Sorry, Devil Rays

This site, called Cool Standings, shows the major league baseball

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standings — including expected wins, expected losses, and their calculation of each team’s chances to win the division, win the wild card, and make it to the playoffs, period. The Red Sox currently have a 96.5% chance of making the playoffs; the Padres are tops in the NL, with a 90.9% chance.

If you click on each team’s name, you get more stats, including

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a graph showing how their playoff chances have risen and fallen during the season. The one for the Yankees is particularly recommended.

Three is a magic number

Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn

writes today in his blog about the White Sox, their magic number, and his new concept, the “toxic number.” (Which is a concept Bill James probably already had, 25 years ago.)

Money matters

This information may come in handy for people planning to take a trip like this themselves. Now that my credit card bill has arrived with accurate Canadian-U.S. dollar exchange figures, I can come up with an accurate figure of my trip-related out-of-pocket expenditures: $2,411.92.

That’s kind of misleading, because that includes most of the major expenditures on the trip, which Levi and the other hangers-on are contributing towards, such as tickets to seven of the games (Davenport, Detroit, Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Milwaukee), the $7.00 beers at the Red Star Tavern in Pittsburgh, and…

Airfare, Burbank-Chicago: $235.40
Rental car: $483.69 (“Full size” for 2 weeks plus charge for additional authorized operator)
Seven nights in hotels: $799.65 (I should send Fox a bill for one of these nights)
Watch repair: $2.00

It was worth every penny.

