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Leave Citi Field Alone

The Mets' shiny new ballpark had a less than auspicious inaugural season, to put it mildly. From complaints about the lack of Mets' history to the obstructed views to the faulty plumbing and wiring, the parade of horribles seemed endless. One persistent criticism of the new digs has been the spacious outfield dimensions, which, according to some, unfairly punish hitters who can't jack one out with the same facility as they can in other less punitive ballparks.

These critics partly blame the Mets' anemic home run totals - last in the majors - on Citi Field's dimensions. They particularly cite David Wright's precipitous decline in home run production as proof that the place is just too darned big. Accordingly, these critics want to provide a softer home run touch by shortening the outfield dimensions. Some guy from the Times wants the field shortened no less than ten feet, basically so one guy - one guy - can hit more home runs. I dissent strongly from this view.

Critics would have us believe that Citi Field is some dastardly combination of center field in the Polo Grounds and Death Valley in original Yankee Stadium. Please. It is only large by current standards because most of the new ballparks are essentially glorified Little League fields, specifically designed to yield relatively easy home runs. We all know the reasons for this. Consequently, the home run has been deliberately cheapened, much to MLB's discredit. 'Bandbox' is meant to be an insult.

But let's look at the 2009 season. Here are some numbers to consider. The Mets were outhomered at Citi Field by an 81-49 rate. I was going to put an exclamation point at the end of that last sentence but the numbers shriek without one. The guys sporting gray uniforms actually hit more home runs at Citi Field in 2009 than they did at Shea in 2008. (A nice point to put somewhere). How is that possible in this Grand Canyon of a ballpark? The Mets shockingly hit more circuit clouts at home this year than on the road, however(49-46).

Assuming a normal lineup including Beltran, Delgado and even Reyes, HR totals at home would have been significantly higher this year. If Mets hitters could have simply matched visitors' HR totals at Citi, the park would have ranked right in the middle of the pack and there would be no talk about how unfair the place is to hitters. Citi Field yielded the sixth fewest home runs this year of all MLB parks. That it's not dead last is what truly shocks, given the lineup we fielded this year. I guess those five other parks must be reconfigured to allow more home runs. How embarrassing to finish behind the cavernous Citi Field! (Tongue planted firmly in cheek).

All of this leads me to the ineluctable conclusion that the ballpark isn't the problem - this team is the problem!

What's the point of making it easier to hit a home run if it'll be just as easy for the opposition to hit one as well? What's the advantage? Maybe critics would have felt better if we were outhomered 101-69 at home? They point out that David Wright lost nine home runs or so that would have been home runs at Shea. They don't usually mention that nine balls hit off Johan Santana that would have been home runs at Shea were not home runs at Citi. In other words, they cancelled each other out. No harm.

Some may claim that free agent hitters won't want to play here. The solution? Pay them a little more, which can be done with the money the Mets could save on pitchers who would gladly ply their trade in a National League pitcher's park instead of the American League East, for example. Besides, power hitters who pull the ball had very little problem hitting balls out of Citi this year. Maybe if David Wright can pull the ball a little more......

The most effective way to construct a contending team is with pitching and defense. If we actually do that and add a bona fide thumper in the middle of this (assumed to be healthy) lineup, we can build a real home field advantage next year. Whether the Mets will do that is another question altogether. But leave this place alone.


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