Mets bring in Citi Field fences, eye power surge

By Ronald Blum

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Oct. 31 2011 5:15 p.m. MDT

In an image provided by the New York Mets on Monday, Oct. 31, 2011, a graphic shows the planned changes to the field dimensions at Citi Field for next season. In an effort to boost scoring at the pitcher-friendly ballpark, the Mets announced Monday they are cutting the field dimensions by as much as 12 feet next season, lowering the fence height to 8 feet all around and changing the fence color to blue with an orange line at the top.

New York Mets, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

NEW YORK — While not exactly tearing down this wall, the New York Mets are putting up a new fence at Citi Field that's shorter and closer to home plate.

In an effort to boost scoring at the pitcher-friendly ballpark, the Mets announced Monday they are cutting the field dimensions by as much as 12 feet next season, lowering the fence height to 8 feet all around and changing the fence color to blue with an orange line at the top.

"We're targeting to try to fit in, to be more normal or more on average with everybody," Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said.

At their first offseason comments, the Mets said it was too soon to tell whether they would be competitive to re-sign free agent Jose Reyes. General manager Sandy Alderson said he expected David Wright will remain with the Mets next season.

The new fence will be erected in front of the ballpark's daunting 16-foot black fence, which became known as "The Great Wall of Flushing."

"You just keep looking at that thing, and that left-field wall kept getting higher and higher," Alderson said.

According to STATS LLC, Citi Field was last in the major leagues in home runs during its first three seasons with an average of 1.43 per game. The ballpark's 3.78 ERA was the sixth-lowest in the major leagues.

"Was Citi Field my favorite park to hit in? I'd be lying to you if I said it was," Wright said in comments made through the Mets. "Sure it was frustrating when you hit a ball good and you didn't get the results."

Right-center field is being brought in from 415 feet to 398, although the new sign doesn't match up with the same angle as the old one. Left field comes in from 371 to 358 — with about 100 seats being added behind the new fence in left.

The "Mo's Zone" fence in right field is being pulled in, creating even more of an overhang from the second deck. About 40 additional seats will be in that area.

"I think it's going to be good for everybody," outfielder Jason Bay said through the Mets. "I think cutting down on the space in the outfield will help improve the defense which in turn should help the pitching."

Alderson, hired a year ago, revised the dimensions recommended by his predecessor, Omar Minaya.

"We didn't want to completely alter the ballpark and make it into the proverbial bandbox," Alderson said. "So that required looking at various dimensions and coming up with something based on home-run rates and park factors and so forth that was more or less neutral as between pitching and hitting, somewhere in the middle of all the ballparks."

Wright hit .279 at home with 22 homers, 103 RBIs and 179 strikeouts in the first three seasons at Citi Field, down from a .335 average at home with 37 homers, 118 RBIs and 105 strikeouts in the final three years at Shea Stadium.

"I don't want to give you the impression that we've done this for David or we've done this for Ike (Davis) or we've done this for anybody in particular," Alderson said. "It's really about having a more neutral ballpark and maybe to even some extent, given that I think offense is exciting for many fans, maybe it will be slightly more entertaining."

Alderson said the Mets projected they would have hit 81 more home runs at Citi Field over the last three seasons with the new dimensions and could have given up 70 more. During three years at Citi Field, there were only nine opposite-field home runs by left-handed hitters — and none by the Mets.

"One explanation is we just haven't had any left-handed hitters that are strong enough to hit it out there," Alderson said. "Another explanation is that our left-handed power hitters have just decided that's not a good percentage and have more or less given up on that possibility."

Alderson compared the changes to the ones at Detroit's Comerica Park, where the average increased from 0.80 home runs from 2000-02 to 1.06 since, according to STATS LLC. After the 2002 season, the left-center field wall was moved from 395 to 370 feet.

Alderson said pitching coach Dan Warthen supported the changes.

"His point was maybe our pitchers got a little complacent here and it had an affect on the road as well," Alderson said, "so he felt that these dimensions, that they were fair, would force our guys to maybe bear down a little more here than they have."

On other topics:

—Wilpon said "there's not a deadline or there's not a date certain that anything has to be done" for selling minority interests in the team.

—Alderson predicted Reyes' free agency "is going to be a slow process" and added "we're not going to punt 2012 if Jose doesn't re-sign."

—Asked whether he could say with certainty Wright would be back next year, Alderson responded: "I couldn't say that with any degree of certainty about any player that we have," then paused and added, "Do I think he'll be a Met next year? Yes."

—Alderson said the bullpen was a priority and that he might shift some of the $100 million to $110 million budgeted for payroll next season to amateur draft signing bonuses.

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