Vital statistics from the trip

Lowest price we paid for gas: $1.789 per gallon, at a Sunoco on the Ohio Turnpike.
Highest price we paid for gas: 85.9 Canadian cents per liter, at a Shell on Highway 401 in Ontario. ($2.498 U.S. per gallon, if I did the conversions correctly.)
Highest price we paid for gas in the U.S.: $2.259 per gallon, at an Exxon off I-287 just north of the New Jersey border. We were pretty close to “E,” which is why we didn’t try to make it all the way to New Jersey before filling up, and worried about making it to Princeton on time for Maura’s radio show, which is why we didn’t want to stop twice, to get a little gas in New York and then fill up in New Jersey.
Number of blisters I ended up with: 2 (heel of left foot and middle toe of right foot)
Things Levi said every time a song came up on my iPod: “Nice” or “This is on my iPod, too.”
Most exciting unexpected treat: Free Blue Bunny Bomb Pops at the game in Davenport.
Second most exciting unexpected treat: Free Nestlé Crunch With Peanut Butter candy bar for buying a 20-ounce Vanilla Coke at an Ohio Turnpike service plaza.
Most expensive hotel: Hilton Pittsburgh ($109 plus $24 parking).
Least expensive hotel: Travelodge Montreal Centre ($89 plus $13 parking, or about $78.50 U.S.).
Least expensive hotel, honorable mention: Travelodge Harrisburg ($72 plus $10 rollaway bed charge).
Strangest hotel room configuration: Travelodge Montreal Centre, with the two beds turned 90 degrees from each other and the TV hanging from the ceiling.
Last sign along the road in Ontario: “Construction 1.5km”
First sign along the road in Quebec: “Travaux 1km”
Most pleasant surprise involving an A&W restaurant: The A&W at the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Illinois, is a full-fledged restaurant, not just a stand in the food court, which means they use actual frosty mugs for root beer floats.
Best pinball performance: The Addams Family at Novelty Golf in Lincolnwood, Illinois (three games on one quarter).
Most unexpected safety message on the back of a truck: “A rolling ball is followed by a running child.”
Thing I found hardest to believe: Princeton University’s free visitor parking.
Cause of only wrong turn we made: The driving directions on Princeton’s web site don’t clearly indicate that Nassau Street is also New Jersey state highway 27.
Most crowded public transit vehicle: The outbound Green Line trolley in Boston, after it changed from a 2-car train to a 1-car train.
Thing that happened to Levi that I’m most glad didn’t happen to me: Booth clerks in both the Toronto and Montreal subways angrily tapping on the glass at him.
Best ticket disclaimer: “The Illinois Railway Museum is not a common carrier. Its rail operations are for demonstration purposes only.”
Best seats we had to pay for: Davenport.
Best seats we didn’t have to pay for: Pittsburgh and Cleveland, because just about any free ticket is a great seat.
Most annoying service charge: Toronto, which charged an extra $2.50 for tickets purchased at the Skydome ticket windows.
Places where good and pure Coca-Cola was served: St. Louis, Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Philadelphia.
Honorable mention for serving Dr Pepper along with Pepsi: Cleveland.
Special honorable mention for egalitarianism unusual despite having a captive audience: American Airlines, which serves Coke, Pepsi, and Dr Pepper.
Number of times we heard “God Bless America” during a 7th-inning stretch: 1 (in Cleveland, and the game still lasted only 1 hour and 56 minutes!)
Thing I wished I’d heard during a 7th-inning stretch: “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” in French, but it was only played in English at Olympic Stadium.
Most boring drive: Detroit to Toronto.
Only advantage to the most boring drive: Because of the use of kilometers instead of miles, the exit numbers seemed like they were increasing really, really fast!
Best doughnut: The Krispy Kreme raspberry-filled my co-worker Joe brought when he picked me up at the Burbank airport at the end of the trip. (Sorry, Tim Horton’s.)
Best use of a logo: The Indians’ “I,” which shows up on ballpark signs and other places; e.g., the ushers’ buttons say “How may ‘I’ help you?”, and the tickets read “‘I’ am a true fan!”
Only ballpark still ripping tickets instead of scanning them: Busch Stadium, St. Louis (presumably, they’ve already got the scanners ordered for the new Busch Stadium).
Team and stadium taking the theme a little too far: The Swing of the Quad Cities and John O’Donnell Stadium, where the restrooms are labeled “guys” and “dolls” and the ushers are called “stagehands.”
Team and stadium not taking the theme far enough: The Swing of the Quad Cities and John O’Donnell Stadium, where the mascots have nothing whatsoever to do with the theme, as far as we could tell.
Greatest Canadian TV moment: Flipping channels in Toronto, I happened upon Stephanie D’Abruzzo of “Avenue Q,” in a rerun of one of her “Pyramid” episodes. (It may have been on a Buffalo station, actually.)
Second-greatest Canadian TV moment: Flipping channels in Montreal, I happened upon a “Simpsons” episode dubbed in French. I quickly realized that it was the episode where Bart answers Mrs. Krabappel’s personal ad, and then realized that this episode is probably on all the time in Canada, since Gordie Howe is in it (or at least his picture).
Best newspaper subhead relating to a game we attended: “Batista entertains crowd,” (Montreal Gazette, August 26) relating to Tony Batista dashing to first base shortly after being hit in the helmet by a pitch.
Best comics page seen on the road: The Boston Globe.
Notable records from games we saw: Jeremy Bonderman, Detroit, 14 strikeouts (most K’s by a Tiger in 32 years); Frank Robinson, Montreal, 900th win as a major league manager; Joe Borchard, Chicago, 504-foot home run (longest HR in history of New Comiskey Park/U.S. Cellular Field); Indians vs. White Sox, game time 1 hour 56 minutes (shortest game in history of Jacobs Field).
Tightest-assed ushers: Miller Park (surprisingly).
Most unexpected item found in a rest area: Working music box, to promote a music box museum in Vermont.
Second-most unexpected item found in a rest area: New Hampshire state liquor store.
Biggest problem I had while driving: The cruise control buttons being in different places than on my car.
Biggest problem I had while Levi was driving: His bare feet.
Biggest pleasant driving surprise: Boston drivers didn’t live up to their reputation.
Biggest unpleasant driving surprise: Near-blinding thunderstorms in Michigan (which really shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise, since it was August).
Highest announced attendance: Brewers vs. Phillies, 40,367.
Highest proportional attendance: Tigers vs. Red Sox, 35,153 (the only sellout on our trip).
Lowest announced attendance: Wisconsin vs. Quad Cities, 3,349.
Second-lowest announced attendance: Phillies vs. White Sox, 5,747 (which apparently didn’t count people who got in on rain checks from the originally scheduled date, so there were more people in the stands than that).
Montreal announced attendance, which we were expecting to be lowest: 7,570.
Average attendance: 20,634.
Warmest game: Brewers vs. Phillies, 84 degrees.
Coldest game: Red Sox vs. Blue Jays, 68 degrees.
Average game temperature: 75 degrees.
Total number of home runs we saw: 26
Players we saw hit two home runs: Jason Bay, Pirates; Casey Blake, Indians.
Longest game: Red Sox vs. Blue Jays, 3:17.
Second-longest game: Dodgers vs. Expos, 2:58.
Shortest game: White Sox vs. Indians, 1:56.
Second-shortest game: White Sox vs. Tigers, 2:26.
Average game length: 2:42.
Number of states I passed through for the first time: 3 (Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts).
Number of stadiums I visited for the first time: 10 (only New Comiskey Park/U.S. Cellular Field was a repeat).
Number of big sandwiches I ate: 4 (turkey club at St. Louis Bread Company in downtown St. Louis; Schmitter at Citizens Bank Park; Primanti Brothers sandwich at PNC Park; meatball sub at Jacobs Field)
Number of hot dogs I ate: 5 (John O’Donnell Stadium; Olympic Stadium; Fenway Park; two at Miller Park)
Best hot dog: Miller Park, with mustard (the Secret Stadium Sauce is a little bit sweeter than I’d like)
Number of other sausages I ate: 2 (kielbasa at Comerica Park; cheddarwurst at U.S. Cellular Field)
Number of iced coffees Levi drank: a lot
Number of Hostess Baseballs we ate: a lot

