October 3, 2012
Mariners to Move Safeco Fences In
Over time, baseball teams develop identities, and even if the players change, the identities stay the same. The Yankees (and the Red Sox, for that matter) have cultivated a slow, plodding, methodical style of three-true-outcomes baseball that scores lots of runs and takes its time doing it. The Cubs, until recently, were the team who struck out the world when pitching and wouldn’t take a walk to save their lives. The Twins were all about manufactured runs and control pitchers.
The Mariners have an identity, based largely around 1-0 losses and the brutal, crushing inevitability of death. And some of this can be attributed to the players—this is the team that has tried Adam Kennedy as a designated hitter in recent years. But as Egon Spengler put it, “It's not the girl, Peter, it's the building!” Safeco Park has been absolutely brutal on offense. This has probably not had much of an effect on wins and losses—what Safeco takes way from offense it gives back to pitching and defense. So Safeco isn’t causing the Mariners to lose, it’s just subtracting from the sum total of joy and happiness in the universe.
So the Mariners are going to alter their fences to increase offense:
The fence will be moved in from 4 to 17 feet at different points in left field and 4 feet from straight center to the right-center gap. Additionally, the 16-foot-high hand-operated scoreboard down the left-field line will be moved back and no longer be part of the fence, so the outfield wall will be 8-feet high all the way around the park.
Jeff Kingston, the Mariners assistant general manager who was part of a committee that studied the situation, said the changes won't turn Safeco into a hitter's paradise but will even the playing field to a degree.
"We still think it's going to be on the pitching side of the spectrum," Kingston said. "Our approach all along was to make it more fair and be closer to the middle. We still want it to be a pitchers' park and build around pitching and defense, but we wanted to give hitters a chance to where if they really square it up and hit it 390 or 400-plus feet that they'll be rewarded."