In the ABC drama "LOST" Benjamin Linus is told that he must move the island to save the island. This obviously seems like an insane, and impossible, request to make of anyone. Nevertheless, Ben, who's sole purpose in life has been the protection of the island, does as he is told. In the Season 4 finale, he turns a frozen donkey wheel that results in the island disappearing from it's physical location.
And all of this has really just been an excuse to tell you that I love LOST. Great show. Screw you guys who hated the finale.
I hope that moving the fences in at Petco Park is a more simple process than locating and turning a mystical frozen donkey wheel.
As you have no doubt heard by now, Petco Park's dimensions are changing for the 2013 season. Corey Brock had the story yesterday and you can read it here.
As highlighted in the article, the major moves are as follows:
• Moving in the wall that runs from the right-field porch to right-center 11 feet. The wall will also be lowered to match the height of the sub-eight-foot wall in left and center field.
• The out-of-town scoreboard in right field will be relocated. Seating modifications in that area will be announced later. In right-center, the wall will move from 402 feet to 391 feet.
• The wall in left-center will be moved in from 402 feet to 390 feet.
• The visiting bullpen, currently down the right-field line in foul territory, will be moved to center field behind the existing home bullpen area.
Again, I'm assuming by now you are aware of this. The "Move in the Fences!" argument has been perhaps the longest standing inter-Padres fan base argument in the franchises history. And those who campaigned, loudly, for such a move have achieved their goal. It does leave one wondering: what on earth will we argue about now?
But enough about that. The question is whether this is the right move or not. And anyone who tells you that they know for certain that this is a mistake or the right decision is lying. The walls are moving in 11 ft and 12 ft in right field and left field. That's substantial. An article on Fangraphs from January 3, 2012 shows that the effect of Petco on left-handed hitters was devastating regarding their ability to hit HR's. But you'll see an increase in left-handed hitters to hit singles, doubles and triples. Is sacrificing those singles, doubles and triples worth more HRs? Time will tell whether those numbers are effected at all.
It stands to reason that next year will see an uptick in HRs. And likely to follow, an uptick in offense.
What remains to be seen is how much of an effect this will have on the Padres pitching staff and bullpen, a strength for the Padres during their tenure in Petco Park. What further remains to be seen is whether this will increase the teams ability to lure free agents to San Diego. We aren't likely to know that for a few years once some data exist on how Petco Park plays.
On the more immediate horizon is this question: following a career year, will moving in the fences make Chase Headley more likely to sign an extension in San Diego? Was that part of the equation? I don't know the answers to these questions.
I was never for moving in the fences, as detailed in this blog post from 2011. But if the modification of the fences leads to a more successful team, I'm all for it. Because that's all that should matter. Will this make the team better? That's the only question that matters. Any argument regarding entertainment value of one style of baseball vs another is pointless and meaningless. Is this a smart baseball move? They've done their research in making this move. But does anyone really know?
And that's the takeaway here. The moving of the fences in raises a lot of questions. Questions that no one, despite all the data and research they've done, can answer. What is not up for debate is the fact that the Padres, in 8 years of Petco Park, experienced 4 of the most winning seasons in their franchise history. Whether the park had some, a lot, or anything to do with that is not clear. But to move the fences, despite the team's relative success, is a bold move.
In LOST, once the wagon wheel was turned, it caused the island to begin jumping through time. This was only stopped by detonating a hydrogen bomb.
Unintended consequences lurk with any move like this. That doesn't necessarily mean those consequences are negative. But right now, we simply don't know.