August 2017

Citi Field Facts, Figures and Thoughts

One of the most popular questions I get on a daily basis from Mets fans is what to do at Citi Field. While most fans live in New York, a lot of fans live outside of the Metropolitan area or simply do not have the time or the means to visit. So, I decided I would write a small post, a beginner’s guide of sorts, with some brief history, facts & figures, and my personal opinion on the stadium that is turning eight years old this April. 


The first thing I will say about Citi Field is how every fan has a different opinion on the stadium. Some fans hate the stadium, citing a plethora of Dodgers references, and some fans love the stadium, stating that it’s family friendly activities make it a great experience for a Sunday afternoon.

This is a trend among stadiums in the 2000s, starting with Oriole Park in Camden Yards, is the movement of “Retro Modern” stadiums, something Citi Field follows to a tee, where a stadium will look rustic and display heritage on the outside, but look pristine on the inside with all of the modern amenities.

One of the biggest examples of this is the facade, known as the Jackie Robinson Rotunda:

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Like the title suggests, this rotunda, designed by POPULOUS (or HOK Sport like many call it), is designed after the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Some of Jackie Robinson’s best quotes and pictures are adorned inside a replica of the Dodgers fifth and most popular stadium, Ebbits Field.

So why is this entrance criticized so heavily? Well, Citi Field is the home of the Mets, not the Dodgers. When you walk into Citi Field, a lot of Mets fans would have preferred statues of Tom Seaver and Keith Hernandez, even the press has written about it at length.

And while the Mets haven’t added statues yet, they did listen in 2010, when, one year after the ballpark’s first game, they opened a “Mets Hall of Fame and Museum” with commemorative plaques, jerseys and even the World Series trophy.

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Another tactic the Mets have done to try to make the outside more Mets centric is the addition of fanwalk bricks, which is very cool to see in practice, as I’d much rather see quotes from Mets fans than Geico advertisements,  but is very costly for the fan.

Moving inside the stadium, we see another new ballpark trend. Team Stores. Two, to be exact, less than 50 steps from the entrance. This no-frills tactic, where you don’t pay much on a ticket, but are forced to pay a lot for merchandise and concessions is a truly brilliant move. If you are a fan that wants to watch the game and nothing else, you can buy a ticket for $6 dollars, and enjoy the game. If you want to have fun with your family, you can enjoy all of the concessions and fun games at Fan Fest (currently called Send In The Clowns Fan Fest, but that always changes….) like dunk tank, a fast pitch game and event  virtual simulator. Additionally, young fans can run the bases after Sunday Home Games (known as the Mr.Met Dash), which is extremely fun for the little ones, and is another example of how teams are becoming more accessible and interested in “opening up” their stadium. Ten or twenty years ago, when ballparks were considered “sacred” a post game dash would never be allowed.

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Another ballpark staple is food, and Citi Field doesn’t disappoint there. The New York Post and other newspapers have often called Citi Field the best stadium in the world as far as eats, and I don’t disagree.

Last summer, MLB sent me to Citi Field to do a “Culinary Citi” feature. (Well, two actually…. I like ballpark food) And, I completely understand why people feel this way.

From Blue Smoke to Fuku to PRESSED, to Taqueria to Shake Shack (where people will miss 3 innings of a game just to get a milkshake) there are nearly infinite options for dining. Fans that want an elevated dining experience can dine at the Porsche Grille with excellent stadium views or the Pat La Frieda Chop House (again, it’s officially called the Pat La Frieda Chop House presented by Delta Airlines, but, I fly United, so I don’t mention that.)

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While the food at Pat La Frieda’s looks good, I kind of question the idea of an indoor steakhouse at a Baseball field, but, I digress.

The actual baseball field has evolved as well (and yes, it’s very ironic that we have made it so far in a ballpark review without actually talking about the field), in 2009 the left field wall and parts of the right field walls was 16 feet high, which is double the size of a standard fence, eight feet high. Another criticism in the wall was the color of the wall.

