Catwalk Catastrophe Costs Tampa Bay Rays, Roofs Revive Baseball Debate

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Catwalk Catastrophe Costs Tampa Bay Rays, Roofs Revive Baseball Debate

Of the 30 MLB teams, a handful play at home where they do, in fact, have a roof over their heads. While each team's home is unique and wonderful in its own way, these domed ballparks come with very unique and terrible ground rules.

Thursday afternoon, in the midst of a division title chase, the Tampa Bay Rays drew the losing hand from their own House. The wild card: The rafters and catwalks that support the roof over their heads.

The Rays were playing the Minnesota Twins in the confined Tropicana Field and lost the game in the ninth inning when Twin Jason Kubel popped a fly ball that struck the A-Ring designated catwalk and landed beyond the reach of the Rays second baseman a few feet beyond the pitcher's mound.

That two-out, not-so-routine pop fly allowed the winning run to score, breaking the 6-6 tie in the top of the ninth inning. The Twins would go on to win by a final of 8-6 following a groundout by Carl Crawford.

Though it is difficult to predict who would have won had the catwalk not interfered, it is easy and interesting to consider how this result could be potentially devestating to a club that is competing in the A.L. East with two other juggernaut teams.

In recent history, the A.L. East has not been the tightest division. that honor falls to the A.L. Central. However, the A.L. Wild Card traditionally comes out of the A.L. East and one loss in this division could be the difference.

Rays manager Joe Maddon said as much in a postgame interview concerning the controversial issue of having any roof structure in play in baseball.

"I know it works both ways, but to lose a game in a pennant situation like that, because of a roof, truly indicates why there's a crying need for a new ballpark in this area, regardless of where they put it."

Maddon continued, "It just needs to be a real baseball field where, if you lose the pennant by one game and look back at a game like that, because the roof got in the way, we'd be very upset."

While Tampa may not have the only dome in baseball, Tropicana Field is the poster child against enclosed baseball facilities.

Yes, each indoor ballpark carries certain advantages and specific reasons for why it is enclosed. They all offer the feature of being multipurpose facilities, such as disaster shelters.

Chase Field, home to the Arizona Diamondbacks, experiences treacherous temperatures year-round.

Tropicana Field also protects fans from hurtful temperatures as well as the rain and thunderstorms that can arise in the blink of an eye.

The Milwaukee Brewers, Houston Astros, and Toronto Blue Jays also have enclosed facilities, so is it unrealistic for Major League Baseball to phase out enclosed ballparks?

The Minnesota Twins, who benefited from the Tropicana catwalks Thursday afternoon, also played indoors in the multipurpose Metrodome up until this year.

Minnesota is currently celebrating the inaugural year of Target Field, an open-air ballpark that represents the way baseball was meant to be played.

I believe that Major League Baseball should eventually be played completely in open-air environments, regardless of weather concerns.

There are certain problems all indoor ballparks share: lighting, AstroTurf, inconsistent ground rules, and inconsistent atmospheric conditions, along with several others.

The game of baseball was meant to be subjected to the elements. Yes, rain and heat can certainly be inconveniences, but they are a part of the game. Baseball is, after all, a sport, and sports are subjected to weather.

AstroTurf can make some players more susceptible to injury. Pop-flies seem to be easily lost in artificial lighting and always have the chance of striking a ceiling superstructure. Enclosed ballparks aren't subjected to the same wind element open-air parks are that can either carry a ball beyond the fence, or keep it in the outfield.

Joe Maddon made an excellent point. No one wants the fate of there season to be in any way affected by a roof. There are certain elements to the game that cannot, and should not, be controlled, such as the impact of weather. But having catwalk or speaker interference or losing a pop-fly ball to artificial lighting should never factor in.

Yes, open-air ballparks are lit at night and balls can be lost there, but those lights are mounted for the fans and are mounted out of play where they can never affect the trajectory of a ball, whereas the lights mounted on some in-play catwalks can.

If the Rays lose a postseason berth by only one game, all eyes will turn to this game first. Regardless of any other games they should have won but didn't, this game was affected in a way the others weren't. This game was affected in a way no baseball game should be affected.

Simply put: there was a factor that should not have been there.

Roofs do not belong in baseball and there should be a movement to eventually have all MLB games be payed in open-air ballparks.

I am not saying we should immediately replace all indoor ballparks, but when those inevitable times come when a facility's condition is being evaluated for replacement, it should be replaced by an open-air ballpark.

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