New dimensions suit Walltimore just fine

MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

Prior to the 2022 season the Baltimore Orioles reconfigured the size and the shape of the playing field at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The facelift in one of the most beautiful ballparks in the world took place in left field as the Orioles changed the distance from home plate to left-center field from 364 feet to 400 feet, and the distance from home to deep left-center from 382 feet to 410 feet. They also raised the height of the left-field wall from 7-feet, 4-inches to 13 feet.

It was not a move that was met with warmth, as fans from all over the country felt that the quirky left-field dimensions would diminish the aesthetic beauty of the ballpark that changed ballparks forever in 1992. But it didn’t, and it hasn’t, just as quirky dimensions in left and left-center field (aka The Triangle) have never diminished the aesthetic beauty of Fenway Park in Boston.

The Orioles were constructing their rebuild – which, in case you hadn’t noticed, has worked out pretty well – around pitching, particularly young pitching that would soon be making its way to Camden Yards, and selfishly felt that since they would be playing 81 games a season in their home ballpark it should play to benefit the home team.

There would be no more cheap home runs, no more pop-fly or lazy line-drive homers to left and left-center, which, with the power alleys that generously read 364 and 382 feet, had been in abundance since 1992. For that just doesn’t play well when you’re building a ballclub and an organization around pitching. Check the analytics; which the Orioles most assuredly did.

Despite Reagan-like demands of “Tear down this wall,” the Orioles have thrived at the foot of what has now affectionately become known as The Great Wall of Baltimore, as they went from 52 wins in 2021 to 83 wins in 2022 to 101 wins and the American League East championship in 2023.

During May of the 2022 season when the Wall was still brand new, the New York Yankees made their first visit to Baltimore and Aaron Judge had four hits, including two home runs in a 5-4 New York win. Yet all Judge cared to talk about afterward was the 399-foot double he hit that would have been a home run in Camden Yards in 2021.

“It’s a travesty,” Judge said. “I’m pretty upset. It just looks like a Create-A-Park now.”

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said, “He almost had three homers, but Build Your Own Park got him.”

Since that time, the Yankees and Yankees fans continue to blast the Orioles for unfairly robbing the New York Yankees of what would have been home runs from 1992 to 2021, which makes this silliness nothing short of an obsession

Take Monday night, for instance, in this the third season of The Great Wall of Baltimore. The Orioles beat the Yankees at Camden Yards, 2-0. The Yankees’ Oswaldo Cabrera hit what is now a routine flyball-out to left that traveled 390 feet. Yet Yankees fans were barking all day Tuesday about it and Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay even said during the YES Network broadcast, “Three years ago it’s a tie game.”

Seriously? Three years ago? From followers of a team that used to play in the Polo Grounds that went 279, 450, 483, 449 to 258 from left to right and then the original Yankee Stadium that had a center field of 498 feet, then 490 feet and then 461 feet, and 284 and and 295 down the lines?

The House that Ruth Built? More like the House Built for Ruth (who was from Bawlmer, hon, by the way).

And yes, the Yankees won playing in those parks, and they won a lot.

And did anybody complain in 1976 when the Yankees refurbished the original Yankee Stadium and made it much more hitter-friendly? No, so why do the Yankees continue to complain about someone else’s ballpark three seasons after the fact?

How long is this going to go on? “Twenty-five years ago that would have been a Yankee home run. It’s a travesty they made this ballpark bigger.”

Why is it the Orioles’ fault the Yankees now play their home games in a bandbox with no power alleys known as the new Yankee Stadium? Who built that park? Why, the Yankees did, of course, which is why a genius on their payroll refers to it as “Build Your Own Park.”

Well, who else would you want to build your own park? Duh.

Look, the Yankees have guys, beginning with Judge, who can clear that wall easily, just as the Orioles have shown they do as well. In fact, last time I checked, the Orioles led the American League in home runs, while at the same time, the larger dimensions at Camden Yards play more fairly and have helped the Orioles pitching staff over the course of 81 games a season.

And, oh yes, entering Tuesday night’s game (which the Orioles also won), Oriole Park trailed San Diego’s Petco Park by one home run for most home runs hit this season.

But you know, Walltimore.

Safe to say, the plan has worked. The Yankees and their fans just need to get over it.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT