Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Game #11: Say Hello To My Little Friend

Little-ball ruled in the 12th inning at Miami’s Dolphin Stadium on Saturday night. In a truly amusing sequence of events, with 2 outs in the bottom of the 12th, the Astros decided to intentionally walk slugger Miguel Cabrera, who’d burned them once already with a home run to tie the game in the bottom of the 7th. He advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch that caught the catcher in the throat and stunned him. He then advanced to 3rd on another wild pitch, and all the way to home when that wild pitch was judged to have been knocked into the dugout by the catcher. 27 times this year, Cabrera came around to score before the next batter finished his at-bat. This 28th time was definitely the most unique. Is that little-ball? I’m not actually sure. But you get the point.

In some ways, this may have just been payback for a tour around the bases by the Astro’s Carlos Lee earlier in the game. After hitting a catchable ball that instead got past the center fielder for a double, Lee advanced to 3rd on an errant throw from the center fielder to second base, and then to home when the second baseman’s attempt to make up for the first error by throwing the ball to 3rd wound up going through the 3rd baseman’s legs. That’s twice on this tour now that I’ve seen a player hit the equivalent of an inside-the-park home run thanks to fielding errors.


Dolphin Stadium is exactly what it sounds like – a football stadium that happens to host baseball games. It reminded me quite a lot of Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, as a classic massive multi-purpose stadium of the pre-Camden/Jacobs field era. That said, the field dimensions and left field grandstand both look far less odd in person than they did on TV. And, unlike Candlestick Park, there are no baseball-configuration seats facing the wrong way. Still, the park was really nothing worth writing home about.

I was quite struck, meanwhile, by how different South Florida is from Central Florida in culture and environment. Having never been to South Florida before, I’d not fully appreciated the extent of the Latin influence, clearly evident at the ballpark as between-inning announcements and entertainment were run at first in both English and Spanish, until at some points late in the game, they gave up on English altogether and just started doing everything in Spanish.

A few random points of note:

It was seriously hot, despite the evening start, and the Marlins apparently draw quite poorly for day games, unsurprisingly. With the wide-open stadium bowl, and the heat and humidity of South Florida, I’ve got to imagine the beach is a far more appealing draw on a hot August day.

In a further nod to the football-inspired environment, the Marlins have cheerleaders. Not simply attractive women helping to rev the crowd up as is seen in other parks, but full-blown pom-pom waving, routine-dancing cheerleaders. While this wasn’t difficult on the eyes, it was more than a little jarring.

There was an ad running occasionally through the big screen whose key message was to ask if you’d had your microchip installed yet. Yikes. Welcome to Florida in the 21st Century.

There were no scalpers anywhere in sight for the first time on the trip, which was a shame, since I was carrying a second ticket that I was therefore unable to offload. Unfortunately, the reason I had the second ticket was because Charlie found himself otherwise engaged, though for very good reason. And, the timing worked out well, as it gave me a chance to help Andres celebrate his 22 hour anniversary. Plus, if he needs a guarantor 31 years from now, I’ll be able to step in.

Unlike at Sharks games, the Marlins were still playing “The Hey Song”. Quite nostalgic, really.

I don’t know if it’s the Latin influence, the heat, or the influence of all the Miami-style exposed skin, but I’ve never seen so much tongue on display on the scoreboard kiss-cam. A bit disturbing, really.

It being a Saturday night, they followed the game with a fireworks show, and then a complimentary concert by Oscar D’Leon, apparently a reasonably well known Latin recording artist. While I didn’t stick around for much of this, it was definitely an apparent drawing card, and the fans dancing salsa in their seats during the concert were clearly having a great time.

Finally, while on the stat trend, I’d really like to see stadiums post teams’ performance with runners in scoring position (RISP). It was great to sit near a person keeping score in Cleveland who was making a point of tracking RISP (they were 1-for-9). This is very revealing, despite Billy Beane’s arguments to the contrary, and often a clear indication of why teams are performing well or poorly. While we’re at it, clutch hitting’s mirror, clutch pitching, was on display in the form of Marlins pitcher Armando Benitez, who threw a masterful 1-2-3 inning, appropriate to a tie game in early August between two non-playoff teams. For Armando, the bigger the stage gets, and the tougher the situation, the more I’m comfortable placing a sizeable bet on Benitez screwing it all up.

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