When Safeco Field was first put into operation after the All-Star break in 1999, it was immediately evident that it was a pitcher's park and that it was particularly tough on right-handed batters.
There has been sporadic talk since then that perhaps things needed to be equalized, possibly by moving the fences in.
That talk has heated up this year with the Seattle Mariners' performance at Safeco Field, where Seattle is 16-25, which at .390 is the second-worst home winning percentage in baseball behind the Kansas City Royals (14-23, .378).
Almost all of that comes square down on the offense. Seattle is hitting .195 at home, a number that is almost staggeringly awful. It's not that the Mariners can't hit -- they own a reasonable .259 road batting average, and they have 51 road homers against just 21 bombs at home.
That's a huge disparity considering that after a big early season spent on the road, the Mariners have almost balanced out their home-vs.-road obligations, having played 41 games at home and 43 away.
Manager Eric Wedge is willing to concede that Safeco is not the easiest place to hit, but he isn't willing to let his hitters use that as a crutch.
In fact, after the Mariners got just three hits Wednesday in the finale of a 10-game homestand, he said he'd be just as happy to keep playing at home.
"I would rather stay here and grind through this and figure it out," he said. "That's my attitude, and that should be their attitude, too. You can't run away from it. You have to look it right in the eye. This is where we play. It's a great place to play.
"These guys have to figure out how to be at their very best here. That's what we're going to keep pushing to them."
And don't bring up talk of moving the fences. That's not on the table right now.
"That's for the offseason, if then," Wedge said in late June. "Our focus has to be here and now."
Batting coach Chris Chambliss never had to hit in Safeco during a storied major league career, but he doesn't demonize the place.
"It should be just another ball yard," Chambliss said. "What's happening is that we're not getting it done. It's not happening."
The blogosphere in the Pacific Northwest seems to be in favor of moving the fences, but the fences themselves are not necessarily the trouble.
Playing in the same ballpark from 2001-09, the Mariners never hit less than .255 in Safeco. The last three seasons, however, have seen the franchise's hitters crumble, averaging .235 at home in 2010, .222 in 2011 and now this year's .195.
Maybe what is different are the players -- or maybe the players' attitudes toward playing at home.
"I'm tired of hearing about all the bull with Safeco and everything," Wedge said. "They (the players) have to take full responsibility, as I do for not getting them where they need to be here offensively just yet.
"That's my job; the coaches' job. Rest assured, we'll get them there. It's up to them if they want to be part of this or not."
Many of the Mariners who have gotten significant playing time this year, including Ichiro Suzuki, Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager, Michael Saunders and Brendan Ryan, should have games made to order for Safeco.
As big as the park is in terms of hitting home runs, there is all that much more room for line drives to fall in. Outfielders have more room to cover, and that group of Mariners should be able to find the spaces in the gaps and down the lines with much more regularity than they've shown.
One problem is strikeouts. Seattle batters are averaging more than 7.6 strikeouts per game at Safeco this year. When they don't put it in play, they aren't going to get hits.
"We've struck out way too much," Chambliss said. "We should be better than all these strikeouts. We need better concentration at the plate and better contact."
General manager Jack Zduriencik says he is trying to build a team that can compete daily, weekly, monthly and yearly in the American League West.
The pitchers have basically done their part with a middle-of-the-road 4.04 ERA. The defenders have the best fielding percentage in the AL.
However, the hitters have to step up when they club returns to Safeco Field after the break.
Until and unless that happens, there will continue to be talk about moving the fences in Seattle.
It's a tough place to hit, admittedly, but perhaps not quite so tough a place as the Mariners are making it.
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