With less than a season under its belt, RFK Stadium, the home of the Washington Nationals, has gained a reputation as a pitcher’s park. Many observers—including some old Senators players—assumed that balls would start flying out of the stadium once the weather heated up, but that hasn’t been the case. Through last Thursday (July 21), 47 home runs had been hit at RFK in 47 games, by far the fewest in the majors. Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium ranked second to last with 61 homers in 46 games. Also through last Thursday, the Nats had hit 70 homers on the season, fewest in the majors, and were at or near the bottom in multiple offensive categories, which makes their recently-ended run at the top of the NL East all the more remarkable.
Nationals’ outfielder Jose Guillen, who possesses a startling 1/18 ratio in home/road home runs, recently did some investigating and came up with a partial explanation. Armed with a 300-foot tape measure, Guillen discovered that the power alleys are 15 feet longer than previously recorded. The gaps in both left- and right-centerfield are both 395 feet, rather than the 380 feet listed on the outfield fences. “Every ball I hit to the warning track I write down, ” Guillen said. “I should have 29 homers” instead of 19. Nats officials conceded that the green pads marked “380” were put on the wrong side of advertisements on the outfield wall, and moved them closer to the foul poles because of Guillen’s investigation.
This discovery doesn’t change the fact that the Nat’s bats have been silent since the all star break, but players like Guillen and Vinny Castilla have been complaining about RFK’s size all year. Now they’ve been vindicated, to a certain extent. Hopefully they’ll start hitting again before the hated Braves get too far ahead in the standings.