BOSTON, MA - Ryan Dempster #46 of the Chicago Cubs peeks into the Green Monster during batting practice before the game against the Boston Red Sox. The Cubs have not played at Fenway Park since the 1918 World Series. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
I haven't been to every ballpark, so I can't rank teams by their ballparks. I think the A's play in the third-best major-league ballpark I've ever been to. This is probably a good sign that I need to travel more.
So instead, this week's Power Rankings are based on the one thing that each stadium is known for.
1. Boston Red Sox - The Green Monster
There are thousands of reasons why baseball is the best sport. I don't need to go all George Will on you. But the Green Monster is a big-ass wall. It's a bigger-ass wall than any other ballpark has. I'm not saying that football would be improved if the Chiefs played in a stadium with an octagonal field and foot-wide goal posts, or that basketball would be better if a couple of arenas had 12-foot-high rims and others had 7-foot rims, but it's good that one sport has distinct quirks with the size of the playing field.
And I love that the sport is baseball.
The newly relocated Monument Park is now situated under the sports bar, this choice of location has drawn criticism as the many monuments are underneath the sports bar.
Look, I don't hate the Yankees. I really don't. But if you're telling me that one day I can get drunk, lean over a railing, and vomit onto a plaque of Derek Jeter ... I don't see how I can't take that opportunity. Not because I hate the Yankees. Just because that's something you have to do. There's really no way to explain it. You get it or you don't.
3. Colorado Rockies - The humidor
Rockies fans probably think this is going to be an ironic ranking, but no. Coors Field used to be a magic box that turned baseball into some unwatchable "American Gladiators"-style mess. It was like a stadium built by cartoonish Soviet scientists who sat around a circular conference table in a secret lair and discussed the best way to ruin baseball. The 2000 Rockies scored 968 runs. Their team OPS+ was 87, just a little better than the Giants and Padres this year. No one wanted to watch it.
So what the humidor represents is a bunch of people getting together and figuring out how to make Colorado baseball enjoyable. It's American ingenuity at its best. Back to your lair, commies.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates - Skyline views
Baseball is such a mesmerizing, magical sport that ballparks don't need pretty views. Everything you need to watch is right there between two perpendicular white lines. Nice views are just distracting. Luckily, there usually isn't any baseball played at PNC Park, so the view is really a nice touch.
I'd also like to thank the Pirates for their recent losing spell, which allowed the return of cheap jokes like that. You had us hack writers worried, Pirates! Please don't do that again.
5. Los Angeles Angels - A bunch of fake rocks, or something
Angels Stadium used to be a multi-purpose horror -- a concrete cave just like several others around baseball. Instead of gouging the taxpayers or threatening to move to Des Moines, the Angels spent $100 million to renovate the park. Everyone likes it now, and there aren't any plans for a new stadium.
This is a perfect lesson for the ... two teams that want a new ballpark. Two? When the hell did that happen? You've been busy, taxpayers. Sorry about that whole crumbling schools thing. You'll figure it out.
6. Chicago Cubs - Ivy
I've sat and stared at this for a half-hour, and there's very little that's funny about ivy. Sometimes the ball gets lost in it. There was that outfielder who was scared of it, and the manager who ate some to prove it wasn't harmful. That's kind of funny.
But if Alfonso Soriano could learn how to do this ...
... he'd make ivy funny again and manage to be underpaid all at the same time.
7. San Francisco Giants - Home runs that go into the water
Amazing factoid: If you laid all of Miguel Tejada's hits this season end to end, they would reach the water outside of AT&T Park one times. Amazing but true!
The water is that close because that's what the wind currents and plot of land allowed, so it's an organic feature. The park did try something artificially gimmicky at first, hiding a old-timey mechanical man inside of the right-field wall for some reason.
Fans also complained that the 14-foot-tall mechanical man also bore a strange resemblance to Steve Garvey. When anthropologists discovered an unmarried, 14-foot-tall mechanical woman, everything started to make sense.
