Wall of Shame: Mets’ Misguided Decision to Alter Citi Field Dimensions
The New York Mets’ decision to alter the dimensions of their home ballpark merely three years into its existence is going to do very little to improve the performance of their team. Prior to the start of this season, the Mets undertook a dramatic realignment of the outfield wall, significantly shortening the distances to left field, the right centre power alley and right field. The walls were not simply moved in, a new, blue wall was put up in front of the old outfield wall. Extra seating has been added in left field and right field, in the spaces between the new and old walls.
Such a move is not without precedent. In 2003, the Detroit Tigers dramatically moved in the left field fence in their three-year old stadium, Comerica Park. In 2001, the Baltimore Orioles re-oriented the position of the playing field at Camden Yards and portions of the outfield fence were brought in a few feet. One would be hard-pressed to notice the renovations at Comerica Park or Camden Yards, as the renovations blend in almost perfectly with the design of those stadiums.
Unfortunately, from an aesthetic perspective, the changes at Citi Field don’t look good. The blue outfield wall plastered with advertising stands out against the dark green and soot colours in the rest of Citi Field. The new wall has destroyed the clean, crisp look the outfield once had. Unlike Comerica and Camden Yards, the changes at Citi Field look like a sloppy attempt to change a ballpark after it has been built.
The various arguments which have been put forward by the Mets and their fans in support of changing Citi Field’s playing surface are equally unconvincing. Mets fans complained about having their team play its home games in a stadium which features dark green seats, a soot- coloured wall and a generally dark motif. Mets fans felt that the new stadium, or at the very least the outfield wall, should incorporate the Mets` primary blue colour, just as Shea Stadium did. Although there may be some merit to this argument, one must consider that the Red Sox play their games in front of a giant green wall and that Yankee stadium is a sea of blue seats and blue fences. Several other teams play in ballparks which do not reflect the primary colours of the home team.
Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson has publicly stated that the Mets hope the smaller playing field at Citi will produce more home runs for the Mets and more entertainment for their fans. The logic here is that entertained fans are more likely to attend and re-attend Citi Field. If the Mets are concerned with entertaining their fans and getting more paying customers to frequent Citi Field, the best thing they can do is put a winning team on the baseball field.
The Mets have also stated that the large dimensions of Citi Field were encouraging their pitchers to pitch without focus, as mistake pitches would result in more outs than home runs at Citi Field. David Wright acknowledged that hitting at Citi Field was a difficult task and was sometimes discouraging. The changes to Citi Field were designed to address these concerns and make the park much less of a pitcher`s park and more neutral. Last season, Citi Field allowed the third fewest home runs in the National League. Prior to the renovations, Citi Field was an extreme pitcher`s park, but this is not what was preventing the Mets from winning games. In 2010, the San Francisco Giants, whose AT&T Park consistently ranks as one of the top 2 pitchers` parks in the NL, won the World Series. The San Diego Padres, who play in the other top 2 pitcher`s park in the NL, have posted winning records in five of the past eight seasons, including two division championships.
You don’t need to play in a hitter-friendly ballpark to be successful. The Colorado Rockies and the Toronto Blue Jays haven’t had much success in the past several seasons, despite playing in two of the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball. The only thing holding the Mets back is the lousy product they have been putting on the field since they moved into Citi Field.
There are plenty of logical arguments for leaving the dimensions of Citi Field alone. One of the most obvious is that the Mets will surrender more home runs to their opponents because of the shorter dimensions. Visiting teams hit a total of 24 more home runs that the Mets at Citi between 2009 and 2011, before the dimensions were changed. Home runs do produce entertainment value for fans in the ballpark, but not if the visiting team is hitting most of them. Despite playing half their games at cavernous Citi Field, the Mets pitching staff finished 12th in team ERA in the NL in 2009, and 13th in 2011. These numbers are not going to improve with the new dimensions in Citi, unless the Mets actually acquire some decent pitchers.
The Mets have been a power-challenged baseball team ever since their move into Citi, and nothing illustrates this better than the fact that between 2009 and 2011 the Mets have hit a grand total of seven more home runs on the road than at Citi. Although it is very early to start drawing conclusions about the new Citi dimensions, as things currently stand, Citi has allowed the fourth-fewest home runs in 2012 in the NL. It is also a little early to give the new dimensions credit for New York’s “hot” 22-19 start to 2012.
At the end of the day, the Mets have nobody to blame but themselves for the perceived need to redesign Citi Field`s dimensions. Surely the Mets had a look at the design specs when they chipped in $420 million of the $610 total construction cost, and surely they realized that a sea level ballpark with power alleys of 384 feet to left and 415 feet to right wouldn`t do any favours for hitters. If the Mets didn’t realize that Citi Field would be an extreme pitcher’s park when it was designed, this can only be characterized as gross incompetence. The fact that the Mets now feel that changing the dimensions at Citi is going to increase the entertainment value of the park or the performance of the Mets is even more misguided.
… and thats the Last Word.