The front office has studied the subject to death. Small changes, big changes, no changes -- the Strategic Thinkers have batted around a raft of scenarios and generated loads of data in recent months and years. Amid all of the brainstorming, they've taken some mighty cuts too. For example, they've pondered a right field wall that's 15 feet closer to home plate, from the foul pole all the way to the beach in right-center. They've also studied smaller advances -- 10 feet closer, for example -- for either all of the right-field wall or parts of it. Heck, they've even studied tweaks for left-center or center. And for the paying customers, they've envisioned a large patio for beyond right field.
Again, it all may amount to nothing, or something minor.
However it turns out, the Padres will have done their homework, and I think that's reassuring. It's a tricky business to project how a ballpark will play. The Padres of all teams should be respectful of how difficult it can be. Nearly 10 years ago, they hired consultants to predict how the ball would carry on their patch of downtown, only to discover that the projections didn't match the reality. Petco played larger than the experts said it would. At least, that's what the Padres told us.
I'm not going to rehash the whole Petco debate about whether bigger is better. I do think Petco is having a very good year for the Padres. In fact, if I had to pick a runner-up to Chase Headley for the team's MVP award, I'd pick good old Petco National Park (somehow, I don't think former Rockies closer Huston Street is pining for the days of Coors Field). For five months now, the Padres have handed the ball to a slew of Nos. 4 and Nos. 5 starting pitchers, along with several young relievers who are trying to establish themselves in the big leagues. I've made the point for years that Petco isn't only a great ballpark for pitchers, the conditions also are close to ideal for defenders. This year, the Padres opened the season with four regulars who scouts described as worse-than-average defenders. The club later introduced a young shortstop thought by some scouts to be more suited to second base and a young second baseman who's more suited to third base. If momentum indeed is tomorrow's starting pitcher, Petco has done many good deeds for this particular Padres team.