possible destinations for Anthony to sign, with the Bulls being the clear-cut better team of the two. Yet Anthony chose to stay in New York. Maybe it was a decision he made based on his family and the fact that he is from New York, or maybe it was a decision based on money. Honestly, I’m going with the latter.

If he really wanted to win, he would be signing a contract with the Bulls today to team up alongside Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, and Taj Gibson. Instead, he’s re-signing in New York where he has no chance to win a title this year, and most likely for the next few years to come. If it was really going to come down to where he would make the most money like it would appear it did, then why was his decision dragged on for so long? I don’t get it. Moving on.

All reports indicate that the Bulls are finalizing a deal to acquire Pau Gasol sometime very soon. Whether it’s via a sign and trade with the Lakers or signing Gasol outright, they should have him within 24 hours. My questions is why are they doing this?

Gasol is a good offensive big man, but he is lackluster on defense and is getting up there in age (34). To me, he seems like a slight upgrade from Carlos Boozer and that’s it. This also makes me wonder exactly what the Bulls plan on doing with Taj Gibson now.

I was under the impression that the Bulls organization wanted Gibson to be their starting power forward this upcoming season. He certainly deserves to be. However, assuming Gasol is a Bull next season, he will most likely be the starting power forward, thus meaning Gibson will be back on the bench. It makes zero sense to me why the Bulls would want this scenario. Gibson is probably a step or two behind Gasol on offense, but his defensive game is one of the best of any big man in the league. Overall, Gibson is a better player today than Pau Gasol and I cannot understand why the Bulls seem to want Gibson back on the bench. Quite honestly, if I were Gibson, I’d be requesting a trade as soon as this Gasol deal becomes official.

So let’s assume the Bulls get Gasol. They’ll still be lacking a true number two scorer to go along with Derrick Rose. Maybe Doug McDermott can be that guy, but he’s just a rookie and you can’t count on a rookie to do too much for you. Maybe Nikola Mirotic can fill the role, but again, he’s never played a game in the NBA. The Bulls will no doubt be a better team than they were in 2013-14, but I question whether or not they’ll have the roster to make it by the second round of the playoffs, let alone the Conference Finals.

There are still some solid free agents available, and the Bulls presumably will have some money to spend now that they won’t be getting Carmelo. It’s possible they can still upgrade their roster, but I wouldn’t classify them as a serious threat to come out of the Eastern Conference next season just yet. Losing out on Carmelo really hurts, especially since LeBron James is back in the Central Division.

As for Gasol, I suppose only time will tell how that move pays off. Personally, I think it’s a mistake and simply a knee-jerk reaction to not getting Carmelo Anthony. In the minds of the Bulls’ management, I think they saw Gasol as an opportunity to get the next biggest name available, and it may come back to haunt them.

Yankee Stadium review

DSC00638“The Cathedral” as it’s often called, is baseball’s mecca. It seems that every baseball player wants to one day play a game at Yankee Stadium. While the old stadium that watched Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, and many other legends take its field no longer exists, the new and current Yankee Stadium still possesses that certain “aura.” Recently, I was able to take in a Red Sox-Yankees game at the new stadium, and while there’s no doubt it is a nice stadium, nothing about it really stood out to me.

DSC00610The outside of the stadium is all white/tan cement, similar to the old park. It is very “neat” looking and has somewhat of an old-fashioned feel to it. As for the area surrounding the park, don’t go touring it. I spoke with a New York City police officer outside the stadium before the game and was told to not hang around the “immediate” ares following the game. That’s not always the most pleasing thing to hear when attending a ballgame.

Depending on which entrance you go through to get into the park, you may enter into the “Great Hall.” This is somewhat of an exterior concourse to the stadium. There are different DSC00645souvenir and food stands set up in the hall, as well as massive banners displaying the legends that once called Yankee Stadium their home. Definitely worth checking out. The only downside to this is that the “Great Hall” is completely blocked of the field of play.

The actual concourses at Yankee Stadium were very clean, but could probably have been made a bit wider. Near the ceiling in certain areas, there are pictures of some of the great players that once played for the Yankees, as well as some of the better events to take place in Yankees history. This was a a nice touch.

