MLB’s best playoff ballparks: The most raucous places this October from replaceable to Phanatical

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MLB’s best playoff ballparks: The most raucous places this October from replaceable to Phanatical


By Chad Jennings, C. Trent Rosecrans and Stephen J. Nesbitt

In one American League Wild Card Series, the whole thing turned on a play designed around crowd noise. It was too loud at Target Field, Twins shortstop Carlos Correa realized, for the third-base coach to warn Blue Jays baserunners about a developing pickoff play. The Twins used the noise to their advantage, picked off Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and secured a two-game sweep.

In the other AL Wild Card Series, empty seats were everywhere. The Rays are an excellent team that thrives on their underdog status — low payroll, injured players, they always find a way — but playing in front of two of the smallest postseason crowds in the past 100 years, the Rays were swept by a Rangers team that had nine fewer wins in the regular season. The indifference was deafening.

Home-field advantage, it turns out, just isn’t the same from one ballpark to the next.

“To be honest with you, I think we have one of the best home-field advantages in baseball,” third baseman Alec Bohm said as the Phillies swept the Marlins to improve to 24-11 in postseason games at Citizens Bank Park. “People say it’s difficult to play here and things like that. I think going through that type of stuff and learning how to play here, that just makes this time of year that much better.”

This time of year certainly brings out the best, and the postseason’s greatest moments tend to be punctuated by the crowds who witness and react in real time. After seeing the way crowds could respond — or not — to October baseball this week, The Athletic ranked the home-field environments of the eight remaining playoff teams, from the replaceable to the Phanatical.


No. 8: Arizona Diamondbacks

Team Venue Opened Capacity Att. (2023)

Chase Field

1998

48,405

24,212

Memorable postseason moment: Game 7 of the 2001 World Series started with a pair of 20-game winners in Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling and ended with Hall of Famers on the mound: Mariano Rivera and Randy Johnson. In what is remembered as one of the greatest postseason games of all time, Luis Gonzalez blooped a bases-loaded single to score Jay Bell and deny the Yankees their fourth consecutive title.

Our take: We’re sorry, D-Backs fans. It’s not you. It’s them. A tremendously impressive two-game sweep in Milwaukee carried the Diamondbacks into a division series showdown with, oh boy, the Dodgers. It’s not that we don’t think Arizona can beat L.A. at home — the Diamondbacks split six games against the Dodgers at Chase Field this season — but it’s less than a seven-hour drive from Dodger Stadium to downtown Phoenix, and we’re concerned that all the quirks of that ballpark could be rendered meaningless if there’s a bunch of Dodgers blue in the crowd.

There’s a lot to like. The pool. The retractable roof. We love it. We hope you prove us wrong. Show up, go nuts, and leave a comment — click to subscribe! — telling us we don’t know a rattlesnake from a water moccasin. We deserve it.

But if we had to go on the road for a playoff game, at least in this round, we’d choose your ballpark. Consider it a compliment! Or maybe we just like the dry heat.


No. 7: Texas Rangers

Team Venue Opened Capacity Att. (2023)

Globe Life Field

2020

40,300

31,272

Memorable postseason moment: There have been 16 postseason games in Globe Life Field history, but the Rangers have never appeared in a playoff game at their new-ish home. How did that happen? Well, 2020. It was a weird time. The Dodgers played in all 16 of those during the 2020 expanded playoffs, sweeping the Padres in the NLDS, going seven games with the Braves in the NLCS and then winning the World Series.

Our take: This is the great unknown. Globe Life Field opened in a season that had no fans, and it remained open for losing seasons in 2021 and 2022. Saturday will be our first look at the place when the home team is actually playing meaningful baseball in October. Hard to rank it any higher until we know what we’re dealing with.

The old Rangers ballpark could drum up a Texas-sized atmosphere worthy of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Pat Green, but the new place — at least in the regular season — feels very much like a multi-events space that happens to be hosting a ballgame. Maybe that changes in the playoffs? The Rangers haven’t been home since Sept. 24 when they won their last five games in Arlington, the last three of which went a long way toward keeping the Mariners out of the postseason.

With a closed roof containing all the noise, Globe Life is sure to get awfully loud, and nothing turns a glorified convention center into a real ballpark quite like a late-inning rally in October.


No. 6: Minnesota Twins

Team Venue Opened Capacity Att. (2023)

Target Field

2010

38,544

24,371

Memorable postseason moment: For this, you have to go all the way back to Tuesday. The Twins snapped an 18-game postseason losing streak with two blasts off the bat of rookie Royce Lewis. It was their first playoff win since Oct. 5, 2004. On Wednesday, they completed the Wild Card sweep of the Blue Jays for their first postseason series win since 2002. The roars heard at Target Field, like this one, were more than two decades in the making.

