No. 23 — Chase Field, save this place before the team slithers away

Editor’s note: This is part of a continuing series reviewing Major League Baseball stadiums and desperate plea for its fans not to visit all of them. You really do have more important things to do with your life.

There is such a thing as a law of diminishing returns.

I really enjoyed Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the first time I went years ago. Back then, it was the first Major League Baseball game I traveled out of California to see — the Dodgers and D-backs. It was my first game in a domed stadium, and watching baseball indoors for the first time is unforgettable. You miss some of the game because you find yourself staring at this marvel of construction, a building tall enough to seat more than 48,000 people on the periphery and yet big enough in the center to play professional baseball.

And both teams were vying for a playoff spot that year. So it was a wonderful experience, complete with the junior college dropouts in the parking lot afterward offering you free passes to see them strip later at the local dancing cabarets.

So I don’t want to disparage professional baseball in Phoenix, at least not then.

Here’s why I do now:

In my opinion, the Diamondbacks have devolved into a somewhat petulant organization. The first big clue came when the Dodgers won the NL Western Division title there in 2013 and decided to celebrate by taking a dip in a swimming pool behind the right-field fence after the game. The front office, the players, anyone pulling a check all decried such loutish behavior to soil their fair swimming pool. They even paid for security guards to protect the pool in case those blue bastards decided to jump in again.

To which anyone with a modicum of common sense would reply, you’ve just run around in a city with 110 degree temperatures and there’s a swimming pool nearby. Cannonball!

The second reason I’m no longer keen on desert baseball is because the franchise is threatening to leave Phoenix if its demands for a new stadium are not met. The D-Backs might have some leverage. The Las Vegas suburb of Henderson might pony up for a new stadium.

But if the Atlanta Braves left a perfectly functional Turner Field after about 20 years and were called a bunch of filthy corporate welfare whores for sucking a new stadium out of the public teat, the Diamondbacks are even worse. Chase Field is actually a very comfortable and affordable place to watch a game, more so than Turner Field. It is also in a safer part of Phoenix than the neighborhood the Braves once called home.

There are perhaps two things you could say negatively about Chase Field. One is the interior bears a striking resemblance to Miller Park in Milwaukee. At least the construction crew took heed and painted the place forest green instead of that Amazon distribution warehouse hue in Wisconsin. Having said that, it is extremely difficult to make the interior of a domed stadium look cozy. Domes are big, monolithic airplane hangars. That won’t change no matter if the team stays or moves to Nevada. Nobody wants to watch a game outdoors in 115 degree heat. Stick with ugly comfort, guys. You have no choice.

The second problem is that the Diamondbacks, through the self-inflicted wounds of negative press brought on by poor results and false claims of poverty, rarely fill up the stadium now. Heck, Phoenix is no longer considered a viable sports town. The beloved Suns have been a laughingstock in the NBA for almost a decade. The Cardinals have had three coaches in as many years and as for the Coyotes? Their arena is just 17 years old and the rumor is they want to move to a city that they say likes hockey — Houston.

The last time I went to Chase Field, I think it was three years ago, the woeful D-Backs played an afternoon game against the equally irrelevant Phillies. Parking and the ticket cost maybe 25 bucks. I sat in the left field bleachers with some Phillies fans and marveled at the upper deck instead of the closed roof. The deck was vacant, except for one lady who twirled colored flags for the entire nine innings — a one woman spirit squad that picked up different banners and spun them any which way you could imagine. The locals told me she was there every game. Nobody knows why. Nobody knows if she actually watches or comprehends baseball. Maybe people are privately relieved that this is her way of gaining attention, as opposed to mass murder or public nudity.

So yeah, Chase Field suffers from the law of diminishing returns. It’s neither handsome nor ugly. It is comfortable and affordable, but not particularly memorable. Even worse, if the team leaves Phoenix is likely done for as a major sports town.

Which I don’t want, to be honest.

I see opportunity in Phoenix if only the Diamondbacks would invest in Chase Field as other teams have in their stadiums. Arizona could have added outfield seats when the stadium debuted, but it intentionally sacrificed prime spots for the small swimming pool in right field. Now, other teams have ripped out some seats for bars. Why stop at a small swimming pool? Have the biggest swimming pool/bar known to man just behind the entire outfield fence. Girls get in free with their own two-piece bikini and every poor sucker gets taken to the cleaners for drinks and inner tubes.

