Nov 08

Mets Hope Shortening Outfield Walls at Citi Will Prove Succesful

Citi-Field-New-Fences-2014

For the second time since moving into their new home in 2009, the New York Mets will be moving the outfield walls at Citi Field, reportedly bringing the right field wall closer to home plate, in an effort to help boost their overall homerun production, particularly power hitters such as David Wright and Curtis Granderson.

Following the 2011 MLB season, the Mets made significant changes to the ballpark dimensions at Citi Field, bringing in the left field wall by as much as 13 feet and right center field by 17 feet, and lowering the wall height to eight feet throughout the outfield.

In 2012, the first season played in their modified home, the Mets’ homerun production jumped from 108, 26th overall in the majors, to 139, with the biggest beneficiary being lefty first baseman Ike Davis, who hit a career-high 32 dingers to lead the team.

Although the Mets, who are pegged as 40/1 longshots to win the 2015 World Series in MLB Betting at sportsbooks available through www.bettingsports.com, have yet to comment on any planned modifications to the ball park, recently published aerial pics indicate that significant work on the outfield wall is already underway with the primary focus on the right center field area.

The upcoming changes are expected to be formally unveiled by the ball club in late November, and should provide a boost to the Mets’ power production, once again among the lowest in MLB in 2014, 20th overall with just 125 total. But shortening the porch also means changes are likely in store for the Mets’ pitching staff.

Veteran hurler Bartolo Colon and right hander Dillon Gee, who gave up 18 home runs in 22 appearances for the Mets this season will likely be moving on due to their susceptibility to give up long fly balls, many of which would carry as homers in the newly modified park. But with young hurlers Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey, both ground ball pitchers, looking ready to take on bigger roles in Queens, the timing could not be better for the Mets.

New York is not the only ball club that has modified its ballpark’s dimensions in recent years in an effort to increase power production.

The Seattle Mariners significantly shortened the left field wall at Safeco Field prior to the 2013 MLB season, from 390 feet to 378 feet, while the right field fence was shortened by 11 feet as part of a major renovation at the San Diego Padres’ Petco Park.

The moves produced immediate dividends for both west coast clubs with the Padres jumping from a MLB third-worst 121 dingers in 2012 to 146 in 2013, while the M’s jumped from a middling 149 long balls in 2012 to 188, second best in the majors in 2013.

Nov 06

Hodges Belongs In The Hall

It’s time Gil Hodges went to Cooperstown.

It’s that time of year when the Hall of Fame ballots come out, and recently the Hall of Fame released ten candidates from the Golden Era (1947-72). Joining Hodges, who is in the running for consideration for the ninth year are: Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, executive Bob Howsam, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Billy Pierce, Luis Tiant and Maury Wills.

HODGES: Hall worthy.

HODGES: Hall worthy.

Unfortunately, I only vote in the annual balloting and not on this committee. Otherwise, I would vote for Hodges and Kaat.

I’m not a big believer of comparing eras because the conditions differ from era to era. I look at it as how that player fared in his time, and The Boys Of Summer aren’t the same without Hodges. Very few players transcend eras, such as Babe Ruth.

He hit 370 homers with 1,274 RBI despite missing two years serving in World War II. Using today’s stats, he also had a .359 on-base percentage and .846 OPS. Hodges averaged 29 homers and 100 during his 18-year career – which included the Mets in 1962 and 1963 – but never once struck out 100 times. He also won three Gold Gloves.

Of all the great Hodges stories, the one that stands out most was when fans in Brooklyn went to church to pray for him during the 1952 World Series.

Hodges was known for his quiet dignity, best exemplified when he walked out to left field to remove Cleon Jones from a July game in 1969 for not hustling.

There was no argument from Jones and neither hashed it out in the papers, either. Can you imagine that today, in any sport? Many Mets followers said the incident sparked their pennant run.

To this day, Tom Seaver chokes up when he talks about Hodges, calling him the key behind the 1969 Miracle Mets’ championship run.

Here’s hoping Seaver chokes up again when Hodges’ name is finally called.

Nov 04

Cuddyer Not Happening For Mets

An early surprise at the start of the free-agent Hot Stove season is the Colorado Rockies’ decision to give 35-year old outfielder Michael Cuddyer a $15.3 qualifying offer.

CUDDYER: Not happening.