Our take: We have only a small sample of postseason games at Target Field, but, boy, Twins fans can make some noise. After Game 1 against Toronto, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said, “I thought the place was going to split open and melt, honestly. It was out of this universe out there on the field. The fans took over the game. They helped us win today.” The next day, they did it again.

Early in Game 2, Correa told Sonny Gray that, because of the crowd noise, Jays baserunners couldn’t hear their third-base coach screaming, “BACK!” So, with Guerrero on second and a full count to Bo Bichette, they executed a perfect timing pick. “The crowd was incredible,” Gray said after the game. “They were incredible yesterday. They were incredible today from the moment I stepped on the mound an hour before the game to the moment — they’re probably still out there.”

So, Twins fans have swarmed their team with support. But is it intimidating? (It’s certainly better than its predecessor, the Metrodome, but it doesn’t have the same potential for overwhelming volume.) For now, Target Field strikes us as more of an awesome place to play than one that strikes fear in the opponent. But this month Twins fans could prove us very wrong.


No. 5: Houston Astros

Team Venue Opened Capacity Att. (2023)

Minute Maid Park

2000

41,168

37,683

Memorable postseason moment: Albert Pujols off Brad Lidge? Jorge Soler to the moon? Nah, we’ll go with Chris Burke ending what was then the longest game in MLB postseason history in both time (5 hours, 50 minutes) and innings (18) with a walk-off home run with one out in the 18th inning in the 2005 NLDS. Burke didn’t start the game but pinch-ran for Lance Berkman in the 10th. Roger Clemens came into the game for Houston in the 16th and pitched three scoreless to pick up the win. But it is Burke’s homer that will always be remembered.

Our take: We get it, Houston. We also think your ballpark should be in the top half of this list. One of our writers called it “the loudest stadium I’ve ever attended, by at least one standard deviation.” The Astros sold out the building 23 times this year. They drew 3 million fans for the first time since 2007. Minute Maid Park is big and loud, and visiting fans show up fully exhausted from walking in the south Texas sun.

But in all those sellouts, the Astros went 6-17. Despite all that noise, they were 39-42 at home. Before their final homestand, the team added some green paint to the batter’s eye in response to player complaints, and the Astros responded by going 1-5 with three of those losses coming against the Royals. So, yes, the ballpark is packed tighter than toes in a cowboy boot, and the place gets louder than a Pantera concert in a concrete basement, but these Astros just haven’t responded to it. Why not? Should a visiting team really be all that intimidated by it? Bring back the in-play flagpole atop Tal’s Hill, we say!


No. 4: Atlanta Braves

Team Venue Opened Capacity Att. (2023)

Truist Park

2017

41,084

39,401

Memorable postseason moment: When the Braves won the World Series in 1914, they were still playing in Boston. In 1957, Milwaukee. When Sid Bream slid home to beat the Pirates in 1992, the Braves were in the right city but at the wrong ballpark (Fulton County Stadium doesn’t count). The Max Fried-Jorge Soler game in 2021 happened in Houston. The iconic moment at Truist Park could be Eddie Rosario’s dazzling catch at the wall in Game 4 of the 2021 World Series, but the most memorable — even though it didn’t lead to a championship — might be rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. hitting a grand slam off Walker Buhler in Game 3 of the 2018 NLDS, which happened to be the first postseason game ever played at the ballpark.

Our take: Obviously, there are issues bigger than baseball to deal with here. The war chant and Tomahawk Chop are offensive and problematic, but we’re not going to resolve that issue in the next four weeks. In fact, it’s all about to come front and center — again — as the best team in baseball opens its postseason with a roster that would be plenty intimidating in a Little League park with metal bleachers.

But have you ever seen them play in front of 40,000 screaming fans when the stadium lights go dark and the entire ballpark starts doing the Chop in unison with their lit cell phones?

“It does add something to the offensive ambiance,” our Braves scribe David O’Brien noted.

Truist Park had 54 sellouts this season, and the place drew just over 3.19 million, which was the Braves’ highest total attendance since the park formerly known as SunTrust opened in 2017.

The Braves have won six straight division titles, and they’ve been to the playoffs 22 times since 1991. This is not uncharted territory for them. This ballpark is going to be packed with fans who know their team is good and will not be quiet about it, regardless of what anyone else thinks.


No. 3: Baltimore Orioles

Team Venue Opened Capacity Att. (2023)

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

1992

44,970

23,911

Memorable postseason moment: Delmon Young’s three-run double in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the 2014 ALDS completed the Orioles’ comeback from three runs down in the eighth  to beat the Tigers. Zack Britton pitched a perfect ninth, and the Orioles would go on to beat the Tigers in Game 3 in Detroit to sweep the series before losing to the Royals in the ALCS.

