In 2012, Sam Miller—now of ESPN—wrote a piece for Baseball Prospectus titled “Where The Pit Would Go If There Was A Pit.” It does exactly what that title suggests: It analyzes where a pit would go if there was a pit on the baseball field.
Of course, there is not a pit, and there quite probably never will be. (Though is it really so much crazier than a runner on second to start extras?) But it’s fun to consider the idea of a pit, because, well, a pit would be great. It would be dumb, and hilarious, and engaging. A pit on the field would offer baseball both the silliness of a classic cartoon (what dilemma is more cartoonish than human-tries-to-avoid-giant-pit?) and the marvel of great athletic strategy (think of all that would be involved to avoid it!) There are a million valid reasons not to have a pit on the field. But there is also one fantastic reason, a wonderfully stupid reason, which is identified by Miller: It would be just incredibly fun.
Which is all to say: There is not a pit. But there is a sort of hollow leading to a tunnel beyond the right-field wall at Petco Park. The drop-off from the field to the tunnel is more than the usual from the field to the seats; it is a noticeable distance (around six feet, the ALCS broadcast on TBS estimated on Monday) and it has the dark, shadowy, mysterious vibe associated with both pits and weird tunnels. Again: Not a pit. But it does offer somewhat similar stakes to a pit. It’s not somewhere anyone wants to fall. (Much less an outfielder running at top speed.) The endeavor to avoid it can invite that aforementioned great athletic strategy. And it’s a little weird! It’s probably a service tunnel that somehow leads to the home-run deck, or a back route to get to the bullpen, or some other ordinarily useful pathway. It’s probably entirely normal. But does it not look like it instead might go directly toward some sort of locus of eternal damnation?
Here is a helpful diagram:
Not a pit. Still not a place you want to fall into, not a place you want to try to make a crucial catch in a playoff game, not a place you generally want to be.
On Monday, Manny Margot saw the pit. He looked at it dead-on, through the glare of the sun, and he understood the glory of its terrifying power. He looked into the abyss and the abyss looked back and he told the abyss to go straight to hell. Then he jumped:
Glorious, heart-stopping, insane. All that you want from a trip into the pit.
Earlier in the day, Margot hit a three-run home run. (Asked afterward which feat he enjoyed more, the homer or the catch, he said it was the former: “Definitely the home run. The home run didn’t hurt.”) He single-handedly powered the Rays to their 4–2 win over the Astros. And, of course, he answered the age-old question: Where should the pit go if there was a pit?