CUDDYER: Not happening.

That’s bad news for the Mets, who were reported to be interested in Cuddyer. There’s no way the Mets will go that high, especially for a player who missed two months because of hamstring issues.

Sure, he won the NL batting title in 2013, but that was two years ago. He only hit 10 homers last season, and only hit as many as 20 twice since 2009. For an average defender, that’s not a lot of right-handed power.

Even more discouraging is his average of playing in only 93 games in each of the past three years. I can’t see the Mets paying over $15.3 million for a part time player with declining production.

By keeping Cuddyer, the Rockies could be shopping Carlos Gonzalez, but he’s no bargain either. Injuries limited him to only 70 games last season.

Gonzalez will make $16 million, $17 million and $20 million in the next three years. In 2010, Gonzalez, 29, hit 34 homers with 117 RBI and a .376 on-base percentage and .974 OPS, by far his best season.

But that was four years ago and he had protection in the order from Troy Tulowitzki.

There’s been speculation for years the Mets would mine the Rockies for Tulowitzki and/or Gonzalez, but they were too pricey. Then it was Cuddyer, but they won’t afford him, either.

Time to look elsewhere.

Nov 03

Will This Be Nieuwenhuis’ Last Chance?

Will it ever happen for Kirk Nieuwenhuis?

He’s had several chances in each of the last three years, but nothing more than 91 games or 314 plate appearances, which both came in 2012. Last year it was 61 and 130.

NIEUWENHUIS: Last chance?

NIEUWENHUIS: Last chance?

He’s never gone into the season as “the guy.’’ At 27, will he get the opportunity this year? As of now, the outfield consists of Curtis Granderson, Gold Glove candidate Juan Lagares and a left fielder to be named later.

The left fielder could be Nieuwenhuis, or Matt den Dekker or could come in a trade. He likely won’t be a free agent. Many consider den Dekker having the inside track.

Nieuwenhuis has speed and a good glove. He’s shown glimpses of what could be, but too often he fizzles and the window closes.

What he needs is the chance to stay in the line-up after the fizzle. That’s the only way the Mets will learn if they have something.

Sandy Alderson once told me the two things working against Nieuwenhuis is his on-base percentage (.315 for his career) and high propensity for striking out (169 in a career 552 plate appearances). He runs well enough to be a leadoff hitter, but doesn’t reach base enough.

Nieuwenhuis has a career 169-to-53 strikeouts-to-walks ratio, which won’t cut it as a full time player on the major league level.

He’s at the age where he won’t get many more chances. For him to start he’ll have to beat out den Dekker in spring training.

If not, it will be another year as a role player and possibly his last chance.

 

Nov 02

Do Mets Regret Wright Contract?

While the news is encouraging regarding David Wright’s rehab program on his sprained left shoulder, the Mets must be wondering about his future and the eight-year, $138-million contract they gave him that could financially tie their hands through 2020.

Wright missed the last three weeks of the season and all reports say he’ll be ready for spring training. Wright’s rehab program ended Saturday and barring any setbacks he will avoid surgery and begin his regular offseason program.

WRIGHT: Do Mets regret contract? (Getty)

WRIGHT: Do Mets regret contract? (Getty)

Said Wright: “No setbacks, we’re moving forward. That’s all you can ask. I’m going to get checked out by the doctors. We’ll see how that goes and that will kind of determine what’s next as far as the plan moving towards next year.’’

Staying healthy has been a problem for Wright in recent seasons. In addition to last year, he missed 45 games with a hamstring strain in 2013, and in 2011 a stress fracture in his lower back limited him to 102 games.

Nobody doubts Wright’s effort, work ethic or competitive desire. They just don’t know if he can stay on the field.

The Mets are looking for power from Wright, whose best season was 2008 when he hit 33 homers with 124 RBI, 115 runs scored, 189 hits, 42 doubles and a .924 OPS. He hasn’t hit 30 homers, scored over 100 runs, hit as many doubles or had as high a OPS since. Only once since then did he drive in over 100 runs.

Just as important is he’s played in as many as 150 games twice since 2008.

The Mets signed Wright long-term because he’s the face of the franchise and what he means to the fan base as much as for his offensive potential. Considering the flack they took for letting Jose Reyes depart, they couldn’t afford to let Wright go.

However, he’s 31 and they have to be thinking if they regret this contract.