A surprising report by Andrew Baggarly and Eno Sarris was just posted to The Athletic (subscription required) revealing that Giants management and ownership are in the exploratory stages of changing the park’s dimensions as well as relocating the bullpens.
In terms of the park factors, there’s ample evidence provided that shows it really, totally, thoroughly bones hitters, especially left-handed hitters, and Baggarly goes on to say that was the primary reason for Bryce Harper turning down the Giants’ offer this offseason (though, that info came via parties familiar with the negotiation). But there was also sort of a primary reason 1A and that was his personal safety.
Actually, Harper expressed less concern to the Giants about the arcade and more concern about the bullpen mounds in foul territory. He made it clear he viewed them as an unnecessary risk.
If you ask the families of Mac Williamson and Dustan Mohr, then you might hear a similar sentiment. The bullpens have been the cause of some gruesome injuries and awkward plays, but in his portion of the article, Farhan Zaidi noted that the bullpens might’ve also prevented injuries by forcing players to slow down when approaching the side walls. He goes on to note that he’s seen many players sustain leg injuries sliding into walls in parks where there are no bullpen mounds parallel to the baselines.
Zaidi’s perspective on the matter seems to be a lot more along the lines of exploring what actually does work about the way Oracle Park is setup and seeing if there’s some adjustments that can be made to make it less idiosyncratic, as right now, the only type of hitter that seems to work best there is one who doesn’t fit into the modern game. That’s not a sustainable setup and hurts player development moving forward.
So, we might see the bullpen mounds relocated to Triples Alley. The brick wall could be lowered — massive dimension changes from right center field to the right field line could be in store for Baseball’s most beautiful stadium. There are other ways to make the team competitive and bring it in line with the modern game, and this could be one of them.
Certainly, the construction job is a $50+ million deal the team could offer that would actually be accepted by someone. A far cry from the free agent embarrassments of the past decade. Of course, any changes with hitting in mind could affect the team’s advantage on the pitching side, and so, that’s why this is all very preliminary at the moment.
It’s probably no coincidence that this report became public following Larry Baer’s suspension. With the current park design’s most vocal proponent out of the way and his power extremely diminished, the team doesn’t need to feel beholden to many of its traditions, such as they are, and the practical realities of making money off of fans by way of fielding a winning baseball team can return to the fore.
If you’re wondering if they’ll actually go through with it, I think they will. You don’t go on the record with these comments if it’s not a serious matter up for discussion, and not only is Farhan Zaidi quoted in the article, but also Bruce Bochy and several players.
I smile when I think about all the park’s quirks. Doug Mirabelli’s triple. Aubrey Huff’s inside the park home run. Gregor Blanco dives and he makes the catch! J.T. Snow’s game-tying home run that caused Bobby Valentine on Baseball Tonight that evening to scoff at the 306 feet to right field part, calling the park a joke. Which only goes to show how much any of us know about anything. Outside of Barry Bonds, that brick wall has hardly helped. Still, if they can figure out a way to keep the arch ways and the high brick wall in right field, though, that would be swell.