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MLB's Humidor Effect
by Ernest Miller

Buoyed by the success of the humidor experiment in Denver, baseball has adopted tighter restrictions in how game-used baseballs are stored.

The Colorado Rockies, in an effort to curtail the football-like scores that once were common at Coors Field, began storing game balls in a humidor in 2002. The thinking was that the dry air at the high altitude in Denver caused the baseballs to harden, exacerbating the problems of controlling the hitters in the thin air. The humidors regulated the temperature and humidity in which the balls were stored after arriving from the manufacturer.

Scoring has decreased in Denver from 15.0 runs per game at its peak in 1996 to a nadir of 10.7 last season. Many observers credit the humidor as the primary cause of that drop.

Now baseball wants everyone to adopt similar specifications for baseball storage, though the league isn't telling teams they have to use humidors.

''The specifications that Rawlings recommends are a 70 degree temperature and 50 percent humidity,'' baseball senior vice president Joe Garagiola Jr. said Friday.

''We have contacted all 30 of the clubs, and they have all confirmed to us that they will all be storing their baseballs in a temperature-controlled facility. We're not going to have humidors everyplace, but every place will be temperature controlled, and so I think there will be a very high degree of uniformity.''

So does that mean we can expect and across-the-board drop in scoring this coming season? Not exactly.

''I guess you could say this is the first time that we were proactive in reaching out to the teams,'' Garagiola said. ''The vast majority of teams were already doing this. And that ones that weren't -- they weren't being left out on pallets in the parking lot. Everybody was taking good care of their baseballs.''

If Garagiola is correct in saying that most of the teams were already storing their baseballs in homogeneous environments, then really not much will change in the coming season.

That's not to say that scoring won't drop. It's also not to say that scoring won't rise.

While the long-term trend in scoring has undoubtedly been an upward slope the last 20 years or so, it's common for scoring to fluctuate from season to season. So whether or not the new restrictions will have any lasting impact on scoring levels, we won't know for sure for several seasons, if ever.

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