Sandy Alderson recently outlined potential changes to Citi Field for the 2012 season, which are: Moving in the wall by a few feet near the left field line; lowering the left field wall; moving in the wall in the 415-foot area in right-center; and putting a fence in front of the “Mo Zone” in right. Here’s why Alderson should — and I believe will — go through with the changes.
1. It would make Citi Field a better place to play and watch baseball
Without even considering what effects the changes would have on the success of the team, this is the right move. A ballpark that makes life especially hard on hitters takes something away from the quality of the game, as does a park where it is especially easy for hitters to succeed (like that thing in the Bronx). Citi Field, quite simply, should be the best ballpark it can be, and that doesn’t just mean it should have the most luxury boxes. While the idea of our home field having its quirks is nice, when those quirks are just making fans and players frustrated, it’s not worth it.
Both Bay and Wright reject the notion that Citi Field is the source of their power struggles, and rightfully so — that can’t possibly be the only cause. However, they have also expressed some frustration about it, and just the fact that it’s on their minds is a bad thing. There is no clear answer to Bay’s problems, but anything to improve his mindset couldn’t hurt. And as for Wright, I truly believe the dimensional changes would help him. When he is at his best, his opposite field power stroke is a thing of beauty. It is absolutely plausible that Citi Field’s Death Valley in right-center has affected that stroke. I have also seen Wright crush balls to left field that have hit high off the wall for doubles. Whether we like it or not, Jason Bay is here to stay for a few years, and if the Mets’ front office has any sense, Wright will be here for the long haul. Both have endured a lot mentally over the last couple years, and these changes could help bring back their mental strength as well as their power bats of old.
3. For future Mets power hitters
This move wouldn’t just be for Bay, Wright, Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, but also for any power hitter the Mets want to sign in the future. Hitters are likely to see what has happened to Bay, and to some extent Wright, and assume they got psyched out by Citi Field. Whether or not this is an accurate assessment, it could affect Alderson’s ability to sign and keep power hitters. If the Mets had a loaded pitching staff and were in playoff contention, it would be a different story — hitters would probably want to come to Queens regardless of the height of the left field wall. In their current state, however, the Mets shouldn’t be doing anything to detract any players.
My one concern here is Jose Reyes, who has used the right-center gap to make him a triples machine. However, Reyes should be mature enough to understand that the Mets can’t structure their field just to suit his needs. Alderson should make every possible effort to re-sign him, and part of that effort can be an explanation of why, in the long term, adjusting the outfield walls will be good for the organization. (That being said, if, completely hypothetically, Jose said he wouldn’t re-sign unless the dimensions stayed as they are, I’d probably give him his way.)
3. It wouldn’t make it any harder to get good pitching
From what I’ve seen, pitchers don’t care too much about where they pitch as long as they are making money or are on a winning team, at least not since Coors Field lost its reputation as a hitter’s paradise. Besides, if these changes are made, Citi Field would be a far cry from a bandbox. And even if it were a bandbox, consider that two of the best pitching staffs in baseball call bandoxes their home: Yankee Stadium and Citizens Bank Park.
4. The outfielders wouldn’t have to cover as much ground
The Mets lost Carlos Beltran this year, and in a sense they lost Angel Pagan, whose offense has been disappointing and whose glove-work has been shoddy. Still, Pagan covers a lot of ground, and the trio of Pagan, Beltran and Bay was equipped to handle the cavernous Citi Field pastures. Now, Lucas Duda is a serious candidate to start in right field in 2012, and Pagan is a serious candidate to be non-tendered. For next year and for every year after, the Mets should not feel forced to find three excellent defensive outfielders. In fact, they shouldn’t feel forced to find anything in particular just because the ballpark demands it.
5. To make the fans happy
Lastly, I think there is something to be said for Alderson heeding the cries of Met fans, whose general consensus has been that the walls should be moved in. It would also be a great move to make the outfield walls blue instead of black, which some fans have called for. Of course, fans won’t truly be happy until the Mets start winning, but Alderson would be wise to listen to those who for years have been watching baseball ranging from heartbreaking to flat out awful — not to mention the financial demise (or maybe not) of their team’s owners.
In the end, the changes would do nothing but good.