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The above picture was taken in 2009. The black wall, a reversal from the Blue wall from the Mets previous home, Shea Stadium, was met with a lot of condemnation. In fact, the only similarity between the fields were the orange flag poles, something unique to the Mets.  Because of that, the Mets have changed the dimensions of Citi Field three times, in 2010, 2012 and in 2015.

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Today, the wall is Blue, and has two interesting areas in the space between the old fences and the new fences, both of which offer un-parralled views of the stadium, come with free food and drinks, and come with a hefty price tag.

Another thing that Citi Field improved on with the new fences was their capacity, which is technically 41,922, but is actually over 42,000 when you consider club level seating. The record attendance was the sole All-Star Game that the Mets hosted in 2013. In that mid-summer classic, 45,186 went through the turnstiles, which included a lot of standing room tickets, something the ballpark was meant to include.

Another feature of the stadium that is ultra fan-friendly (and great for fans like me that still keep score in a old fashioned scorebook) are these new ginormous Daktronics boards:

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These boards feature all of the statistics one could ever want, from batting average to WAR+, and yes, that is a baseball term.

Off the field, Citi Field hosts a lot of events through their Metropolitan Hospitality Division. A corporation that is owned by the Mets, and one that I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with in the past.

Some of these events include Tours, the Bacon + Beer Classic, The Color Run, various concerts and most notably the Meadows Concert, which, while it might have been fun for spectators, created quite a problem for the Queens Ballpark Company, which is the  company that owns Citi Field; and my hunch is the Meadows will be canned or re-located after this upcoming year.

Simply put, Metropolitan Hospitality does everything, from a birthday party to a lacrosse tournament, which, while un-conventional for a baseball stadium, is better than having the stadium stay closed all winter.

So, we’ve touched on all the elements of Citi Field. Most everything is positive, and all of the negatives have been rectified, but here’s the interesting thing. I personally wish Citi Field wasn’t built. 

I know, I know, that’s crazy, but I’ll explain.

Citi Field is infamous for being funded with $615 Million Dollars in Public Subsidies, and is privately owned. Furthermore, New Yorkers don’t have any attachment to something that they payed for, something that is very different from a lot of privately owned stadiums.

Citi Field was made without the fans input, and the owners paid for that. Attendance was very low the first few years, despite good transportation options with un-limited parking, the New York City Subway and the Long Island Rail Road. Many people were outraged by the lack of “Mets” in the ballpark, instead featuring nods to the Brooklyn Dodgers, the favorite team of Mets owner Fred Wilpon when he was a child.

Additionally, many people took objection to the naming rights deal, which was given to CitiCorp for $20 million dollars per year, the first major sports team in New York to have such a deal. T-Shirts were made reading “I’m Calling It Shea!”, and were worn by popular figures, like Jonathan Lethem, during occupy Wall Street.

Yes, Citi Field has grown on me, and has grown on many other fans, and I do realize that some children, teenagers and even adults need alternate forms of entertainment during a baseball game, citing the game is too slow, but there was something nice about Shea Stadium, a classic ballpark and a real marvel of it’s time.

It was no beauty, but with a renovation, I think it could have been a better solution. At the end of the day, however, Citi Field is a beautiful ballpark, and, you don’t even have to like baseball to attend a game, but wether or not that’s a good thing is something that has been bothering me ever since I walked into Citi Field for the first time in April of 2009. Unfortunately for me, owners have a different question nowadays: Wether or not an amenity is profitable.

Mets gear up for…. Fall?

I constantly get emails from the Mets and their affiliates about their promotions. This morning, in typical fashion, I got one of those MLB.com Shop emails entitled “Start Early On Your Mets Autumn Attire!”, which was interesting to me considering I don’t know who would want to wear Mets gear after this season considering the Mets aren’t exactly in the playoff hunt and there isn’t any fall-specific gear to sell if there isn’t a postseason.

