What An Atmosphere For Baseball!
5:07 PM EDT on May 1, 2023
To instantly improve your offense, consider playing some games at Harp Helú Stadium in Mexico City. It combines the fun dimensions of Cincinnati's homer-friendly ballpark (400 feet to center, 325 down the lines) with the goofy physics of Colorado's (which is 2,000 feet lower in elevation than this one). The fly-ball pitcher is screwed. The ground-ball pitcher is no better off. The artificial turf at Harp Helú plays fast, turning harmless singles into extra-base hits. Just watch the first hit of the two-game Mexico City series the Padres and Giants played this weekend, a "double" off the bat of Thairo Estrada on Saturday night:
What we had here was some good and truly juiced baseball. On Saturday alone, the Padres and Giants combined for 27 runs on 30 hits, 11 of them home runs. Manny Machado hit two himself. In 2.2 relief innings pitched for the Giants, Jakob Junis gave up four himself. It was hard not to feel bad for him, for every other rocked pitcher in this game, and for the outfielders who kept tracking back to the wall optimistically only to see, say, a Fernando Tatis Jr. hit with an expected batting average of .070 sail way over their heads. Hitters and pitchers alike did seem to enjoy the vibe in Mexico City, even if they found the run environment completely ridiculous. "Really enjoyed this—the environment was great, everything was great—but this isn’t really the way we play baseball,” Giants starter Alex Cobb said.
Cobb must be awarded the NL Cy Young for what he was able to do the day after the bananas 16-11 Padres win on Saturday, striking out seven in five innings and giving up only one home run. Sunday's game featured just four of them, the other three off Padres starter Yu Darvish. Perhaps the altitude had finally caught up with the hitters.
Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that some kind of humidor malfunction might have been responsible for a slightly different baseball on Sunday, but that MLB didn't think there would be a noticeable effect. The baseballs were stored in the humidor for two weeks at the same settings they are at all non-Coors MLB parks, Slusser noted. Should they have been kept at Coors settings? Humidors function differently depending on the climate; they're meant to bring baseballs to average. In Denver, where the air is dry, the humidor adds moisture to the baseball, deadening it. In more humid parks, the humidor dries out the baseball. As Ben Lindbergh explained in a 2017 piece for The Ringer, setting the Mexico City humidor to Coors Mode wouldn't actually help, because Mexico City isn't as dry: "In Mexico City, the relative humidity during the summer months is considerably higher than 50 percent, so if a team were to store baseballs in the same conditions that the Rockies do at Coors, the balls would dry out and fly farther." Hm! That's not what we want! And the baseballs can only be humidified so much before they exceed MLB's weight requirement; a Major League baseball can't be more than 5.25 ounces. So the baseball must fly. There is no other way. If a dozen pitchers must spend the next few weeks rehabbing their ERAs, that's a them problem.
Must be nice to witness this offensive explosion! Must be nice to see your team socking lots of dingers and getting those extra base hits to fall! What I am saying, Rob Manfred, is we can't "grow the game" if we neglect the untapped market of La Paz, Bolivia. Let's elevate our efforts to reach that rarefied community. It's high time we bring baseball to La Paz, and my Detroit Tigers would be happy to provide it.
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