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.
The Padres today announced Social Media Night, a fun sounding event I was barely able to acquire tickets for due to the speed at which it sold out. It got me thinking about what it was that made the event to desirable to attend. Sure, it includes access to a suite, a shirt, and an opportunity to rub elbows with various Padres brass. But that’s not what sold it for me.
As best as I can tell, here are the three main reasons I attend Padres baseball games:
- To watch and cheer on talented and exciting Padres teams
- A feeling of pride in the team and city after being a fan my whole life-. This is weird and complicated, and something I’d like to address more in future posts.
- To spend time with people I like
The third reason is obviously the motivating factor behind the fun of Social Media Night. There’s a great community of Padres fans on Twitter, which has enhanced my fan experience more than perhaps anything in my personal history of Padrefanhoodom.
The routine when going to games during the Jack Murphy days was parking or taking the trolley, finding our seats in the ballpark in whatever group I came with, watching the game, then turning around and heading home. It might be my maturity as a person, the proximity of Petco to downtown, or a combination of factors, but that’s changed! Meeting and talking with other passionate Padres fans at games and otherwise has been an absolute blast. It’s made Petco Park feel like a place at which I belong.
This is be exactly the relationship the Padres want to have with fans. They want fans to feel that sense of association, and to have fun at the ballpark while almost completely detached from the outcome of the game. The team can encourage more of it by curating small to medium sized groups of fans.
It’s easy to see how a social media fan group developed because Twitter did the curating for us. We’re all die-hard Padres fans who like talking about the Padres on the Internet. Through that medium, we get to know each other, enjoy games together, build relationships, and greatly enhance our fan experience. I’m convinced that if the Padres can find a way to replicate those experiences for larger numbers of fans who aren’t doing it themselves on Twitter, they would be well on their way to building the fan culture we longtime die-hards have always wanted.
It would be difficult. It would require lots of thinking outside the box. But it’s not impossible. The Friarhood, and the guys behind the Bring Back the Brown campaign have done it, albeit on a smaller scale.
The power behind a self-perpetuating, connected group of Padres fans who feel a part of something is undeniable. It’s what the Padres need to create the identity they want. And it would be a lot of fun.
After ripping a pretty harsh one into the Padres previous foray of craft beer festival events (Terriblefest), I feel I owe it to fans and the team to report my findings from the other fest of the season: Oktober. Fest.
For the un-initiated, Oktoberfest was the second pre-game local beer tasting event hosted by the Padres this year. I’ll give Tom Garfinkel first crack at telling the story:
“We had an overwhelming turnout at Beerfest and we want to build on that success, as well as improve the operational flow of the event,” said Padres President and COO Tom Garfinkel. “We listened to fan feedback and we are making some changes for Oktoberfest, in order to speed up the service and ensure folks have a great experience.”
My version of Beerfest goes a little different style:
“I arrived an hour before it was supposed to end expecting to hang out with friends and sip on a little something something. Instead, there was no beer to be had anywhere in the stadium [very slight exaggeration], I was met with lots of frowny faces, and Tommy G apologizing to the crowd.”
However you want to phrase it, Oktoberfest was more than building on the “success” of Beerfest, it was an attempt to make things right. The Padres were nice enough to allow me to buy another ticket to that event, so I paid my fare and was greeted with a well organized, great tasting, not knowing how loud I’m talking evening at the ballyards.
The beer dispensaries were spread evenly all across the park at the park lawn, while $5 cups of beer were prepaid at separate booths. Apparently people in San Diego really do love their beer, though everyone had unfettered access to their favorite, or new favorite brewery.
The beerlight of the event was a visit to the Lost Abbey booth. I’m by no means a beer snob so I won’t bother trying to describe the taste, but I will describe the 9% ABV quoted to me and what can only be explained as an almost syrupy texture. That cup of ale forever changed my life.
Afterward, some baseball was played, the Padres won a great game, Star Wars backpacks were worn, and the Padres missed the playoffs. I think that covers everything. Oh yeah, there my crying about missing the playoffs.
For the first time ever I’ll be live and in person at opening day. Thanks to my buddy Nate, he and I will enjoy the game the Elitist Terrace, also a first for me, though the seating level will lose some luster now that the peons are allowed to mix amongst us civilized folk.
I’ll be tweetering live throughout the afternoon, although the quality of the content will probably depend on how well the new $5 beers do their job. So be sure you’re following The Sacrifice Bunt on Twitter for valuable and insightful information that will surely follow. Check the Twitter for updates on my wardrobe so you can say hi and experience me in all my real life glory.
Update: I’m wearing a sand jersey and gray Volcom hat. See you there!
