I've begun warming up to the idea -- the reality -- of the fences coming in at Safeco Field. Initially, I was disappointed. I liked the idea of GM Jack Zduriencik building a team that excelled thanks to Safeco's unique conditions rather than in spite of them. Baseball is a game centered around individual matchups and lacks the team interaction that is central to other major sports, but the brand of ball being built by the Mariners bridged the gap to some degree. Jason Vargas, for example, found results out of line with his skill level thanks to a massive home park and one of the best outfield defensive corps imaginable. They picked him up time and time again.
Offense is fine and dandy -- I enjoyed the juggernaut Mariner lineups of the Steroids Era as much as anyone -- but I'm a nerd for defense and could not have enjoyed watching Zduriencik's outfielders cover every foot of that massive outfield any more than I did. For 24 glorious games we were treated to an Endy Chavez / Franklin Gutierrez / Ichiro Suzuki unit, and have seen a number of other bulletproof trios out there over the past four seasons.
Gutierrez -- Death to Flying Things -- has been best of all, of course. Many fans seem ready to move on from Guti after two years of health issues and three years of offensive futility, but I could never deny that combination of freakish range and surprising flash. I don't know how much more of Guti we'll see out there given his growing injury history and contract situation, but watching him shrink Safeco like only he and Mike Cameron could has been one of the great joys of my Safeco Era fanhood.
His health and status with the team aside, the number of opportunities for us to see Guti stretch the boundaries of his range are diminishing due to Safeco's altered dimensions. Plays like the ones below will never be seen again at Safeco. Similar plays, spectacular plays, but not those plays. Let these serve as a tribute to Safeco's lost ground and Gutierrez's ability to wrangle it into submission.
We'll hold off on posting the countless videos of Mariner hitters watching their mighty blasts recorded as putouts.