Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Monday, August 5, 2013

Wrigley's Dangers Exposed Over the Weekend

Skip Schumaker attempts to avoid crashing into the concrete barrier after crossing over the bullpen mound in pursit of a Wrigley Field foul ball (photo courtesy of Jon Soo Hoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)
I know this topic is probably a day old since the Dodgers left Chicago on Sunday afternoon, but I simply can't let the issue go.  This weekend's action at Wrigley brought to the surface some serious issues with the 100 year old Chicago ballpark that is in some serious need of some safety upgrades.

Baseball owners, as savvy and money conscious as they are, sure can be stupid with their overall investment sometimes.  By investments I'm referring to their players.

A team like the Chicago Cubs doesn’t blink at signing players to multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts in search of that elusive championship, but they can’t upgrade their stadium and shell out a half a million dollars to shore up unsafe areas of their stadium that are unsafe to players.  A slab of foam padding an inch and a half thick that anybody could buy at Home Depot for a few hundred bucks is the only protection between a charging hustling ballplayer trying to catch a foul ball and a brick wall.  In some areas there isn't any padding at all.

To make matters worse, Cubs ownership in search of more revenue created by additional seating, constructed seats that jut out into foul territory, just short of their bullpen.  To make them aesthetically pleasing, the fa├žade surrounding them was constructed out of bricks and mortar that matches the rest of the ballpark.  The height is about 3 feet tall, about perfect for buckling a knee out from under a player.  There is virtually no padding covering the wall except in a corner.  This is the wall that Hanley Ramirez tumbled over while catching a wind blown foul ball.
Hanley Ramirez prepares to catch a wind blown pop up that directs him to the extended seating located in foul territory at Wrigley Field,  The brick and concrete wall buckled his knees and forced him to topple over into the grandstands, where he injured his shoulder (AP Photo) 

There is no buffer or protection area between fans, seats and the field of play which is common for most ballparks.  What is different is that there is no adequate padding on the wall.  We’ve seen players dive into stands and injure themselves many times as they have crashed into seats, hand rails and arm rests.  Over the past weekend there were at least four plays made in Chicago where players could have seriously injured themselves as they crashed into concrete barriers with little or no padding at all.  I guess Hanley’s number was up. on Sunday


Ramirez topples over.  Note there is a little padding on the corner, but otherwise the entire wall is unprotected. (photo by Jon Soo Hoo/LA Dodgers)
This might not be a very popular stance to take, but unless the Chicago Cubs organization makes major overhauls to make the Wrigley Field death trap a safer place to play, that place has got to go.  I love baseball history and the aesthetics of ancient ballparks, but not at the expense of seeing hustling ballplayers getting cut down with injuries.  The ivy is pretty and all, but it doesn’t adequately pad an outfield wall made of concrete and bricks.  The jutting out of grandstands are at perfect height to cut the knees out from under a ball player, as happened with Hanley Ramirez on the pop up that he caught.  The charm and beauty of places like Wrigley and Fenway should not take precedent over player safety.

The Yankees tore their place down.  So did the Tigers.  They have beautiful new ball barks with all the safety features that modern facilities should have.  Looking at the Cardinals new ballpark I couldn't help but notice that all the walls in the foul territory surrounding the park are cushioned and padded for player protection.  The bullpens are not in foul territory and bullpen mounds are away from the playing field.

There are some organizations like the  Giants and Padres that should be ashamed of themselves for not designing a place that keeps bullpen mounds off the playing Field, but that's another topic for another day.  If the Chicago Cubs ownership is serious about modernizing Wrigley Field they need to look at safety upgrades.  There are ways to make that place safe, and this weekend's round of games really exposed the weak spots of the Chicago ball park.

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Back to the amazing Dodgers who despite injuries and roster juggling have extended their club record road winning streak to 15 games with a 3-2 win in St. Louis tonight.  The ball club is so fun to watch and this season is becoming absolutely magical.

Paco Rodriguez finished the game for a 2 inning save.  He threw 16 pitches total on the night and retired the Cardinals in order in the bottom of the ninth.   Rodriguez just may be the Dodgers closer of the future, but with Kenley Jansen pitching the way he is, it'll be difficult to supplant him for some time.

Zack Greinke's 7th inning RBI single accounted for the eventual winning run in the Dodgers 3-2 win at St. Louis (photo by Bill Boyce/AP)

That Dodger bullpen has turned into one of the best in the majors.  When Brandon League got up in the bottom of the ninth to warm up, I can honestly say I wasn't nervous about it.  Even League has been lights out for a few weeks now.

Honorable mention in tonight's win goes to shortstop Nick Punto who filled in for the injured Hanley Ramirez.  Punto used his baseball instincts to anticipate Puig overthrowing his cutoff man and placed himself in perfect position to field his overthrow and cut downthe Cardinal runner (Allen Craig) at the plate in the 5th inning.  Punto also started a fantastic double play in the bottom of the 8th that was instrumental in garnering confidence to Paco Rodriguez who was having some difficulty initially throwing strikes.

No word yet on the extent of Hanley Ramirez's injury as his MRI was cancelled and reports from Don Mattingly before game time were that he was feeling much better.  Here's hoping that his shoulder is not as serious as it looked on Sunday.

A collective groan could be heard at San Francisco's AT&T Park tonight when the manual scoreboard posted the Dodger win tonight.  It's got to be frustrating for N.L. West rivals to watch the Dodgers win day after day.  Six games up, 51 to play.


1 comment:

  1. Good critique of Wrigley Field Evan. Regardless of the contracts of players, there is no reason to play in conditions that are unsafe for players. Until I saw the games I had no idea that 3' brick wall existed.

    Major League teams should boycott Wrigley.

    I thought Nick Punto was the hero in the game for the two reasons you cited in your article. He also made a good back hand stop and bullet throw to first on another player. It's those little guys that help keep a team winning.

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