tue, 02-apr-2013, 19:08
A’s v Mariners

Yesterday I attempted to watch the A’s Opening Day game against the Mariners in the Oakland Coliseum. Unfortunately, it turns out the entire state of Alaska is within the blackout region for all Seattle Mariners games, regardless of where the Mariners are playing.

The A’s lost the game, so maybe I’m not too disappointed I didn’t see it, but for curiousity, let’s extend Major League Baseball’s Alaska blackout “logic” to the rest of the country and see what that looks like.

First, load in the locations of all Major League stadiums into a PostGIS database. There are a variety of sources for this on the Internet, but many are missing the more recent stadiums. I downloaded one and updated those that weren’t correct using information on Wikipedia.

CREATE TABLE stadiums (
   division text, opened integer, longitude numeric,
   latitude numeric, class text, team text,
   stadium text, league text, capacity integer
COPY stadiums FROM 'stadium_data.csv' CSV HEADER;

Turn the latitude and longitudes into geographic objects:

SELECT addgeometrycolumn('stadiums', 'geom_wgs84', 4326, 'POINT', 2);
CREATE SEQUENCE stadium_id_seq;
ALTER TABLE stadiums
   ADD COLUMN id integer default (nextval('stadium_id_seq'));
UPDATE stadiums
   SET geom_wgs84 = ST_SetSRID(
      ST_MakePoint(longitude, latitude), 4326

Now load in a states polygon layer (which came from: http://www.arcgis.com/home/item.html?id=f7f805eb65eb4ab787a0a3e1116ca7e5):

$ shp2pgsql -s 4269 states.shp | psql -d stadiums

Calculate how far the farthest location in Alaska is to Safeco Field:

SELECT ST_MaxDistance(safeco, alaska) / 1609.344 AS miles
   SELECT ST_Transform(geom_wgs84, 3338) AS safeco
   FROM stadiums WHERE stadium ~* 'safeco'
) AS foo, (
   SELECT ST_Transform(geom, 3338) AS alaska
   FROM states
   WHERE state_name ~* 'alaska'
) AS bar;


Yep. Folks in Alaska are supposed to travel 2,468 miles (3,971,338 meters, to be exact) in order to attend a game at Safeco Field (or farther if they’re playing elsewhere because the blackout rules aren’t just for home games anymore).

Now we add a 2,468 mile buffer around each of the 30 Major League stadiums to see what the blackout rules would look like if the rule for Alaska was applied everywhere:

SELECT addgeometrycolumn(
   'stadiums', 'ak_rules_buffer', 3338, 'POLYGON', 2);
UPDATE stadiums
SET ak_rules_buffer =
   ST_Buffer(ST_Transform(geom_wgs84, 3338), 3971338);

Here's a map showing what these buffers look like:

Or, shown another way, here’s the number of teams that would be blacked out for everyone in each state. Keep in mind that there are 30 teams in Major League Baseball so the states on the top of the list shouldn’t be able to watch any team if Alaska rules were applied evenly to the country:

Number of blacked out teams using Alaska blackout rules
Blacked out teams States
30 Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming
29 Idaho, Montana, Arizona
28 District of Columbia, West Virginia
27 Georgia, South Carolina
26 Nevada
25 Pennsylvania, Florida, Vermont
24 Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts
23 Maine
22 Oregon, Washington, California
1 Alaska
0 Hawaii

Based on this, Hawaii would be the place to live as they can actually watch all 30 teams! Except the blackout rules for Hawaii are even stupider than Alaska: they can’t watch any of the teams on the West Coast. Ouch!

This is stupid-crazy. It seems to me that a more appropriate rule might be buffers that represent a two hour drive, or whatever distance is considered “reasonable” for traveling to attend a game. When I lived in Davis California we drove to the Bay Area several times a season to watch the A’s or Giants play, and that’s about the farthest I’d expect someone to go in order to see a three hour baseball game.

This makes a much more reasonable map:

I’m sure there are other issues going on here, such as cable television deals and other sources of revenue that MLB is trying to protect. But for the fans, those who ultimately pay for this game, the current situation is idiotic. I don’t have access to cable television (and even if I did, I won’t buy it until it’s possible to pick and choose which stations I want to pay for), and I’m more than 2,000 miles from the nearest ballpark. My only avenue for enjoying the game is to pay MLB $130 for a MLB.TV subscription. Which I happily do. Unfortunately, this year I can’t watch my teams whenever they happen to play the Mariners.

tags: baseball  SQL  GIS 
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