Major League Baseball employees visited Citi Field this week to invite feedback on a new base it is experimenting with, and the response from Mets personnel was less than enthusiastic.
This year, as part of a deal with the independent Atlantic League, MLB installed bases at first, second and third that were wider (18 by 18 inches instead of 15 by 15 inches), not as tall and a different texture on top — all in an effort to promote in-game action and player safety.
The league doesn’t have any plans yet to use those bases in the majors or minors but remains intrigued enough to at least solicit input from big-leaguers.
Joe Panik, among the dozen or so Mets players and staffers who congregated around first looking at the new base early Tuesday afternoon, was skeptical.
“It’s a game of inches,” he said, and the modified bag takes away from that.
Marlon Anderson, the Mets’ minor-league baserunning coordinator who is spending September with the big-league team, said he was torn.
As a baserunning guy, he likes the larger base, because it makes it easier for runners to be safe — shortening the distance for anybody running down the line, diving back into first or trying to advance to second or third. But as a traditionalist, he didn’t like how much it might change the game.
“If you get three inches on those bang-bang plays at first, those guys are now safe,” Anderson said. “I’m never against change, but when you’re giving one side too much of an advantage, it’s (not good).”
Panik added that he wasn’t a fan of the decreased height, because as a second baseman, he pushes off the bag at second when turning a double play. This new base would make that more difficult.
A definite benefit in the eyes of Panik and Anderson: the different texture makes the top of the bag less slippery when wet. Anderson noted that it would probably be easy enough to keep the bases the same size — 15 by 15, thus not minimizing the distances between bases — but use the more rigid, less slippery texture.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the base the way it is,” Anderson said.
Pete Alonso was out of the lineup Friday for the first time since Aug. 4. Callaway said he wanted to give him a rest because he seems tired, as demonstrated by his at-bat decision-making during a recent 0-for-12, seven-strikeout stretch.
Also potentially relevant, Alonso on Thursday fouled a ball off his shin and needed a moment to walk it off.
“Those hurt,” Callaway said. “But he should be fine on that one.”
Alonso leads the Mets (and all major-league rookies) in playing 145 out of 146 games heading into play Friday. And this may well have been Alonso’s last day off of the season.
“He is our energy drink,” Callaway said. “From here on out, I would expect him to be in the lineup.”
The Dodgers were happy not to have to deal with the major-league homer leader (47 entering the weekend) for an entire game.
“That was a surprise,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He’s special, man. He’s a fun player. Good joy to him, youthful enthusiasm. To see him on the bench, the plan will be to keep him on the bench all night long.”
Alonso pinch hit for Juan Lagares in the seventh inning, stayed in the game at first base and walked twice.
Alonso meets Hundley
Alonso, the Mets’ new single-season home run king, met Todd Hundley, the Mets’ former single-season home run king, during batting practice Friday.
Hundley, who hit 41 homers in 1996, held the franchise record (along with Carlos Beltran, who hit 41 in 2006). Until Alonso broke it — and then some — last month.
“No matter what year you’re in, that many home runs is tough to do, let alone (as a) rookie,” Hundley said.
Now the hard part comes with increased expectations, Hundley said. Barry Bonds, baseball’s all-time homer leader, shared that message with him late in the 1996 season.
“He said that’s the toughest part about it,” Hundley said. “Once you do it one time, they expect you ( to do it again). That’s just part of it. More work, putting in more work in the cage, pay more attention to how opposing teams are pitching you.”