I just got back from Denver, where I watched the White Sox get pounded a couple of times to wrap up the first half. Thanks to Josh, pnoles, Ken and Ted for helping out.
As Josh and I talked about on the podcast, Coors Field is an underrated place to watch a game, both because the stadium has a lot of selling points and the crowd is pretty into it. Of course, I may have seen the best version of the crowd because the Rockies won the two weekend games I saw by a combined score of 22-4, and the latter was a near no-hitter. (Josh saw the good game.)
Kyle Freeland’s bid on Sunday was the closest I’ve come to seeing a no-hitter in person, which makes sense, because you can only get one out closer before you’ve seen a guy actually throw one. More to the point, it blew away the previous longest bid I’ve seen, which was when Danny Wright threw 6 1⁄3 scoreless innings against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays back in 2001. That one lacked the suspense because it was a mediocre pitching performance masquerading as a shot at history. He walked seven and threw 115 pitches before Chris Gomez found the gap for a double with one gone in the seventh. Jerry Manuel replaced him afterward.
Kyle Freeland made it two innings past that. In fact, he made it so deep into the game that Coors Field’s stadium operations actually shut down all unnecessary noise and let the fans take over. It felt a little like a tennis match, with between-points cheering subsiding into a low murmur as Freeland started his delivery. This is a sample from his battle with Willy Garcia with two outs in the eighth inning.
Cool thing: no between-pitch sound effects. It's all fan noise, or the absence of. pic.twitter.com/vUaIwY7Ly8— Phenomenal Source (@SouthSideSox) July 9, 2017
That low murmur is prohibited in MLB parks, by and large, and I wonder if it’s one reason why MLB has such a problem reversing its pace-of-play problem. When fans are coaxed to clap, cheer or charge, it covers for the lack of action happening on the field. With those in attendance stimulated by one song or another, the players have less of an immediate driver to create action themselves. They can dawdle or call time or make a third visit to the mound, and the soundtrack will fill in the gaps. The fanless game in Baltimore highlighted how much time players instinctively set aside to let the production effects wash over the proceedings.
Of course, the reason why teams pipe so much noise into their stadiums is because they’re otherwise at the mercy of the players on the field to provide excitement, and they can’t be counted on to do so at any given time. They don’t want the consumer feeling like they paid $120 to see nothing happen, which is understandable. A lot of baseball fans know that this is the risk going in, but teams can’t subsist on die-hards alone.
Hearing the natural audience reaction makes me think there can be some kind of middle ground. In 99 percent of games, silence is going to stem from a lack of action, not fans holding their collective breath, and so some rallying sound is welcome. But I don’t think it would hurt if fans were allowed to let players know to pick up the pace because it’s been 30 seconds since they’ve provided something that warrants a legitimate reaction.