Original comments:

maura: i now have the meth lab ‘mary worth’ on my fridge, btw.

Levi: Later this week, if I’m on the ball, I’ll get the ERA, BA, OBP, SLG, etc. for the teams we were rooting for and against and the combined figures.

‘Cause I know y’all are wondering.

sandor: Highest price we paid for gas in the U.S.: $2.259 per gallon, at an Exxon off I-287 just north of the New Jersey border.

This is a good thing. If you had filled up in Jersey, you would have likely forgotten about their “no one touches the pumps but us” rule and tried to put gas in your car ON YOUR OWN, God forbid. That’s what we did, thus earning the ire of all within scowling distance. We almost ended up in the nearest river because of it. Moral: best to fill up in Pennsylvania and drive right through.

Jim: I’ve got relatives in New Jersey, so I’ve filled up there before (or, rather, other people have filled my car up there before). Even with mandatory full-service, gas there is cheaper than the surrounding states.

Jason: But what about the poutine?!?!?!?

Jim: The poutine was delicious!

Eric J. Ritter: $1.79 is the best you could do for gas?

I just got off the phone with my parents, and they apparently pay $1.60 for gas in Alexandria, Minnesota, home of the Kensington Runestone.

Of course, Alexandria is nowhere near a major league stadium. So I’m not sure what my point is here.

If you’re ever in Alexandria, go to the Runestone Museum! Because it’s the only thing to do there! And it’s kind of amusing.

The price of gas in San Fransisco is currently, like, $5 a gallon. I joke. Because I do not honestly know. I take muni.

Jason: When in Alexandria, make sure to check out the Alexandria Beetles of the Northwoods League!

The end of the tour

11 games, 11 cities, 10 days, 3,489 miles, 9 White Sox runs, 5 hot dogs, 1 Schmitter, 1 Primanti sandwich, 16 official hangers-on and who knows how many honorary hangers-on…

It’s been great! Thanks to everyone who followed the trip, in person or in spirit, and thanks to Levi for suggesting it in the first place and then putting up with me the whole way through.

I know it may sound like we’re closing up shop, but this blog is going to stay operational at least through the World Series, and we’ve still got plenty of photos from the trip to post! They should be up within the next week or so, so stay tuned. I’ve also got scores from Alternate Itinerary #4 to post, since that’s going on this week, but the first post of those is going to have to wait until I get back in front of my fast Internet connection at home (because I don’t feel like doing a lot of research on the dialup connection I’m currently using).

Original comments…

sandor: Congratulations, fellas. That beats us by, what, 4 games, 5 cities, 2 days, 1000+ miles, and a dozen or so hangers-on. Touché. Probably the only stat in which we dominated was number of hot dogs. And kisses from the Phillie Phanatic.

It’s been a treat following along. Here’s to doing it again next year. You still have more than half the major league ballparks to go…

stacey: sorry about that slow dialup connection, jim. someday we’ll advance to modern times.

this trip has been a joy. i’m so glad i got to be the bookend hanger-on!

Jim’s mom: How about number of hours of sleep lost, pounds gained, t-shirts purchased? And a commentary on gas prices. Glad you had fun!

Levi: We saw 29 hours and 45 minutes of baseball. The short game in Cleveland (1:56) kept us just under the 30-hour mark. Something to shoot for next time!