MAY 2000 | VOL. 4, NO. 5
MARC CIAMPA, a native of St. Albert, Alberta, Canada is the staff sports writer for Renaissance Online Magazine. A student at the University of Alberta, Ciampa is the public relations coordinator for the St. Albert Saints and writes a weekly article in the Edmonton Sun on junior hockey during the winter. During the summer he runs the official Calgary Cannons website.
I attended three sporting events in the Skydome in Toronto, Ontario, Canada this past year. The scores in each game respectively were 14-11, 19-7 and 16-10. Take a guess which two were the Major League Baseball games, and which was the Canadian Football League.
Stumped? So were the Blue Jays relief pitchers earlier last month when the Seattle Mariners rolled into town and racked up 47 runs in three games.
In fact, in the last 10 baseball games at Skydome, the Jays and their opponents have combined for an astronomical 180 runs. If you do the quick math, that's 18 runs per game!
In the first two series -- versus Seattle and Anaheim -- runs were scored with even greater frequency. The Jays, Mariners and Angels scored 142 runs, with 201 hits, 84 extra-base hits and 33 home runs in only seven games. Out of those seven, there were six games in which the winning team scored more than 10 runs and two games where the losing team scored more than 10 runs. There were more half-innings with three or more runs (23) than innings in which neither team scored (16).
Never mind that the players on the field keeping up, the members up in the press box were having an equally hard time, "We had to put in an order for more pencils," said Jay Stenhouse, the Toronto Blue Jays' Media Relations Assistant.
Stenhouse added that the score card most nights looked "like someone dripped a lot of ketchup on it."
If the problem was solely in Toronto, however, Major League Baseball could simply disregard it as an aberration -- such as they have done in Colorado over the years.
Unfortunately, "beer league" baseball is becoming a near-epidemic in baseball, and despite all of the league's best efforts to curb this trend nobody has a sure-fire solution.
The fact that any new ballpark being built seems to have the requirement of being a hitter's park is not helping matters. San Francisco's new park was designed so the winds coming off the bay blow baseballs right into it if they' re hit high enough. The Ballpark in Arlington, Camden Yards and Safeco Field in Seattle mare definitely not pitcher friendly either. Even in Houston, where the pitchers have always ruled the Astro Dome, the new Enron Field has gained the nickname "Coors Light" referring to Coors Field (right) in Colorado where 15-8 games are the norm.
Meanwhile, other ballparks that have traditionally favored pitchers, like Busch Stadium in St. Louis and Comiskey in Chicago, have had their fences moved in over the years.
In order to find a solution to skyrocketing batting averages and ERAs, one must find the source of the problem of course. Figuring out the high scoring problem in baseball is no easy task.
Is it these bandboxes springing up around the league? Juiced baseballs? Juiced hitters? Diluted pitching?
One of the wildest theories out there involves a solar flare from the star betelguise. These flares have apparently resulted in the Earth having a reduced gravitational field which in turn results in baseballs leaving parks easier.
Another theory is that there is no longer shame in striking out. "No one's embarrassed to strike out anymore. A lot of hitters will gladly exchange three strikeouts in a game if, in the fourth at-bat, they've hit a home run. That's how arbitration and free agency have changed the game," said Chicago Cubs' GM Ed Lynch.
And finally, many believe that a diminished strike zone causes high scores in a roundabout way. Basically, any pitch above the belt is now called a ball, while before it may have received a strike call. Also, more than ever before, a pitch inside does not intimidate hitters. More often than not -- as was demonstrated in the Chicago White Sox-Detroit Tigers brawl a few weeks back -- inside pitches lead to conflict.
So, then, what is the solution? In my opinion, The league needs to take bits and pieces from each problem that is brought up, then try to come up with the best solution. While this problem definitely needs to be addressed, they shouldn't go to the extreme and maximize their solution on each aspect.
If they do that, we'll be back here in five years debating what baseball needs to do to put more offense into the games.
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