The Colorado Rockies have become famous for manipulating their balls. Located more than a mile above sea level, the team has taken drastic measures to avoid letting their balls dry out. Unfortunately, from a competitive standpoint, anyone can see that this behavior is just plain nuts.
Juvenile innuendos aside, the Rockies have created a very real problem for sports. That is because Major League Baseball has knowingly permitted the Rockies to tamper with their baseballs now since 2002. How? All of the game balls are stored in humidors preventing the balls from drying out.
The storage technique was developed because the arid mile-high air causes baseballs to dry out which in turn increases their restitution, a.k.a. bounciness. Increased restitution means that the balls bounce off of the bat more powerfully than those stored in the humidor. Better bounce, combined with mile-high thin air, translates into more runs scores – two more per game than other stadiums from 1995-2001.
To offset the advantage the Rockies started putting the game balls in a humidor to lessen the batters edge. The action accomplished its intended purpose – reducing the restitution of the balls and simultaneously reducing pitchers’ ERA. The problem with this was that MLB also knew this was unfair because different clubs still had different balls with different restitutions.
As such they decided to propose a solution for the future. Now that mandate has arrived. According to Sports Illustrated, MLB has now required that all clubs store all game balls in climate-controlled rooms. Monitoring by the league will then determine what other teams, in addition to the Rockies, will need to store their balls in humidors.
The SI piece states: “The move to standardize the storage of baseballs comes after a season in which MLB shattered its all-time home run record, pitchers complained of low seams and tightly wound balls, and the slickness and uniformity of baseballs used in the World Series came into question.”
The problem with such demands is that it seeks to effectively take away home field advantage for ball clubs – which will ultimately hurt the spirit of the game. Sports aren’t completely fair and they aren’t meant to be. For instance, in football, it is unlikely to be sweltering in Buffalo or snowing in Miami. In golf some greens play fast. In tennis, the court surface changes the style of play. In basketball, sometimes the ball is more dynamic depending on the temperature of the arena that the game is played inside. In all sports there are variations to the equipment used in the game being played and those variances add an interesting elements to the sport.
In Colorado, they have dry air and thus should be permitted to have dry balls. It is a home field advantage or disadvantage depending on how one looks at it. But it is part of the distinctive local climate that gives different locations identifiable. I mean if Boston can have the human-made Green Monster
deterring home runs, certainly Colorado ought to be able to utilize their God-given advantage at home encouraging more.
Reality Changing Observations:
Q1. What do you think the standard should be for fairness in sports?
Q2. Do you think that baseballs should be required to be stored in humidors in dry climates? Why or why not?
Q3. How much middle school styled testicular innuendo is appropriate for any given sports article?