When I read this story last month in the New York Daily News, speculating that the ugly “C-word” — contraction — was rearing its head again in baseball, I figured it could mean only one thing.
Bud Selig must be trying to get somebody a stadium.
In this case, two somebodies — the Florida Marlins and Oakland A’s, the two rumored “contractees”. And sure enough, three days ago, the Marlins finally landed their long-awaited ballpark (shown to the right in an artist’s rendering from the Miami Herald), which is slated to open in 2012. The A’s, meanwhile, are still in pursuit of their ballpark upgrade, a necessity ever since Al Davis in the mid-1990s degraded what was once a pleasant, under-rated venue. The Fremont plan, ill-conceived from the start, has blown up, so the A’s are back to square one.
Say what you will about Selig — and his reign as commissioner has been spectacular in some regards, and pathetic in others — he has presided over a staggeringly successful transformation of major-league ballparks. With the Marlins’ deal finally greased, and the Yankees and Mets moving into new palaces this season, followed by the spanking new Twins’ park next year (they were supposed to contract, too, remember?), Selig is down to just two problem areas when it comes to stadiums: Oakland and Tampa Bay.
Here’s a list of all 30 teams and the year their ballparks opened:
2000s (12): New York Yankees (2009), New York Mets (2009), Washington (2008), St. Louis (2006), Philadelphia (2004), San Diego (2004), Cincinnati (2003), Pittsburgh (2001), Milwaukee (2001), San Francisco (2000), Houston (2000), Detroit (2000),
1990s (9): Seattle (1999), Arizona (1998), Atlanta (1996), Colorado (1995), Cleveland (1994), Texas (1994), Baltimore (1992), Chicago White Sox (1991), Tampa Bay (1990*)
1980s (3): Toronto (1989), Florida (1987**), Minnesota (1982***),
1970s (1): Kansas City (1973).
1960s (3): Los Angeles Angels (1966****), Oakland 1966, Los Angeles Dodgers (1962).
1910s (2): Boston (1912), Chicago Cubs (1914).
Key: *Rays began play in 1998. **Marlins to move into new stadium in 2012. ***Twins to move into new stadium in 2010. ****Angels underwent major stadium renovation in 1997.
I would pinpoint the opening of SkyDome in Toronto as the advent of the new stadium era, though most people would point to Camden Yards in 1992, which ushered in the “retro” craze. That also happened to be the year that Selig replaced Fay Vincent as commissioner, and the stadiums have followed like clockwork. Since 1994, the only years without at least one new park opening up have been 1997 (but the Angels began a major renovation that year), 2002, 2005 and 2007. There were three new ones in 2000, two in 2001, two in 2004, and now two in 2009.
Say what you will about the public expenditures required to build the parks, it’s hard to deny it has been a revolution, of sorts. And once Selig lands the new yards in Oakland and Tampa Bay — and I’m betting he will, based on his track record, which includes only one total failure, Montreal — the transformation will be complete. Despite occasional rumblings, I don’t think Wrigley Field or Fenway are going anywhere — at least, I pray they don’t. They are my No. 1 and 2 favorite stadiums. Dodger Stadium is still perfectly adequate, and I haven’t heard much of a clamor for a new Royals’ ballpark. (Basebrawl is correct; the Royals are undergoing a $250 million upgrade that will be complete in 2010).
Everyone else, mission accomplished.