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Citi Field's revamped dimensions bring more runs

NEW YORK -- R.A. Dickey listened quietly last month to the statistical rundown of Citi Field's altered dimensions, and specifically how they adversely affected him more than anyone else. The changes, Dickey was told, resulted in four more homers and seven additional runs against him.

"Well, then, I hate them," he said, laughing.

Dickey could joke because in reality, he and his fellow Mets pitchers were fine with the outfield alterations, which brought three portions of wall closer to home plate and lowered the entire outfield fence to a uniform height. In their first season, the new dimensions resulted in 21 additional homers for the Mets and 24 for their opponents, according to a season-long study.

"The goal going in was not to make a mockery of the thing, and I think they achieved it," Dickey said. "I think they made it fair."

General manager Sandy Alderson's stated goal when announcing the alterations one year ago was just that: to convert the playing field from an extreme pitcher's park to a neutral one. Over its first three seasons, Citi Field had earned a reputation as one of the toughest offensive environments in baseball, right alongside Alderson's former haunt of Petco Park in San Diego.

So the Mets called in a construction crew and made some seemingly minor changes with significant effects. Their 21 so-called "New Citi" homers resulted in 39 additional runs, infusing an otherwise stagnant offense with a bit more pop.

Of course, opposing hitters did smack 24 extra homers worth 46 runs themselves, but the Mets believe that discrepancy will even out over time. More important in the short term, several hitters said, is the knowledge that they can now crush a baseball and know it will fly over the fence.

"It's obviously a little more fair than the first few years," third baseman David Wright said. "You're asking a hitter if they like a more hitter-friendly park. Of course I do."

The club's leading beneficiary of the new dimensions, Wright hit four new Citi homers worth six extra runs, helping him eclipse 20 long balls for just the second time since 2008. Even if the Mets would never admit it, the changes seemed designed with Wright specifically in mind, given the difficulty right-handed power hitters had pulling homers to left-center field or driving them the opposite way.

To that end, Wright drilled two of his four new Citi homers to left-center field, one to right field and one to center. But even he is not entirely convinced how much effect the new dimensions had.

"If I had to pick one, hitter-friendly or pitcher-friendly, I'd have to say it's still a little more pitcher-friendly," he said. "And that's not me complaining or crying or anything. From what I've seen traveling around, playing in the National League, it's a lot more fair than it was. But it still favors pitchers a little bit."

Of course, Wright understands the give-and-take of the issue, joking that his ideal dimensions would be akin to the Spring Training half-field in Port St. Lucie, Fla., where infielders run defensive drills in February and March. Wright understands that every benefit for him and his lineup is a detriment to New York's pitchers, exacerbated by the fact that the Mets currently boast a strong starting staff and a relative lack of power hitters.

So at the end of the season, it was of little surprise when manager Terry Collins said that no additional changes to Citi's dimensions were in the works. Considering their internal study last winter anticipated 50 new home runs this season, the Mets found themselves right on the mark when 45 extra ones flew over the fence.

The hitters are thrilled, even if they would prefer an even smaller park. The pitchers are sated, even if they enjoyed the old dimensions better. Consider that a worthwhile balance.

Even Wright, who joked that he would love to play his home games on a Little League field, was diplomatic about the park.

"Obviously," he said, "it's playing more close to fair than it was."

New York Mets, R.A. Dickey, David Wright