Game 9: Kansas City Royals
We have generally been taking public transport to games, but here in Kansas City the motel we were staying at was quite close to the park. We drove to within about half a mile then walked the rest on a beautiful clear Kansas City day. I was suitably impressed with Kauffman Stadium and rate it as the best stadium we have been to to date. Although it is quite a way out of town (eight miles) it has big parking areas and a roomy feel. It backs on to the Kansas City Chiefs NFC home ground Arrowhead Stadium, and combined they put up quite an impressive skyline.
Kauffman Stadium had artificial turf until 1995 and now it is truly a spectacular venue. It is quite a small and intimate arena and instead of seats in the outer field there are huge waterfall and fountain features. The crown topped scoreboard is 12 stories high with a massive video display screen. The relatively long deep fences make it tough on hitters, but this is offset by great visibility. There is a huge kids area with pitching, batting, running bases and whiffle ball field – so parents can watch the game without any disturbance. Also behind the left field is a fantastic museum of Royals history which is well worth a visit. Kitty was especially pleased today was “Bark in the Park”; a day when people could also bring their dogs with them. All this made for great ambience. The crowd was recorded as being 24,234 including 391 dogs.
After a cold beer at the fountain bar behind the outfield wall, we moved to our position. The three dollar ninety tickets offered us seats high up behind first base, and while we could have shifted we preferred to get the gentle breeze and have an elevated view of the action. As it transpired the action was limited.
Arizona Diamondbacks……….000 010 010 -2
Kansas City Royals…………..…000 000 000 – 0
Two runs was a bit disappointing. Because of the great ballpark and weather I was hoping for another long game, even extra innings would have been welcomed. However the ineptitude of both batting artilleries won over. In the fifth innings Paul Goldschmidt led off for the Diamondbacks with a double. Aaron Hill singled, advancing Goldschmidt to third. He then scored on John McDonalds sacrifice bunt. The scoring was completed in the top of the eighth when leadoff batter Gerardo Parra was walked. Ryan Roberts sacrificed to take Parra to second and he moved to third on a wild pitch by Greg Holland. Justin Upton hit a long sacrifice fly to bring Parra in for the second and final run of the game.
So that was that. Of course I must make mention of my old mate, Billy Butler. It was nice to see him again. He batted four times and walked once on four balls and walked once by getting hit in the back. On his other two at bats he flied out on the first pitch – one to an outstanding catch. In total for the game he faced 16 pitches. Kansas City management did leave him in to run the bases and on each of the two occasions when he walked he was left stranded on third base. A big outing for my hero.
I must take this opportunity to explain what Billy’s job is as the designated hitter. The designated hitter rule is the common name for MLB rule and 6.10 was introduced only in the American League in 1973. It allows the team to designate a patter to go in, generally instead of the pitcher. I will not bore you with the full intricacies of the rule, but that is it in a nut shell. In interleague play the home team is the determining factor, with the rules of their park applying for both teams. This had applied to the All Star game as well, but in 2010, MLB announced that the designated hitter rule would apply for every All Star game.
Please note that this is not to be confused with the pinch hitter, which were used extensively in the game in Colorado three days ago. The pinch hitter or pinch runner is basically a substitute player. He takes the place of another player who can thereafter take no further part in the game.
The rationale for the designated hitter rule is that, with a few exceptions – most notably Babe Ruth, who began his career as a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox – pitchers are usually weak hitters who normally play once every four or five games. It would allow greater offence, which the crowds generally wanted. It has been argued also that because pitching is such a precise art that the pitcher did not have time to practice his batting as well.
Proponents of the National League and not having a designated hitter argue that it takes away from the managers need to use strategy late in the game when deciding whether to keep a pitcher in the game or pinch hit for him. They also debate that the use of a designated hitter creates more specialisation, creating offensive and defensive players, more akin to American football and not really proper for baseball.
Another off shoot is that it has extended players careers and in some instances created long careers for players who are weak fielders or who have a history of injury. Of course conversely it can be questioned whether or not this is a good thing, enabling older, weaker players to fill the spots that otherwise might have been taken by younger players who end up not finding a place in the major leagues. The rule has caused a lot of controversy and is still argued about by baseball people. The simple fact is though, that it exists in the American League only.
From what I have read, Billy Butler was a pretty average first baseman. In fact I saw him occasionally in spring training fill in there and indeed it is better that he does not field. I am sure that the designated hitter rule will extend his playing life, but good on him. I would not mind earning $8.5 million just to bat, and according to the statistics, Billy is doing a pretty good job of it. Right now he is still leading the Royals batting with an average of .297.
We had a great day at the ballpark; a shame the hitting of neither team extended our stay. We walked back to the car and drove the couple of miles back to our motel for a well-earned refreshment and swim. I am sure that Billy was doing something similar.