Sunday, April 11, 2004
As I said in a recent post, the opening of Citizens Bank is the Phillies X Factor for 2004. What effect will Citizens have on the Phillies chances? As they are 1-5, going into today's game, let's hope a good one!
Let’s look at the addition of revenue as a factor: Some teams have had success using the move to a new facility as a spring-board to success: the small-market Cleveland Indians used Jacobs Field to dominate the AL Central in a mini-dynasty (1995-1999; 2001 division titles), and George W. Bush used the taxpayer-funded Ballpark at Arlington to put together several good Texas Rangers teams in the late 1990s. (Notice that since Bush divested his ownership of the team, they’ve fallen on hard times because stadium revenue has fallen off.) The revenue a team gains when a new ballpark opens helps the team lure players to play for them: the confluence helps build teams like the Indians into contenders by enabling them to have the funds necessary to keep their stars. Notice that when the Indians fell on hard times of late (revenues from Jacobs Field have been declining, thus the team has had to tighten their belts and deal with stars), the team has forced itself to go into rebuilding mode. Small market teams like the Indians can parlay their new digs into an invitation to play with the big boys, but eventually they will have to pay the piper.
Or, at least that was the model: more recently the Pittsburgh Pirates moved into PNC Park and went 62-100 in 2001. And they haven’t done much better than that, and in fact seem to be perpetually fated to stay as bottom-dwellers. The Milwaukee Brewers, via the Wisconsin taxpayers, built Miller Park, the stadium that Bud Selig told the voters the team needed to compete, and promptly went 68-94 in 2001, 56-106 in 2002, and 68-94 again in 2003. Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati hasn’t exactly helped the Reds into world-beaters: 69-93, fifth place in 2003. The bottom line is that to benefit from a move into a new stadium a team must have a certain talent level at the time of the move to enable them to springboard into contention. The Indians had emerging talent in their farm system in 1990s. Otherwise, the addition of a new stadium just means ever-diminishing contributions to a team’s bottom-line.
What does Citizens mean for the Phils offense and defense? This the Vet shifted to the synthetic grass stuff the transition to natural grass shouldn’t be so dramatic. It should help the Phillies in terms of avoiding injuries, however.
Dimensions-wise, Citizens and the Vet are fairly similar. Citizens: 401 feet to center, 369 feet to the power alleys. The Vet: 408 feet to center, 375 feet (if I remember) to the power alleys. The problem teams found with developing pitchers in Playstation-type 13-11 slugfests at Enron (excuse me, Minute Maid Field) has finally convinced teams of the fallacy of building home-run-friendly ballparks. (I give tremendous credit to Comerica Park in Detroit not only for its use of the team's mascot in the design of the stadium, but for its spacious, pitcher-friendly contours.) Citizens won’t tip the balance to pitchers, but it isn’t a true hitters park either.
When ballparks are done well they are joys to behold. PNC Park, here in my current home of Pittsburgh, is spectacular:
(Me at PNC Park: April 19, 2002, Phillies – Pirates. The Pirates won 7-4.) While the Pirates have been awful, the ballpark itself has been a hit with Pittsburghers. It is such a nice place to watch baseball that Jim Caple of ESPN’s Page 2 recognized it as the best MLB park, better even than San Francisco’s Pac Bell Park. (Which I had assumed to be the gold standard in baseball.)
I have seen baseball games in three MLB stadiums: the Vet, Three Rivers, and PNC. People often bashed the Vet, but I found that it had more charm, thanks to the fans, than Three Rivers. Both were ugly concrete bowls, but the loud, angry irritation of the fans were what made the Vet tolerable. Perhaps it is because of the years of losing has effectively killed fan enthusiasm here in Pittsburgh, but Three Rivers often felt like an ugly tomb. In contrast, though, PNC Park is the best ballpark I’ve been to: the designers (ROK of Kansas City, I think) did an outstanding job of playing to the city of Pittsburgh’s strengths: the rivers, the skyline, etc. Whenever people come to Pittsburgh for the first time and they first see the downtown skyline (whether driving through the Fort Pitt Tunnels on Rt. 279 from the airport or after you clear the Squirrel Hill Tunnels on Rt. 376) they are awed by it. (Me? Not so much anymore, but then I actually live near downtown Pittsburgh. I see USX, PPG Place, and the Grant Building every day. I’m used to them.) The designers made a no-brainer decision by opening up the skyline, but the overall effect is nice. Just a few sundays ago I was at PNC attending a non-baseball / sport event and I stepped out onto the upper deck and marveled at the sight: beautiful spring day with a cloud in the sky, the lush green of the grass below, the thousands of pristine blue seats, the beautiful view of the city’s major office buildings …
It is difficult to not love PNC Park.
Citizens looks nice. Quite comparable to PNC in many respects:
Citizens Bank Ballpark.
Both feature a magnificent view of their cities:
PNC Park is a terrific place. Many Pittsburghers denigrate the team for their poor play and management for their incompetence, but few dislike PNC Park. Architecturally, it is a pleasant and clean place:
I’ve gone to several games at PNC and (aside from the fact that you get drenched when it rains because of the lack of cover) I’ve enjoyed every one. It is very relaxing to sit in the outfield and survey the boat traffic on the Allegheny River, the silent majesty of the city office buildings like PPG Place and USX Tower, the blue sky and white clouds. I’m sure that people in Philadelphia will love Citizens. I hope to get there soon myself, although 2005 is more likely.
Enjoy Citizen’s, Philadelphia!