Well, the San Diego Padres are the newest organization to give a big middle finger to traditionalist baseball fans by announcing they would move their outfield fences in for the 2013 season. Petco Park will follow Safeco Field in Seattle, Citi Field for the New York Mets before the 2012 season, and the ridiculous right field porch at the new Yankee Stadium.
What happened to the good old days? What happened to stadiums like the Polo Grounds (483 feet to the center field wall)? Okay, that’s a bit extreme. But still, since when does giving in to the fan’s thirst for the long ball take precedence over classic, fundamental baseball?
I’ll tell you when. It was 1998 when a juiced-up Mark McGwire hit a then-record 70 home runs in the same season Sammy Sosa hit 66. In 2001, Barry Bonds got so big it looked like he would have trouble lifting his arms above his shoulders, and he smacked 73 home runs in a single season.
Even though everyone and their mothers know those numbers were inflated, Americans really fell in love with the home run. And it’s understandable – to most fans, there is nothing more majestic than a perfectly squared up fastball hitting the upper deck on the fly. It’s the biggest, hardest, farthest, most impressive feat a batter can accomplish.
But we have the Home Run Derby every July, so why can’t we get our fix then? When the Mets decided to move their fences in to a more attainable distance, for lack of nicer terms, it didn’t help. They still finished in fourth place in the NL East, and star third baseman David Wright didn’t see a huge jump in his power numbers.
So what’s the big deal? Personally, I think it’s a cop-out. Did the Yankees really need a joke of a right-field fence? Did the Mariners really finish in fourth place because their fences were too deep? If the Padres get better in 2013, is it going to be because the fences were 11 feet closer? Or because they have a better team in general, regardless of the stadium?
Mets GM Sandy Alderson admitted that when the Mets decided to move the fences in at Citi Field, it was because “scoring brought excitement.” Well Sandy, so does winning.
The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers have two of the most pitcher-friendly parks in baseball, and neither team were a power threat in their own stadiums in 2012. They finished 1-2 in the NL West and now the Giants are in the World Series.
Let’s ban the moving of the fences (and the wave while we’re at it…sheesh), and put together teams that thrive on base hits, good base running, bunting, defense and pitching.
You know…how baseball is supposed to be.
Alas, chicks dig the long ball. Fences will continue to move. But are you for or against it? This blogger says nay. Vote below:
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)