Dodgers busy improving aging stadium before season


Dodgers busy improving aging stadium before season

LOS ANGELES (AP) Having spent more than $200 million to bulk up their starting pitching this winter, the Los Angeles Dodgers are turning their attention to improving the aging stadium they've played in since 1962.

President and CEO Stan Kasten said Tuesday the goal is to improve the experience for fans while preserving the history of the third-oldest ballpark in the major leagues.

``This is more than a Band-Aid,'' he said. ``I think this will stand up for a very long time.''

Kasten said he planned to talk with Commissioner Bud Selig this week about holding a future All-Star game at the stadium now that it's undergoing one of Hollywood's biggest makeovers. It last hosted the Midsummer Classic in 1980, with new ballparks having long surpassed it in the pecking order.

``That will never be an excuse again,'' Kasten said.

He unveiled the changes for the upcoming season - estimated to cost $100 million - as heavy equipment rumbled around the field.

``We do still think we're going to get done by Opening Day, but it's going to be a scramble,'' Kasten said. ``It might leak into the season.''

Among the upgrades are two high-definition video boards in left and right field that will be 22 percent bigger with the original hexagon shape of both being restored; a new sound system that will be heard on the concourses and in the restrooms; and an improved Wi-Fi and cell antenna system so fans can better use their mobile devices inside the ballpark.

The video boards' viewing area will be 66 percent larger, allowing for more video content and stats to be shown.

``We want to provide fans with the kind of information they're used to seeing at home,'' said Janet Marie Smith, senior vice president of planning and development who was hired by Kasten after they worked together on Turner Field in Atlanta.

``Our first and number one goal was to do things that touch all fans,'' she said.

The changes also include wider concourses; more locations for fans in wheelchairs and their companions; new food stands and menus; and new field level entry plazas and bullpen overlooks to create standing room areas with views of the game.

``You're going to feel like you're in a place that you love,'' Kasten said.

The players haven't been forgotten, either, with major changes to what Kasten described as ``these really awful clubhouse facilities.''

The home clubhouse is being doubled in size, the training and conditioning areas are being expanded, and new batting cages are being installed. The visitors' clubhouse won't be made over, but opposing players will have a weight room and batting cage on their own side for the first time. Previously, visiting teams had to enter the Dodgers' clubhouse to use those areas.

``The players are loving it, and we've involved them every step of the plan,'' Kasten said.

Two to four rows of seats are being removed from the back of the field, loge, reserve and upper reserve levels to create an additional 8 to 15 feet of room for walking the concourses, but it won't change the stadium's capacity of 56,000.

Smith said the Dodgers are going through their historical items and will be putting many on display for the first time, including MVP, Cy Young and Gold Glove awards.

The team's 10 retired numbers will be part of a display at the Top of the Park level behind home plate, while a kids area on the reserve level will include life-sized bobbleheads, and six oversized World Series rings representing each of the Dodgers' championships will be installed on the first base side of the stadium.

The Dodgers had a hot dog taste test on Monday, but Kasten was quick to say they won't be messing around with the famed Dodger Dog.

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What Gregg Popovich told Scott Brooks after the Wizards traded for Davis Bertans

What Gregg Popovich told Scott Brooks after the Wizards traded for Davis Bertans

When the Spurs traded Davis Bertans to the Wizards for basically nothing this summer, Gregg Popovich could not have been happy about it. 

The Wizards play the Spurs on Wednesday at 7 p.m. EST on NBC Sports Washington.

The Spurs did it to free up cap space to sign Marcus Morris to a two-year, $20 million contract, but then Morris backed out of the agreement to sign a one-year, $15 million deal with the Knicks. 

So the Spurs were without one of Popovich's favorite players and had an empty spot to fill with Morris in New York. They ended up bringing on Trey Lyles, but Bertans has to feel like the one who got away for San Antonio.

In his first season with the Wizards, Bertans has been solid off the bench, averaging 11.7 points on 41.8 percent from three. The Wizards knew they were getting a shooter in Bertans, but Popovich told Scott Brooks that the big man was capable of much more. 

"[Popovich] is a good scout," Brooks told Candance Buckner Wednesday. "He nailed it on [Bertans] when I talked to him over the summer. He said, '[Davis] is more than a shooter.'"

Just 11 games into the season, we've already seen Bertans' ability to handle the ball and create his own shot off the dribble. Last Friday in Minnesota, we even saw Bertans play as the ball handler in a pick and roll with fellow big man Moe Wagner. 

