A day in the life of this usually laid back small universe Internet columnist is fairly simple. One day you get to write about a gift of love from your brother. They next day you get to write about the gift of greed from another source altogether – one that really has nothing to do with that source’s caring for any of us beyond our value to the bottom line of their most profitable interest in their cash cow – that very expensive franchise they own in Major League Baseball that many of us follow as the Houston Astros.
The Houston Chronicle used their Chron.com self this Thursday afternoon to report that the Houston Astros finally had released the details of their already one-year delayed plans for changing the configuration of the playing field at Minute Maid Park. From what we can see and read, so far, these changes fail to impress as either improvements – or as complete representations of the truth, but you must decide that matter for yourselves. It still won’t matter in the sense that the Astros are going to do this thing at the end of the 2016 season and have the new face and “services” ready for Opening Day 2017. Here’s the Chron.com link:
Look! We’re not communists here. We also understand and respect the Astros ownership to do whatever they honestly can to improve the profitability of their investment in their major league baseball club, but not if it diminishes the quality of play in the ballpark – by turning the place into a home run band box – or because it is using “player safety” – by words or suggestion – to justify the addition of three new drinking bars in the new “revenue stream” space obtained by the removal of Tal’s Hill – and the addition of field level seating on the left side of the new dead center field corner spot.
So, what does all this “new” material on the planned changes mean? Here’s what we see, as best as we can barely see it:
- Tal’s Hill is definitely gone. The 44-photo slide show provided by the Chronicle works on the impression that center fielders are constantly falling on Tal’s Hill. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the nearly 17 years the current field at MMP has been in play, there have been very few falls relatively to the number of games played and no serious injuries. The imagery of falling players is designed to psychologically make us believe that “the sky is falling” when it comes to the potential dangers of Tal’s Hill. Figure it out for yourselves. – Is Tal’s Hill going away because it is a danger? – Or is it going away because it stands in the way of more profitable ways of using the areas of our still 436′ deepest center field? – Either way, what we think of Tal’s Hill doesn’t matter – even if the Astros are using “player safety” as a political hoodwink akin to Captain Renaud’s shock in his discovery that there’s gambling going on at Rick’s place in the classic movie “Casablanca.” – Love or hate Tal’s Hill all you want. – The real issue is the shorter center field fence this change brings. – Will MMP now become a home run band box in 2017?
- The Band Box Test Will Now Unfold in Regular Season Games. In some of our previous columns on this subject, we have suggested that a season of pre-testing would be helpful before making a decision to bring the center field distance in. (Of course, if ownership really isn’t concerned about the place becoming a bandbox, and they really want those 3 new bars and field level seats added, asap, further pre-testing on the increase in MMP homers per game these changes produce is no matter of importance, anyway. The new report states that MMP will go from having the deepest CF distance of 436′ to only the 6th deepest in MLB at 409′. Doesn’t sound too bad until you remember that the 315′ distance in left field and the 325′ distance in right field are what have made our 436′ deep CF the only saving grace for pitchers who are smart enough – and talented enough- to throw pitches that often get batters to hit the ball up the middle as long fly outs in Houston’s soon-to-be departing version of the Death Valley distance that once far exceeded MMP’s at the old Polo Grounds in New York. With the shorter 409′ center field, that advantage will now be lost to pitchers.
- What happens to the Conoco Home Run Counter? If you cannot find it on the Astros’ new graphic of how “Deep Center” supposedly looks today in Photo # 1 above, check out our actual Photo # 3 of the present basic configuration. You will find the Conoco HR Counter on the first concourse fence, upper left side, facing out to the field – and usually surrounded by fans. What happens to the Conoco HR Counter now? Even if that question really has no serious bearing on the first big real issue – the potential conversion of MMP into a HR band box – it would be nice know – since the “MMP-all-time-dinger-counter” has been struggling to become a ballpark tradition from Game One at the field since the place’s 2000 beginning.
- The Batter’s Eye Green Background in Photo # 2 appears to have been moved to the left side of deep center by the new configuration. – If so, how is that going to work? – If so, it won’t work. Batters do not need moving light colors of shirts stirring around in their head-on to near peripheral field of vision at the same time they are trying to hit. – This one is definitely Major Issue Number Two – and it is every bit as important as the venue band box question.
Oh well, with those three new alcohol bars coming in as new services in the former area of deep center that will be gone next year, it look’s like we Houston fans soon enough will be trading in “Tal’s Hill” in exchange for “Jim’s Still”.