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.Â 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.