June 14, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak (17) advances to 2nd base on a wild pitch by San Diego Padres relief pitcher Dale Thayer (55) during the 8th inning at Safeco Field. San Diego defeated Seattle 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE
The Mariners need to dry their balls, not move their fences.
Ah, Seattle in June.
Pictures of fresh-faced graduates fill our Facebook news feeds, torrential rain threatens to drown everything but the Space Needle, and of course, everyone's complaining about the Mariners.
Or, more specifically, everyone's complaining about the ballpark. The majestic Safeco Field, jewel of Seattle and apple of the taxpayer's eye. She sure isn't feeling the love these days, as fans blame the Mariners inability to hit on Safeco's wide dimensions.
It's not like the Mariners are trotting out a murder's row of potential hitters, but the thought of playing half of one's games in monolithic Safeco scares away potential free agent hitters, and stunts young player's development, conventional wisdom would have you believe.
But perhaps, the ballpark isn't the problem, or at least it doesn't have to be. Instead of moving in the fences - the solution du jour at the moment - all the Mariners really need to do is to dry out the baseballs before the game. Using a simple air dryer, the Mariners could solve many of their hitting woes.
After all, the Mariners shouldn't suffer just for playing in the fourth most humid city to house a MLB team, one that's more humid than Miami.
Of course, if you're a baseball purist then any thought of tampering with the balls to influence the outcome of a pitch has you in a seething, spitting rage. Revolted you will be then to learn that it already happens, and in the highest levels of organized baseball. Well, OK, it's the National League, but still.
The Colorado Rockies have long made it their practice to store their baseballs in a humidor, to counteract Denver's hitter-friendly atmosphere. Apparently the people of Colorado hate dingers, who knew?
But here in more humid Seattle the Mariners are stuck with their "pitcher's ballpark" and their naturally wet baseballs. A Mariners' team source that spoke on the condition of anonymity said that they do nothing different than any other baseball teams with the baseballs, just take them out of their package and rub some mud on them.
And every now and then a Prince Fielder type will come into Safeco and launch a few dingers and everyone will start saying, "see, it is possible to hit in Safeco!"
Sure it's possible, but it's harder.
And when it's harder, eventually people's numbers are going to go down.
Just ask Adrian Beltre. The year before Beltre joined the Mariners his OPS was a studly 1.076 with the Dodgers. The year after leaving the Mariners it was a very good .919. But his highest OPS in his five years with the Mariners was only .802. Think he doesn't believe hitting in Safeco can put you in a slump?
Has it ever occurred to anyone that if you're trying to build a young team the players might have more fragile psyches, and that continually failing time after time at home can have an adverse effect on said psyches?
That perhaps, seeing players like Chone Figgins and Jack Cust come to Seattle and get into slumps where they can't get out of their own way, and their failures compound each other by ever rattling them further at the plate?
Sure, you can say they should toughen up or not let it get to them, in the way that you can say a receiver should've caught a pass with too much zip if it hits him on the hands. But wouldn't a fan rather just see them hit the ball or catch the pass?
Never has the need for change been more apparent than this past month. When the Mariners young squad left Safeco, the bats came alive. They even scored 21 runs ... in a single game!
What happens when they return to the anything-but-welcoming confines of their home field? They score six runs in a three game series. Against the Padres. The only team Seattle is allowed to make fun of got its first sweep of the season because the Mariners are scared of their own stadium.
Drying out the baseballs won't give the Mariners some sort of unfair advantage against other teams, it'll just make a few more of those warning-track fly outs from Smoak turn into home runs, and maybe put a few more butts in the seats.
It might help Jesus Montero grow into a real slugger or allow Kyle Seager to really become a star. After all, moving in the fences would only help the home run guys, but drying out the balls would improve everybody's numbers.
In 2001 268 home runs were hit at Coors Field, in 2007, after the humidor was installed, there were 185. Wouldn't the reverse of that in Seattle be kind of awesome?
Because, with apologies to center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, the only Death To Flying Things around here is the humidity.