FLUSHING, NY – Sometimes the Mets do some things right. And in the case of Citi Field, they got it right.
The organization wanted a ballpark that played large. Historically Shea Stadium was a pitchers park and there was no reason to make any changes as the team moved next door.
So they designed Citi Field to be a pitchers park. And it’s a good one – even better than Shea. Balls that would have been out in the newly minted parking lot, are either off the wall in the young edifice or caught on the warning track.
Look at the doubles by Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran yesterday. Both would have been out of Shea, yet bounded off the Citi Field walls.
What it’s doing is giving the Mets and their young staff a tremendous home field advantage. The starters are now willing to take chances, knowing they won’t get burned by too many mistakes.
“I tell all my pitchers, just throw strikes,” said pitching coach Dan Warthen. “You have such a large field and a gold glove center fielder out there.”
With Beltran catching almost everything hit to him, the Met pichers have gotten aggressive in the zone, not willing to dabble on the corners, which makes them much, much more effective.
“We have to use the ballpark to our advantage,” said yesterday’s winner Livan Hernandez. “We’ve got to help [Johan] Santana. He can’t do it all by himself.”
Hernandez said he is trying to help John Maine and Mike Pelfrey in order to get them to throw strikes. And it already has helped the youngster Jon Niese, who pitched very well at Citi Field on Friday.
“He threw strike one, That’s the biggest thing,” said Warthen.
Of course there has been an adjustment period with a lot of fly balls getting dropped on the corners. In left, that’s just the inexperience of impressive hitter Dan Murphy, but in right, there may be a blind spot due to the shadows as the sun goes down and also the light towers on the third base side.
Beltran denied this, but there just have been a number of catchable balls that seem to have been lost in the lights.
Yet, that’s another advantage for the Mets, since both teams have to play the same right field. The Mets will eventually learn the blind spots, but other teams may have trouble.
All of this means the Mets will have a tremendous chance to dominate at home. With the ability to take advantage of the home field, the team could become world beaters in Queens, while do well on the road as well, since the starters will continue with their smart pitching.
“I think the ballpark is giving our pitchers more confidence to throw strikes and pitch to contact,” said Mets manager Jerry Manuel.
Also as an added benefit, the new park will attract solid free agent pitchers, a rare commodity, while the Mets can fill the lineup with line drive hitters to take advantage of the gaps.
So much for the three-run home run, the Mets will be a small ball team, because they did this park right.