Sunday, June 20, 2010
Teams hope buzz taken out of games
MIAMI -- When Florida Marlins outfielder Cody Ross arrived for work Sunday morning, he grabbed a bright yellow vuvuzela from his locker and sent noise blaring through the Marlins' clubhouse.
One day after horngate, the Marlins could laugh about it. A little bit, anyway.
Saturday's 9-8, 11-inning loss to the Tampa Bay Rays will be remembered for the overwhelming din created by 15,000 air horns distributed to fans in World Cup-themed giveaway, as well as the possibility that the noise caused confusion between Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez and plate umpire Lance Barksdale -- who got their signals crossed on what became a costly botched lineup change in the ninth.
Still, Marlins president David Samson beamed over the promotion, pronouncing it a clear success.
"It was absolutely outstanding," Samson said Sunday. "I got two e-mails from older people and we moved their seats because it was loud. To give you an idea, that is the least number of e-mails for things that go on during the course of a game that you could possibly have."
After Saturday's game, Marlins players had different views.
"Awful," Ross said.
"Brutal," second baseman Dan Uggla said.
And on Sunday, Rays manager Joe Maddon -- who had said the horns should be banned by baseball -- wasn't backing down, either.
"They're annoying," Maddon said. "There's cool things and there's very non-cool things. That's a non-cool thing. ... You could even almost attribute the mix-up possibly last night, if there was one, to the fact that it was so loud."
The horns given out Saturday were about half the size as the vuvuzelas that provide the constant -- some say annoying -- buzz from the stands at World Cup matches. Nonetheless, they packed such a noisy punch for the Marlins and Rays that players and umpires quickly popped in earplugs, and conversations even in the dugouts were nearly impossible.
"I'm always into some crazy ideas myself," Maddon said. "I would just put that into the column that it didn't quite work."
It might not go into the books with the same infamy as 10-cent beer night did in Cleveland in 1974, or the giveaway baseballs that turned into giveaway projectiles and prompted a Dodgers forfeit in 1995, or the gold standard for baseball marketing debacles -- Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park in 1979.
Still, there's a good chance the horns have blared for the last time at a Marlins game.
"There was some thought put into it, some foresight," Marlins vice president of marketing Sean Flynn said last week.
Clearly, the Marlins didn't see this coming.
Perennially one of the worst-drawing teams in baseball, Florida often turns to promotions in an attempt to boost ticket sales. Some are hits, some are misses, and others are messes, like the pompom giveaway last May on a breezy night -- countless shiny, silvery strands blew off the toys and landed on the field throughout the game, making it seem like tinsel on the world's flattest Christmas tree.
"I never knew anybody complained about the field being loud," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said in Washington on Sunday. "They're not Tiger Woods. ... Baseball is supposed to be played with a lot of noise."
Whether it was the horns, the visit from an in-state rival or the Merengue concert afterward, the Marlins drew twice as many fans Saturday as they had for games earlier in the week when the Texas Rangers were in town.
"I guess it was a gadget to get people out there," Rangers manager Ron Washington said Sunday. "Sometimes the fans are so loud in the ballpark you wish they would just calm down. Seriously."
Gonzalez and Barksdale probably would have appreciated some more calm from the stands.
Gonzalez went out to make changes before the ninth, and his card was clearly marked in the Florida dugout -- Wes Helms batting third for Hanley Ramirez, a pitcher [it just said pitcher] in the cleanup spot for Jorge Cantu, and Brian Barden batting ninth in the customary pitcher's spot. But when Barksdale reported the change to the Tampa Bay dugout, he had Helms ninth, Barden third.
Barden summarily batted out of order, erasing a leadoff walk with the game tied in the ninth, and Gonzalez was thrown out for pleading his case.
"It's an embarrassing thing and it's an unfortunate thing," Gonzalez said. "But whether we won the game or lost the game because of that, I don't think so."