Morgan: MLB teams are road kill - East Valley Tribune: News

Morgan: MLB teams are road kill

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Posted: Tuesday, July 1, 2008 12:52 pm | Updated: 11:53 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Joe Garagiola 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 Valley resident said. "It makes you sound really smart."

Garagiola's theory may sound far-fetched, but there are few rational 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 with a winning road record 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, vs. at 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 (second) 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 World 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."

Byrnes thinks ballparks may have something to do with it. While teams have always found players to fit their parks, there are a whole lot of new ballparks with quirks that require special knowledge.

Still, Byrnes said, "it's a small reason."

The youth theory also sounds plausible. Young players usually have a difficult time adapting to the challenges of the road.

But the theory loses strength when you consider that the five youngest teams in baseball - the Diamondbacks, A's, Twins, Marlins and Rangers - had a higher collective road winning percentage through Monday (.470) than the five oldest teams - the Astros, Mets, Phillies, Red Sox and Cubs (.443).

Bullpens have been used differently on the road for years, and there's little evidence to suggest dramatic change.

As for greenies, Grace doesn't see the hard evidence.

"Greenies have been outlawed for three years," he said. "You didn't start seeing everyone lose on the road until this year."

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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