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Archive for Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Commentary: Major league teams are road kill

July 2, 2008

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Joe Gargiola Sr. has an explanation for why so few Major League Baseball teams are winning on the road this year.

"Blame it on global warming," the Ford Frick Award winning broadcaster and Scottsdale, Ariz., resident said. "It makes you sound really smart."

Garagiola's theory may sound far-fetched, but there are few rationale explanations for the current trend.

Entering play Tuesday, three first-place teams, including the Diamondbacks, had losing road records.

Overall, just five MLB teams had winning records away from home.

If that trend holds for the rest of the season, it would be the fewest teams since 1990 when baseball still had four divisions and four fewer clubs than it does now.

"I heard someone say that home teams' winning percentage is at something like a 70-year high," Diamondbacks general manager Josh Byrnes said. "That's an unbelievable number."

Lots of theories have been bantered for this collective road swoon. Among them:

¢ A record number of teams going with youth movements

¢ Teams tailored to quirky ballparks

¢ Differing usage of bullpens on the road versus home

¢ And, get this, the decline of amphetamine (greenies) use in clubhouses

"That's a good one," Diamondbacks television analyst Mark Grace said of the greenie conjecture. "The truth is, I have no idea why this is happening.

"It's amazing to me that the team with the best record in baseball is six games below .500 on the road."

That team would be the perennially snake-bitten Cubs, who might be reason enough to explain this phenomenon. If the cursed Cubs have the best record in baseball, anything is possible. The Cubs haven't won a World Series in 100 years, so maybe we should add this theory to the list and call it the 100-year-flood hypothesis.

Speaking of lists, check out the list of road-impotent teams.

Entering Tuesday's games, the Cubs were 17-23 away from the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. Defending Series champ Boston was 19-25; the first-place Chicago White Sox were 19-24, and the Atlanta Braves, owners of a 28-14 home mark, were an abysmal 12-29 on the road.

Among the teams with winning road records, only the Los Angeles Angels (27-15) and St. Louis Cardinals (24-19) were more than two games over the .500 mark.

"There's always been a home-field advantage in baseball," Byrnes said. "Why it's so exaggerated this year I'm not sure."

Diamondbacks outfielder Jeff Salazar prefers to play devil's advocate.

"Maybe teams aren't playing that much worse on the road," he said. "Maybe teams are just playing that much better ... at home."

Perhaps. Or maybe there is no logical explanation.

"I think it's just one of those rare years where the stars align," Garagiola said.

The Cubs certainly hope so.

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