So, I was curious as to what the Mets were selling exactly. The thumbnail images on the email were less than inspiring:

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So, the low profile version of the on-field cap is fall attire?

After clicking the link, things only got more inconspicuous. Five out of the first six “items” were winter items like knit caps and “winter” classified jackets. Additionally, all of the supposed new styles have been around for several weeks/months at least,  so it’s hard to call them “new”.

Now, one is probably wondering at this point: What is the importance of this? Who cares about an email that we all get wether we want to or not?

Well, typically I’m in that boat; thinking that the emails are unavoidable and that I should just deal with them. However, I believe if they made the emails of substance and not just click bait to sell merchandise, I would into my email subscription, but this universal trend of mis-leading emails isn’t going to go away any time.

 

Why Not Call-Up Tim Tebow?

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Ok, I’ll say it: It’s time to call Tim Tebow up to the Major Leagues.

But first, some backstory: Have any of you ever watched the movie Mr.3000?

If you haven’t, it revolves around a veteran player, Stan Ross, who retires after getting 3,000 hits, only to find out that there was a statistical error, and he only recorded 2,997. Without ruining the movie, he decides to come back in hopes of getting those last three hits as a Milwaukee Brewer (who, in the movie, are in last place). Along the way, fans find reason to come out to the ballpark, and the once empty Miller Park sells-out on a daily basis to see Stan record his 3,000 hit.

Now, what does that have to do with Tim Tebow?

Well, take a look at this photo I took at yesterday’s August matinee game versus the Arizona Diamondbacks:

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Yes, this is the outfield, but it’s ridiculously empty. So empty, that I can’t even imagine what it’ll be like on a cold September night when the Mets are playing the Phillies or the Braves.

Even at home, in the luxury of my couch, I find myself flipping the channel ofF SNY by the third inning, tired of watching Chris Flexen fall behind hitters, only to lead to another loss. Obviously, this is natural, and not unique to me. It’s a lost season, and while it’s nice to see Rosario and Smith, it’s hard to devote your entire evening to prospects making progress, while watching pennant chase Baseball is obviously more fun.

Now, let me share this other possibility. Instead of 5,000+ crowds during Mets vs. Phillies, imagine the crowds and the excitement around Tim Tebow’s major league call-up. Yes, this would be a total publicity stunt, but, why not? Baseball is a business providing entertainment, and, this September will not be very entertaining.

With Conforto down, and Bruce and Granderson traded, you wouldn’t necessarily be withholding anyone from getting the needed playing time, so I really don’t see why the Mets shouldn’t do this. Yes, it would be one of the strangest things to happen in Baseball in a long time, but it would make September baseball fun in Queens, so I’m all for it.

It would be a win-win for the Mets, as their ticket sales would soar, and people would be purchasing a lot of Tebow merchandise. And, for the fans, it would be something exciting to watch and follow, and there couldn’t be a better guy to watch and follow than Tim Tebow.

So I ask, why not?

Is There any Scenario Where Terry Collins Should Stay in 2018?

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Yesterday, Baseball analyst Jon Heyman wrote an article on the Fan Rag Sports Blog entitled “The Tea Leaves Don’t Look Good for Terry Collins”, where he elaborates on the fact that most of the organization and fanbase likes Terry, however, all signs are indicating that the Mets will not renew his contract, even though there is no direct evidence.

Despite the cryptic wording, I think that Heyman is correct in that Collins will not come back in 2018. While Collins will leave a lasting impression on Mets fans for years to come, it’s no secret his managerial regime is become awfully tired. Even if it’s just psychological, there is the feeling emulating from the clubhouse that he is on the way out, and keeping him around for any longer would seem to prevent the Mets from “turning the new leaf” that they want to do as quickly as possible before their window of opportunity closes.