Our take: When the Orioles are bad, their ballpark is bad. Beautiful and unmistakable, but bad because of the empty seats and because it is basically a second home ballpark for every East Coast team that takes the train into Baltimore and overwhelms the place with their own variation of the “Let’s go, Yankees” chant. It’s a ballpark that can be, and has been, taken over by opposing fans.

When the Orioles are good, though, Camden Yards is one of the best ballparks in the country, and it starts pregame with every rendition of the national anthem that includes the entire ballpark screaming “O!” in unison, so loud that it drowns out the word “say” before the hope-they’re-ready-for-it singer gets to the words, “does that star-spangled banner yet wave.”

As you’ve no doubt realized, the Orioles are awfully good this year, and we expect Camden Yards to follow their lead. The O’s had the second-most wins in baseball, and their fans responded with a home attendance that jumped more than a half million from last season. A young Orioles roster might be at risk of being shell-shocked on the road, but at home, this team is going to be treated as heroes from the start.

Let’s just hope, when they go on the road, manager Brandon Hyde doesn’t forget to use his best reliever in a must-win game. That could be pretty bad.


No. 2: Los Angeles Dodgers

Team Venue Opened Capacity Att. (2023)

Dodger Stadium

1962

56,000

47,371

Memorable postseason moment: With two outs and a runner on in the ninth inning of Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, Kirk Gibson hobbled toward home plate and stepped in against Hall of Fame A’s closer Dennis Eckersley. The Dodgers were down one and down to their last out. Gibson had an injured left hamstring and a balky right knee. He fouled off Eckersley’s first offering and almost fell over. He fouled off a couple more and worked the count full. Then he pulled an outside pitch into the right-field seats for a walk-off homer and, somehow, made his way around the bases. It remains one of the most badass moments in World Series history.

Our take: All the jokes about traffic still making its way into the parking lot in the second inning are justified. The “intensity” of baseball in L.A. isn’t the same as it is in, say, St. Louis or Boston or any other city where athletes are the biggest celebrities in town.

But by the middle innings, Dodger Stadium is packed, and by the late innings of playoff games, the place has the over-the-top intensity of a Michael Bay car chase (Mookie Betts as Bumblebee). More than one opposing pitcher this season had to tweak his PitchCom device to deal with the late-inning noise that came from such a massive ballpark, one that once again held the largest total attendance in baseball this year.

“You’ve got a four-deck stadium,” Freddie Freeman said this summer. “It’s the only one in baseball. You’ve got 50,000 people, every single night here. For them to go out of their way to make you feel good when you’re doing your job, it means a lot. I do appreciate it. It does make you feel good inside and also just means you’re doing your job pretty good.”

Speaking of doing a job pretty good, the Dodger Stadium D.J. is a maniac. For starters, the volume is set at a level that can’t possibly meet OSHA standards, and beyond that, there’s some twisted desire to have some sort of noise blaring at all times. Plus, there’s the intimidation factor of playing in an iconic ballpark that feels like no other in baseball. Dodger Stadium knows what it is and what it’s about, and it uses every bit of that to its advantage.


No. 1: Philadelphia Phillies

Team Venue Opened Capacity Att. (2023)

Citizens Bank Park

2004

42,792

38,157

Memorable postseason moment: There have been three no-hitters in postseason history, and two have taken place at Citizens Bank Park. Those in Philly would like to forget the Astros’ combined no-hitter in Game 4 of last season’s World Series, so instead we’ll concentrate on Roy Halladay’s 2010 no-hitter in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Reds. In his first postseason start, Halladay allowed only one baserunner, when Jay Bruce walked with two outs in the fifth inning.

Our take: Look, Philadelphia fans have thrown snowballs at Santa Claus and batteries at J.D. Drew. Their Phanatic mascot is iconic, but part of his charm is the way he – it? – taunts and antagonizes opponents. It’s a real love-it or hate-it place to play. The Phillies and their fans are capable of producing unforgettable moments, like Wednesday night when Bryson Stott hit a grand slam and the ballpark provided the only commentary necessary.

“I yelled at the dugout and couldn’t really hear myself,” Stott said, “so I knew the crowd was loud. Any time we get to play here, you know it’s going to be loud from the very first pitch. I wouldn’t want to play anywhere else. It’s a phenomenal time every time we take the field here in the postseason.”

“I’ve always said it, we’ve got the best fans in baseball,” Bryce Harper added. “It’s an amazing place to play.”

(Top photo of Game 2 of the Wild Card series between the Marlins and the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday: Rob Tringali / MLB Photos via Getty Images)





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