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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #20: The lifespan of a ballpark gets shorter

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We’re a few short days away from 2017 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2016. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

On October 2, the Atlanta Braves played their final game in Turner Field, beating the Tigers 1-0. This coming year they will begin play in the new Sun Trust Park, just up the freeway in the Atlanta suburbs. while two teams play in parks over a century old and while other clubs have no intention of leaving parks that are 25 years-old or more, the Braves’ time in Turner Field lasted a mere 20 years.

The Braves’ move, announced a couple of years ago, seemed like an odd, opportunistic outlier. A bad lease for the city combined with an aggressive and generous handout from a nearby local government in one of the few major cities in the country where gentrification and development of a once downtrodden urban core has not arrested the old pattern of flight out of the city center and into surrounding areas. Places like Detroit, Cleveland and New York have seen sport teams move into or back into the city after years in the burbs. In other places, downtown ballparks built in the 1990s and 2000s find themselves in newly vibrant neighborhoods. While the mutli-purpose stadiums of the 1960s had a shelf life, with the exception of Turner Field, the more modern ballparks of the past 20-25 years will no doubt prove more venerable, right?

Not all of them. The Texas Rangers aren’t moving downtown, but they announced in May that planned to begin play in a new, taxpayer-funded retractable roof ballpark in 2020 all the same. This to replace Globe Life Park in Arlington, which opened for business way back in 1994. By the time it closes, Globe Life will have outlasted Turner Field but not many others.

It still seems unlikely that any other relatively new ballparks will be replaced by even newer parks in the way it was done in Atlanta and Texas. Heck, even old and obsolete parks like the ones housing the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays do not yet have anything approaching concrete replacements in the pipeline yet. But after the Braves and Rangers received unexpected new homes, nothing would be all that shocking anymore.

Giants place Hunter Pence on 10-day disabled list with right thumb sprain

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The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.

Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).

Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.