Not many teams can put two bigs in pick and roll situations, and for an already elite offense for the Wizards (3rd in Off. RTG), it adds a wrinkle that could give almost any defense nightmares. 

As Brooks continues to configure his rotations, Bertans' should continue to increase on the offensive end. Whether he can help the team's atrocious defense is yet to be seen, but the Wizards clearly got another steal in a trade with a team trying to offload salary.


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    Bringing everyone back from a championship team is difficult, but the Mystics could defy the odds

    Bringing everyone back from a championship team is difficult, but the Mystics could defy the odds

    All good things must come to an end. 

    Salary caps ensure that adage rings true for championship teams. Each year title-winning teams are forced to part ways with the very players that put them on top of the sports world. 

    The Washington Nationals are a team that quickly faced that reality this year. On the day of their World Series championship parade, they were forced to make several contract decisions on stars that had just won them their first pennant. Less than a week after winning it all, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon were free agents and available for any team to sign.  

    No title-touting team is immune.  But just as tenacious the Washington Mystics were on their warpath to a WNBA championship, so too is their ability to bring everyone for another crack at the title in 2020. 

    There is the space for the Mystics to bring back each member of their championship team.

    Last season Washington had one of the deepest teams in the WNBA. So deep that Emma Meesseman, the WNBA Finals MVP, primarily came off the bench when the squad was fully healthy. Depth extended past Meesseman too. Several of the team’s back-up players could easily be starters elsewhere in the league.

    There were 12 players on the championship roster, seven are already under contract to return: Natasha Cloud, LaToya Sanders, Ariel Atkins, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Myisha Hines-Allen and Kiara Leslie. 

    Assuming the salary cap goes up the same amount it did from 2018 to 2019, the cap will be roughly $1,014,900 in 2020. However, the WNBA and the players’ association are negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement. A new deal could completely flip the cap figures – and maximum contracts – as one of the bigger issues discussed is player pay. The rest of this post could be a moot point. 

    But going off the $1,014,900 figure and the contract amounts on Spotrac.com combined with Tianna Hawkins’ extension, Washington has roughly $502,072 of their 2020 cap space remaining. Educated guesses would assume that there could be even more room to work with as the CBA gets developed. Bigger player salaries would mean bigger salary caps. Only four or five spots are remaining as rosters are required to have a minimum of 11 players, a maximum of 12.

    Five members of the 2019 squad are set to enter free agency. This includes Elena Delle Donne, Kristi Toliver and Meesseman. All three more than deserving of max contracts. 

    Keep in mind that the WNBA’s free agency is less robust than the other major sports leagues in the country. Partly this is due to the max contract and salary cap system in place. In the NBA, at most teams could fit four maximum contract players – there are also supermax contracts that would fit less. Eight maximum contract players could fit on a WNBA roster to slide under the cap.

    Of the three (Delle Donne, Toliver, Meesseman) it is difficult to imagine any of them playing anywhere else in the league.

    Delle Donne finally won her elusive championship this year. She came to the Mystics from the Chicago Sky back in 2017 to be close to her family in Delaware. During the WNBA Finals this season she still stressed the importance of her proximity to her family. There is no reason to suggest that will change this offseason.

    Toliver is an assistant coach with the Washington Wizards. Both basketball teams are owned under the same company, Monumental Sports and Entertainment. She could make the full jump into the coaching ranks after this season if she chose, but this season she displayed that there is a lot in her tank. 

    Meesseman took a year off in 2018 and looks better than ever. Washington is the only WNBA franchise she has ever played for.

    A combination of the three returning is not guaranteed but space is there. Three max contracts, at the estimated at $119,500 by the previous CBA, fit the salary constraints. 

    That even leaves $143,572 for the final one to two spots on the roster. A more than capable figure to account for the remaining members of the 2019 championship team in Aerial Powers and Kim Mestdagh. 

    Head coach Mike Thibault, who is also the general manager, constructed the roster brilliantly to bring together the first championship for the franchise. Basically, everyone stayed from the runner-up team in 2018. Roster constraints won’t be the issue. Rather, convincing everyone to ‘Run it back’ for a second time will be the question. 

    Throughout the 2019 season, the Mystics defied all standards set by previous WNBA teams. They have a chance to defy another standard set by championship teams this offseason.