Over at The Athletic, Andrew Baggarly and Eno Sarris have a story about how the San Francisco Giants are considering that which was once inconceivable: moving in the fences at Oracle Park.
The park, designed during the 1990s offensive boom, and thus intended to be both expansive and beautiful, is one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the game. Partially because of the huge right-center field and partially because of the weather. It’s also worth noting that the dimensions didn’t seem all that bad when a god like Barry Bonds was hitting titanic homers there but his retirement, plus the Giants’ failure to develop solid power hitters, has made its cavernous place seem even more cavernous.
The impetus, though, is just as much practicality as home run friendliness. Oracle Park is one of the only parks with on-field bullpens remaining in the game (Tropicana Field and the Oakland Coliseum are the others). Having pitchers mounds in areas where fielder’s range is less than ideal, and has caused injury in the past. The Giants are thinking about taking some of that acreage in right center and moving the bullpens out there.
It’s good that they have more reason to do this than just boosting offense, because baseball has a fairly sketchy history of such moves. Teams who are bad and who move the fences in tend to just see their opposition hit more homers because, well, you still need good players. An opposite example is one of my favorite ones. In 1990, the Cleveland Indians acquired speedster Alex Cole, who swiped 40 bases in only 63 games. Inspired to become the next Whitey Herzog Cardinals, the Indians moved their fences way back and planned to be all about triples and stolen bases and all of that, with Cole as the center of it all. The next year Cole stole only 27 bases and was caught a hefty 17 times, a young Albert Belle was the only guy on the team to hit more than 11 homers and the Indians lost 105 games. And so it goes.
Here’s hoping the Giants have better luck with their alterations.