Fences Come In, Reyes Goes Out?
You may already have heard that the Citi Field fences are moving in — significantly. There are many reasons behind this decision, and I wonder if one of them is a preemptive strike guarding against the departure of Jose Reyes?
The left-center gap is moving in by 13 feet — from 371 to 358. Right-center, previously the deepest part of the park, is moving in 17 feet — from 415 to 398.
Said David Wright:
Any time you talk to a hitter about making a park more hitter-friendly, it’s a thing that we’re all for. I very briefly looked at the pictures and those dimensions and everything. It just looks, obviously, fair.
You’d be lying if you said you enjoyed hitting at Citi Field. I don’t think anybody would say they enjoyed hitting in such a pitchers’ ballpark. I don’t think we ever looked at the field and it intimidated us. But obviously it’s frustrating at times when you hit a ball good and you don’t see the results that you want to see.
WELL, David, WELL! You hit a ball WELL, not “good”. Anyway, I digress …
Hmm … a player says he didn’t enjoy hitting at his home park … that explains quite a bit, no?
Personally, I’m not necessarily in support of bringing the fences in. To me, the vast expanse of Citi Field was a unique factor that the Mets could have leveraged against their opponents, by building a team based on pitching, defense, and speed. But they never really put all that together. They had some speed, not much defense, and so-so pitching. Therefore, instead of building a team to match the park, Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons chose to change the park to fit the type of team Alderson has experience building. Interesting. I’d love to hear Whitey Herzog‘s take on this decision.
OK, I get it — it’s easier to find sluggers who can put the ball over reasonable walls than it is to find speedsters, defensive specialists, and great pitching (with the last piece the hardest part to locate). And in the end, more homeruns equal more interest in the ballgame equal more ticket sales. Unfortunately, the way I’m seeing it, the visiting ballplayers will be the ones benefiting from this alteration more than the hometown boys. I sincerely believe that this change might help David Wright, Jason Bay, Ike Davis, and other batters on the Mets, but it won’t be enough to offset the negative impact it will make on pitchers such as Mike Pelfrey, Dillon Gee, Jonathon Niese, etc. Hopefully I’m wrong — only time will tell.
Those are long-term issues. The more immediate issue is whether or not Jose Reyes will be re-signed by the Mets. More than anyone else, Reyes’ game was enhanced by Citi Field’s previous dimensions — much to the pleasure of Mets fans. Call me crazy, but I’ve always been more excited by watching a potential triple play out than a homerun — even if a homer is more valuable. While Citi Field will still play “big” compared to most MLB parks, it won’t play “as big” as it did originally, which means that Reyes’ value drops just a bit, and his game gets slightly less exciting. In addition to Reyes, constricted dimensions cut down Angel Pagan‘s offensive value (while simultaneously increasing his defensive value). Is it a coincidence that both players could leave Flushing during the same offseason that their offensive values are degraded by moving the fences of their home park in?
Almost immediately after Sandy Alderson became the Mets GM, he made it clear that Jose Reyes was not his kind of player. Alderson is from the steroid-enhanced days of baseball, when small-market teams could win if they stockpiled lead-footed sluggers with an aptitude to get on base. Take walks, don’t move from your base unless pushed, and wait for the homerun to send you home. That worked well from the age of Jose Canseco through Barry Bonds. Now, though, with PEDs testing, the game is moving back toward where it was before Canseco began injecting teammates — when pitching, defense, and speed had value. Thanks to Bud Selig’s ban of inside pitches and his ridiculous strike zone changes, the game will never truly get back to where it was in the 1970s — the time that Bill James described as “a wonderful brand of baseball” for the balance of hitting vs. pitching and the rewarding of overall athleticism. But, the game is creeping back toward there, and here are the Mets, throwing away the one potential advantage they would have in this recent evolution. With it, they’ll likely also allow Jose Reyes to walk away — because after all, Citi Field is “more fair” now, and therefore any player of ordinary skills will be able to flourish there.
What do you think? Are you happy to see the fences move in? (Gary S., I already know you’re ecstatic.) Do you think the change in dimensions will help or hurt the Mets in 2012? Finally, how do you think this change will affect the Mets’ decisions regarding Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan this offseason — as well as the type of players they’ll be going after on the open market?
Post your thoughts in the comments.