On the flip side, though, while it would make sense to remove Collins as quickly as possible to get the players aquatinted with a new manager, I believe Collins, who took the Mets to the world series and consecutive postseasons, has earned the right to finish out his year, and that’s why nothing is confirmable from the front office.

Either way, I’d like to thank Terry for his guidance and taking the team to their fifth National League championship, despite the shortcomings, everyone can agree that Terry was a favorite in the clubhouse and in the organization, and his work is appreciated.

Mets Little League Classic Uniform Thoughts

This weekend, as part of the “Players Weekend” in Major League Baseball, all 30 MLB Teams will be sporting special caps and uniforms. Pretty much every team is wearing an off-beat neon variation of their Spring Training uniforms, oh, and all tops are pullovers.

Here’s a look at the Mets uniform set, with all of the nicknames:

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At first glace, I thought this was poorly timed, considering this was late August baseball, and this type of uniform set is glaring even for March, however, after it was explained to me that this was coordinated in tandem with the championship game of the Little League World Series (something I rarely ever watch….) it made considerably more sense why this weekend was chosen, but I still wasn’t a huge fan of the uniforms, as I thought their were considerably more discrete ways to celebrate Little League.

So, I took to Twitter once again to get the opinions of #MetsTwitter, and generally I think everyone’s responses were on-base.

The most common response was an approval of the uniforms and a thumbs down towards the caps:

Frankly, I agree with that. The blue on the cap is like a neon teal-ish blue, which looks off when talking about the Mets. I do think that it won’t look as bad during a day game, but under the lights, when the uniform looks dark, the mis-match will be fairly evident.

What are your thoughts on the Mets Little League style players uniforms? Leave them in the comments below or share via Twitter @NikoMetsPlus.

Bring Back the Citi Field Organ (Tracks)?

Recently, YouTube user Matts Mets posted a video sharing clips from Opening Day in 2014.

What’s featured is the organ tracks that used to play promonently before the game and mid-game. The organ tracks, which were pushed aside in 2015 in favor of already exisiting music tracks, have last seen use in the 2014 season. For those that forgot them, here’s the sample:

Personally, I think the Mets should bring back some Organ tracks in some capacity, and integrate them in with some of the more popular music tracks. 

What are you thoughts?

Are Curtis Granderson (and Rene Rivera) Goners?

Earlier this evening, the following tweet was sent out from Craig Minervini, who does TV work for the Miami Marlins.

Frankly, I had never heard of Craig before tonight, but after doing some research, there is no reason not to believe his sources aren’t legitimate, even if he isn’t Ken Rosenthal or Jon Heyman.

Either way, the career of Curtis Granderson, and the short but effective career of Rene Rivera are coming to close (if not by tonight, by the end of the year) and it’s no secret both players have a had a lasting impact on the Mets.

I’ve had the honor of watching Granderson’s amazing, personable and infectious style of play, one I wish most ballplayers followed. Granderson is always making everyone’s day by signing autographs, taking selfies, chatting with fans and playing to the best of his ability.

So, we will keep on this story, but if Granderson has played his last game, I’ll always remember his last hurrah, a grand slam to the Mo’s Zone in right field, and I had a prime seat right behind me to see it soar.

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MetsPlus Asks: Mets Uniforms

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Anyone that knows me knows that I love uniforms, especially for baseball. I talk about it seemingly every week, and this week is no different.

The other day on my Twitter page, I asked a simple question about Mets uniforms:

If the Mets had to make one uniform change, what would you like it to be?

And a lot of the readers of the blog chimed in with some interesting answers, some of which I’ll respond to here:

Mr.Butera has an interesting idea for sure, and while I believe that the 1997 Ice Cream caps won’t see any daylight beyond the The7Line Uniform Cap that was just released, I’m interested to see the Mercury Mets come back for one day, maybe in the year 2027, the supposed day when the Mets are supposed to move to Mercury.

I do hope, however, if the Mets did ever switch planets, the uniforms would look slightly better than the prediction.

