Saturday, April 28, 2012

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Lost Vikings?

     Minnesota Vikings football has been a iconic staple of the North Star state. They remember the earlier days from Fran Tarkenton to Herschel Walker (A trade that Vikings fans would love to forget). They've hated Brett Favre, then they embraced Brett Favre. 1998 was a year to remember for the Vikings, as they went 15-1 and made it all the way to the NFC Championship game. They know who Dennis Green was before "They are who we thought they were! And we let 'em off the hook!!" They dress up like barbarians in Helga hats and play the Gjallarhorn every time the Vikings score a touchdown or get a first down. The nickname 'Vikings' is derived from Minnesota's large population of Scandinavian ancestry.
     But today, football in Minnesota is being threatened by a Metrodome lease that expires next year. There has been talks of the Vikings possibly moving to Los Angeles, but this wouldn't even be the first purple-and-gold squad that the Land of 10,000 Lakes has lost to L.A. The Lakers moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis before the 1960-1961 season due to struggles financially.
     Even the passing of a bill to build a stadium has Minnesota fans worried. On Saturday, Minnesota's Senate committee approved a bill for a public subsidy by a 8-6 vote to help the Vikings build a new stadium in Minneapolis, though it is noteworthy that Vikings officials weren't present. That includes owners Zygi and Mark Wilf. The proposed stadium is said to cost up to $975 million. The Vikings would pay $427 million for construction costs while city and state taxpayers would pay 56% ($548 million) of the total cost. The closeness of the Senate committee's vote raised concerns for lawmakers because some senators were wary of expanding the gambling that is a part of the proposal's funding package.
     Now what if the Vikings fail to build a new stadium by the end of the year and move to Los Angeles? For starters, they would have to swap divisions with the St. Louis Rams. Considering the sheer competitive dominance compared to the NFC West, this would benefit the Vikings a lot more than the Rams. But I could see a great division rivalry brewing between the Rams and the Bears. Same goes for the 49ers and the Vikings. Now here's the catch: Farmer's Field isn't going to be ready until 2016. So where would the Vikings play in LA? There's the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and there's the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. But the Coliseum would need extensive renovations because it was built long before club seats and sky boxes were around. If this were to happen, it would lose its status as a National Historical Landmark like Chicago's Soldier Field did in 2002.
     In my opinion, I can understand both sides. Vikings football has been a staple in Minnesotan culture for decades, while relocating to Los Angeles means moving to a much bigger sports market. Plus, LA fans are a lot more passionate than you think. I mean, who riots after their team WINS a championship rather than lose a championship? Certainly not Vancouver. But you'd also lose one of the best rivalries in football between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings. No person from Minnesota ever wants to cheer for a team in Green Bay. I'd like to see the Vikings stay in Minneapolis because they have a much more passionate NFL fan base than the fan base in Los Angeles. But if appealing to a bigger market is what Roger Goodell wants, then I say, "Go ahead". After all, Marie Antoinette once said, "Let them eat cake!" Or in this case, "Let them eat Cheeseheads!"

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Geek Out Stat: Magnificent Mile Bombers

    First blog entry and I must say, it's already gotten off to a great start. White Sox SP Philip Humber just threw a perfect game at Seattle, becoming the third member of the White Sox to throw a perfect gem. Obviously, the Seattle Mariners can't hit a beach ball and Safeco Field is a cavernous domain. But you have to tip your cap to Humber because performances like his today are quite rare. The pitcher for the South Side ball club struck out nine M's and only threw 96 pitches. The perfect game was also Humber's first win of the season. Therefore, congratulations to Philip Humber of the White Sox on throwing a perfect game.
    Speaking of the White Sox, I found a statistic that puzzled me last night. Amongst all of baseball, this is where Chicago (AL) ranks in the following offensive categories:

Runs scored: 16th (56)
Batting average: 20th (.241)
On-base percentage: 22nd (.306)
Slugging percentage: 9th (.421)

   Did you catch that? Ninth in slugging percentage but 20th in batting average, 16th in runs scored and 22nd in OBP. They rank ahead of the DETROIT TIGERS in slugging percentage, who picked up Prince Fielder this off-season. How you explain this sort of madness?! The MLB's top ten in slugging percentage include:

  1. Texas Rangers (.521)
  2. St. Louis Cardinals (.486)
  3. New York Yankees (.478)
  4. Colorado Rockies (.453)
  5. Baltimore Orioles [!] (.451)
  6. Atlanta Braves (.439)
  7. Boston Red Sox (.434)
  8. Tampa Bay Rays (.424)
  9. Chicago White Sox (.421)
  10. Minnesota Twins (.411)
    Note that all the teams ranked ahead of Chicago in slugging percentage also rank ahead of the White Sox in runs scored, batting average and OBP as of April 21st. So how can this be explained?
    For starters, the basic definition of "slugging percentage" according to is the number of total bases divided by the number of at-bats. It measures the power of a batter. It's worth noting that catcher A.J. Pierzynski leads the club in this category with a .714 slugging %, which ranks fourth in the AL, by the way.
   Now Pierzynski hasn't posted a stellar slugging % for his entire career. In fact, his percentage is .425. But the two-time All-Star had been on a hot streak to start off the season. He leads the South Siders in home runs (four), batting average (.357) and RBIs (fourteen). He's also struck out only three times in only twelve games and has even hit a triple.
   Pierzynski isn't alone in the White Sox's early power display. Designated hitter Adam Dunn has finally found his old form, bumping up his batting average to .245 while hitting three homers and twelve RBIs. And of course, first baseman Paul Konerko has aided the ChiSox's lineup in the first month of the season. He's batting .352, hitting two bombs and eleven RBIs.
   Did I mention that the White Sox are fifth in all of MLB in home runs with 16 dingers? They lead the majors in triples with four and they rank tenth in doubles with 22 two-baggers. All of this is done under first-year manager Robin Ventura, who had massive shoes to fill by trying to replace former manager Ozzie Guillen. In 2005, Guillen steered the White Sox to their first World Series since 1917 and bolted for the newly-named "Miami" Marlins this off-season. Let's not forget that U.S. Cellular Field is notorious for being a hitter's ballpark.
   What does this all mean? Well, Chicago's AL squad is playing out to be a pleasant surprise to start off the season. Still, they have a small chance of winning the AL Central once the Tigers' bats start to heat up. But with the Red Sox and Angels down, they could at least hold out hope for one of the two wild-cards.