By Rich Coutinho
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Over the past few seasons, I’ve gotten to know David Wright very well. He is as politically correct as they come — and sometimes that’s quite a chore when you consider this is New York. The media corps here sure does love to kick someone when they are down.
But he has never complained about the spacious power alleys at Citi Field.
For a guy who is more of a gap hitter than a down-the-line hitter, an offensive threat who thrived in the right-center field gap at Shea Stadium, I would imagine Wright is thrilled to hear the Mets are moving in some of the fences at Citi Field.
I had the chance to talk to David about it late last year and he was hopeful some adjustments would be made.
“My feeling is you cannot worry about things you can’t control,” said Wright, “but it is disheartening to hit the heck out of the ball and see it hit off that high wall in left center. But it is the same dimensions for everyone so you have to keep plugging away.”
He was right, but the difference between Mets players and everyone else is they had to play in these dimensions 81 times — while at best, a divisional opponent played here 10 times. For guys like Wright and Jason Bay, these new dimensions could mean five to 1o more homers per season. More importantly, it could mean the difference between a two-run inning and a five-run frame.
Even Ike Davis, whose power has trumped Citi’s big dimensions, will benefit from a shorter fence in right field.
“I generally do not get caught up in park talk,” said Davis. “But I think it hurts some guys. Remember though, we also benefited from it when the other team was at the plate.”
And that is important to consider here as well. Shortening the dimensions may make it easier for opponents, especially guys like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Brian McCann, whose power swings will play well in a smaller park.
But to me, that’s a risk that must be taken because of one simple fact: it will be easier to attract great hitters to Flushing if the ballpark dimensions are fair.
Players talk to other players. I firmly believe most major leaguers knew the Mets were spooked by this park. If for no other reason than they were spooked by it as well. I remember Alex Rodriguez looking out at a screaming line drive he hit to left-center and appearing shocked when it did not leave the yard. And so the baseball world knew what a player would be up against offensively if he came to call Citi Field home.
Will it affect pitchers on the Mets? My thought here is a simple one: these changes will not make Citi Field a launching pad — they will merely make the dimensions fair and equitable. And the Mets are trying to build an array of good young pitching. We’re talking talented arms that will be able to pitch in any ballpark.
Remember the old adage, “good pitching stops good hitting,” is not “good pitching stops good hitting only in big ballparks.” I always thought Shea Stadium was about as fair a stadium as there was in the National League, both in height of the fences and the distance from home plate.
David Wright thrived in that atmosphere as a feared opposite-field slugger who, with two strikes on him, became hell-bent to drive the ball the other way.
That is why moving in the fences is the right thing to do.
Or more precisely, the Wright thing to do.
Mets fans: how do you feel about the Citi Field makeover? Be heard in the comments below…