On the one hand, a retractable roof is the only way we could have had any postseason baseball here in Boston this October (had the Red Sox not run into Ozzie’s boys of destiny), thanks to 40 Days and 40 Nights that has the Stone Zoo evacuating by the twosome.
On the other, if it’s going to be a high of 73, as it will be in Houston today, the only excuse you should have for closing said dome is maybe to prevent that parachuting dude from messing up the works. Or if you really want to put a scare into Bud Selig, argue that you’re just being overly sure that Zod and his cronies don’t float in with a decided lack of kryptonite in the state of Texas. How does he know they don’t really exist? Please. Selig has thought for years his game doesn’t have a steroid problem. With that sense of irrationality, what’s he going to know about Zod?
Alas, Major League Baseball has insisted that the roof of Minute Maid Park remain open tonight when the World Series shifts to Houston, the White Sox up on the Astros, 2-0. The Astros had hoped to recreate the homefield advantage they have enjoyed there with it closed, creating an antiseptic vacuum of delirious fans.
Meanwhile, the White Sox have been allowed to bring their own postseason advantage along to Houston: The umpires.
In the regular season, the Astros were 15-11 with the roof open and 36-17 with it closed.
Naturally, thin-skinned Houstonians are taking this decree as a slap in the face. Morgan Ensberg writes in his Houston Chronicle diary that it isn’t just about the noise, it’s about the wind swirl. Astros fans are shouting conspiracy. The truth is, the anemic Houston offense needs all the help it can get. Opening the roof ensures that the cozy former Enron field doesn’t resemble the home park in RBI Baseball.
The fact of the matter is the roof is the least of the problems at OJ Park, the low point of the new generation of American baseball stades. In a Chicago Tribune piece today entitled, “Texans: 10 reasons why we’re better than y’all,” likely to make Houston fans get their inferiority complexes in check, Dennis Byrne writes:
“4. Minute Maid Park. What kind of name is that? What kind of ballpark is that? Just look at it. A choo-choo in the outfield, like a theme park. A retractable roof that shelters team and fans when it’s too hot, too cold or not just right. It makes the Cell look good, even its critics have to admit. Lean. No nonsense. Real. Except for that exploding scoreboard and its silly races.”
Minute Maid Park has to be the one ballpark that can make a concrete disaster like the new Comiskey look downright special. Fenway Park has the Wall. Camden Yards has the Warehouse. Minute Maid has a choo-choo train.
Not only that, but that injudicious hill in center field, meant to be faintly reminiscent of Fenway’s former Duffy’s Cliff. Memo to HOK Sports, which designed this disaster: They flattened Duffy’s playing field 71 years ago because it was no good. Not retro, no good. That’s like in 50 years some yahoo deciding to resurrect the Central Artery. Hey genius, they got rid of it for a reason.
Perhaps worst of all is that Houston figured out a way to snooker everybody else into paying for its trio of spanking new stadiums (the Toyota Center is next door, Reliant adjacent to the old Astrodome). Public financing paid for 68 percent of the cost, $180 million in all, entailing of a two percent hotel tax, and a five percent rental car tax. Travel to Houston in the past five years? You likely helped pay for the place formerly known as Enron. So, if I have a keg party, it’s against the law for me to charge $5 a head, but these crooks can take my money for their sports arenas? Makes sense.
Of course, the witty PA announcers at the Coca-Cola Company’s Orange Juice Outlet Park tonight will play a lot of Bloodhound Gang, the Stones’ “Gimmee Shelter,” and Bob Marley’s “Is This Love?” (We’ll be together, with a roof right over our heads).
Meanwhile, Selig will have to reiterate what a great environment this is for baseball without putting his molars through his bottom lip. I’m all for a new ballpark in Boston someday, but if this place, with all the character of a Mississippi Wal-Mart food court, is the result, I’ll gladly sit in Fenway until the ground beneath begins to sink in.
Which, with the rain we’ve had, might be any day now, really.