So, there’s been a lot of chatter lately about Great American Ball Park – usually from fans of other teams chastising its small size. I mean, to some extent, this is understandable. Cards fans do not like us (and it is pretty mutual), so whenever they play us, they are suffused with hate for everything about the experience. On the other hand, when we play in Busch stadium, I don’t ever complain about how it’s named after really terrible beer. Yesterday, I got into a short (and admittedly unwise) tiff on twitter with a Cardinals fan who contended that GABP is neither Great nor American, and it shames both adjectives. (I refuse to link it, as I don’t really want to extend that particular discussion).
He may or may not know that it’s named after Great American Insurance, but his point remains that it’ is un-great and un-American. Un-great is pretty justified, GABP is a bit pocito, but I’m not sure how any ballpark is un-American.
That’s not really my point, though, as that dude is clearly in the demented minority of ridiculous Cardinals fans. Let’s be honest, every team has fans like that, the Cardinals essentially no more or no less than any other team, including our own. (Although I am much more used to the demented minority that prefers to say things like: “#$”( the @(#$ing #$$%$*@#s, they ought to @(#$%, also [racist remark], #$%$(%)@#, #$($%$*, and also a little *@##&$$%. #reds #stlcards”) (That may be more than 144 characters)
But it’s certainly not just the Cardinals who like to comment on the not-so-great-ness of Great American (I guess size does matter). So here is my defense. It IS half-hearted, because it’s not like I adore GABP. It’s fine. And it is small. It has a great view of the Ohio River, which is admittedly, not the most beautiful water body in the world, but it’s still quite pretty. It’s … a ballpark.
Great-American is small. I can’t deny that. But Comerica is big. And GABP makes a lot of home runs. Not as much as Coors, obviously, but that has nothing to do with size. Wikipedia has a chart of all the current MLB ballpark dimensions. Great-American isn’t the smallest in any single dimension. To be fair, almost every other ballpark has a dimension that’s much bigger than at GABP, which is why we’re probably overall the smallest ballpark. But there’s nothing about the ballpark that is just totally out of line with MLB parks as a whole.
But you could also argue that we don’t have any of those little idiosyncracies that fans, yes, love, but make it even more possible for a team to build a competitive advantage based on their ballpark – like the short porch in Yankee stadium. Sure, if we had a crazy groundball pitching staff, and a ton of power hitters, I can understand how that would be very frustrating, but honestly, Cincinnati hasn’t had the luck/skill/money to pull that off since Great American was built. When we had fantastic sluggers, our pitchers also allowed home runs like crazy, and right now we’re succeeding on good pitching, but with only one real groundball pitchers, and very diminished home run power in the lineup.
Again, both home and away teams hit more home runs in Great American – and the Reds have only hit 4 more home runs in Great American than their opponents. Of course, we are seeing some offensive benefit – the Reds have a slightly below average offense, in terms of runs scored. We definitely hit more home runs than we would in a more neutral park. But by that same token, we also have a better than average pitching staff – the fact that they’ve allowed 54 home runs at home is also attributable to Great American. It also sort of means that the current Reds squad really isn’t built to take advantage of Great American’s dimensions.
That’s really what it boils down to – having a small ball park cuts both ways. So if you don’t like Ryan Ludwick’s, admittedly short, walk off home run last night, just know that the other team was equally as likely to have hit a ludicrous GABP-special in the preceeding innings.
Here’s another way to look at it. At ESPN hit tracker, they can tell how many ballparks any homerun would have been a home run in. Approximately 24 home runs in 2012 hit at Great American would have been a home run in 15 or fewer other parks. 9 of those were hit by Reds, 13 of those were hit off Reds pitchers. That includes three home runs by the Cardinals in that early April series we lost – one by Jon Jay to deep center field that would have only been out in 5 parks, and two by David Freese which would have only been home runs in 3 and 2 ballparks respectively.
Look, I’m probably overstating the complaints a little bit. I can be sensitive like that – and certainly, I understand if you don’t like Great American Ball Park. It’s small, and maybe you don’t like that. It’s certainly not a paragon of baseball stadiums. But it’s not unfair, and it’s not an affront to the game.