I know I am not the first person to post on this issue, and I am sure that I won't be the last. But I had an experience that I had to share with my Padres brethren. Last year I traveled to New York to see the Padres play the Yankees. It was a chance to see the old Yankee Stadium before they closed it and, more importantly, it gave me a chance to walk into a house full of Yankees fans in my Padres gear. No one could go with me so I went alone and was pleased to run into a few Friar Faithful while I was there. I have to say, the Yankees fans were very polite to us, if a little full of themselves. I suppose that comes along with being a Yankees fan, the sense that your team has been anointed by God to be the only team that matters, God conveniently providing the Red Sox who are hated but worthy and are clearly there to give His team something to do. Anyway, I chatted with a Yankees fan who had a lot of opinions on a lot of things. What caught my attention was his observation that "The Padres will move their fences in because people like home runs."
People like home runs. That stuck with me. Yes, I suppose that is true, fans do get really jazzed to see home runs, but is that what we really want baseball to be all about? Fans also get jazzed by hockey fights and crashes at the Daytona 500 but does that mean that they should encourage them? I know, a home run is an athletic feat and fights and crashes are not so it isn't an even comparison but the truth is they are all spectacles and that is what gets the fan excited. To me this is as empty as needing a scoreboard to tell you when to cheer. If you need a scoreboard to tell you to cheer, you aren't a baseball fan. You are welcome, please, spend your money, but you're not a baseball fan. If home runs are all that matter then let's bring the fences in to the league minimum and just sit back in our seats and watch batting practice.
Baseball is more than that. It is the hit-and-run. It is the suicide squeeze (which we just saw recently for the first time in forever). It is a pitcher toying with a no-hitter. It is a team not giving up and fighting back from six runs down and winning. Baseball is 9 players using their skills to beat the other 9 players. It isn't just one big bat smacking the heck out of the ball and trotting around the bases, as fun as that is for the scoreboard-cheering crowd.
But that is the philosophical reason for not moving the fences. There is also a very practical reason. If we move the fences in, the Padres will get more home runs...
and the other team will get more.
Not that we can't get some good bats. We have the best home run bat in baseball right now in Adrian "El Titano" Gonzalez. But lets be honest, we are never going to be able to take a big bat on the free agent market. Everytime a proven big bat hits the market, a big-market, deep-pockets team will throw a bucketload of cash at them (can you say Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez?) and we will be left with our spunky guys that are good at station-to-station ball in our newly shrunk park. Sure, we could draft some athletes and spend three-to-five years coaxing them through the minors but more often than not when they get to the show their bat will be mediocre at best. Or we could pull off that genius trade, as Kevin Towers has very ably done many times, to get a bat in. Which is, of course, how we got Adrian. But if we can only get bats two of the three possible ways, and the Yankess, Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers, Angels, etc. can get them all three ways, where does that leave us? Sitting in our seats watching the other guys smack them out.
Having a pitchers park forces our team to build a team that can actually win. One that attracts great pitchers and uses all 9 players to win. It isn't easy, but it is doable. What we will never be is the Yankees, writing checks to every slugger that we can find. And that is fine. I don't want us to be the Yankees. Because my friend at Yankee Stadium got his wish, the new Yankee Stadium is a home run heaven. The Phillies, who played there recently commented that it was a joke. Think about that, the Phillies, who play in a band box of a park, think that new Yankee Stadium is a joke. And that Yankees fan who knows everything got to watch his boys in pinstripes lose one to the Indians 22-4. I'm not saying that will happen every day but something tells me that on that day he didn't like the home run so much. And I am betting that by next season the Yankees move their fences out a bit.