The offseason hasn't officially gotten underway, but we already know one way the Mets are going to look different next season.
At least, the place that they call home is going to look different: Discussion about the difficulty of hitting home runs at Citi Field started almost immediately after the ballpark opened in 2009, and the team is finally taking steps to make it a bit more favorable to hitters.
Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reported over the weekend that the team has decided on several changes to the outfield walls. The biggest difference will come in right-center field, where the dimensions will shrink from 415 to 390 feet.
It's probably no coincidence that David Wright's swing naturally drives the ball toward that part of the ballpark, and that Wright's dip in home runs since Shea Stadium closed has been the biggest argument for shrinking Citi Field. Wright has hit 22 home runs at home and 31 on the road in the three years since the new ballpark opened.
The Mets will also be shortening the distance in left field by building a new eight-foot fence in front of the imposing 16-foot wall that has been in place the last three years. The 16-foot fence will remain, but seats will be added between the two walls as part of this offseason's renovations.
There will also be a change in right field where the "Mo's Zone" crevice will be eliminated by a uniform wall that runs across right field. And, finally, the center field fence will be closer to home plate.
The team won't make a formal announcement until after the World Series, but Matthew Cerrone of MetsBlog.com reports that work is already underway in Queens. Cerrone also has a rough drawing of what the playing field will look like once all the changes are implemented.
Uproar about the dimensions was going to be a point of contention as long as the Mets kept seeing long drives end up as doubles or outs because of the height and distance of the fences. This should quiet those concerns, although it is hard to see how the changes will translate into a major change in the Mets' fortunes.
The ugly truth is that the Mets didn't hit many home runs anywhere because they simply didn't have much power in the lineup. They also didn't have a pitching staff that was good enough to take advantage of the spacious dimensions in Flushing.
As the Giants proved last season, playing in a big ballpark isn't a barrier to winning if you build a team that's well-suited to playing in its own park. The Mets aren't patient enough to do that, so they had better hope that their pitching staff turns out to be up to the task of preventing runs now that it will be easier for the opposition to score via the big fly.
It is all well and good to make the ballpark more "fair," but it won't make a whit of difference until the Mets have a better team.