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The next response comes from Tavo, with an interesting idea that I’ve contemplated myself:

After doing some research, the only time the Mets ever wore a sleeveless uniform was on Turn Ahead the Clock day, as seen above, and while that doesn’t look too pretty, with the Blue and Orange colors like you recommended, it could be a cool design.

Unfortunately, a radical re-design like that would be a few years down the road if it were ever brought in, and that in itself is extremely unlikely, though personally I would be interested in a sleeveless alternate.

My favorite response comes from Mr.Trager, who suggests taking off the New Era logo, something that will probably never happen until Major League Baseball switches cap suppliers, which itself will probably never happen, but that doesn’t stop me from taking off the logo from on-field authentics I purchase from the store.

Another interesting reply is this one, which is a suggestion for mandatory high socks:

When I played recreational baseball, I was a high socks guy myself, but as you see on TV, a large percentage of players prefer the pants all the way down, and while the new Stance designs have turned some players over, I believe it’s a long shot to see a regulation that forces players to wear high socks.

Abe also replied suggesting the Mets wear their classic pinstripe uniforms more, which is definitely something the Mets have been doing, as they rarely wore their blue alternates last year, maybe because of that curse…. 

One problem I do have is the number of days special event tops and caps are worn. It almost felt like every weekend this year was a holiday of sorts, and that was reason to celebrate with a different uniform. I would be in favor of abolishing this or having a smaller more subtle mark commemorating the holiday, but considering how much money MLB reels in from these special designs, that’s unlikely.

Nope.


 Anyway, as you can see, Mets fans have a lot of different ideas for what alterations  should be made to the uniform set. Have any other thoughts? Tweet me @NikoMetsPlus or comment below.

My Thoughts on the Jay Bruce “Fiasco”

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In the last 48 hours, even with the Mets out of any feasible playoff contention, the Mets Twitter-sphere was in total chaos, after it was disclosed that Jay Bruce was traded to Cleveland for single-A prospect Ryder Ryan; a relief pitcher who played third base in college.

There were also rumors that the Yankees were interested in Bruce, offering two prospects, but weren’t willing to eat up the entire $5 million owed to Bruce. In the immediate aftermath, most called out the Wilpons for being cheap (which usually happens whenever the Mets make a controversial move) and some came to the team’s defense, citing the unknown factor in the Yankees deal, and the fact that it’s $5 million dollars that can be invested elsewhere.

Even Nelson Figueroa, the Mets pre and post game host, defended the team by saying:

At it’s face, Mr.Figueroa has a point, even though he does make some bold implications, like how the five million could be used for one year of deGrom, Conforto and Syndergaard, which is absurd, as you couldn’t sign those types of controlled players for $5 million, and even if you did have organizational guys that were coming up, they wouldn’t be held up by the $5 million on the owners’ tab due to keeping Bruce.

Another issue was the fact that had the Mets held on to Bruce until the end of the year and offered him a qualifying offer, they would have received a 3-4th round draft pick had he declined, which would have been a little bit more promising than Ryder Ryan, who, along with his low draft status, has had poor statistics in his professional career.

I know that some people don’t want to call out the front office on this deal by calling it a salary dump, because that implies you think the owners aren’t thinking out for the team, but this is as close to the definition of a salary dump as it can get. I’m not the guy to rant non-stop on Twitter about the Wilpons being cheap, but it’s no secret that the fat cats upstairs (in any organization) have deep, deep pockets, and I’ve always thought the Mets owners are a little too inadequate in this regard, and this fiasco does not help their case.

In any case, Bruce is gone, and, while I don’t think we will see him back in the Orange and Blue, he was a real leader in the clubhouse, and I think all the Mets will miss his professionalism and dedication to the team. Best of luck in Ohio.

New York Mets 2017 Walk-Up Songs (Second-Half)

Courtesy of Sports Intros.