Baumbach: Home is Mets' castle; road is a hassle
When the Wilpons dreamed up Citi Field's large dimensions, tall walls and overall quirkiness, they did so with visions of creating a distinct home-field advantage.
So far this season, they're getting it.
Yesterday's 6-1 victory over the Marlins improved the Mets' home record to 21-9, giving them more wins at home than any other team in baseball.
"I'll tell you what, if you watch us play at home, I expect us to win the division this year," Jeff Francoeur said. "But then you get on the road and we look like a .500 ballclub."
Maybe the Mets are simply a .500 club. Given their personnel, that certainly seems like a reasonable conclusion. Certainly nobody in the baseball world would have been surprised in spring training to learn the Mets would be 29-27 after 56 games.
But it's how they've reached that record that is so puzzling. Mediocre teams don't typically perform the way the Mets have - dominating at home and playing so poorly on the road.
Away from Citi Field, the Mets are 8-18. The only teams with fewer road victories are Seattle and Baltimore, both in last place in their divisions.
Asked about his team's road woes, manager Jerry Manuel wondered if his players might be "subconsciously" trying to make up for lost home runs, thus taking them out of their mechanics and turning them into a different team.
"We accept this is a big park," Manuel said of Citi Field. "I think when the opposition comes in and hits one and it doesn't go out, I think that's deflating for them. It gives us somewhat of an advantage. I think when we go on the road, subconsciously our hitters are probably thinking, 'I can make up some ground here.' "
It's an interesting theory, given how mental hitting is.
But David Wright shot it down, saying, "I've never thought about it that way and everybody I've talked to in here hasn't thought about it that way."
Yet it's certainly interesting to note that Francoeur - perhaps the Met who's most open with reporters - brought up Manuel's theory on his own when asked for a reason behind the Mets' Jekyll-and-Hyde home-and-away records.
"The only thing I can think of," Francoeur said, "is maybe we try to hit some home runs on the road."
The free-swinging rightfielder said he thinks that definitely was the case when the Mets visited two small ballparks in Philadelphia and Cincinnati early last month. And he wondered if it's also occurred in other parks.
What's most fascinating about the home-road disparity is that the Mets appear to be playing with more confidence at home, even if no one would dare admit it.
Still, in winning their seventh straight home game Saturday, the Mets played the kind of baseball their owners talked about when they were building this place.
While Jonathon Niese was holding the Marlins to one run through seven innings, the Mets' lineup was busy drilling line drives all over Citi Field. Five of their 10 hits went for extra bases, including four doubles. These guys look as if the park were built for them.
The Mets realize their road woes can't continue. "I'm not saying we've got to be 10 games over .500 on the road,'' Francoeur said, "but we need to play .500 ball at least on the road."
They'll encounter a good test later this week with visits to Baltimore and Cleveland. How they fare there against last-place teams going nowhere will be telling.