8. Kansas City Royals - Waterfalls
Waterfalls don't have a lot to do with baseball, and it gives Kauffman Stadium a Bellagio feel, though the casino gives you better odds of winning. But the water feature really is nice, and the stadium really was visionary, considering that it was built in the era of Candlestick Park, Veterans Stadium, and Riverfront Stadium.
The coolest part of the stadium, though, might be the creepy scoreboard:
At any point, a face could appear on that thing and get you to do whatever it wanted: incite riots, demand a human sacrifice, make you switch religions ... anything. Except pitch well. The face tried that, and it didn't take.
The best part about it is that it was introduced in 1980, when the Mets hit 61 home runs. As a team, all season. Of those, 35 were actually hit at Shea Stadium. Elliott Maddox was sixth on the team with four home runs. They did hit into 126 double plays that year, so it was probably a good thing that some smart-aleck marketing guy didn't come up with the Double Play Durian.
12. Los Angeles Dodgers - Constant reminders of why you don't want to live in Los Angeles
You look at the average temperatures, and think, gee, that seems nice. And you see all the action and glitz of the Hollywood scene, and you think, boy, that sure looks more exciting than this podunk town I'm living in. Then you see a bunch of empty seats in Dodger Stadium because there's no public transportation, and you realize everyone who would rather be watching baseball is sitting in a car that isn't moving. Then you resume not moving to Los Angeles for the 15,243rd day in a row.
13. Toronto Blue Jays - There's a hotel in there somewhere.
Camden Yards was the first of the retro stadium craze, but Rogers Centre was the first stadium opened in baseball since the Kingdome and Olympic Stadium in the '70s, and it was a new world. There's a hotel, there was a Hard Rock Cafe in there at one point, there's $5 million worth of artwork floating around the inside ... it's a beautiful monstrosity, and at the center of it all is a baseball diamond. It used to be the gold standard of new stadiums, and styles have changed, but it's still pretty cool. It's like an old-school NES. With a hotel in it.
14. Seattle Mariners - The umbrella roof
You were probably thinking that the stadium is known for not allowing a hit since 2009, but that's a fallacy. There has actually been at least one hit in every game at Safeco Field this season. No, it's known more for having a retractable roof that isn't there to control the temperature, but rather to act as an umbrella for the seats.
This factoid being at #14 is probably a pretty good clue that you can skip the rest of the list. But it was either the roof or the Hit It Here Café beyond the right-field seats, but the latter proves only that the Mariners have problems following directions.
15. Washington Nationals - Nothing
You probably didn't even know that the Nationals played in a new park, did you? Yep. And they called it "Nationals Park" so you wouldn't forget it. In Nationals Park, there are hot dogs that you can purchase. Would you like a pennant to wave in support of your local baseball team? Nationals Park has them. Come see their state-of-the-art railings, and their freshly painted parking area. Nationals Park. The park of the future, today.
features the only bonfire in the majors
... which totally ignores that Glen Perkins has been really good this year.
Also, I refuse to look up what in the heck they're talking about with the bonfire. They're probably just asking for help from a neighboring ballpark.
17. Philadelphia Phillies - Winning
Veterans Stadium, Shibe Park, Recreation Park, and the Baker Bowl in 120 seasons: one championship, eight first-place finishes
Citizen's Bank Park in seven seasons: one championship, five first-place finishes
The Phillies used to be the Cubs without the charm until they won the World Series in 1980, and they still have more losses than any other franchise in history. In the new park, all they do is win. It was cute until a couple of years ago, and now it's annoying. Knock it off. Quit being so good.
18. Milwaukee Brewers - Home run slide
Bernie Brewer used to slide into a vat of beer. When the Brewers moved into Miller Park, they made him a platform in the shape of home plate. The vat of beer was cast aside. So a guy named Bernie Brewer can represent the Brewers at Miller Park, but when he starts actually sliding into beer, the kids might notice. Good call.
