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February 4, 2002

Breaking Balls

Breaking Balls: MLB Cribs

by Derek Zumsteg

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 The Reds are moving stadiums for 2003, and two teams may have new digs for 2004. The Reds are headed into the Great American Ball Park, where walking onto the field will get you fired.

It's pretty cool looking, with this weird gap/notch in it. I wonder if they're just getting silly over at HOK SVE, and are going to start taking design cues from cartoons next - so when the Marlins and Devil Rays get their replacement stadiums they'll look like the Hall of Justice and the much cooler Legion of Doom flying-helmet-thing.

The GABP's dimensions:

 

WHERE           DISTANCE

------------------------

Left Field          328'

Left-Center         379'

Dead Center         404'

Right-Center        370'

Right Field         328'

I don't have a good modern comparison here -- it's almost a flipped Jacobs Field (which is 335'/370'/405'/375'/325'), and a slightly asymmetrical version of Montreal's Olympic Stadium (325'/375'/404'/375'/325'). Jacobs plays as a hitter's park, while the Big O typically plays as neutral or slightly favoring hitters; so the new stadium should provide joy for fans of the Dunn-Kearns tandem.

That's it for this year. After that, though, we've got two in rapid order:

The Padres are supposedly moving after 2003 into the newly-dubbed PETCO Park (snicker), but given the hard path they've had to tread to get this thing built, I don't blame them for not offering much information on their site. Searches for the dimensions turned up a couple sets of wildly different measurements; but I'm fond of Ballparks.com, and they list The Pet as:

 

WHERE           DISTANCE

------------------------

Left Field          334'

Left-Center         367'

Dead Center         390'

Right-Center        387'

Right Field         322'

I've got nothing good for modern comps. A cozier Oriole Park at Camden Yards, maybe? Help me out here. Anyway, you can find a webcam and eyeball it for yourself in the meantime - the San Diego Union Tribune's Padres page has a nice link.

Side note: The stadium sponsorship story broke in the Union Tribune about two weeks ago, claiming that both sides were close to a deal. And yet, petcopark.com is registered to a Padres employee, and was created in mid-November of last year. Meanwhile, the White Sox sold the rights to Comiskey Park to U.S. Cellular (Motto: "We won't be around long enough to honor our contractual obligation.") and renamed it U.S. Cellular Field. High-level talks were reported in late-January. But the domain name, uscellularfield.com was registered back in October by Teamworks Media, a company that handles media relations for players and teams. Hmm...

Want to know what your team's park is going to be named? It might be worth looking up combinations. In fact, the Phillies, who have a new stadium coming in 2004, devote an entire section on their site for what is alternately referred to as "New Ballpark" and "Phillies Ballpark." Heck, in some diagrams it's even "Phillies New Ballpark." Can't the team just be honest and call it the Your Ad Here Ballpark? That's what everybody's thinking, anyway.

How's Phillie Phield going to play, I wonder? They say it's designed to have "field dimensions that are entertaining for fans [...] and fair to both pitchers and hitters," but the listed dimensions are about as plain and symmetrical as can be.

 

WHERE           DISTANCE

------------------------

Left Field          329'

Left-Center         369'

Dead Center         401'

Right-Center        369'

Right Field         330'

There's also an angular center field wall thing I'm going to ignore.

In terms of raw dimensions, the park seems to match up the closest to Busch Stadium in St. Louis (330'/372'/402'/372'/330', 8' total difference), which plays neutral. It also isn't that far off the dimensions of the stadium they're leaving, Veterans Stadium (330'/371'/408'/371'/330', 15'). The Vet has historically played pretty neutral as well.

Of course, foul territory also matters. The new stadium's going to have some space close to the dugouts (51') and behind the backstop (listed 49.5'), but not much at all in the outfield. In all, there'll be much less foul ground than in Busch (which has 64' listed behind home, though that's been disputed - some claim it's closer to 60'). I'd expect New Ballpark to play as a slight hitter's park. (Thankfully it will not be another park that has to get the never-denied permission of the league to violate the rule of 320' minimum down the lines, and 400' minimum to dead center, like most of the recent parks have.)

Here's an interesting question for the reader, then: Which non-Expos team, without a stadium project underway, gets a new park first?

In the American League: The Red Sox look like they're sticking to Fenway, while the White Sox just signed a naming rights deal and haven't been in New Comiskey for that long. The Royals play in a beautiful park, even if it doesn't have enough amenities -- I can't see that place as a likely teardown. The A's have no support for a local stadium, and the Giants own the territory rights everywhere the team might move. The Twins haven't made much progress so far, and I don't think they're going to get any money until Pohlad's gone and there's someone trustworthy to make a deal with. The Devil Rays couldn't plan a Sunday picnic, much less a new ballpark project. The Blue Jays are having enough problems with currency conversion that trying to scrape up money to contribute to a stadium must look daunting.

In the National League, now that it appears the Cardinals are on their way to having a privately-constructed stadium, only the Marlins and Mets remain in older stadiums that beg to be torn down. The Marlins are in the same boat as the Devil Rays, in that they stink and have bad relationships with local political powers. And the Mets? Sure, the Yankees and Mets would both like new stadiums, but the sheer cost and difficulties associated with getting that kind of project underway makes it unlikely.

After the two parks open in 2004, there's one new stadium coming in St. Louis and then it would seem we're not going to see anything else for a long while. A more interesting question: Will these new, baseball-only stadiums have the lifespan that their multi-use parents did, or will they last as long as the old parks like Fenway and Wrigley Field, the models these new kids looked to for inspiration?

Derek Zumsteg is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.

Related Content:  Marlins Park,  Dimensions

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