Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fencing again

The "Fence Debate" is an April rite in San Diego. For years, the Padres have studied the pros and cons of shrinking their ballpark's vast right-center field and in fact did lop off some 10 feet in the 2005-06 offseason. As I wrote last summer, Sandy Alderson wanted to further shrink Petco National Park's right field when he left the team in 2009. Alderson reduced the size of the Mets' ballfield this year.

 Padres president Tom Garfinkel said this week he's open to giving more study to the ballpark's dimensions. I didn't think the subject was ever closed. Which is more interesting, the "fence debate" or discussing a Padres team that's 5-13 going into today's game? Until the Padres are sold, a decision on the ballpark won't be made. Will the next owner decide? Will Garfinkel and general manager Josh Brynes have the ear of the next owner? Unknowns, both.

I know this: If the Padres do shorten right field, they'd like to install a hand-operated, old-style scoreboard where the out-of-town scoreboard is.

A less enormous outfield shouldn't be seen as a recipe for more on-field success, given the team's glut of Nos. 4-5 starters both  in the majors and above Single-A. Clayton Richard, for instance, took a shutout into the seventh inning here Tuesday, widening his road/home ERA split to 5.19/3.23. That's for his career. Yes, I'm cherry-picking here, but the point is, Padres pitchers may need a ballpark that plays huge.

My view is the Padres are in the entertainment business and need to make their product far more entertaining. Foremost, of course, they need to find better players. Talk about real estate all you'd like, but the slogan should be talent, talent, talent, not location, location, location. I do think a less gigantic field would increase dramatic tension. The mere threat of a home run makes the games more interesting.

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