Also, the park serves Miller beer, which makes you sterile. It's something the park is known for now, sure, but I didn't include it because as future generations die out, we'll forget all about that.
19. Oakland Athletics - Foul territory
You can literally fit sixteen Petco Parks between the first-base dugout and home plate. Literally! Rickey Henderson didn't leave and rejoin the A's on four different occasions; he was literally lost in the vast acreage behind home plate. Literally!
In the '80s, people from San Francisco used to visit Oakland and be so jealous. It was nice to look at. Transportation was easy and convenient. The weather was nice, and the teams "won." Then the Giants got a new park, Al Davis ruined the aesthetics of the park with his football renovations, and suddenly San Franciscans felt smug about everything. More so, even.
In response, the A's took that foul territory and created a pitcher who would be useless without it. They left him on the Giants' doorstep. A Trojan Zito. It worked, and the war continues. Barry Zito didn't transfer to USC because of the baseball program. He was trying to warn us!
20. St. Louis Cardinals - Big Mac Land
Big Mac Land is a reminder that something once beloved by the nation might actually be a distasteful monstrosity, good mostly because of the weird chemicals that are in it.
Am I writing about Big Macs or Mark McGwire? Yes.
Fireworks are launched from the stacks after every Reds home run and win. The 7 baseball bats featured on both smokestacks are meant to symbolize Pete Rose, who wore number 14, since Major League Baseball has restricted his number from being displayed along with other Cincinnati greats.
That is some serious Masonic stuff right there. I think Dan Brown just got the idea for his next crappy book. Sure, the 14 bats are easy to find, but if you look at a picture of an aerial view of the park, overexpose the image, and superimpose it over the old Riverfront Stadium, what secret message do you find?
Not really. I just wanted to post that and get somebody fired. Shouldn't have been reading about baseball on company time, thief!
22. Arizona Diamondbacks - The swimming pool
After spending the better part of the decade making fun of the swimming pool in right-center field, it's about time to give the Diamondbacks a break. Yes, a pool in a baseball stadium is annoying. Yes, it's extremely gimmicky. Yes, when they show the pool on TV, there's always some sunburned galoot with a tank top and uneven goatee trying to get the camera's attention. But it's Arizona. That place is always 106°. Let them have their damned pool.
23. Cleveland Indians - Insects
Here's where a list like this gets tricky. Progressive Field is a beautiful place, but what is it known for? It was part of the first wave of nice, downtown, HOK-commissioned stadiums that set off a trend that's going to look a lot better in 40 years than does the trend of baseball/football combo-stadiums. But what is this particular stadium known for? Nothing, really, other than being a fine ballpark. It's just ... nice.
Jacobs Field is known for attacks of little bugs from Lake Erie. Once I find a publisher for my book -- a sci-fi novel in which Joba Chamberlain mates with the Queen Midge in a plot to enslave humanity -- that's all it will be known for. Until the day that Joba Rulers, VOL. 1 is published, though, it's the midges by default.
24. Florida Marlins - The name changes
Well, it was either that or an empty-seat joke, and those are played out. But it's the only stadium name that I need to Google on a regular basis, so saying it's known for having so many name changes isn't a cheap shot. It's just the truth.
Originally named Joe Robbie Stadium, [Sun Life Stadium] has also been known as Pro Player Park, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphin Stadium, Dolphins Stadium, and Land Shark Stadium.
Apparently, the folks who make Bass-O-Matics didn't want to pony up the money after Land Shark did.
Oh, I'm not made of stone. One cheap empty-seat joke, and I don't even have to provide the punch line.
25. Detroit Tigers - It's not Tiger Stadium
Of all the parks that were torn down to make way for a new one, Tiger Stadium was the one that crushed me. It was one of the only parks that a hitter could actually hit a ball out of! Upper-deck home runs were common! As a kid growing up, it was everything I wanted in a ballpark. Considering that I grew up with Candlestick, I was easy to please.
