Sunday, April 18, 2010

Repeating the past’s mistakes

  This past week the Minnesota Twins opened their new ballpark, Target Field. It is being hailed as an old-time baseball park with a return to outdoor baseball and much better than the old domed stadium which had been described as a drab affront to baseball, with the artificial grass causing the ball to hop 20 feet over a fielder’s head, a gigantic plastic ‘baggie’ serving as the right field fence and the roof that the fielders would lose fly balls in. It seems that everyone has forgotten why the Twin Cities wanted a domed stadium in the first place. I remember when I was a kid the Twins played the Yankees in Bloomington’s Metropolitan Park. It looked like a nice stadium, unless it snowed in April or September in Minnesota. Then the Minnesota Twins would make the nightly news as a joke of a team trying to play in a snow covered stadium, with snow covered seats, and snow covered parking lots. The TV announcers would wonder why anyone in their right mind would have major league baseball in Minnesota during these months. And this was before ESPN and all the cable channels. The ridicule would be exponential in today’s media. As a more practical matter, the Minnesota Twins are a regional team that draws fans from the Dakotas, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Northern Minnesota who will drive as many as 6 hours to see the closest major league baseball team, the Twins. A big rationale for the domed stadium was that the team was losing attendance because families who planned in advance for their one weekend of major league baseball of the year would never return after driving 6 hours only to see the game rained out. An unintended benefit of the quirks of the domed stadium was that the home team figured out how to play in the stadium during the long season, while visiting teams had trouble figuring out how to see the fly balls and play the unpredictable bounces off the artificial grass and baggie fence. When the Twins won the World Series in 1987 and 1991, they did not lose a single home game in either Series. The dome was hailed as a major home field advantage with the loudest fans because the dome trapped in the noise. The stadium did not become drab until the Twins started losing, but most empty stadiums are drab. I’m eagerly waiting for the next big snowstorm in Minnesota during baseball season to see if the fans clamor for the return of what they used to call “Dome, Sweet, Dome”.

  The Yankees are off to a great start, but I am afraid they have also made the mistake of forgetting the past. The Yankees have always bought many of their best players, but some are unsuited to handle the pressure of playing in New York. Javier Vasquez was a promising young pitcher with the Montreal Expos when the Yankees bought him for the 2004 season. He had a so-so season, was awful in the playoffs, and left for Arizona after the season. After some mediocre years with the White Sox, Vasquez had a big year with a mediocre Braves team and now the Yankees have signed him up for this season. His first 2 starts have been awful. I’d have hoped that the Yankees had learned 6 years ago that this guy cannot perform in pressure situations. If the Yankees are lucky, they will ship him off to some other team before he can help ruin another playoff season.

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