What have you got to lose? You know damn well that’s what your fan base would be if you moved to Vegas, anyway. And as previously established, you have enough girls from the strip clubs and Hooters within walking distance of Chase Field. The girls are there, and they like baseball.

Soil that pool, even if the people wear blue.

No. 24 — Marlins Park, when stoned architects take their talents to South Beach

Editor’s note: This is part of a continuing series reviewing Major League Baseball stadiums and desperate plea for its fans not to visit all of them. You really do have more important things to do with your life.

I get into arguments all the time about movies featuring characters from DC Comics — “Man of Steel,” “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice,” etc. Usually, the debate goes something like this: I posit that instead of the same superhero movie told in a paint-by-numbers approach, they’re trying to tell different stories. Some of it fails or is overblown, but much of it works and I want Hollywood to take risks instead of predictable reboots and sequels.

The counterargument is usually: Zack Snyder sucks. Robert Downey Jr. rules! And then I sigh and pick my spirits up with a tasty Hostess fruit pie.

Marlins Park is the “Batman V Superman” of sports stadiums. In other words, it is an ambitious failure that I admit I enjoyed driving to when I lived in Florida. Former owner Jeffrey Loria instructed the architects to avoid the faux retro look of so many other stadiums. Miami is a forward-looking city, he told them. Look forward. Let your imagination go.

The result is a beautiful mess of a retractable roof stadium that encapsulates as much South Florida tackiness as a pack of designers can create with a bag full of narcotics and a doodle pad. But considering it seats just about 36,000 people, there’s a lot more focus on Miami-Deco, 1980s neon colors and the music of Pitbull than there is on getting fans in the seats.

Which is another thing that makes Marlins Park symbolic of Miami: South Florida simply doesn’t like professional sports that much. But we’ll expand on that later.

The stadium — built on the site of the former Orange Bowl football stadium in Little Havana — would feel cramped if the Marlins were ever popular. In the eight MLB games I attended, I never saw a fan sitting in the upper deck. You can get a seat behind the dugouts on some nights for less than $20. I did when the Dodgers were in town and witnessed Rich Hill pitch seven perfect innings against the hometown team. If you are a fan of the visiting team, $20 is a nice investment for the climate control and proximity alone.

Special events can be a treat there. When the World Baseball Classic was held in Marlins Park, fans of Central American national teams showed up with drum lines, dancers and sang for nine innings. Imagine an international soccer flavor to baseball. Imagine people in that upper deck. It was a wonderful memory.

I also like the crazy mash of colors around the park. I never realized there were that many shades or turquoise and chartreuse. I liked the garish fountain in centerfield to celebrate home runs. Regrettably, that was removed prior to this season because the Marlins don’t hit home runs. The wall paneling has the feel of a motel swimming pool, but it seems to fit. The bar with a swimming pool behind the left-field fence. The aquariums behind home plate. The 60-foot tall glass panels that provide a glimpse of a real party in Miami a few blocks away.

So as crazy as the place looks, I like it because it makes sense for South Florida.

But Miami hates the Marlins, and that makes a lot of sense, too.

And this is why Marlins Park ranks No. 24. Miami loathes the Marlins because Loria threatened to move the team unless it ponied up for the stadium. Prior to Marlins Park, the team played in a football stadium about 30 miles north. Which football stadium? Hell if I know. The NFL’s Dolphins change the damned name every six months.

Anyway, Loria swore on a stack of Too Live Crew CDs that if Miami built Marlins Park, he would pay for a competitive team. Instead, he traded away its best (nee: well-paid) players just a couple of months into the Marlins first season in their new digs. The Marlins have stunk ever since. Their supporters never forgot, because it appeared to them that Loria inflated the value of the franchise on the basis on the new stadium alone. He eventually sold the team for $1.2 billion. I’m a conservative in politics. When a liberal complains about corporate welfare, this is a case study. And even a guy like me nods his head and understands.

Loria had a six percent approval rating in a 2012 poll by the Miami Herald.

I admit I go back and forth about sports in Florida. Sports are a quality-of-life benefit to me. The major leagues, the NFL, NBA, NHL, even soccer, are all represented in the Sunshine State. I liked that.

But nobody goes to the games unless they’re in the running for a title. SEC or ACC football? Sure, college football sells. But the professionals? Who links the phrase “die-hard” to a fan of any Florida team? How often do you have to be reminded that the Jacksonville Jaguars exist? Hell, the Florida Panthers play next to a giant mall where you can park for free and still can’t get attention. I attended a Panthers game once and the crowd cheered loudest when it was announced Barry Manilow would play a concert there in three months. I’m not kidding.

