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The First Pitch: May 21-23, 2022

Editor’s Note: TGG is taking a long weekend off to formally say goodbye to family who’ve left us in the past few years. In the meantime, we have a little something to say about fence alterations, below—and we have a new add to our Interviews section, as we chat with all-time A’s hit king Bert Campaneris. The First Pitch will return to full daily strength on Tuesday, May 24.


This week has provided more grist to the gist that major league hitters have more fragile egos that their pitching counterparts. 

Over the winter, the Baltimore Orioles moved back the left-field fence at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. In a sense, they had to; the ballpark yielded 289 homers in 2019, the second highest total ever recorded (after the 303 at Denver’s Coors Field in 1999). Last year, 277 deep flies left the field; that was the fourth-highest total, ever. 

Some saw the move as a chance to restore the balance and give Baltimore pitchers, so thoroughly hammered over the past five years from the bandbox conditions, some much-needed relief. So far, the expanded left field appears to be working; only six other ballparks have conceded more homers than Oriole Park in 2022, and while a still-bad Orioles team aren’t going to become champions overnight as a result, their pitching staff’s 3.86 ERA is on pace to be the third-best since moving into Oriole Park in 1992

But this past week, some guys whose job it is to crush the ball are starting to get their feelings hurt by Oriole Park’s enlarged field dimensions. On Tuesday, two home runs weren’t enough for the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who lost a chance for a third when it hit off the left-field wall; with the old dimensions, it would have easily sailed into the seats. “I’m pretty upset,” Judge said after the game, “(Oriole Park) just looks like a Create-A-Park now.” Yankees manager Aaron Boone, a former hitter, echoed Judge. “He almost had three (homers), but Build Your Own Park got him.” 

Baltimore hitters, who play 81 games a year at the storied ballpark, haven’t been happy either. Slugger Trey Mancini: “Nobody likes it. No hitters like it, myself included.” 

Oh, boo hoo. 

There have been alterations of the field dimensions at many ballparks over the last 20 years. Most of them have been to bring the fences in. Have you been hearing the pitchers complain about it? No. They realize that home runs and high-scoring games bring in the fans and the money and the chicks who dig the long ball. When pitchers allow a home run to a part of a ballpark that, just a few years earlier, would have been an out on the warning track, they hold in their emotions, maybe shout a few expletives into their glove, and move on. You don’t see them carping to the press afterward. 

But the hitters, they’ll throw a fit and complain about it until their voice gives out. Judge and Mancini aren’t the first guys to show their thin skin on the subject. When Detroit opened spacious Comerica Park in 2000, first-year Tiger Juan Gonzalez—who with the Rangers was feasting on the relatively small Ballpark at Arlington—had his numbers severely neutered; he called it a “horses**t park” and refused to sign an extension to stay at Detroit. Petco Park debuted at San Diego in 2004 and immediately infuriated the team’s top sluggers; Phil Nevin had his feelings hurt so much by the ballpark’s expanded dimensions that he angrily confronted Padres GM Kevin Towers with a postgame rant witnessed by reporters. 

Both Comerica Park and Petco Park have since reduced their field dimensions. As has New York’s Citi Field, Seattle’s T-Mobile Park, Miami’s loanDepot park, and San Francisco’s Oracle Park. They were all considered pitching ballparks. But not anymore. 

And what do the pitchers say about that? 

Nothing. 

Their egos aren’t as brittle.


Shameless Link of the Day

Ed Attanasio chats with 19-year infielder and six-time league leader in stolen bases Bert Campaneris, who discusses about his time with the 1972-74 world champion A’s, Charles Finley, salaries and, yes, the time he threw a bat in anger at Detroit pitcher Lerrin LaGrow.

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