30 May 2006

Worst Stadium in the Majors

Long before The Sporting News suggested a "Baseball Buddy Roadtrip," a buddy and I have been doing much the same for the last four years or so. Our trips were very similar to the ones that they suggested, and we have gotten so far along in our quest to see every major league stadium, that between us, we have seen 28 of the current 30 major league stadiums. Next month, we have a date with the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis, and in July, we will make a trip to Toronto to see the Rogers Centre (Ugh...what a name for a ball park -- we may still have to call it 'SkyDome').

Since we will have visited all the active stadiums, we decided that one of our projects before the end of the summer will be to rank them all -- 1 to 30. We're guys -- lists simplify things for guys, so it seemed like a good project. Even though we know that we have to see all the stadiums before we start the ranking process, there are some natural biases, so the first two on the list have already been filled in.

1. Wrigley Field -- it's a no brainer. I am not going to get into the whys and hows of the ranking system now...maybe that will make for a summer's worth of posts. But, for now, just know that Wrigley is the best of the major league stadiums.

2. Fenway Park -- also a no brainer. If you are a Red Sox fan, you would probably rank this #1, and a Cubs fan would go the other way. Since I am a fan of neither, I can say - objectively - that Fenway is a solid #2.

I think picking these two as #1 and #2 is the easy part -- picking the bad ones could be just as easy. This weekend, I had the errr....pleasure...of seeing my beloved first-place New York Mets play in Miami against the Florida Marlins. The Mets won, so the park is secondary, but ProPlayer....err...Joe Robbie....err...Dolphins....ummm....Dolphin Stadium may well be the worst stadium in all of major league baseball. I figure this stadium is so bad, they couldn't even sell the naming rights.

So, what makes a bad stadium? Well, a number of things...like perpetually empty seats:

It doesn't help that all those empty seats are a hideous orange color, either. Obtrusive, omnipresent advertising is a pretty big strike against. Also notice...MORE empty seats:

I am not even sure I know who the Miccosukee Indians are, but their ads are all over left field. Yes, that is a 'Benihana' ad ON THE CLOCK! This is just a representative sampling, but the whole stadium is like this. Plus, this is a football stadium that happens to host baseball games in football's offseason. Evidence of that is everywhere -- the Miami Dolphins have actually been good, and have some all-time players. The Marlins have been sporadically good, but they have no all-time greats, because whenever they win, ownership sells off all the good players and "rebuilds," because they cannot compete revenue-wise (in such a crappy stadium). Below is the view from our seats -- eighth row. We were still pretty far away from the action (all things are relative -- we are not as far away as the folks sitting above the 'Tire Kingdom' ad), and for a $40 ticket, this is pretty far away from the action. Also, check out the empty seats.

OK...so, you're thinking that I am harping on the empty stadium thing. Well, the Marlins were playing the first place team in their division, and there are quite a few New York transplants in the South Florida area -- and, the Marlins best pitcher, Dontrelle Willis was pitching against a future Hall of Famer, Tom Glavine. You would think that there would have been some folks that would come out to the game. Still, the Marlins drew about 15,000 fans on Friday night (less sun, maybe that keeps people away?) with the Mets pitching Pedro Martinez. For our game, a Saturday afternoon, on a holiday weekend, with the pitching matchup mentioned earlier, drew all of 13,000 fans. For comparison's sake, the last place Pirates drew over 30,000 fans to their park. A snoozer of a game in Minnesota (versus Seattle, in another awful place to watch baseball) drew over 25,000 fans. Two teams with below .500 winning percentages (the Angels and the Orioles) drew over 43,000 in Anaheim. The point is -- people went to baseball games on Saturday in rather large numbers -- some even saw some bad baseball teams. But, the Marlins may get the worst support in all of baseball - and it makes their ballpark that much worse.

Another asthetics issue -- there is no "front" to the stadium. It is just a big, concrete circular structure. In short, it has no personality.

I like to think that I can find SOMETHING that I like about every ballpark -- this one, I don't think that I can. On top of all the things that have physical photo evidence, I can also tell you that the food was expensive ($7 for a bottled beer, $6 for a foot-long kosher hot dog), the home town fans were outnumbered about 3-1 by the visitors, it was blistering hot (no, the Marlins have no control over the temperature, but they should have a retractable roof stadium, like Houston, and/or they shouldn't play games at 1 pm in the middle of summer), the mid-inning promotions and graphics were beyond cheesy (airboat ride race, with the damn Miccosukee Indians sponsoring the thing -- more ads, and, last, but surely not least....the Mermaids.

Yes, the Marlins, in an effort to whip their fans into a frenzy, have the only "female rally" team in all of major league baseball. Cheese factor? 10+! Cheerleaders? Yes, Miami is a football town, but, cheerleaders in baseball -- I think not.

All of this adds up to the worst stadium experience in the bigs. So far, we have identified the following...

1. Wrigley Field
2. Fenway Park
30. Dolphin Stadium

The parameters have been set, and we just need to fill in the other 27 stadiums!

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