Why the outfield basket at Wrigley exists following the Nationals' clutch grand slam

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Wrigley Field’s basket has been around since 1970, so even though it isn’t new, it still raises questions every time someone puts one into it. And that’s what happened on Wednesday during Game 4 of the National League Division Series between the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs.

Michael Taylor broke the game open with a two-out, eighth inning opposite field grand slam that landed in the basket to help Washington force a decisive Game 5 in Washington on Thursday (WAS 5, CHC 0). Check it out:

If that basket wasn’t there, it’s fair to assume the Cubs would’ve escaped the two-out jam in the eighth and would’ve had a realistic shot at sending the game to extras or winning it in the final two innings. 

The basket exists to prevent fan interference, and even though it isn’t always entirely successful (fans can be idiots), it is effective against “normal” fans. Many ballparks have gaps between the wall and the fans, but at Wrigley Field fans can stay close to the action without messing with the outcome of a game.

Pitchers and outfielders aren’t keen on the basket at times. Even though it serves a noble purpose, it can sometimes rob an outfielder of a robbed home run opportunity. It is largely unnoticeable during games, it just has the unfortunate side effect of only making itself present on a home run — one of the biggest plays of any game.

Wrigley’s rules are a bit complex due to the quirkiness of the park. According to the Wrigley ground rules, there are several things that may tinker with what the field of play actually is:

OUTFIELD AREA:

  • Fair ball striking railing or screen attached to bleacher wall and rebounding onto playing field: In Play.
  • Fair ball lodges in screen attached to bleacher wall: Two Bases.
  • Fair batted ball lodges in vines on bleacher wall: Two Bases.
  • Fair ball enters vines on bleacher wall and rebounds onto playing field: In Play.
  • Fair ball lodges in or under grates in left or right field: Two Bases.

The key takeaway of the basket is simple: It’s a home run. It just doesn’t necessarily allow outfielders to try to snag a home run back. The basket giveth and the basket taketh away — last season the Cubs got a Javier Baez home run against the Giants that outfielder Angel Pagan swears he would have had — but the bottom line is that the Cubs know about the general weirdness of the basket and embrace it either way.



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