The Mets may have changed the dimensions of Citi Field, but they have yet to change its reputation. The cavernous park was altered after the 2011 season, the outfield walls brought in closer to home plate, but the perception that it is a park where power hitters go to die at the warning track is seemingly still out there.
Two agents representing players the Mets have talked to this offseason admitted privately that the ballpark’s reputation is something that their clients have had questions about this offseason.
“It’s something that is still in the (players’) heads out there, that it’s a tough park to hit in,” said one agent, who requested anonymity to protect his clients. “They see what David Wright went through there and it makes them a little nervous I think.”
Asked about the dimensions of Citi Field, outfielder Chris Young, whose signing with the Mets was made official on Tuesday, said he is a line-drive hitter who is not daunted by the ballpark.
“I’ve never been a big power guy as far as long, deep home runs,” Young said. “My home runs are more line drives that fell out of the yard... Citi Field really doesn’t affect that type of power, in my opinion.”
Young did discuss Citi Field with Wright before he made his decision to sign with the Mets.
Wright has seen his home run totals drop off since the Mets moved from Shea Stadium in 2008 to Citi Field in 2009. While some of that is because Wright has battled injuries and has been left unprotected in weak lineups, there is no question that he has struggled with the cavernous outfield.
Wright said he finds Citi Field a fair park.
“Did it take away some home runs? Of course. One of my strengths was to drive the ball to left-center to right-center; that’s where this place is the biggest,” Wright said Monday on WFAN. “After they made those changes, it’s more comfortable knowing if you hit a ball squarely that it has a chance of going out.
“It’s gratifying when you have a good at-bat, you put a good swing on the ball and hit the ball squarely, you’ll see results,” Wright said in his interview with Mike Francesa. “The opposite of that is to do everything you are supposed to and they catch it on the warning track. That is frustrating. And then you try to hit it even harder the next time — things can get funky.”
“I think the ballpark now plays more fair,” Wright said.
Citi Field went from having the third-fewest home runs hit there in 2011 to being 10th on the list of most home runs permitted (1.20 per game) in 2013 — right behind Yankee Stadium (1.28).
Selling that reality against Citi Field’s reputation could be the biggest role Wright plays this offseason. The Mets’ captain has been active so far, staying in contact with GM Sandy Alderson to see how the club’s offseason plans are working out. He also took an active role in talking to Young, which made a difference.
“You can talk to the manager and the front office, but when you get a chance to talk to a player who has been there, that makes a difference,” Young said.
In two radio appearances this past week, Wright made it very clear that he is eager to be called on to help this offseason.
“I want to help the organization turn the corner and get going in the right direction,” Wright said.