Cheap Seats

No place like Dome

Baseball got a grim reminder yesterday of what a pox domed ballparks are on the National Pastime.

The Rays, who play in one of two domes left in the big leagues -- Toronto has the other -- lost not only a game but also first place in the American League east when a two-out popup on the infield hit a catwalk as a pair of fielders waited for the ball 190 feet below. The ball deflected and the fielders couldn't recover. According to Tropicana Field ground rules, that qualifies as a base hit. The Twins scored to break a 6-6 tie and knocked Tampa Bay from the top of the standings.

Why mention this? What does it have to do with the Cardinals? Well I think it is high time that baseball moved to ban domed stadiums and artificial turf from the game. And that affects all of the clubs, all of the players and all of the fans.

It was shocking how much better it was to watch baseball at Busch Stadium when the Cardinals finally pulled up the plastic grass a little bit more than a decade ago. I remember legendary broadcaster Jack Buck remarking about how he didn't think the change back to real grass would make that much of a difference -- until he saw the game played like it is supposed to be played at the St. Louis ballpark.

Not only is natural grass more aesthetically pleasing. It makes  a huge difference in the mechanics of the game to play on natural grass as opposed to what is essentially a huge carpet. Artificial turf is bad on players knees and shins, and it alters plays on which players have to dive because when they do it on fake grass, they often leave their flesh on the field.

What's the big deal now that turf has almost completely disappeared from the game? Well, it seems that the artificial turf pendulum has begin to swing the other way.

A few years back the National Football League started to move away from turf. The Giants and Jets replaced the artificial turf of their stadium with grass. But that didn't last. They went back to the faux stuff after just a couple of seasons. The Cowboys originally planned to switch to grass when they built their new field But went with turf instead... The Seahawks, Browns, Bills and Patriots all play in open air stadiums with fake grass.

Lately a number of colleges and high schools across the counrty have switched back from grass to turf because it's cheaper and easier to maintain than the real thing. How long until major league clubs decide they could lay off 3/4 of the grounds crew and save on the water bill by putting artificial turf down?

Baseball facilities are the best they have been since the Astrodome opened and changed the landscape. The Rays are trying to replace their stadium with a retractable roof ballpark which would leave only the monstrosity in Toronto left with fake grass. Let's wipe them off the face of the earth while we can.

Commissioner Bud Seilig, make banning artifical turf and fixed domes your legacy.