By Jim Moore
If I were to be the cynical curmudgeon that I usually am, I’d criticize the Mariners for moving in the fences and tell them to get hitters that can knock it out of any park no matter the thickness of the marine layer.
I’d tell the hitters that they already have to suck it up and shut the hell up and quit whining about the dimensions of Safeco Field. They’re getting millions of dollars to play baseball – deal with it and make it a home-field advantage and quit letting it mess with your heads; you’re coming across like a bunch of mental midgets.
Though there’s a part of me that feels that way, a bigger part is glad that the M’s made the move. I’m sick of watching a sad offense at Safeco Field, where the Mariners are batting .218 this year. I know it’s not true, but it seems like they’ve been feeble forever.
With the shorter dimensions at Safeco Field, a 30-home run season from Jesus Montero seems realistic. (AP photo)
If some of these warning-track shots turn into home runs, great. If there’s anything I miss about Kingdome baseball, it was a hitters’ ballpark – the M’s lost a majority of the time there, too, but at least there was more offense, resulting in 7-6 losses as opposed to the 1-0 and 3-1 losses we see most of the time at Safeco Field.
I still like pitchers’ duels, but not night after night after night. If you bet the under on every Mariners’ home game the past three years, I’m guessing you’re reading this post from Tahiti, where you’re currently lounging and sipping your drink with the little umbrella in it, and I’m hating you from afar.
Last night during the Angels-M’s game, everyone was talking about the warning-track outs that would be home runs next year. Guaranteed, the opposite will happen next year – there will be home runs that everyone will say would have been warning-track outs last year.
Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak, when he’s batting right-handed, will benefit the most. One of the two will lead the Mariners with 30 home runs next year. I’m ready for that to happen. It’s been a joke the past two years – Miguel Olivo being the team leader with 19 homers last year and Kyle Seager with 20 this year.
When you have a major-league team, your leader should have 25 home runs minimum if not 30. Nineteen or 20 doesn’t cut it, and fortunately that will never happen again.
The fences were moved in the most in left-center field, 12 to 17 feet. That will benefit right-handed hitters the most, of course. Kevin Calabro wanted right-center field to be moved in more than 4 feet to help Montero, who has opposite-field power.
But the dimensions in right field and right-center field have never been a problem in this ballpark. They were more than fair already.
I’d also argue that if the Mariners truly want to help out Montero, they’d move the bases closer to home plate because the guy can’t run. Maybe then he could turn some of those shots off the walls into doubles.
Jason Vargas will be hurt the most. I’ll be honest, I’m stealing these stats straight out of Geoff Baker’s game story in The Seattle Times this morning: Vargas has allowed 26 homers on the road and only nine at home. Those numbers will change next year.
It might make it tougher for Felix Hernandez to win Cy Young Awards in the future, too.
But all in all, I’m glad they moved the fences in. It’s ridiculous when you spend most of the spring talking about marine layers and mind games.
The Mariners don’t have to play from the back tees anymore. If it helps them and helps attract free-agent sluggers, all the better.
I’m ready to hear Rick Rizzs say: “Goodbye, baseball!” more than he ever has before.