With continued offensive struggles from the Seattle Mariner‘s bats when playing at Seattle’s magnificent home ballpark, Safeco Field, talks have begun again about the wisdom of moving in the fields fences in order to make hitting home runs easier. But moving in the fences is not the answer. But an answer is available.
This topic gained lots of momentum when big Justin Smoak,
the Mariner’s leading home run hitter, connected on two blasts in one game one week ago. Both shots were run-down and caught by the outfielders on the warning track in right and left-center field. After the game Smoak said he hit those balls as best he could. His exact quote was “That’s all I got”.
Also, last week Baltimore Oriole’s All Star Adam Jones appeared on CNN as part of a story discussing the 20th Anniversary of the opening of Camden Yards. The CNN anchor asked the former Mariner if the Oriole’s home ballpark was the most beautiful stadium in the Major Leagues. Jones said yes, but that he also really liked Safeco Field “Except it’s just a grave yard there. It’s just a grave yard”. Shaking his head he must have repeated that the Mariner’s home field was a grave yard 3-4 times.
The fact that the Mariner’s returned from their last road trip having averaged over 7 runs per game, while scoring barely 2 runs per game at The Safe adds to the fire.
And this debate has been raging since the Mariner’s left the Kingdome in July 1999. Safeco is hugely responsible for driving away Seattle’s two biggest Stars of the 90s. Ken Griffey Jr.
played half-of-a-season at Safeco in 1999 and hated it. Alex Rodriguez was equally miffed at the difficulty in hitting home runs in Seattle. Griffey demanded and was granted a trade to Cincinnati following the ’99 season. A-Rod left in free agency after 2000. Neither giving the stadium much of a chance.
What’s misunderstood about Safeco is that it’s outfield walls are not that deep compared to other Major League fields. In left field is 331-feet, Center field is only 405 feet from home plate, and right field is just 327. By comparison Detroit’s Comerica Park is 345 down the left field line, 330 down right, and 420 to center field. Clearly the fences aren’t the issue.
Any meteorologist could tell you what the problem is. It’s Seattle’s thick wet air. When it’s cold and wet in the Northwest, as it is from the time the season starts until early July a hit baseball just doesn’t carry as far as in places where people don’t have webbed feet and rust under their arms. And last I checked early July is halfway through a Major League baseball season.
I have two arguments against moving in the fences. First- when Seattle teams were good it was far less of an issue. Brett Boone, A-Rod, Edgar Martinez, and Jay Buhner hit plenty of bombs in The Safe. And the opponents have to hit in the same field dimensions. So Seattle is not at a competitive disadvantage.
Second, a big part of the solution to the heavy air and the lack of home runs already exists and could be put in place tomorrow. Close the Safeco Roof. Griffey was known to scream furiously for the roof to be closed in his short time here (Yes…he was THAT spoiled). Mariner TV commentator Bill Krueger offered this idea during a radio interview last week. He pointed out that other moveable-roof domed stadiums keep their roofs closed a majority of the time for this very reason. And since the roof is so high and since the left-field open air view of the Seattle skyline still exists patrons are not losing much. Let’s face it, we’d all rather be a little warmer on a cold damp Seattle Spring night watching a more offensively exciting baseball team with the roof “extended”, than shivering in 40 and 50-degree weather with night-time stars covered by clouds and a team that averages only 2 runs per game.
This needs to happen immediately. Mariner management needs to make a command decision. New rules for the Safeco roof go into effect immediately. Except on days when it’s over 60 degrees, and only on clear nights the roof goes over the playing field. That way we all get more home runs, and happier young ball players.
Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.
- Move Fences at Safeco Back, Not In (ballsandstrikes.mlblogs.com)
- Mariners Need Dryer Baseballs, Not Closer Fences (seattle.sbnation.com)
- Has time for change arrived at Safeco Field? (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- San Francisco Giants drop series in 2-1 loss to Seattle Mariners (mercurynews.com)
- Take Me Out to the Ball Game (redtri.com)