Slug­gers be­ware

Mar­lins Park plays big and is the tough­est place to homer in the ma­jors

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY STEVEN WINE

The week­end be­fore the Reds’ Todd Fra­zier won the All-Star Home Run Derby, he couldn’t slug his way out of Mar­lins Park.

Mar­lins right-han­der Dan Haren counted two or three balls hit by Fra­zier in the four-game se­ries that would have been homers in Cincinnati but came down short of the dis­tant fences in Mi­ami. Haren said the vast di­men­sions cost the Reds four or five homers, in­clud­ing a cou­ple in the game he pitched and won.

“I love Mar­lins Park,” Haren said.

Most pitch­ers do. The ball­park’s col­or­ful home-run sculp­ture doesn’t get much use be­cause Mar­lins Park is the tough­est place in the ma­jors to hit a homer.

Gian­carlo Stan­ton, Mi­ami’s $325 mil­lion slug­ger, has long con­tended the park doesn’t play fair. But vis­it­ing man­agers say they find the con­trast to band­boxes else­where re­fresh­ing, and Mar­lins of­fi­cials have thus far re­sisted calls to move in the fences.

This year has been a huge dis­ap­point­ment for the in­jury-rav­aged Mar­lins, but team pres­i­dent David Sam­son said the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s recipe for suc­cess re­mains pitch­ing and de­fence, with ball­park di­men­sions to match. While changes will be con­sid­ered af­ter the sea­son, it’s pos­si­ble the fences will re­main as they are, even with the Home Run Derby com­ing to town in 2017, Sam­son said.

“There is cer­tainly ev­i­dence it’s a ball­park favourable for pitch­ers,” Sam­son said. “How­ever, we be­lieve it’s a pretty fair ball­park. Af­ter the ini­tial thought from some play­ers that it played too big, there is cer­tainly ev­i­dence it plays big, but that it plays fair.”

As Mi­ami be­gins a home­s­tand Tues­day against the Na­tion­als, only 60 homers have been hit this sea­son at Mar­lins Park, the sec­ond-low­est to­tal in the ma­jors ahead of At­lanta’s Turner Field with 59. There have been 96 homers in Mi­ami’s road games.

Since Mar­lins Park opened in 2012, it has yielded the fewest homers in the ma­jors — 361 in 290 games, an av­er­age of 1.2 per game. And that’s with Stan­ton on the home team.

“This place plays big,” Car­di­nals man­ager Mike Ma­theny said. “You’ve got to earn it to get it out.”

The power al­leys are dis­tant — 384 feet to left-cen­tre field, 392 to right-cen­tre and 422 to cen­tre. The wall is high, rang­ing from 11 1/2 to 13 1/2 feet. And the ball doesn’t carry well un­der a re­tractable roof that is al­most al­ways closed.

The Rock­ies’ Char­lie Black­mon counted him­self for­tu­nate to homer dur­ing his visit to Mi­ami this year. His ball cleared the wall near the 335 sign down the right­field line.

“It’s just a tough park to hit in,” Black­mon said, “be­ing that it’s big, and the ball seems to just never come down, but doesn’t go far, ei­ther.”

The Rock­ies’ Coors Field is at the op­po­site ex­treme from Mar­lins Park — a slug­ger’s par­adise.

“I wouldn’t say ei­ther is fair,” Stan­ton said. “Ob­vi­ously, a hitter is go­ing to want to be at Coors, and a pitcher is go­ing to want to be here.” What is the ideal? “Way in be­tween,” he said. While play­ing at home, Stan­ton has hit some of the long­est homers in the ma­jors this year. One sailed through the cen­tre­field cam­era well, and another landed near the 502-foot sign in cen­tre.

So tai­lor­ing Mar­lins Park to him isn’t nec­es­sary.

“There’s no ball­park that can hold Gian­carlo,” Sam­son said. “I’ve said it to him — he’s not even a thought as we look at this. He hits home runs any­where. We’re look­ing at the im­pact on pitch­ers and other play­ers, not Gian­carlo.”

Stan­ton be­gan this week tied for the NL lead in home runs even though he has been on the dis­abled list since June 27 with a bro­ken hand. He has hit 125 home runs since 2012, the most in the league, ac­cord­ing to STATs.

More than half of them — 68 — have come at Mar­lins Park.

AP PHOTO

In this Aug. 28, 2012, file photo, the home run sculp­ture at Mar­lins Park lights up af­ter Mar­lins’ Justin Rug­giano hit a solo home run dur­ing the first in­ning of a game against the Washington Na­tion­als in Mi­ami.

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