So Marlins Park is affordable, memorably funky and comfortable. But should you make a cross-country trip to see an unpopular baseball team?

Of course not, unless you need to get a few hours of relief from your elderly relatives who retired there. Or maybe if your kids have dropped the director’s cut of “Suicide Squad” in the Blu-ray player.

No. 25 — Citizens Bank Park, this is the cleanest mosh pit I’ve ever been in

Editor’s note: This is part of a continuing series reviewing Major League Baseball stadiums and desperate plea for its fans not to visit all of them. You really do have more important things to do with your life.

In a curiously fractured city, it was somewhat appropriate that I entered its shiny — well, less grimy — baseball stadium by passing a statue of a legendary pitcher/accused anti-Semite.

Until you’ve been to Philadelphia, all a sports fan hears is how awful the fans are. The booing of Santa Claus — which is deplorable. The booing of Destiny’s Child — which is more appropriate. So when I hit up the city, there was part of me which told me to prepare to fight even though I had no rooting interest in either the Phillies or the Brewers.

Look, part of these stadium rankings comes in answering the question: Can you make a lasting memory in the city? And overall, you damn sure can. Philadelphia is a fascinating city.

Citizens Bank Park, for the most part, I can do without.

Here’s what I mean: I started the day by getting the obvious tourist trap spots out of the way. I did see the actual Liberty Bell. Less than a block away, Independence Hall. Even though you’re checking off these things like a to-do list, if you have a brain in your head, you feel compelled to stop. And you think to yourself, “Holy crap! This is where our entire nation came to be.” It does bring about a certain reverence, for all of our flaws.

After that, I went to the Museum of Art. I like art museums. I also like the “Rocky” movies. Those steps? Yep, that was the finish line of Rocky’s daily morning run set to “Gonna Fly Now.” Thank you, Sylvester Stallone, for contributing the training montage to cinematic history. Since then, it was determined that if the character actually trekked that route, Rocky would have ran 15 miles. Yo, Mick, I think I’d prefer women weaken my legs instead.

It is a little silly, though. Everybody runs the steps, turns and throws up their arms in victory. Do they go in the museum? I almost had the place to myself. It was a delightful two hours in there. Wish I could have spent more time.

Can you see where I’m going, though? I don’t simply want to throw out obvious Philadelphia jokes. You can make a memory here.

But those sports fans are a walking punch line. Angry, bitter, with blue-collar hands that presumably forged from an honest-day’s work and ready to fit around any throat.

The stadium itself is a clear upgrade over its predecessor — the concrete multipurpose doughnut called “The Vet” — with its patchwork AstroTurf surface that was a clear and present danger to any athlete with knees. At CBP, the concourses are spacious. There is the typical monument to notable players beyond the outfield fence, Ashburn’s Alley.

The food options are Philly-based, cheesesteaks and whatnot. Few take advantage, though, because tailgating is allowed for the game. By the time you take your seat, you’re pretty hammered.

Which may explain why the employees are so bloody rude. I had been to more than 20 MLB stadiums by the time I got here. This was the first time I left with the distinct impression that the ushers — either gender — were assholes. Short. Curt. I suppose it would be nicer to call them that, but if I paid for a ticket and you’re mean to me, why be polite back?

As for the team, this was before the Phightin’ Phils made a splash for Bryce Harper in free agency. In other words, they were awful then. Now? They can play a little, but they’re not elite by any stretch.

Also, I have one other recollection that has to be mentioned. A WWE event was scheduled across the street that night and in this weird little storage-unit-turned-radio-booth, a pregame show included an interview with wrestling star A.J. Styles. For those of you who don’t follow wrestling, Styles is fantastic at what he does. If it were baseball, he wouldn’t be Babe Ruth but he would be a perennial all-star. When you have someone that good at their job, it would behoove you to do a little research.

Which the announcers didn’t. Their first question was prefaced with “I have never watched wrestling. I don’t like it, but…”

Considering Philadelphia was also the home for a groundbreaking wrestling company, ECW, that held events a mile down the street, that was a curious way to introduce yourself.

But again, fractured. Just like the city. For everything about Philadelphia that is inspiring, there are 1 1/2 things that make you pause and ask “what the f—k?”

So in sum, it’s affordable but rude. Citizens Bank Park is a cleaner, shinier mosh pit in a city that is a coin flip between eminence and ill-repute.

Plan your trip accordingly if you go.