Will Fans Accept a Pitcher’s Duel?Posted by Jeff Summers on Sep 6, 2010 in 2010 Regular Season | 1 comment
The opening game of a three-game series between the San Francisco Giants and the Arizona Diamondbacks was the kind of game that baseball purists love. It was a contest between two clubs who have been playing better baseball as of late.
The San Francisco Giants are battling for a play-off spot putting pressure on the struggling San Diego Padres. The Arizona Diamondbacks are battling to find a team identity and show team officials that interim manager Kirk Gibson deserves a permanent spot in the dugout.
From a pitching perspective the Giants sent left-hander Madison Bumgarner to the mound in search of his sixth win of the season. The Diamondbacks countered with right-hander Ian Kennedy who was searching for his tenth win of the year.
Each of these pitchers is looking to finish the season strong. For the first seven innings they matched each other pitch for pitch. Bumgarner gave way after 7.1 innings but allowed only five hits and one walk.
Kennedy lasted through eight innings allowing only two hits and two walks. At the end of nine innings these two teams were tied 0-0. It was one of those classic pitching duels where you knew the first team to flinch would lose.
That happened in the 11th inning when the Giants scored two runs off Diamondbacks reliever Aaron Heilman to beat the home team 2-0. I could write an entire week on all of the subtle nuances of the game and how a low-scoring affair such as this is what baseball is all about.
As I sat in my seats watching what I thought was a great game, the fans around me had a different opinion. Part way through the seventh inning the fans in front of me packed up their things and made their way to the exit.
They commented about how boring this game was and there was nothing to see by staying any longer. The fans to the left and right of my seats were likewise nodding in agreement wondering when someone would come up to bat and hit a home run to win the game.
These comments made me wonder about the Diamondbacks proposal to move the fences at Chase Field back or install a humidor that would hopefully reduce the travel of the ball in Chase Field.
I understand the team’s thinking. If you are building your team around young pitching, it would help if you had a stadium that played to the team’s strengths. That is not currently the case with Chase Field. It has a reputation of being a hitter’s ballpark and will remain such unless acted upon by an outside force.
The goal is to create a team based on pitching in a neutral park to allow the team to be more competitive. But if this competitive edge means fewer runs are scored, will the Diamondbacks be successful in the local market where fans are clamoring for home runs and large amounts of offense?
Are the small crowds at Chase Field a result of a team well out of contention or are they a result of an inconsistent offense that is unable to score runs in consecutive days? Will the fans flock to the stadium to watch a winning team who scores few runs themselves but limits the opposition to fewer runs or are they more interested in seeing a slugfest where both teams score seven or eight runs and whoever has the most home runs that night wins?
Perhaps the contemporary baseball fan is not as interested in low scoring but winning baseball as they are to seeing feats of skill as players try to hit a baseball off the stadium façade.
The All-Star game is a prime example. The spectacle of the Home Run Derby garners more attention than the actual All-Star game itself. It’s an interesting discussion and one I don’t have an answer.
Over then next couple of seasons we may very well find an answer if the Diamondbacks go forward with their plans for changing the game at Chase Field. I for one am looking forward to watching this unfold because basically it gives me an excuse for attending as many games as I possibly can all in the name of science.