If you’re a food lover, you’ll probably enjoy Yankee Stadium. There is a wide variety of food available at the park. Everything from burgers and hot dogs, to cheesesteaks and Brother Jimmy’s BBQ (a local favorite) are available around the park, along with other items.

DSC00622One of the stadium’s best and most famous features is Monument Park. This is an area just beyond the center field wall that fans can walk through and look at the plaques of the Yankees’ greatest players in history. I would have loved to have seen this, however I was unaware that the park closes 45 minutes prior to the start of the game. Something to make note of if you plan on going to a Yankee game. The Yankees also have a museum at the stadium, which is sort of like a Yankees Hall of Fame.

As for the playing field itself and its surroundings, there’s nothing too unique about it. They tried to build this stadium similarly to the old one, and I have to admit the two do look a little alike. The outfield consists of a back drop of big advertisements and a couple of video boards. That’s about it. In centerfield, there is a big party room or restaurant that people and corporations can rent out each game. However, that leads me to my biggest complaint about this stadium.

DSC00629The big party room/restaurant that I just mentioned was built in such a way that it prevents fans sitting in left and right field from seeing half the field. If you’re sitting in the right field bleachers, you cannot see the entire left side of the field. If you’re in left field, you cannot see the right side of the field. How on earth a brand new, billion dollar stadium could be built with a major flaw like this just blows my mind. This really lost Yankee Stadium some points in my book.

Other than the outfield bleachers, there’s not a bad seat in the house. The upper deck is way the heck up there, but none of its views are obstructed. I will say this though. Yankee Stadium is huge, so the seats are not real close to the field like they are in some other new DSC00640parks. I’d say that of the parks I’ve been to, Yankee Stadium and Busch Stadium in St. Louis are the two biggest. The seats at both stadiums are ways away from the field, especially the higher up you get. I’m not criticizing either stadium for that, I’m just pointing it out.

All in all, Yankee Stadium is a very nice and modern stadium. They did a good job of preserving a lot of the Yankee history in this new park, which I was hoping would be the case. There’s a lot at Yankee Stadium that you simply just have to see. Writing about it here won’t do a whole lot of good.

For my MLB stadium rankings, click here.

Eight more years

130107_gq_trout_aToday, the Blackhawks announced that they had agreed to matching 8-year, $10.5 million extensions with both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The new deals won’t kick in until the start of the 2015-16 season. Assuming no one gets signed to more money between now and then, Toews and Kane will be the two highest paid players in the NHL at the time they enter into their new contracts, and rightfully so.

Since entering the league in 2007, Toews and Kane have each won two Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe Trophy with the Blackhawks. Toews also won the 2013 Selke Trophy and has been a finalist for that award three times now, while Kane won the Calder Trophy his rookie season. Statistically, both players are climbing their way up the Blackhawks’ record books and are sure to finish their careers as two of the greatest players the franchise has ever seen, if they’re not already.

There has been some unwarranted backlash from certain fans on these deals, however. The most common argument I’ve seen today from those “fans” is that these deals put the Blackhawks in a bad situation monetarily moving forward. While it is true that the Hawks will no doubt be limited in what they can do with their money in the coming years because of the salary cap (the cap is projected to increase over the next few seasons), you can’t tell me or anyone else that the management didn’t think about that before signing the contracts with Kane and Toews… They know better than any of us what type of situation they will be in once these new contracts go into effect in another year. While it would be easy to dive into that whole discussion, I’ll save it for another time.

For now, let’s all take a minute to celebrate the fact that the two pillars of the Blackhawks’ organization aren’t going anywhere, at least for 8 more years.

Blackhawks sign Brad Richards; NHL update

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-New York Rangers at Los Angeles KingsIt was looking like the Blackhawks were going to let the first day of NHL free agency pass by without making any moves to upgrade their roster. Then out of the blue, they signed Brad Richards to a one-year, two million dollar contract (a great deal for the Hawks). Richards was bought out by the Rangers last week after playing just three years in New York under a nine-year, $60 million deal he signed in the summer of 2011.

The most glaring need for the Blackhawks the past few years has been that of a legitimate second line center. They simply haven’t had one. Somehow, they managed to win the Cup with Michal Handzus filling that role, but they weren’t going to get by with that formula again. Now, I think it’s safe to say they’ve found their man, at least for the time being.

Richards, 34 years old, is not the player he was a few years ago in Dallas or when he was in Tampa Bay putting up 90 points during the season and winning the Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup. He’s older now, and he’s lost a step in his game like most guys do when they age. The fact is, however, he’s still a good player and is a major upgrade from what the Hawks have been working with over the past couple seasons.

The numbers don’t lie. Brad Richards has had a pretty solid 15-year career up to this point. You don’t put up 91 points in a season twice by accident. He has some elite play-making abilities and is good for a little over 20 goals a year at this point. Placing him in-between Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad on the Blackhawks’ second line will only increase his productivity, and the potential that line possesses is somewhat scary. The bottom line: this is a big signing for the Blackhawks and Brad Richards. He needed a change in scenery from New York, and coming into a situation like this with the Hawks could be a huge lift for Richards, not to mention the team.

Here’s my projected lines with Richards now on the team (he will wear number 91):

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Signing Richards adds a lot more depth to the Hawks’ lineup, which is something they lacked this past postseason. The signing also allows the team to let Teuvo Teravainen progress at his own pace without being pressured or rushed. It’s no secret the team sees him as their second line center of the future, but putting him into that role this upcoming season may be pushing it a bit. He needs time to develop and adjust to the NHL before placing him in such an important role. I am now anticipating him starting the year in Rockford and probably being brought up sometime during the season. He may even begin the year on the NHL roster and play wing. Who knows…

In signing Richards, the Hawks are now a little over $2 million above the salary cap limit, meaning someone will soon be one their way out. The Hawks signed d-man Kyle Cumiskey today, which may or may not be an indication that they are about to trade away one of their defensemen. It’s looking like Johnny Oduya, Michal Rozsival, and Nick Leddy are the top candidates to get traded away. As for which one Bowman deals, it’s hard to say, but trading any one of them would solve their current salary cap problem.

In other news, the Hawks re-signed Peter Regin to a one-year, $650,000 contract. A lot of people, myself included, thought he should have received a lot more playing time than he did this past postseason, and now it would appear he’ll be given the chance to prove himself yet again. Keeping him and signing Richards bolsters the Blackhawks’ depth at center, something they’ll need to compete with teams like L.A.

Also, Brandon Bollig is no longer a Blackhawk. I’m not sure why he was given a 3-year contract extension this past season, but at least he’s gone now (nothing against him as a person). Most knowledgeable Blackhawks fans couldn’t understand why Bollig was continuously in the lineup over guys like Peter Regin and Jeremy Morin (both recently re-signed) during this year’s playoffs, and now we’ve finally been granted our wish of him no longer taking away their playing time. Bollig literally was not good at much of anything, so seeing him go is more of a relief than anything.

REST OF THE WEST

The Western Conference dominated the NHL this season, and now, they’ve only gotten better. Here’s how:

Anaheim: Traded for Ryan Kesler and Nate Thompson

Chicago: Signed Brad Richards

Colorado: Traded for Daniel Briere; signed Jarome Iginla

Dallas: Traded for Jason Spezza; signed Ales Hemsky & Anders Lindback

Minnesota: Signed Thomas Vanek

Nashville: Traded for James Neal; signed Olli Jokinen

St. Louis: Signed Paul Stastny

It’s kind of ridiculous when you think about how brutal it is going to be for all Western teams this season. The Central Division was hockey’s best division this past year, and now they’ve only strengthened with Dallas, Minnesota, St. Louis, Nashville, and Chicago all getting better. Colorado will still be a very dangerous team, but they may not get over 100 points again.

Getting out of the West in next year’s playoffs will not be easy for anyone. I’ll say it right now: Whichever team wins the conference will win the Stanley Cup.

Carmelo, Love, and the Bulls

20131211_151215I think it’s time to take a quick break from writing about hockey on here and focus on another Chicago sports team: the Bulls. It doesn’t really seem to matter what sports coverage you’re reading, watching, or listening to in Chicago right now as all we’re hearing about is the Bulls and their pursuit of a superstar player to join forces with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. The names Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love are continuously being linked to the Bulls, and now you add a certain LeBron James to that list as well with him opting out of the final two years of his contract with the Heat.

