As we all saw Wednesday night on ESPN, new Marlins Ballpark isn't like any other ballpark. There's the "sculpture" that's set to make big happy time every time one of the home lads hits a home run. There's the fish tank behind home plate that doubles as a drinking fountain for the umpires on particularly hot days. There's the lime-green outfield fence, another all-time first in Major League Baseball.
And Lance Berkman's not real impressed (via the local NBC affiliate):
"I just feel like, if it were up to me -- and it's not; nobody asked me, and I don't know why anybody would care about my opinion -- but if I was building a stadium, I'd try to build it as close to like an older, cozier park," Berkamn said Wednesday night.
"I think one of the things about baseball that people gravitate towards is nostalgia," he continued. "I mean, that's why people love Wrigley Field and they love Fenway Park, because you can kind of step back in time."
Berkman might be right, but he might be wrong. It's perfectly reasonable to suspect that baseball fans, and especially baseball fans in Miami, are ready for a kitschy, postmodern baseball stadium to host their postmodern baseball team. As a non-Marlins fan, I'm glad they didn't build just another old-timey yard; those are tired, however familiar and pleasant.
But Berkman made a good point elsewhere, I thought. From this video clip:
It's the biggest ballpark in the game. People have tried this big-ballpark deal, and it never works. I mean, Detroit moved the fences in, New York moved the fences in. There's a reason why it's 330-375-400. I mean, that's a fair baseball game. You try to get too outrageous and you end up with something that is, I think, going to be detrimental to their ball club. I mean, Stanton hit two balls that are probably home runs, and they're both outs. And we ended up winning the game.
He's on to something, though his specific example isn't particularly useful. Yes, Stanton might have lost a couple of home runs Wednesday night. But visiting players are going to lose home runs, too. Will the Marlins' hitters lose more home runs than the Marlins' pitchers will gain?
That's hard to say. But whether the park is "fair" or not, it should have roughly the same impact on the hosts and the visitors.
That said, we do seem to have a consensus that huge outfields are not desirable. Berkman is absolutely right about the Tigers and the Mets moving their fences in. In both ballparks, the seeming impossibility of hitting home runs -- in the first three seasons of Citi Field, there were exactly zero home runs hit over the left-field fence by left-handed hitters -- became a big story, and thus a big distraction for the front office, while at the same time their hitters were demoralized.
At Marlins Park it's not 330-375-400; at Marlins Park it's 340-384-418-392-340 ... with an idiosyncratic 420 feet to the depths of the "Bermuda" triangle in deep right-center field. Dimensions, by the way, significantly greater than those in the Marlins' last home grounds.
I suspect that this won't stand. Maybe it's two years, or three. Maybe longer. But it's just a question of which lasts longer: the ballpark's massive outfield, or the home-run monstrosity beyond that distant center-field fence.