Updated May 23, 2012 - 11:44 am
Time for Mariners to move in Safeco Field's fences
Should Safeco Field's fences be moved in?
Greg Johns, who covers the Mariners for MLB.com, gets that question all the time.
And last night, the topic came up again after Casper Wells launched a bases-loaded drive that died in Josh Hamilton's glove just in front of the left-center field wall. Later in the Mariners' 3-1 loss to Texas, Alex Liddi smacked one to center field that Hamilton tracked down as he ran into the wall.
On the postgame show on 710 ESPN Seattle, Matt Pitman pushed for the team to move the fences in, saying that in most any other park, the Mariners would have won last night's game 6-3 because of a grand slam by Wells and a solo shot by Liddi.
Before I continue, I need to be honest. The rest of this column is basically what I wrote in a Kitsap Sun column in January. But it still applies today. And I'm assuming you didn't read the original column, so I'm regurgitating that sucker today and essentially plagiarizing myself.
Balls like the one Casper Wells hit to deep left-center field at Safeco would be home runs in most major-league ballparks. (AP)
Like Johns, I just assumed it was fodder for sports-talk radio. Apparently it's more than that, which is good to hear.
I'd like to see more home runs at Safeco Field. More home runs equals more fun at the ballpark. More fun equals more of a reason to go to the games. More wins and cheaper beers would be even bigger reasons to go to the games, but neither is likely this year.
It's a good thing the Mariners don't have me heading up their should-we-move-in-the-fences? committee. I would immediately ask if I could swing the first ceremonial sledge hammer at the old wall.
I would resist the urge to do something really radical like move the left-field wall in 30 feet and raise the height of the wall to 40 feet and call it the Blue Monster. (Any guesses on the height of the Green Monster at Fenway Park? I would have guessed 60 feet, but it's actually 37 feet, 2 inches.)
I'd tweak the dimensions like they did at Comerica Park in 2003 when the Tigers reduced left-center field from 395 feet to 370 feet. At the time, Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski called 370 "a pretty normal distance," noting that the ball doesn't carry well to left field in Detroit.
The Tigers did not move in the center-field and right-field fences, and Comerica Park is still considered to be pitcher-friendly with dead center still extending to 420 feet.
This year the Mets also made minor adjustments to Citi Field. The wall is being moved in in all of the outfield areas from 4 feet to 12 feet. The wall will also shrink from 16 feet to 8 feet high.
"We're targeting to try to fit in, to be more normal, or more on average with everybody," said Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon.
That's what should be done at Safeco Field, too. Partly because of our thick marine air and partly because of the Mariners' lack of power, balls die in left-center field. Home runs elsewhere are warning-track shots at Safeco Field.
What would be so bad about leaving everything else alone but moving the left-center field wall from 385 feet to 370 feet?
Would Felix Hernandez and the rest of the Mariners' pitching staff be that upset? I suppose. But speaking as the president of the should-we-move-in-the-fences? committee, I would ask Felix if he's sick of losing 1-0 games? Whatever his answer is, I would tell him that I'm sick of watching them.
I love baseball, and I love a good pitchers' duel. But I don't want to watch them night after night. I also like to see guys cross home plate. And heck, give me a 12-10 slugfest once in awhile.
If you make a bad pitch to a power hitter, it should be a home run, not an out. I'd tell Felix that, too.
In the old Comerica Park, left-handers felt like they could challenge right-handed hitters in the strike zone, knowing that their mistakes wouldn't hurt them. Is there anything wrong with lefties needing to make better pitches in the new park to avoid longballs?
I would think not. The same holds true for Safeco Field.
Here's the other thing: Larry Stone of The Seattle Times advocates moving in the left-field wall because it will help attract free-agent, right-handed power hitters in the future.
If you're a right-handed slugger, would you want to play at Safeco Field with its heavy air and spacious dimensions? Adrian Beltre was a good hitter when he was here, but he's been a beast since while playing at Fenway Park and The Ballpark in Arlington.
When they built Safeco Field, I recall that the Mariners thought it would be possible to not only hit the ball over the left-field wall but out of the entire park. But it's never happened in a game -- and as far as I know -- not even in batting practice.
During the home-run derby at the 2001 All-Star Game, I was assigned to write a story for the Post-Intelligencer from Royal Brougham Way. Surely someone in the steroid era would knock one out of the park in the home-run derby.
Along with about 50 or so fans, I patrolled Royal Brougham Way for the better part of an hour and a half, foolishly waiting for a ball to head our way, but everyone went home empty-handed.
Again, you don't have to turn Safeco Field into a bandbox like the Kingdome, just something that more closely resembles an average major-league park.
The Go 2 Guy also writes for his website, www.jimmoorethego2guy.com, and the Kitsap Sun. You can reach him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo. Jim appears weekday afternoons from 3 to 6 on "The Kevin Calabro Show." He also co-hosts "The Golf Show with Jim Moore and Shon Crewe" on the podcast page at 710Sports.com.
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