The fence dilemma
Last night, Brandon Hicks hit what looked to be an opposite-field home run to the 362 mark in right, only to be robbed by the 15-foot high wall. Over the years, many a hitter has been robbed by the high walls in both power alleys. It was merely Hicks’s turn. Until most recently, the A’s have been a power-starved bunch, which when combined with the already pitcher-friendly dimensions of the Coliseum, has had many a fan and media member calling for changes to the field. CSN’s Casey Pratt, in particular, has had issues with the high wall. Last night he brought it up after Hicks’s double, and radio play-by-play guy Vince Cotroneo mentioned it in the postgame wrap. It didn’t matter that the issue was rendered moot once Jemile Weeks singled home Hicks, and Chris Carter’s blast in the 11th left no doubt about what a home run looks like.
Regardless of the outcome, there still remains a sense that the Coliseum’s deck is stacked too much in the direction of pitchers. You won’t find last night’s starter Tommy Milone complaining, that’s for sure. Then again, do you remember any M’s hitters reaching the warning track off Milone?
Pratt has long advocated that the high fence between the 362 and 388 marks in left and right should be taken down to the 8-foot height down the lines and in center. The high wall containing the out-of-town scoreboards could be kept intact, which makes sense since those are the most hitter-friendly parts of the park. I suggest going a step further by getting rid of the contrived “Jagged Edge” outfield fence design altogether, going with a fairly straight fence that lowers the alleys to eight feet and brings in the 367′ dimensions at the stairs in 10-15 feet. The out-of-town scoreboards would stay more-or-less intact.
The field would still play pitcher-friendly to fair, mostly because of the atmospheric conditions. Historically, the Coli hasn’t played as poorly as Petco, Safeco, or even AT&T. It may be Billy Beane’s desire to keep the ballpark geared towards pitching, since that’s been much easier to develop over the last several years. Yet it might make sense to change the dimensions to create a transition to a new ballpark, especially if the new place ends up with much more hitter-driven dimensions like Cisco Field. It’s easy to think that in the A’s current consecutive-games-with-a-HR streak, that power isn’t that hard to come by. Just remember the last two years of A’s squads. Power does come at a premium.