I think I’ve mentioned it here before, but when I was a senior in high school, I kinda ran out of things to take. I could have done some home ec or something like that, but as far as things I was interested in and that would help for college admission, I’d pretty well run the gamut. Because of this, I took a couple college classes in the afternoons at DACC. It really couldn’t have worked out better for me. Only half days of real school, two or three free afternoons every week, one freshman-level community college course on the “busy” days. It was a dream come true, especially if you wanted to watch the Cubs play those day games.* My spring semester, I took a Tuesday-Thursday speech class. It was okay, I wasn’t too thrilled about it, but I liked the schedule. The fall, though, I took “Introduction to Humanities” Monday-Wednesday-Friday. And, to be honest, I enjoyed the hell out of that class.
*Hint: I did.
I really couldn’t tell you for the life of me how I did in those classes. I think I did well, but it didn’t really matter. They weren’t going to transfer to Wabash,* and I looked at it more as something to do. I think I did pretty well, though, and I do distinctly remember rocking the final in the humanities class. I quite enjoyed the fine art and music portions of the class, which was pretty predictable. What might have been a surprise to you and to me at 17 was how much I enjoyed the architecture part. I don’t think I would have particularly enjoyed being an architect, but I could have been happy writing about buildings and their different forms and the like.
*Or, at least, I don’t think they did. I must admit that I never made the first attempt to try to get that credit to apply. I don’t mind at all, though. If it would have applied, the only difference it would have made would have been to make me not take the one speech class I took at Wabash, which I thoroughly enjoyed. So, really, it would have been a bad thing if it had worked that way.
I guess I shouldn’t have been all that surprised, though. I’ve always been a baseball person, and I think I’ve made the argument here before that a huge draw to baseball, for me, is where it is played. It is played* in the open air under the sun, when the weather is beautiful and the grass is impeccably green. Sure, football is played outside, too, but then the weather is turning cold, the leaves are falling, and everything is in the process of dying. Plus, football doesn’t quite give you the same opportunity to drink the atmosphere in so completely as baseball. That seems clear enough in the architecture of the games. Look at baseball stadiums. They are works of art, opening up to graceful city skylines or, in the case of a few minor league teams, into the wonder of nature. Football stadiums are fully ringed with seats, all the focus completely on the field. There seems to be a bit of a move away from that mindset in places like Lucas Oil Stadium with the window and Heinz Field with the open end, but by and large, football stadiums are solely focused on function. It’s a big reason why, for me, Winter Classics largely fail in football stadiums but are huge hits in baseball stadiums.
*At its best, anyway.
All of this is a prelude to this: it upsets me to no end when teams feel they have to tinker with their stadiums. This came up the other night when the USA played Puerto Rico the other night in Miami’s new ballpark. Some Marlins bigwig was up there talking about the different formulas and considerations that go into having the roof opened or closed, or opening or closing the back wall and how that affected offensive and defensive numbers. Which then led to John Smoltz* observing how big this park played, which led to the Marlins guy talking about how they were going to look at the numbers after a couple season and decide how they were going to have to tweak the park most likely to encourage more power numbers.
*I think it was Smoltz, anyway. Could have been Matt Vasgersian, I didn’t take any notes.
I like to think I showed some considerable constraint by not screaming at the TV. If I thought there was a prayer I could have been heard in Miami, I would have. No! NO! Please God, NO! Does nobody give a damn about what has made baseball great all these years? It’s like the front office of MLB suddenly realized in the last couple years that they are way behind the NFL in popularity and have now knee-jerked to try to emulate. Please, don’t get greedy, baseball!* In a country this big that spends so freely on entertainment, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being second place. And, if you haven’t noticed, the NFL is in a bit of a precarious spot. Sure, the numbers keep going up (other than actual game attendance), but there are a whole lot of changes coming to for safety which could well alter the whole popularity thing again. Besides that, all these things are cyclical and have been since the dawn of time.
*Far, far too late for that, I know.
Please, baseball, enough with the tweaking to try to appeal to every last person on the planet. You were more than good enough as you were. You’re starting to come off like turkey.* There is no need to keep on with interleague at all, let alone expand it by evening out the leagues. Baseball is not a conference sport, it never has been. Embrace what you are, embrace what you have been, baseball! Not all parks are created equal. That’s always been the case, that’s always been the fun, and especially been the fun of debating the success of players. Embrace that! Not every park needs to have the same incidence of home runs, doubles, etc. Build the damn park and play it as it stands! You hear a lot about Fenway and Wrigley and the bemoaning that comes with changes there, but you might notice that practically all those changes are coming outside the fences, not inside. Just because a ballpark plays bigger or smaller than average does not mean you have to go move the fences or the plate. It is what it is, and you deal with it!
*“I hate turkeys. If you stand in the meat section at the grocery store long enough, you start to get mad a turkeys. There's turkey ham, turkey bologna, turkey pastrami,.Someone needs to tell the turkey, man, just be yourself.” - Mitch Hedberg
Petco Park in San Diego has been a pitcher’s haven since it was built. This year, it’s been announced that the fences are coming in to encourage more offense. Why? It’s not as if the fences were impossibly long or anything. 322 down the lines, 402 at the deepest. That seems pretty darned reasonable to me. If you have a 500 foot fence, you might decide somebody was a little overenthusiastic. Even though the Giants made that work for years and years. You build the park, you play the park as it turns out. You know you won’t be hitting a lot of homers in your park, Padres and Marlins? Then don’t build a team that depends on power. You want to play in a bandbox, Cincinnati? That’s just fine, but make sure you have enough offense to keep up with people at home. Or load up on ground ball pitchers and watch over-anxious visiting hitters fail while they swing for the fences.
It’s called strategy. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s what makes the game fun. There are plenty of sports where the environment is largely static and irrelevant. Like, all of them. Baseball is different. There is no reason to conform and make everything so similar. Be proud of what makes you different, as a sport and as a team. You built a very nice stadium, Miami. My brother has been to it and has very nice things to say about the stadium itself.* So what if you aren’t going to hit a ton of homers in that park. You’ll have great pitching flocking to you and you need to load up on guys like Jose Reyes in his prime.** You only need one or two guys like a Giancarlo Stanton to be enough of a menace on the road. As long as you win much more often at home, you’ll be fine.
*The neighborhood, not so much. But then again, the White Sox don’t necessarily play in the best part of Chicago, either, but it’s still a great time.
**Note to the Marlins: Emphasis on “like.” Do not actually pick up Jose Reyes after he’s already had success and looks to be breaking down. Honestly, it doesn’t seem like it would be that hard. Hasn’t every metric ever shown us you’re better off developing your own talent than trying to buy free agents?
You don’t need to be football, MLB. Sure, baseball is not the king of sports as it was before the ‘94 strike. That’s okay. It’s not as if you aren’t successful if you’re not first. Bide your time, stick to your guns. If you build it right, they will come. No matter where you put the damn fences.