Comerica is nice. Pleasant. And over the next century, it will build the history that Tiger Stadium once had. But right now, it doesn't have that.
Please note that this is coming from someone who hasn't seen either park, nor have I needed to use a Tiger Stadium toilet in a moment of distress. I might feel differently if that were the case. At least it's not ...
26. Chicago White Sox - Being the last of the old kind
Oh, they must have been so proud of that park when it opened. All sorts of luxury suites. That new ballpark smell. But U.S. Cellular Field was the last park before Camden Yards and the HOK revolution. It's nice, but it's not nice.
The team removed 6,000 seats from the upper deck in response to complaints about the original design. And now that I see pictures of it, it looks pretty cool. But because I remembered the original criticisms of the park, that has to be what it's known for. That, and it's surprisingly annoying to change the rankings on these things once the numbers are in. There are all sorts of HTML quirks and formatting issues ... forget it. It's #26.
Also, old Comiskey didn't seem that great, looking at the pictures. It was as old as Fenway or Wrigley, but no one talked about it with the same reverence. That's kind like how everyone used to be "Curse of the Bambino" this and "Billy Goat Curse" that, but no one really cared about the White Sox's postseason futility in the same way, even while they were making a championship run.
27. Texas Rangers - Greene's Hill
The park is named after the team. Not Nolan Ryan, not Oddibe McDowell, and not Jeff Burroughs, but the team. Okay, fair enough. Somehow, though, the former mayor of Arlington got his name on the stupid hill out in center field. At first, I figured this is because he was responsible for some civic masterpiece, like the "Wall to Keep People From Lubbock Out Of Our City" project, but no. He doesn't even have his own Wikipedia page. If he was so great, why doesn't he have a Wikipedia page? That's how this generation defines greatness. And you want to name a grassy area after that guy?
Screw it. I'm calling it Lawn Washington. If that catches on, the Rangers will jump into in the top five.
28. Atlanta Braves - Those stupid chants
The stadium's nice. Understated. Not flashy. But, good lord, no one can seriously like the war chant, right? Whenever the park is on TV, that's the only possible thing you can think of.
The wave is to intelligent baseball fans as the war chants are to intelligent Braves fans, right? You don't say anything because the guy from Valdosta who makes one game a year seems like he's having fun, but you don't really want to do it, right? RIGHT? Please just say "right" and restore my faith in sports.
But if this guy can do this every other home game or so ...
... the park will shoot up these charts
29. Tampa Bay Rays - Tropicana Field does not actively cause tooth decay
Tropicana Field does not actively cause tooth decay. This is widely regarded as the best feature of Tropicana Field. That's one less thing you have to worry about if you visit, which you never will.
30. Houston Astros - All sorts of gimmicky crap
There's a train that makes a lot of noise after home runs.
There's a hill in the middle of center fielder for no good reason.
There's a flagpole in the outfield, and it's in play.
There's a high fence close to home plate that allows pop-ups to fall for home runs.
There's a trap door beneath the pitcher's mound that acts like a dunk tank if a hitter fouls a ball off home plate.
There's a man on a ten-foot-high old-timey bicycle who rides around the outfield, playing the accordion, and singing songs about Enos Cabell while the game is going on.
If those last two aren't true, they should be. Why go half-assed, Houston?
Power Rankings of Yesteryear:
8/2 - General manager conversations
7/26 - Trade deadline strategies
7/19 - Ballpark names
7/5 - Mascots
6/27 - Promotional giveaways
6/21 - Health inspection reports
6/13 - Random ex-major leaguers in minor-league system
6/6 - Awesome names in draft history
5/31 - Team logos
5/24 - Annoying people
5/17 - Song titles
5/10 - Hair metal bands
5/3 - Sitcom locations
4/24 - Team names