The odds of the Bulls getting LeBron James are not good at all. While it might actually make the most sense for him to sign with the Bulls, it’s probably not going to happen. So let’s quickly move on from that discussion.

Carmelo Anthony. He opted out of his contract with the Knicks within the past couple of days like most people expected him to. And why not? There’s no reason he can’t re-sign with the Knicks, but opting out of his contract allows him to listen to offers from other teams. One of those teams is going to be the Bulls.

The Bulls have not kept it a secret that they will pursue Carmelo Anthony. It has been reported that Tom Thibodeau took it upon himself to start calling some of Carmelo’s past coaches to get their opinions of the superstar. While Anthony has never seemed to have any interest in playing defense, Thibodeau apparently made it clear to the coaches he talked with that he believes he can change the type of player Anthony is on the defensive end. I can’t say I don’t believe that because just look at what Thibs has gotten out of the all the players he has coached on the Bulls…

I guess the biggest question with Anthony is whether or not he’ll take a major pay-cut to sign in Chicago. The Bulls clearly want him, but does Carmelo want to win bad enough to take a 50 million dollar pay-cut to play with them? The Knicks and possibly even the Houston Rockets (another team going hard after Anthony) could deal Anthony a max-contract, whereas the Bulls can’t. As it is, the Bulls would have to amnesty Carlos Boozer and trade away a couple of other players like Mike Dunleavy and possibly Tony Snell just to open up the cap space to give Melo a smaller contract than New York or Houston could. The Bulls could offer Carmelo somewhere in the $15 million per year range, while the Knicks and Rockets could go as high as the mid-20′s. It all comes down to how bad Anthony wants to win. The Bulls would no doubt be a title contender with Anthony, boasting a starting lineup of Rose, Butler, Anthony, Gibson, and Noah.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Minnesota TimberwolvesAnother option for the Bulls is Kevin Love. A while back, Love supposedly mentioned Chicago as one of a few places he’d like to play. Love has one year left on his current contract and already said he will not re-sign in Minnesota next season, prompting the Timberwolves to open up trade talks regarding Love. Among the teams reportedly talking with Minnesota about Love are the Warriors, Celtics, and Bulls.

ESPN’s Chad Ford reported recently that the Bulls had made an offer of Taj Gibson, Tony Snell, and the 16th and 19th picks in the upcoming NBA draft for Kevin Love. If that is in fact accurate, which it sounds like it is, then the Bulls are not kidding around in trying to upgrade their roster. That is a substantial offer that they have placed on the table, and one that will be tough to beat for the Warriors and Celtics. Golden State can probably make a better offer, one that includes Clay Thompson, but are they willing to give up Thompson and David Lee for Love?

Rumors came out last week that Derrick Rose would prefer to play alongside Kevin Love than Carmelo Anthony. If that is the case, then I’m assuming he has enough say within the organization to force the management to make Kevin Love their number one priority. If it appears that they can’t get Love without having to trade away too much, then Carmelo will be next on their list. Again, it was just a rumor that Rose held this opinion, and I have no idea if it’s actually true.

What I would like to see is this:

I want the Bulls to amnesty Boozer, trade Dunleavy and possibly Snell if necessary, and then sign Carmelo Anthony. Anthony is one of the game’s most lethal offensive players, and I trust that Tom Thibodeau can make Anthony a better defensive player than he has been. The reason I would choose Anthony over Love is because with Anthony, you would still have Taj Gibson starting at power forward. Gibson has become an incredible defensive player who’s offensive game keeps improving. If you trade Gibson for Love, you’re upgrading at power forward, but you’re not getting the offensive firepower that you would get with Anthony. Bottom line, many teams would kill for Taj Gibson, so keeping him and adding Anthony to the lineup would spell disaster for the rest of the league.

The national media is making it sound as though the Bulls could very well end up with either Anthony or Love on the roster to start next season. It would be a HUGE disappointment if they strike out on both. Now is the time for the Bulls to do whatever they have to in order to win. Anything short of that is a failure by the management.