Wright embraces changes to Citi Field
Mets slugger says alterations will make ballpark fair
For three years, David Wright and the rest of the Mets have beaten a steady tattoo on the distant walls at their handsome new Citi Field home. Balls that would be home runs in cozier Shea Stadium would rattle off the Citi fences for doubles.
The 16-foot Great Wall of Flushing in left field was a frustrating problem for long-ball sluggers. The 415-foot fence in right-center was an imposing challenge to home run hitters. Both soon will be distant memories.
In an attack of good sense, the Mets are moving in the fences. Work has already started, and when the reconstruction is done, the left-field fence will be a more manageable eight feet. The right-center field wall will be 398 feet. No one could be happier about the changes than Wright, the Mets' top long-ball threat.
"Ask any hitter, and obviously, he'd be happy about it," Wright said. "From what I've read and heard, it's going to be good for hitters. It's going to take away a chunk of square footage in the outfield. I think it will make the ballpark fair."
According to the Mets' projections, the changes will reduce the playing surface by slightly less than two percent. The new configuration would have resulted in 151 more home runs over the past three seasons -- 81 for the Mets, 70 for their opponents. With 1.33 home runs per game last season, Citi Field was third-to-last in the Major Leagues.
No one was more affected by the stadium's dimensions than Wright. After a career-best 33 home runs in 2008, the team's last year at Shea Stadium, Wright managed just 10 homers the next season at Citi Field. He had 29 in 2010.
From 2005-08, Wright averaged 29 home runs per season playing his home games at Shea Stadium. He has averaged 18 per year since Citi Field opened in 2009. He missed 60 games last season because of a stress fracture in his back, so his 14 homers are not a fair barometer of the Citi effect. But he certainly was not sorry when new general manager Sandy Alderson decided he did not want the dimensions of the stadium to be a distraction and agreed to investigate possible changes.
"They didn't talk to me about it," Wright said. "But once they drew up the plans and had all the numbers and information in place, we were in St. Louis when Sandy came over and told me what they were planning on doing. The changes will be good for hitters. All around the league, players said Citi was pretty big."
Citi Field isn't alone in its reconstruction. Alderson is faced with remaking the Mets' roster, and Wright has heard all the rumors that he might be a trading chip for the general manager.
"I don't make those decisions," he said. "I've made it clear I enjoy playing here. At the end of the day, I don't worry too much about that. You can't let that get to you. It would drive you crazy.
"I understand it's a business and tough decisions have to be made. Could it happen? Of course, but I plan to play third base here next year. You've got to have a thick skin. You don't always get what you want. I understand that."
Wright is entering the final year of his contract with the Mets -- there is a team option for 2013 -- and he is an interested observer as his longtime teammate, Jose Reyes, explores the free-agent market for the first time.
"Jose is a great player, one of the premier players in baseball," Wright said. "He's earned this right. He's a great player with great energy. What he brings to a team is more than what he does on the field. He's like a brother to me. We've been together forever."
Wright knows, though, that nothing lasts forever. Not even the distant walls at Citi Field.
Hal Bock is a freelance write based in New York.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.