Late November and early December constitute the driest period of the baseball calendar with regard to exciting news. We find ourselves getting excited about trivial waiver claims--Dan Otero, James Russell Terrier--and minor trades--Jeremy Hellickson--not on their own merit, but because there exist no other baseball-related items of any merit whatsoever.
It is with great joy then that, as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, Phillies President Andy MacPhail has made a literally groundbreaking and earth-altering decision: He has decided to change the species of grass that will comprise the verdant expanses of Citizens' Bank Park. Via Howard Eskin:
Andy MacPhail made big decision w #phillies. He has changed ballpark infield grass from Bermuda to Blue Grass. Wants Blue because slower.— Howard Eskin (@howardeskin) November 23, 2015
Far am I from a botanist, so perhaps internet encyclopedia Wikipedia.com can shed some light on the true significance of this change. According to Wikipedia, Kentucky Blue Grass possesses a ligule that is "extremely short and square ended." "The broad, blunt leaves (of Kentucky Blue Grass) tend to spread at the base, forming close mats." Bermuda Grass, in contrast, which "creeps along the ground and roots wherever a node touches the ground, forming a dense mat." It has a "relatively coarse-bladed form." It tends to be so aggressive that some refer to it, according to Wikipedia, as "devil grass."
The distinction between a close mat and a dense mat is one that is lost on this author, but the difference between the Ryan Howard-esque broad and blunt nature of Kentucky Blue Grass and the Sandberg-ian coarse blades of the Bermuda variety might explain the difference in how the two species will play in a baseball context. Broad and blunt certainly connotes "slow ground balls" more than "coarse blades" does.
So, what does this mean? First, doing away with a grass that is likened to the devil seems wise. While the success of teams like the Royals and Cardinals is frequently attributed to some manner of devil magic, I find it improbable that the species of home field grass is the origin of such sorcery.
Second is the motivation of slower ground balls that Eskin identifies. Offensively, many of the Phillies key current and future contributors are fairly speedy. Aaron Altherr, Odubel Herrera, J.P. Crawford, Roman Quinn, and Darnell Sweeney are all faster dudes who might benefit from the extra fractions of a second that grounders may spend between their bats and the oppositions gloves that Kentucky Blue Grass figures to provide. What I'm tentatively saying is that bunts might not suck as much.
Defensively, a slightly slower ball might benefit Maikel Franco, who is not the fleetest of foot, at third base. He has a good arm and seems fairly adept at charging soft grounders, so a slower grass might stand to enhance his defensive value.
The most likely case: This change of grass doesn't matter one bit and we're only acting like this is news because following baseball at this time of year is like watching grass grow.