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October 17, 2013 at 9:00 am ET
My Call for Uniformity in MLB Stadiums

Today, I want to do something different. I want to argue against my own preferences.

After seeing Torii Hunter dive over that ridiculously low right field wall at Fenway last week — and hearing the announcers theorize about how many parks in which that home run would have been a no-brainer — I have to wonder if baseball is doing it wrong.

Maybe it’s because I’m coming off another lackluster Mets season, but I feel like I’ve spent a lot more time finding fault with the game than I probably should.

I mean, baseball — the sport that has driven my writing for seven years and counting — is largely considered to be one of the “purest” sports experiences around.

Throw the ball.
Hit the ball.
Catch the ball.

Easy enough, until you start thinking.

Now, I LOVE the intricacies of modern ballparks. I love their unique qualities. I love how they can make each series an entirely new experience. I love it as a fan, and first and foremost, that’s what this game is all about.

But, we need to wonder if these unique parks are hurting the game itself. Statistics, wins and losses … all affected by ballpark architecture. How many games would have been different if they had been played in uniform field dimensions?

I’m talking 340 down the lines, 410 to dead center … hell, the same breed and length of infield grass.

If Big Papi had been leading the Padres that night, his game-tying slam would have more than likely been a bases-clearing double at Petco, with no guarantee someone knocks him in.

What about no-hitters and perfect games? There have been 21 perfect games in the modern era. But, no one is discussing how many deep fly ball outs were required to get there.

If Felix Hernandez throws 27 consecutive outs that all flew to the warning track in Seattle, but would have left Yankee Stadium, can we really determine this to be “perfect?”

It’s an old discussion, but baseball is the only sport that allows the playing surface to dictate the result of a game. Long flies to left become doubles at Fenway. Standard fly outs to center become dangerous obstacle courses in Houston.

Bunt singles to the right side of the infield become 440-foot homers at the new Yankee Stadium…

…but I digress…

As much as it pains me, in order for baseball to become a “pure” sport again, the home field advantage needs to come from the response of the fans, last licks and not having to wear road grays.  That’s it.

No team should take pride in launching a deep fly to center at Minute Maid Park that dropped because Jacoby Ellsbury brained himself on a pole four feet in front of the wall. Instead, let Ellsbury brain himself on a wall like a true ballplayer should.

And, no team should feel good about getting a home run that bounced above a painted line, instead of clearing a wall. Why create more confusion than is necessary? Or, for that matter, leave the judgment to a bunch of umpires MILES away from the play, when they already have enough trouble seeing balls, strikes and phantom tags on double plays?

Hell, even my beloved (bereaved?) Mets quickly removed the random, pointless “jut” in right-center, because it served no purpose other than to threaten injury … and highlight the fallacy that was their outfield play.

The purpose of this geometric nightmare? To add “character.” Which is easy to achieve when even your star fielders look like a weekend beer league chasing a gapper.

(I won’t get into the ridiculousness that is the Pepsi Porch.)

Removing these quirks from stadiums will allow us to truly determine the best players and teams.

What if football had random field holes and trenches? What if the NBA had arenas with low beams that prevented three-pointers from certain angles? What if the NHL had small boards that could trip skaters into the front row?

No, that would be ridiculous, right?

Then why is it okay to create a right field porch so shallow, Robinson Cano has a legitimate case for $305 million?

And, as much as it hurts to write this about Fenway, why do we allow a giant wall in left that turns doubles into singles, or a center field that turns baseballs into pinballs?

As I’m writing this, my wife is challenging me, asking me my opinion of instant replay and its effect on the “purity” of baseball. To that end, I say bravo. Instant replay eliminates any ambiguity about meaningful game events. But, it wouldn’t be needed nearly as much if we had a uniform playing field.

Literally and figuratively.

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5 Responses to “My Call for Uniformity in MLB Stadiums”
  1. Keith says:

    I believe extending your line of logic would mean a number of additional changes:

    Uniformity would preclude baseball from being played in Colorado, as the thinner air at higher altitude is highly irregular compared to the atmospheric density at other ballparks.

    This would also mean domes for everyone, as seasonal weather patterns differ from city to city. No more Lake Erie midges benefiting Cleveland; no more sweltering heat in Arlington. 71 degrees and recycled airplane air for everyone.

    Also all teams would need to relocate into a single time zone to do away with bleary-eyed players forced to travel without an off-day.

    But seriously, to hell with that ridiculous hill in Houston. Forget their financial and TV rights problems, I say the Astros are suffering The Curse of Tal’s Hill.

  2. Brad Bortone Brad Bortone says:

    Keith, all good points. My only counter — and it’s a weak one — is that we can’t control weather, but we can control field dimensions.

    I’m just glad we can agree on Tal’s Hill.

  3. coledog says:

    We tried that in the 70’s with the Vet and Riverfront and 3RS. Didn’t work. Boring. Ugly.

    I’d argue this in terms of taste, but that doesn’t help. I think baseball has uniformity the other sports lack. In basketball you can cede 75% of the court on defense, or press every time up and down the court. In football, every team runs whatever offensive and defensive plays and personnel they wish, changing every down. You can control the clock as long as you can. In baseball, the defense controls the ball on every play, the pitcher throws from the same distance and you have to traverse exactly 270 feet to score a run.

    Quirks only work if they’re cool. Tal’s hill is just stupid.

  4. Chalk says:

    We can control weather! I made a similar-ish argument a while back why Tropicana Field is baseball’s last true cathedral because it takes away weather variables. (Search those B&C archives fans, it’s there! along with countless other half-forgotten gems!)

    But I’d also throw in that pitchers, batters and managers know where they’re playing — Felix is probably more likely to challenge hitters in some parks than in others, for example.

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