Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Dear Tampa Bay Rays, Your Ballpark Sucks

Tropicana Field is the stupidest, silliest ballpark in the Majors. The park's ground rules are like backyard wiffle ball rules. I remember in my backyard our porch jutted into the field of play, slicing across the imaginary foul line. So if a ball landed in the fair part of the porch, it was a ground-rule triple. It was a stupid, silly rule and we knew it. Tampa Bay is a Major League facility with stupid catwalks. If a ball hits them in foul territory, then the ball is dead. If a ball hits some of them in fair territory, it's a homerun. What the hell?

Then the white roof. What was wrong with a darker shade?

Fenway Park has its own weird set of nooks and crannies. But those have history, and were often out of necessity. There's a story behind each one of Fenway's quirks. The story behind each of the Trop's annoying oddities is that the stadium is poorly designed. Plain and simple.

Then there's the onslaught of noise pumped through the speakers. Listening on the radio and the artificial sound generation is obvious. The music blares, and it's relentless in both volume and frequency.

Everybody clap your hands...

Finally, the fans suck. The Oakland Athletic removed tarps in their park to accommodate the demand for tickets to their recent playoff games. The Rays didn't have to do that with their tarped off sections. For Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS, the biggest game in their franchise's history, a friend of mine was able to get tickets at face value the day of the game. That shouldn't be possible for a game of such magnitude.

Everyone always said that when the Rays became competitive, the people would come. That hasn't really happened. The people come when the Red Sox and Yankees come. The Rays were dead last in attendance this year. 18,645 per game. 900 more people per game went to see the 100-loss Marlins play. On average, 45.3% of Tropicana Field's seats are empty. And that doesn't include the tarped sections.

Worst ballpark in the country, worst fans in baseball.

Red Sox Can't Sink Rays

It was a game of mistakes. Fielding mistakes, pitching mistakes, maybe even some managerial mistakes. And the winner was the team that capitalized on those mistakes just a little bit more than the loser.

The play of the game was Evan Longoria's 3-run homer in the 5th. If Clay Buchholz is able to get Longoria out, or even hold him to a 1-run or 2-run hit, then the game plays out in a completely different way. All Buchholz had to do in that at-bat was not give up a homerun. Longoria won that battle.

The Rays continued to make fielding miscues and errors. Even the umps made mistakes. The Red Sox took advantage of most, but not all of these mistakes. The Sox never made any big hits on their own. They scored their runs off groundouts, a wild pitch, and a soft David Ortiz single. That run knocked in by Ortiz was the only Sox run driven in by a hit. The Sox were 2 for 14 with runners in scoring position.

The Rays took advantage of a glaring Red Sox weakness: the middle relievers. Franklin Morales and Brandon Workman combined to allow the Rays to take the lead in the 8th inning. Overall, the Rays bullpen executed slightly better (4 innings, 2 hits, 1 run) than the Red Sox bullpen (2.2 innings, 4 hits, 2 runs). And that was one of the deciding differences.

So Game 4 tonight at 8:37. That start-time worries me because Monday night's game took 4 hours and 19 minutes. If that happens tonight then the game will end around 1 o'clock in the morning.

Jake Peavy takes the mound for his first playoff start in a Red Sox uniform. He faces Jeremy Hellickson. Peavy has only made 2 career postseason starts, the last in 2006. He was lousy in both. Fortunately the Rays don't hit him very well. Unfortunately, the Red Sox don't hit Hellickson very well either. Except for Ortiz (.375 with 3 HRs in his career against Hellickson) and Saltalamacchia (.320, also with 3 HRs).

Expect another game decided by mistakes and the ability to capitalize on and minimize the impact of those mistakes.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Mike Carlson