I haven’t brought it up much on The Sac Bunt, but since developing an interest in the study of economics I’ve become a strong critic of publicly funded sports projects. JC Bradbury, a favorite sports blogger and professor of economics, eloquently explains why. (video below)
It’s very easy to see a new stadium going up, people spending money on tickets, concessions, but what you don’t see is that something else didn’t get built across town. We didn’t see waitress jobs lost, movie theater jobs lost, it’s just transferring [money] from one place to the other.
Because of the other-worldly effects PETCO Park has on baseballs, anyone who considers themselves a student of the Padres must also consider themselves a student of park effects.
For this reason (also because they’re simply fabulous) I read developments in park effects with great interest. MGL recently shared thoughts on a better way to measure the park effects of teams on the road.
..the unbalanced schedule means that, for example, the Dodgers, Giants, and the Padres play a lot of games in ARI and COL, the two most hitter friendly parks in the NL. And pitchers, especially starters, because they don’t pitch every day, may play an inordinate number of games in one park or parks or another. This can make a big difference in terms of their raw, unadjusted (by their road parks) stats.
As they stand right now, park effects simply average all NL ballparks except PETCO when computing the Padres’ park effects on the road. This isn’t the best way since the team plays more games in Arizona and Colorado, for example, than they do in parks from the NL Central and NL East. Moreover, not all Padres pitchers pitch in the same road parks. Since hitters play every day and are less likely to play in one road park more than another, this detail is extra important for pitchers.
MGL continues: (A larger number means the park favors hitters)
Here are some Padre pitchers and the average park run factor of all the road parks they played in prorated by the number of TBF in each of those road parks:
Peavy 1.00 So he did in fact play in average road parks (actually not the 1.01 that you would expect)
Mujica 1.03 So if his road ERA were 5.00, that would actually be 4.85 after park adjusting it, which would make a difference of .05 runs in ERA overall (as compared to if you used the generic 1.01 for his road parks)!
Chris Young 1.04 Besides sucking due to a large decrease in velocity, he also played in heavy hitters’ parks on the road, costing himself .075 in overall park adjusted ERA.
Hopefully we’ll see more of this, and gain a stronger understanding of players’ true abilities..
Hat tip to Rob Neyer’s Wednesday Wangdoodles.
No sand anywhere. I know Jeff Moorad doesn’t like the color, so how about a compromise: no sand in the marketing stuff, but the jerseys stay. Deal?
Apparently I’m in the bargaining phase of the grieving process.
With this hit we are off to the store!
The tall, two story billboard behind the left field scoreboard once proudly displayed the image of Padre pitcher Chris Young. While he probably won’t become a nationwide household name, Young was an all star in 2007, has a reputation as a good but not great pitcher, and is well liked Padre fans. In the same way as so many billboards before his, Young has now been replaced.
With little kids.
These kids are probably a bit older than those previous, though. And at least these play baseball.
Young on the way out?
Is this a precursor to a trade of Chris Young? After all, a similar purging of Jake Peavy’s marketing materials took place before the team decided to move him last offseason.
Young has two years until free agency and earns $6.25 and $8.5 in 2010 and 2011 respectively. His value at such a salary could be a gamble considering his injury status, performance inconsistency over the past few years, and an economic depression putting downward pressure on free agent prices. On Young’s side in terms of value are PETCO Park inflated raw numbers, a solid 2007 season and all star selection, and my perception of his perception being a “solid number two starter” from around the league.
I’m curious as to Chris Young’s trade value at the moment, and could get behind letting him go. Though perhaps those in charge feel he should be kept around, but it just doesn’t make sense to tout him as a face of the team right now.
Speaking of keeping people around, it’s high time for Kevin Kouzmanoff and Heath Bell to go on the block as well. We don’t need two third basemen, and Bell’s value will likely never be higher.
It’s clear the club doesn’t want to go all Jeff Francoeur on fans and anoint youngsters as stars before they prove they’re ready long term. This makes sense. But I for one don’t get excited about coming to a ballpark that’s down the freeway from good little leaguers. The Padres need something, or someone, to to catch our imaginations.
Hidden in an online survey offered to fans by Padres President and COO Tom Garfinkel resides a big, somewhat official, juicy piece of news.
Question 24 of the survey reads:
The team is currently considering moving in the outfield fences to increase offensive production and home runs, though it will make it more difficult on pitchers.
The verbiage corroborates what we presume were potential PETCO dimension changes I wrote about last offseason.
I say even it out all ready
I like the idea of a pitchers’ park insofar that uniqueness to me is valuable in and of itself. But when there are other considerations at play, as is unfortunately too often the case, they need to be considered.
Most evidence shows that teams who play in neutral parks gain the biggest home field advantage. That’s a serious consideration. Lets even it out already.
Special thanks to Axion over at GLB for posting the survey and introduction.