On Monday, the baseball world was blindsided by the news that the Atlanta Braves had completed a deal to move into a brand new stadium in the suburbs for the 2017 season. The Braves pulled off that rare feat in the social media age: Completing a deal with absolutely no leaks whatsoever. And not a mere trade or a signing, but moving their team from one town to another, a byzantine procedure requiring the input of hundreds of officials. The Oakland A's and Tampa Bay Rays have been loudly agitating for new homes for several years, and then out of nowhere the Braves slip into Cobb County like ninjas.
As a Mets fan of a certain age, this news leaves me torn. On the one hand, I would pay handsomely to push the plunger that sets off the dynamite that blows Turner Field into kingdom come. The term "house of horrors" was used often when describing games the Mets played there, and it was only a slight exaggeration.
In the years the Braves called Atlanta Fulton County Stadium home, the Mets compiled a respectable 86-93 record there, though it should be noted that for the entire 1970s and most of the 1980s, the Braves were pretty bad at baseball. The Braves' move to Turner Field coincided with divisional realignment, and with their emergence as a perennial playoff team. That meant the Mets had to play more games in Atlanta than before, and play them against a powerhouse team. New York's record in Atlanta since 1997 adds up to an appalling 50-94, good for a .347 win percentage. The Mets went 0-for-Atlanta in 1998, have notched only one win there in three other seasons (1999, 2005, 2008), and scratched out a mere two wins during another sad trio of years (2000, 2004, 2012). And this win-loss tally does not include three crushing losses at Turner Field in the 1999 NLCS.
So no, I'm not exactly sad to hear that the Mets won't have to play there after 2017. And yet, there is something unsettling about the news. I'm not talking about whatever public financing will inevitably be used to build their new digs, or the abandonment of a city's downtown for its interstate-rich suburbs (the team's official tweet announcing the news touted easy highway access with positively Robert Moses-esque glee). These are important concerns, of course, but on the more personal level, I find it upsetting that a park built when I was old enough to vote will be cast aside for being "too old." This makes me feel ancient in same way as when I hear Pearl Jam and Nirvana on the "classic rock" station.
I was ambivalent, at best, about the abandonment of Shea Stadium. It was grungy and dumpy, but it was still usable as a facility. Mets ownership got in their head that they deserved better, however, and they were able to convince the city likewise before their own finances crumbled and the economy cratered. But when Shea was given the boot, it was a whole 45 years old. Turner Field, on the other hand, first opened for business less than 20 years ago. That's awful quick to give up on a place built to seat 50,000 people.
But this does seem par for the course now when it comes to baseball stadiums. No Bob Vilas live among the ranks of MLB owners, no desire to work around the charms of fixer-uppers. Baseball owners are more like those insufferable rich monsters you see on TLC house hunting shows, who desperately want to unload their condos because they can no longer stomach the shame of living in a building that was erected during the Clinton administration. Why, just look at the images of squalor Spencer Hall captured at Turner Field. The place is a post-apocalyptic hellscape!
Upon hearing the news of the Braves' relocaiton, I remembered a brief segment that aired prior to game 2 of the 1999 NLCS between the Braves and Mets. It was quite rainy in Atlanta that October, with heavy precipitation falling prior to both of the first two games, and yet neither had be rescheduled or even postponed. NBC explained to us that this was due to Turner Field's "revolutionary" water pump system, which sideline reporter Craig Sager demonstrated for us. He even pressed the button to bring the pumps to life, just to show us how great it was. According to Sager, this amazing system meant that Turner Field, then in its third season of hosting baseball, had yet to experience a rain delay.
A system that can literally chase away the rain. It still seems like magic to me. Surely baseball still has room for such sorcery?
sager turner (via Taser Grandma)