We approach the subject from different angles, from chats about what type of baseball is most entertaining (and to what type of fan), to how the park affects free agent signings, or most annoyingly the “other teams can hit in Petco just fine” crowd, which is clearly not true.
After so many keyboards have died discussing the subject, the Padres today announced they’re finally moving in the fences. Lets have fun and approach this a little differently. Lets re-write Padres history. Pretend for a moment it’s 2004. Petco Park debuted and played perfectly neutral to hitters and pitchers. Phil Nevin never pointed and glared at Kevin Towers after that long fly out. We were then more aware that Brian Giles kicked all kinds of ass on offense, and we spent more time talking about the best looking Padres ever and a lot less time discussing the fences.
Now you’re sitting in 2012 following 9 years of completely neutral baseball reading The Sac Bunt on your tablet or phablet or whatever, and I make a rather indecent proposal:
The Padres should move the fences out. Way out, so far that Petco Park becomes the most extreme ballpark in baseball.
When looking at making a change, it helps to imagine what things would be like had that change always been the case, and propose the opposite. This process is a great way to remove potential bias based on what we know and are used to. And it’s helpful with the fences debate, because taking a neutral park and making extreme seems rather silly. Don’t you agree?
There’s more to it than that
Of course this isn’t the only way of looking at it, but it is enlightening. Other things to consider include the result–how sure are we that the changes will make the game neutral, or close to it? That’s a hard question to answer without looking at what studies have been done. Considering the Zona Boyz have been with the team 3 years now, and the Padres have presumably been collecting data for the 9 years it has been available, I’ll assume they’ve done their homework as best as can be done and this isn’t something taken lightly.
Another consideration is the potential advantage of an extreme environment. Opinions from people I respect about that possibility vary. Dave Cameron writes that the Mariners, after adjusting their fences this year have been “freed from [the] bondage” of having to rely on players with a particular skill set in their formerly non-neutral park.
MGL asks if anyone has evidence that pitching, speed, and defense can be tailored to provide a home field advantage. He doesn’t seem convinced by what’s out there (in 2009). Interestingly, in the comments section the same Dave Cameron suggests a team can indeed build a roster that creates an advantage for the home team. This discussion was from 2009, perhaps Dave has since changed his opinion about what’s possible or advantageous.
Differing ideas exist from inside the baseball world as well, even from former Padres employees. Former GM Jed Hoyer famously said he’d prefer to move the fences OUT rather than in, believing he could build a team around the park. Or he was just making a point, I wouldn’t know as I interpret everything I hear literally.
Former CEO Sandy Alderson favors a more neutral environment, supporting the potential move for the Padres and later an actual move as GM with the Mets. But I take anything an employee says about their employer’s ballyard with a blue and white grain of salt.
After following the debate for a large part of the decade, it’s obvious to me that anyone who’s absolutely convinced they know what’s best either knows something everyone else doesn’t, or needs to chillax a bit.
How many teams are there again?
“Uh sir, I have some bad news. Remember when you put me in charge of designing the bullpens at Petco Park, and I said that probably wasn’t a very good idea because I’ve never watched baseball before in my life, then you said ‘It’s cool brah’ and went back to your game of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3? That may not have been so cool, brah, because apparently there are supposed to be 2 bullpens.”
A conversation I’m pretty sure happened circa spring 2004. It’s about time that gets fixed. Same for doing something else with the weird party area in left field that never made any sense and no one will miss. Except maybe that dude who passed out there while simultaneously being only interesting event that happened in 9 years of that area being a thing.
Sorry to bring this up
It sucks the Padres won’t be able to use the park as an advantage, but we considering nobody knows if that’s even possible it’s hard to get upset about it. And if the Padres can fix other ballpark issues in the process, I say great. I also say we want Sculpin available while your’e at it. And that’s one more seemingly endless discussion we can put to rest. If we can move in the fences on Matt Bush I’ll be golden.