Neyer: Citi Field the pinnacle of The Commercial Era of ballpark construction

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Rob Neyer has thought hard about the various eras of ballpark construction. In today’s column he identifies The Utilitarian Era (think all of those long-gone parks of the 19th century); The Classic Era (Fenway, Wrigley); The Multipurpose Era (The Vet, Three Rivers) and The NeoClassical Era (think Camden Yards).

Bet you think that’s all the eras there are. Nope. Rob identifies a new, post-2008 era he dubs The Commercial Era, which he describes as ballparks built with something other than watching baseball as the primary purpose. And after spending a few days at Citi Field he has identified it as the quintessentially Commercial ballpark:

Citi Field isn’t a terrible place. But like the new Yankee Stadium, it could have been so much more. Considering how much money was spent, and the grand tradition of public architecture in New York, it should have been so much more. But this, I’m sorry to say, is where we’re at. Baseball stadiums are no longer palaces for the fans. They have become palaces for people who live in palaces, and places from which to hang garish billboards.

I’m not as down on Citi Field as Rob is. But his observations — specifically about the particular angles at which the billboards are placed — do make a pretty compelling case that the place is not a monetized baseball park but a baseball-ized cash machine.

Not that you can’t enjoy a ballgame in the joint. I enjoyed a couple of them there. But it is weird to see architecture that is not only an example of form following function but fundamentally altering function too.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.

Hey kids: don’t swing a weighted bat in the on deck circle

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Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about some studies of hitters who use weighted bats or doughnuts on their bats in the on deck circle. Turns out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, using a weighted bat for practice hacks does not speed up one’s swing when one uses a naked bat in the batter’s box. In fact, it slows it down.

There are lots of caveats here. The sample size in the studies are small and they all involve college and high school players, not big leaguers. The results, however, are consistent with previous studies and they do make some intuitive sense. This is particularly the case with batting doughnuts, which add weight to a very concentrated portion of the bat, thereby changing the center of gravity and thus the swing mechanics of the hitter.

Whether this is applicable at large or to higher level hitters or not, I still find it kind of neat. I always like it when people scrutinize ingrained habits and ask whether or not that thing we’ve always done is, in fact, worth doing.