Good riddance to Tal’s Hill

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For the past few years, the Astros have discussed getting rid of Tal’s Hill, that little rise of grass on the warning track in center field. It was supposed to happen last offseason but the Astros’ playoff run went later than the people planning the renovation anticipated (i.e. a postseason run happened at all) but, as we noted recently, it is going forward this offseason.

In fact, this very day the equipment is on the field in Minute Maid Park, getting rid of one of baseball’s weirdest park features:

I’m fine with this. Tal’s Hill was kind of dumb. It was a forced quirk that came at a time when ballpark designers went with faux-retro designs. It seemed fun and unique when first revealed, but it was totally inorganic, like so many other distinctive features of ballparks built in the 1990s and early 2000s were. Pointless overhangs and jutting outfield walls. Friezes. Things that, in old parks, were necessitated by real estate constraints (e.g. Fenway Park has odd dimensions and the Green Monster because they literally did not have the land to build the park in a different way). The new ballpark designers were trying to force history and charm on people from day one. Thus, Tal’s Hill.

We’ve mostly gotten out of that retro-era and form is starting to at least attempt to do a better job of following function. Thank goodness. In that spirit, good riddance, Tal’s Hill. A design feature people liked because the Astros told them it was fun and meaningful, even if there was no purpose for it whatsoever.

Nationals owner Mark Lerner had his left leg amputated

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Mark Lerner, son of Ted Lerner and a co-owner of the Washington Nationals, had his left leg amputated earlier this month. He was diagnosed earlier this year for a rare form of cancer that a attacks connective tissue and treatment had been ineffective, so doctors removed the limb.

The news was revealed in the form of a letter Lerner wrote to Washington Post columnist Barry Svrluga, who had inquired about Lerner’s uncharacteristic absence from the ballpark of late. Lerner:

“With my doctors and medical team, we decided that amputation of that leg was my best choice to maintain the active and busy lifestyle that I have always enjoyed. The limb was removed in early August and I’m healing well, cancer-free, and looking forward to my eventual new prosthetic.”

Lerner, 63, has been known to dress up in a Nats uniform and shag fly balls with the team during batting practice. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery and, if his prosthetic allows, some more BP shagging at some point in the future.

New Marlins owners are going to dump David Samson, keep the home run sculpture

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The Miami Herald reports that the future Miami Marlins owners, Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter, have informed Major League Baseball that they do not intend to retain current team president David Samson. Derek Jeter will replace him as the person in charge of baseball and business operations.

Samson has been a polarizing figure in Miami and has been seen as Jeff Loria’s front-facing presence in many ways. He led the effort for the team to get its new stadium, which led to political scandal and outrage in Miami (not that he didn’t get his stadium). In 2014, he appeared on “Survivor.” He did not survive.

What will survive, however, is the famous home run sculpture in the outfield at Marlins Park. You’ll recall some reports earlier this week that Sherman and Jeter were thinking about removing it. If so, they’ll have a lot of hurdles to jump, because yesterday the Miami-Dade County government reminded them that it was paid for by its Art in Public Places program, it is thus owned by the county and that it cannot be moved without prior approval from the county.

I know a lot of people hate that thing, but it has grown on me over the years. Not for its own aesthetic sake as much for its uniqueness and whimsy, which are two things that are in extraordinarily short supply across the Major League Baseball landscape. Like a lot of new and different bits of art and architecture over the course of history, I suspect its initial loathing will increasingly come to be replaced by respect and even pride. Especially if the Marlins ever make another World Series run, in which case everything associated with the club will be elevated in the eyes of fans.

On this score, Sherman and Jeter will thank Miami-Dade for saving themselves from themselves one day.