When the Marlins introduced the home run sculpture in their new ballpark back in 2012 there was great consternation. Most people thought it was garish and ugly. Some Marlins players even wondered if it was going to interfere with their sight lines and harm the team competitively. That was silly, of course. Only Jeff Loria has harmed the team competitively in any meaningful way since then. The sculpture has been a benign amusement.
Still, most people don’t much care for it. Add Mets starter Noah Syndergaard to the list. He tweeted this yesterday as the Mets left Miami at the end of their series against the Marlins:
I realize Syndergaard is in the strong majority as far as is opinion about that thing goes, but I kind of like it. I don’t want a replica of it for my mantle or desk and, if I ever build a ballpark myself, I won’t install one. But there’s something to be said for being a bit out there design-wise. I feel that way about the entire park in Miami, which many have criticized for its bright colors and modern design.
Baseball is insanely conservative, aesthetically speaking. This is not necessarily bad. Baseball’s conservatism has led to a lot of tasteful things like the Dodgers, Yankees and Tigers looking fantastic, day-in, day-out, with venerable uniform styles. It also led to some good back-to-basics ballpark design in the early 90s which pushed back against utilitarian buildings which made watching games kind of miserable. I tend to lean in favor of innovation and new stuff, but not everything new is good. Conservatism can rein-in the worst excesses of the visionaries.
But it’s a balance which can be tipped too far in either direction, I think, and in a lot of ways it has been tipped a bit too far in recent decades. Conservatism in uniform design has led to some bland choices. It also led to some comically self-conscious retro-designs in ballparks which don’t make a lot of sense historically speaking. Places like Marlins Park, Target Field and Nats park have started to work against that, thankfully.
The Marlins sculpture may not be everyone’s taste, but at least it’s trying something. It’s bold. The same goes for the Diamondbacks new uniforms which I don’t much care for at all but for which you still have to give them some points for creativity. Maybe they’re a miss, but maybe someone will take their cue, get creative and come up with a hit.
In the meantime, if some corneas get burnt, eh, that’s the price of progress.