Baseball has so many damn rules for every little thing, I don’t understand how outfields can be so variable. Some parks are really deep, some are shallow, some walls are massive fortifications, some can be tripped over, and they all seem to have different curvature besides. What’s the deal?
At least they’re more uniform now than when they had the Polo Grounds: LF: 279 LC: 460 CF: 483 RC: 449 RF: 257
My question isn’t so much what is the rule, but why is the rule? With all the recent home run record breaking, there’s been a lot of complaints about the variables I mentioned earlier. Why don’t the parks have a more uniform outfield? It wouldn’t have to be a major renovation, they could put up a temporary outfield fence of specific dimensions for example.
Why should they? That is part of the beauty that is baseball…every park is different. You have to adjust, adapt, and overcome. If every park was the same, the game would get as boring as…oh, football.
In the beginning …
Baseball stadiums were built to fit into the space available in a city. And since city blocks tend to be rectangular, stadiums usually had one fence deeper down one line than the other.
Then in the 1960s, more land was available to build stadiums and parks tended to be laid out with symmetrical dimensions.
At first everybody thought those were nice, but eventually denounced as “cookie-cutters”
So they started building stadiums again with odd dimensions just for the sake of having odd dimensions.
And baseball fans like it. So that’s the way it is.
A non-symmetrical stadium leads to specific strategies that make the sport more interesting. For instance, the Green Monster in Fenway Park gives an advantage to right handed hitters, who can hit a long fly off the wall for extra bases, where it would have been caught elsewhere. OTOH, a left-handed fly-ball pitcher would never stand a chance in Fenway.
Isn’t that only true if you assume that there would be more outfield behind the wall, instead of, you know, seats? Otherwise it’s just knocking down balls that would have gone out of the park.
Pro ballparks built in the last decade tend to strive toward these goals:
[li]An irregular outfield gives the home team an advantage. They know the odd bounces.[/li][li]The stands shall allow at least one area where a home run can actually leave the stadium. Fans love that.[/li][li]At least part of the outfield wall shall be low enough to allow dramatic, rob-a-homer catches.[/li][li]Get the fans close to the field of play (reduced foul ground and sunken luxury boxes.)[/li][li]Old-fashioned architectural features. The “ashtray” park is dead.[/li][li]“Signature” features. On TV, a fan should be able to identify the park within the length of a highlight.[/li][/ul]
Marley, there would be more outfield beyond the wall. The 3rd base line in Fenway is only 310 feet wheras most stadiums are around 330 feet. http://www.ballparks.com/baseball/american/fenway.htm
The other factor to note is that the distance of the outfield walls, at least within the variance we see in Major League Baseball, just doesn’t matter all that much. Teams can build themselves to take advantage of their home ballpark if the ballpark is weird enough, to a limited extent, but really you’re not changing the game that much if the left center field wall is at 380 feet as opposed to 370 feet. The advantages of knowing the intricacies of your outfield walls are quite overstated. How many World Series have the Boston Red Sox won recently?
On the other hand, imagine moving the bases to 100 feet apart instead of 90. Or moving the pitcher’s mound to 55 feet. Or having the foul lines 100 degrees apart instead of 90. Heck, do it for any other sport; change the distance of the three-point line or the width of a football field and you’d change those sports at a fundamental level.
Basketball already has been changed at a fundamental level. There was no three-point line at all before the 70’s; all field goals were worth 2 points. Something else must have changed as well, because the scores were IIRC much higher in the pre-three-pointer days than they are today.
Yankee Stadium used to have a much shorter RF line and a much deeper LF fence, but modifications to the park in the 1970s made them less dramatic, but Yankee Stadium is a stadium where you need your faster outfielder in LF more than RF because there is more territory to cover.
Some thought the Yankees gained an unfair advantage in the 1950s and 1960s because it was much easier for them to hit home runs, but most likely the Yankees dominated (until 1962) because they were a lot better.
SBC Park (formerly Pac Bell) has a short RF fence which many think was constructed so it would be easier for Barry Bonds to hit home runs there. However, it isn’t particularly easy to hit a home run in San Francisco unless you happen to be named Barry Bonds.
There aren’t that many symmetrical fields left in the majors: Dodger Stadium, Busch Stadium, Kaufman Stadium, Network Associates Coliseum (Oakland), Olympic Stadium, and Shea Stadium.
One of the big things under discussion when the Rockies came into the league, was how to build the ballpark. The studies showed that baseballs went 10% farther in the thin air. Some people wanted an enourmous field, to make it comparable to other parks, but then it was pointed out an huge field might make the homeruns more equal, but there would be a lot more drops infront of the fielder(cause if the wall is moved 20 feet back the outfielder will usually move 10 feet back) and rollers to the wall would turn into more triples, etc.
Judging from http://www.ballparksofbaseball.com/comparisons.htm
They more or less decided to go 6-7% larger then most of the new sea level parks, and kind of open the west wall to put the prevailing wind against the batted ball. But it still ends up with an ass-load of homers, oh well.