Mark Lamster, a longtime friend of Bronx Banter, has a long piece on the two new NYC ballparks over at Metropolis magazine:
For a certain kind of baseball enthusiast, the ultimate measure of these two parks rests on how they actually play. The new Yankee Stadium is a simulacra of the old, with dimensions that are roughly the same but different enough that it performs quite differently. (For the spectator, this lends it either an eerie cast or a pleasant familiarity.) In practice, shorter and closer outfield fences, a reduction of foul territory, and concourses open to the wind make Yankee Stadium one of the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball. Though the old yard always favored powerful lefties like Ruth, it now seems to favor anyone who shows up with a bat: its home-run rate is by far the highest in baseball. This has made it something of a laughingstock among seamheads, but what real detriment the hitter-friendly contours might pose, beyond making games longer, is a matter for debate. Some experts believe that hitters’ parks place undue stress on team pitching staffs, thereby reducing their chances at postseason success. Attendance, however, traditionally supports the validity of the league’s nineties-era marketing slogan: “Chicks dig the long ball.”
Regardless of gender, fans who want to see home runs would do well to avoid Citi Field, which seems as hostile to dingers as Yankee Stadium is friendly to them. Despite the Mets’ potent bats, their new home, with its prairie-scaled expanses, suppresses offense like no other in baseball. “The distances in the outfield and the power alleys, that’s where you can have some fun in establishing dimensions,” Barnert says. “You can create some unique areas where the ball can rattle around a bit.” It is that creativity, however, that many purists find aggravating. “It’s just so contrived,” says Jay Jaffe, a writer for Baseball Prospectus. “It drives me crazy.” The dimensions of the classic ballparks on which the Populous stadiums are modeled (such as Ebbets Field) were the product of their constrained urban lots. But Citi Field was built in the middle of a parking lot. And therein lies the strange paradox of the Populous stadiums: though they are painstakingly manufactured to appear idiosyncratic, the willfulness of their design is inescapable; and now that there are nearly 20 of them around the league, their heterogeneity has come to seem altogether homogenous.
When I first started attending games on my own, some 20 years ago, a ticket to the Yankee bleachers cost $1.50, pocket change even for a kid on a tight allowance. That same ticket now costs $14: not an unreasonable sum, but more than a movie and enough to keep a student on a limited budget from making it too much of a habit. The new stadium, for that matter, doesn’t beg that kind of relationship. It’s a special-occasion place, somewhere to visit a couple of times a season. Why empty your wallet for an entertainment event that might not be entertaining? (Even the best teams lose roughly 40 percent of their games.) When you’re stuck in the nosebleed seats, and a beer, a dog, and a bag of peanuts cost upward of 20 bucks, thoughts of exploitation inevitably percolate through the mind. It is in those moments that the fan-team compact seems hopelessly broken, and one begins to wonder about the difference between being a fan and being a chump. Sometimes it seems like there’s no difference at all.
Lamster’s second book, Master of Shadows, The Secret Diplomatic Career of the Painter Peter Paul Rubens is due out this fall. Dude, talk about well-rounded. Lamster is one of the best and brightest and I’m proud to call him a pal.