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David Brown

Morneau upset at Twins for not moving Target Field fences closer

David Brown
Big League Stew

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Target Field received nearly universal acclaim during its rookie season. Some believe the Minnesota Twins built the finest ballpark in the majors.

About the only complaint: When compared to other stadiums, Target's outfield dimensions make it too hard to hit home runs, an objection backed up by some data.

The Twins recently announced plans to enhance their new stadium, and slugger Justin Morneau(notes) was disappointed to find that no changes are planned for the park's dimensions.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Morneau wants the fences moved closer:

"Right-center to left-center is ridiculous," Morneau said in an e-mail reply to the Star Tribune. "[It's] almost impossible for a righthanded hitter to [homer to the] opposite field and very difficult for lefties. It affects the hitters a lot, and you start to develop bad habits as a hitter when you feel like you can only pull the ball to hit it over the fence. You take those habits on the road."

So, do the Twins need to bring in the fences? Make it 110 feet to the pole in right? 150 feet to the power alley, like in our illustration above? Or should they keep the stadium as it is and store the balls in a wine cellar — an anti-humidor — to bridge the home run gap?

None of that. Not yet.

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Morneau's argument, as a home-run hitter himself, might appear to be selfish. Before a concussion ended Morneau's season in early July, his slugging percentage was 270 points higher (!) on the road than at Target Field.

And though he's not as much of a power hitter, it took Joe Mauer(notes) how long to hit his first homer at Target?

The move from the Metrodome did seem to affect the entire team; the Twins hit 52 homers at home compared with 90 on the road. There's something to Morneau's complaint that goes beyond the vanity of his personal stats.

Yet, the Twins posted a 53-28 record at Target Field and 41-40 on the road — a point Morneau concedes, the Star Tribune adds. No matter the park's dimensions, the players coped well. They won at home.

But, as far as how the park plays, it's only one season of data. We don't have enough information to know what Target Field really does. Remember how Yankee Stadium was ruining all of our lives in 2009, with the Jet Stream that Ruth Built causing mass home run chaos? Where were those cries in 2010?

The Detroit Tigers played at cavernous Comerica Park for four seasons before moving in the fences. U.S. Cellular Field was considered a pitcher's park when it opened. Now, 20 years after some tweaking, it's a home run launching pad.

As with most ballplayers, you can't judge a ballpark's career on one season. Play two or three years there, compile more data, and then make some changes. Stay patient, Mr. Morneau. The Twins don't need your radical ideas right now.

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