It’s Official: Mets’ Citi Field to Shrink

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It’s Official: Mets’ Citi Field to Shrink Empty It’s Official: Mets’ Citi Field to Shrink

Post  Swinderman on Mon Oct 31, 2011 8:26 pm

Citi Field, the nearly $800 million stadium built by and for the Mets, was the realization of a family dream, constructed with government financial backing and the support of two mayors. The stadium, with its Ebbets Field touches, was an ode to the past. With its Shake Shack burgers and lobster rolls, it was also a bold bid to cash in on pricey ballpark amenities.
On Monday, though, the team’s owners admitted, in a formal and final way, that they had botched the one most important thing in realizing their dream: they got the field wrong.

For the 2012 season, new walls will be constructed in three areas of the outfield to substantially diminish the outfield’s overly large dimensions. Most notable, the imposing 16-foot wall in left field, often called the Great Wall of Flushing, will now have a new 8-foot wall in front of it, with several rows of seats to fill in the gap between the two structures.

The changes are expected to make it easier to hit home runs at Citi Field and make the stadium less daunting for the team’s struggling power hitters. In particular, the Mets are making changes that could benefit David Wright, the 28-year-old star third baseman whose strikeout totals have soared and whose offensive numbers have gyrated and deteriorated since Citi Field opened.

The shorter distances can also only help Jason Bay, a high-priced free-agent slugger whose first two seasons in Flushing have been a modest disaster, in part because he, too, seems to have been flummoxed by Citi Field’s size.

General Manager Sandy Alderson denied at a Monday news conference that the stadium redesign was being made with any one player in mind.

Nevertheless, he acknowledged that “the ballpark was such a topic of conversation with respect to particular players and a variety of other issues that at some point it made sense to take a look at it.”

He added, “You don’t want the ballpark to be a distraction.”

And Jeff Wilpon, the team’s chief operating officer and the executive who presided over the stadium’s design and construction, went further in a telephone interview after the news conference.

Asked if the new seats in left field, which in some ways mimic those installed on top of the Green Monster in Fenway Park, would help offset the unstated cost of the alterations, Wilpon replied: “We can make a lot more money if Jason Bay and David Wright hit a lot more home runs.”

At the news conference,wholesale jerseys Wilpon pointed to the team’s previous general manager, Omar Minaya, in discussing why the stadium was initially drawn up to have such a spacious outfield and now needed to be fixed.

“It was a group of people — a decision made by the baseball department,” Wilpon said of the original stadium design and its emphasis on big distances. “Omar spoke about pitching, speed and defense all the time.”

But asked in the telephone interview if he was singling out Minaya, who was dismissed after the 2010 season, for blame, Wilpon demurred.

“I signed off on it ultimately, and if you want to blame anyone, blame me,” Wilpon said. “But I don’t think it’s about blame. This is what we built at the time, and this is what we’re building now.”

Reached by telephone, Minaya declined to comment on Wilpon’s remarks.

During the news conference, Wilpon would not put a price tag on renovations, which are set to begin within a month and last six to eight weeks. He said that the original construction costs for Citi Field had come in $40 million under budget and that the revisions would be paid for with those savings.

“It’s still within the $800 million project,” Wilpon said of the cost of the alterations. Nevertheless, the Mets will be spending a significant amount of money to adjust a stadium that is only three years old at a time when the franchise continues to look for new investors to help address its continuing financial concerns.

Those problems have created a sense of diminished expectations as the team, in the wake of another losing season, enters baseball’s free-agency period. The Mets are not expected to be significant spenders in pursuit of new players, and there is considerable doubt that they will be financially aggressive in trying to keep the star shortstop Jose Reyes from departing.
But if nothing else, the Mets, in 2012, will have a smaller playing field that in Alderson’s words, will “play fair” and allow the team’s hitters to relax a little bit. In effect, Alderson said Citi Field’s big distances and high left-field wall had created both physical and psychological hurdles for the Mets’ lineup.
“I really do becheap jerseylieve a ballpark like ours has more dramatic impact on the home team than it does visitors,” said Alderson, who pushed for the revisions after just one season in charge. “Visitors come in and play for three days and they leave. They don’t really have to think about it all that much.”

But for the Mets players, who play 81 games a season at Citi Field, it was different, Alderson added. “You just keep looking at that thing, the left-field wall, and it kept getting higher and higher.”

Alderson said data compiled by the Mets showed that if the planned alterations had been in effect when Citi Field opened in 2009, the M2011 MLB ALL Star Jerseysets would have hit 81 more home runs at home over the last three seasons, and opposing teams would have hit 70 more.

As it is, Citi Field has already earned a reputation as a place where hard-hit fly balls go to die. Over the past three seasons, the stadium has averaged 1.432 home runs a game, the lowest number in the major leagues. And as a team, the Mets have ranked 30th, 24th and 27th incheap mlb jerseys total home runs, home and away, over the last three seasons, paltry power numbers that no doubt factored into the decision to renovate.

As for the actual changes, the new 8-foot-high wall in left field will be constructed at an angle, making it about 4 feet closer to home plate in left field and about 12 feet closer in the deepest part of left center. The gap between the new wall and the existing 16-foot structure will accommodate about 100 seats.

The new wall in right-center field, located in what many people consider to be a sweet spot for Wright, will be as much as 17 feet closer than the existing one. The old distance of 415 feet was considered particularly cumbersome for Wright and was recently singled out by Atlanta’s Chipper Jones as having hindered his Mets counterpart.

And the new fence in front of the cutout in right field, known as the Mo’s Zone, will bring that wall significantly closer to home plate, too. The space created there will be used for a picnic area.

Whether these changes truly benefit players like Wright and Bay remains to be seen. They and other Mets players have tended to publicly brush aside the effect the park had on their offense, leaving reporters to interpret rolled eyes and tight smiles. But Wright, at the end of the regular season, when tcheap jerseyshe announcement of a redesign seemed imminent, conceded that he had changed his mentality and the mechanics of his swing upon the team’s departure from Shea Stadium.

Once viewed a potential Hall of Famer, he is now seen as a player who is still good but hardly great and whom the Mets might even be open to trading. But more likely is that Alderson will now wait to see whether a different Citi Field may create a different Wright, the one who was once the pillar of the team.


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