6 More Met Home Runs in Philly; Is Something Wrong with this Ball Park?

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Tuesday.

As if the 4 home runs the Mets hit Monday night weren’t enough, they slugged 6 more on their way to an 11-1 thrashing of the hapless Phillies at Citizens’ Bank Park in Philadelphia. But 3  of the shots make me wonder about the fairness of this particular ball park. For starters, Michael Conforto hit one in the first, good for two runs that went 363 feet. In the sixth, Neil Walker hit a solo shot 368 feet. In the 7th he hit a second that went just 349 feet.  While the other 3 were genuine bombs, (a 3-run shot by Cespedes, a monster two-run shot by Lucas Duda and an equally impressive two-run belt by Curtis Granderson,) the first 3 I mentioned make me want to look at the dimensions of the park. The right field power alley is a mere 369 feet, only 4 feet further than Camden Yards which has long been considered a ridiculously easy park to hit home runs in.  The left field alley is but 374 feet.  For comparison, the power alleys at Shea Stadium used to be 385 feet.  Also, Philadelphia does not compensate for the short dimensions by building high walls, like the Green Monster in Boston or the high scoreboard Ebbets Field used to have. From the right field foul pole across to center field the wall is only 13 feet 3 inches high.  In center, the wall is but 6 feet high, which does allow an agile outfielder to rob a home run from an opposing batsman. The highest wall is just to the left of dead center, where it is 19 feet high. If the walls were higher, like the 37-foot Green Monster more balls would slam into them for doubles (or even singles if today’s non-hustling batters continue not to hustle.)

Philadelphia has always been a city of “gbatterly” love, where pitchers had to excel just to survive. Baker Bowl, home of the Phillies from 1887 to  1938 had an insanely short power alley of 300 feet to right center and 280 down the line. Around 1920  a 60-foot wall was built to compensate. Also it had an enormous amount of foul territory where pop flies could be captured for easy outs. While nobody cleared the roof of the clubhouse behind that short wall, Rogers Hornsby once shattered a clubhouse window with a four-bagger.

While Shibe Park AKA Connie Mack Stadium  where the Phillies moved in 1938 and Veterans’ Stadium which opened in 1971 had seemingly reasonable dimensions, the ball jumped out of both stadiums. The right field wall at Shibe Park was raised in 1935 not out of any interest for fair play, but to keep outsiders from being able to see the action.  Until the Depression, the Athletics tolerated rooftop viewers as the Cubs always have.  But that ended with the wall being raised by one of the remaining Shibe family.    The Phillies’  present home makes as little sense in this era of larger stronger players as Baker Bowl did in 1920 and needs similar work-an even higher wall or screen. This won’t happen because the Phillies have never been known for spending money on park maintenance. Each of the above-mentioned stadia was falling into decay well before it closed.     At Baker Bowl, rather than using lawn mowers the team allowed sheep to graze on the outfield grass until the 1920’s. In both 1903 and 1927, rotting wooden bleachers collapsed during games which had attracted larger than usual crowds.  The 1903 calamity killed a dozen, while only one died with 50 injured in 1927. As early as 1954 the Phillies’ ownership estimated getting Connie Mack Stadium up to standard would cost a million dollars they weren’t about to spend. They knew they couldn’t increase either the seating capacity (about 30,000) or ease the parking problem of a stadium built in 1909 when cars were a rarity. Their lot never held more than 850 cars and a planned parking garage was never built.  As the neighborhood went south people feared to leave their cars in what parking the stadium had. While this isn’t a worry now, pitchers fear to bring their low ERA’s to Citizens’ Bank Park owing to the hyperinflation they suffer there.

While the early edition of this piece was available this morning, i have been unable to finish until now when afternoon ball is nearly finished and night games remain. The Mets and Phillies, both of whom sport extremely young starters turn to their wily foxes in this one.  The Mets go with the ageless Bartolo Colon while the Phillies turn to Jeremy Hellickson. The Dodgers’ near-no-hitter man Ross Stripling will face the best the Braves have in Julio Teheran. The Royals’ Ian Kennedy has to rface the best the Tigers can throw, namely Jordan Zimmerman.  This is the former Nationals’ first try against the world champions. The Royals have made him feel rich as a Kennedy in run support, 13 runs over his first 2 outings. Easily the matchup of the night is the last one, in San Francisco.  There Zack Greinke of the D-Backs faces Madison Bumgarner. If ever there was a need for the bedside computer I recently acquired, using it to listen to a matchup like this stands out.

Before mentioning any baseball birthdays, I’d like to note the passing of former pitcher Milt Pappas. He passed away at age 76. He put up a 209-164 record between 1957 and 1973.  I remember him with the Cubs in the earliest years after I discovered baseball. He was an All-Star twice in 1962 and once in 1965. His first MLB outing was two months after his high school graduation           and it was against the defending World Champion Yankees. Kind of leaves Prom Night in the dust. He was the other half of the infamous Frank Robinson trade.  The Reds’ president Bill DeWitt called the 30-year-old Robinson “an old 30,”  and sent him to the Orioles for Pappas.  The O’s promptly won the next World Series, and the only postseason play Pappas got was in 1969 with the Braves. He gave up 3 runs in relief to the Mets. In 1972 with the Cubs, in the twilight of his career he no-hit the Padres at Wrigley Field. After 26 outs in a row Larry Stahl walked, but Pappas got the next man.  The Cubs would not see another no-hitter on either side for 36 years.

R I P Milt Pappas.

Brandon Belt is 28 today.  The Texan has been with the Giants since reaching the show in 2011.  They drafted him in round 5 in 2009 from University of Texas.  He chose the Longhorns over the Red Sox who had drafted him 3 years earlier.   While nobody’s All-Star, he’s got two World Series rings-from 2012 and 2014. He belongs to the Giants until 2021 thanks to an extension signed 11 days ago.

Marlins’ manager and the man Yankees’ fans call Donnie Baseball, Don Mattingly is 55 today. The native of Evansville, Indiana was a 19th-round Yankees’ draft choice in 1979 and reached the show late in 1982-a meteoric rise for such a late draft choice at that time. Before injuries curtailed his career after 1995 he put up a .307 lifetime average and once homered in 8 games in a row.  He was an All-Star every year from 1984 to 1989. He took home 9 gold gloves, the last in 1994, injured or not.   He coached for 7 seasons under Joe Torre between the Yankees and the Dodgers, then managed in Los Angeles for 5 stormy seasons. The Los Angeles Times crucified him before he had managed a game.  The team was in a shambles as its two owners were so engrossed in their bitter divorce they left the team in  the lurch. But somehow Mattingly made it a winner that year and a playoff team just 2 years later.  In spite of reaching the playoffs in 2014 and 2015 the new ownership would never give him a contract extension, so he left for the dangerous waters of Miami, where more managers sink than swim.

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