Fearing that Citi Field had become a "distraction" causing "chronic" issues for the Mets, general manager Sandy Alderson unveiled a number of changes Monday that will result in a shrinking of the ballpark but also create an additional 140 seats for the 2012 season.
The outfield wall, to be painted blue, will be a uniform height of 8 feet from foul pole to foul pole. As a result, a new leftfield wall will be constructed in front of the old 16-foot-high version, starting 13 feet closer to home plate, with 100 seats filling the gap between the two.
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The power alley in right-center, which used to extend to 415 feet, will be 398. The Mo Zone in rightfield also will be fenced in, an alteration that means 40 more seats in that picnic area, which will be in the flight path of home runs.
Based on the team's statistical analysis, the new dimensions would have meant 81 more home runs by the Mets since the stadium opened. They would have allowed 70 more. Despite the public griping of David Wright and Jason Bay, Alderson emphasized that the renovation was not designed with any specific players in mind. He did acknowledge, however, that it should be beneficial to some.
"I don't want to give you the impression that we've done this for David or Ike [Davis] or for anyone in particular," Alderson said. "It's really about having a more neutral ballpark and maybe, even to some extent, given that offense is exciting for many fans, it will be slightly more entertaining."
Citi Field averaged 1.33 home runs per game last season, with only the Giants' AT&T Park (1.00) and the Padres' Petco Park (1.23) yielding fewer. By comparison, Yankee Stadium almost doubled the rate (2.58) of their crosstown rival.
"You'd be an idiot to say that you didn't want to play in a park that was hitter-friendly," Wright said.
Alderson didn't divulge what the studies revealed about Wright's swing and what effect it would have on him. But the third baseman sounded pleased by the changes, which recently were emailed to him.
"To me, it looks like Sandy and those guys did their due diligence and made it as fair as possible," Wright said. "It's not like they went from one extreme to the other. For me, as a hitter, when you have a good at-bat, you just want to be rewarded for it. When that doesn't happen, that's where the frustration comes from. I think this will definitely help with that."
Alderson did point out that the research was based on "static" information, or what had occurred with the old dimensions, so figuring out how the Mets will perform in the wake of these changes is an inexact science.
Will players try to pull the ball more without the imposing "Great Wall of Flushing"? Will pitchers alter the way they approach hitters, changing the patterns of the ballpark? Those questions really can't be answered until the season starts.
"All of this is a dynamic environment," Alderson said. "The pitching strategy could change, the attitude of the hitters and their approach could change. As a result, a lot of this static information that we've been evaluating isn't necessarily going to predict the outcome."
Alderson discussed the proposed changes with pitching coach Dan Warthen, who believed it would help his staff in the sense that the pitchers might have to "bear down" more rather than rely on the spacious dimensions to bail them out. Citi Field is now more dangerous for a pitching staff, but Alderson thought Citi's original dimensions were much more damaging to the psyche of the Mets as a whole.
"The ballpark was such a topic of conversation that it made sense to take a look at it," Alderson said. "You don't want the ballpark to be a distraction, and I really do believe a ballpark like ours has a more dramatic impact on the home team than the visitors. It can become a lot more chronic with a team that's playing 80 games there every year.
"Just the constant debate about it, and having to deal with the conversation as well as the visual. You just kept looking at that thing -- that leftfield wall kept getting higher and higher."