August 05, 2010
That day came on Thursday, when a towering but routine popup from Jason Kubel(notes) hit the highest catwalk 190 feet above the infield and came down for a go-ahead RBI single in the Minnesota Twins' 8-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
The play proved especially crucial because it occurred with two outs in the top of the ninth inning. Had Jason Bartlett(notes) or any of his Rays teammates been able to catch it, Minnesota's side would have been retired, the score would have stayed tied at six and Tampa Bay would have had a better chance to complete its comeback from an earlier 6-0 deficit.
Instead, the Twins — newly based at Target Field — somehow won another game via dome magic to remain one game behind the Chicago White Sox in the race for the AL Central.
Meanwhile, the Rays fell a half-game behind the idle New York Yankees in the tight AL East race and manager Joe Maddon was left loudly wanting for a non-meddling new stadium.
Here's what an annoyed Maddon said after the game (via the St. Pete Times):
"That was probably the perfect commercial advertisement, reason to have a new ballpark. There's no better reason than that. I know it works both ways, but to lose a game in a pennant situation like that because of the roof totally indicates why there's a crying need for a new ballpark in this area, regardless of where they put it.
"It just needs to be a real baseball field, where if you were to lose the pennant by one game and look back on a game like that because the roof got in the way, you'd be very upset. There's no better reason than that.''
That may be, but as I said when a similar situation happened to the frustrated Yankees earlier this year (though it didn't cost them the game, or even a run), hitting the catwalks is a freak occurrence that's in play for both teams. Maddon even admits as much in that quote.
And because I'll probably retire to Florida before the voters down there ever approve a new stadium for the Rays, it's an unfair and unfortunate fact of life for the players who play there. Maddon may have designs on a new ballpark, but picking a fight over Tropicana's existing ground rules is probably a route with a much better chance at sparking any kind of change.