I’m not saying that Adam Dunn’s towering blast at San Francisco should have been his second home run of the game Thursday; in fact, I disagreed with Rob Dibble, who thought the ball hit a seat and came back onto the field of play. The way the ball rocketed back after hitting something indicated to me that it hit the concrete wall, in play, and was correctly ruled a double.
But, as I watched still another controversy about whether or not a ball was a home run, the thought crossed my mind (again) that some of these new ballparks are just too quirky. Why can’t ballpark design have as a requirement an obvious delineation between what is a home run and what is not?
Is it worth it to have some goofy feature on or around an outfield fence and not be able to tell when a ball stays in or goes out?
Citi Field in New York saw the Nationals get the short end twice last year on disputed home runs, most notably the ridiculous right field cutout that features odd angles and an upper deck with a yellow sign overhanging the area that makes it difficult to tell what a ball is doing out there.
AT&T Park in San Francisco has the odd right center field wall that Dunn supposedly hit, and on top of it sits a short railing that, if hit, is a home run while the concrete it sits on is in play - a matter of inches.
Petco Park, where the Nats will play this weekend, has its share of odd angles and quirks in right field. Then it’s onto Houston, where Minute Maid Park is an umpire’s nightmare in left center field with a yellow line that goes horizontal, then vertical, and part of the field is out of view in front of the bullpens.
How are umpires supposed to see these things in a split-second from hundreds of feet away?
Florida, a football stadium, is strange in left field with a scoreboard that doesn’t extend all the way to the corner, so a batter can hit a ball down the line and get a cheap homer, but smack one a hundred feet farther and get a double.
I saw a home run overturned there ten years ago by now-retired Frank Pulli. He went to the first-base camera to watch a replay after St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa disputed a call, then raised two fingers and ruled double. He was reprimanded by the commissioner’s office for doing it, but he got the call right and years later, the practice is now accepted as standard operating procedure.
Here’s where my common sense thought comes into play:
1) It should be required that any barrier between home run and ball-in-play has to have a yellow line dividing the two. Some parks have it and some don’t.
2) Configure the walls so that if the ball clears the yellow line, there’s nothing behind it to hit so the ball comes back onto the field. In other words, homers should disappear over the wall or into the seats so there’s very little, if any, dispute as to what happened.
Since Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened in the early 90s, we’ve seen an unprecedented era of new stadiums featuring the latest technology, such as massive video screens and fields that can absorb amazing amounts of rain.
Surely, HOK and the other designers can figure out a way to make sure home runs are gone and doubles and triples are obviously in play.
It will speed up the game and make for fewer umpires’ mistakes. These gentlemen have their hands full as it is.
By the way, Nationals Park is very well designed and “plays fair,” as we say in baseball. I doubt if we’ll have any disputed home runs in the years to come on South Capitol Street.