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01 November, 2011

Change is Good? Not Always

   by Gus Ramsey

   The Mets unveiled their new dimensions for the outfield walls at Citi Field this week. Gotta say, I'm not a fan. You can see the changes here
   In citing the reasons for the change, the team said they were trying to make it a fairer ballpark for the hitters. They said under the new dimensions, over the last three years, the Mets would have hit an additional 81 homers and allowed 70, for whatever that's worth. No one loves a good home run robbery more than me, so the lower fences will put that back into play. If the park plays fairer and eases the mental punishment suffered by Mets bats, and maybe makes the Mets a more appealing team to future free agents, so be it. These all seem like valid reasons for change.
   As Stephen A. Smith says, Howwww-evvv-uhhhh!

   When Citi Field opened, I remember telling my friends there were two cool things the ballpark was going to produce on a consistent basis for the fans; exciting Jose Reyes triples and jaw-dropping blasts by Carlos Delgado and other sluggers into the Pepsi Porch.
   When it came to the triples, Reyes legged out 20 in 153 home games the last three seasons. This past year he put on a triples clinic, with 12 in 62 games at Citi. In 378 games at Shea Stadium, Reyes hit 31 triples. So, that's one triple every 7.6 games at Citi and one triple every 12.1 games at Shea. Something tells me with the fences lower, the power alleys tightened up and a few of the nooks and crannies gone, Reyes will return to Shea like numbers (assuming he returns to the Mets). I think that's a shame. Growing up, among the best moments for for me as a Mets fans was watching Mookie Wilson leg out a triple. Reyes brought that thrill back to Mets fans. These fence alterations will rob of us of that, at least a little.
   Now for the power hitters. Here is what everyone seems to be overlooking; In the time since Citi Field opened, the Mets best power hitters have missed a significant amount of playing time due to injury. Take a look.

2009- the premiere power hitter coming into the season was Carlos Delgado. He hit 38 HRs in 2008, the last year at Shea. In '09 he only played in 26 games. He hit 4 homers, 3 of them at Citi Field. Carlos Beltran was coming off a 27 HR season. He missed exactly half the season and managed to hit 10 homers, 3 at home. The biggest issue was David Wright, who hit 33 homers in '08 and plummeted to just 10 in 144 games. There's no doubt Citi Field was in his head.
2010- Once again Beltran missed significant time, playing in just 64 games. Jason Bay came to the Mets with some big power numbers and a big contract. He hit just 6 home runs in 95 games and his season ended with concussion symptoms. Wright seemed to find his swing again and belted 29 bombs in a full season. While only 12 of his homers were at home, the overall improvement suggests to me that when Wright finds his swing, it doesn't matter what park he plays in. And then there was Ike Davis, a sweet swinging rookie with legit pop. He smashed 19 homers (8 at home) in 147 games (73 at home), finding the Pepsi Porch and the Shea Bridge along the way.

2011- It began with high hopes for a 40 HR season from Ike Davis, but the sophomore slugger only played in 36 games because of an ankle injury. He hit 7 homers (5 at home) in 36 games (19 at home) and showed no signs of being squeezed by Citi's confines. Jason Bay and David Wright managed just 12 and 14 homers, respectively. They also combined to miss 99 games last year.

   There's clearly an argument to be made on both sides. Obviously the Mets want Wright, the face of the franchise, to feel better about his home field. I get it. I just think had Delgado, Beltran, Davis, and to a lesser degree Wright and Bay, been on the field for 160 games a season, no one would be talking about the fences being too high or too far. It's a beautiful new park. The change of the color of outfield walls from soot to Mets blue is like a nice dash of eyeliner. As for the rest of it, it seems a little soon for a face lift.

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