First Data Field has been the home of the Mets for spring training for quite some time now. The Mets splurged following their World Series victory, and spent an astonishing $11 million on the complex. That is about $23.3 million in today’s dollar, for those keeping track at home. This is only an astonishing figure because of the fact that teams were only spending around $5 million for a spring training stadium at that point in time. The lowest was Compadre Stadium, which served as the home of the Milwaukee Brewers for 11 years at a cool $1.2 million construction price in 1986.
The Mets went for a little slice of home when they constructed their spring training facility. The dimensions of the ballpark directly mimic those that were found at Shea Stadium. This made total sense, as it gave players the opportunity to play and prepare on an exact replica as a practice field. It made total sense from 1988 all the way through to 2008, when the Mets still played their home games at Shea. Now, they have beautiful Citi Field to play at, and they are stuck with practicing on the dimensions of a ballpark that doesn’t match during the spring.
While not playing on the same dimensions during spring is not a direct cause of defensive ineptitude, it certainly can contribute. The 2008 Mets finished with the third fewest errors in Major League Baseball. In 2009, their first season at Citi Field, they dipped all the way to the 11th most errors in all of baseball. This of course can be chalked up to injuries and simply having different players in the lineup, but it is interesting that in that one season difference, things changed so drastically.
If you quantify defensive efficiency by how many errors a team commits over the course of a season, the Mets have only played good enough defense during one season in their tenure at Citi Field to crack the top 10 in fewest errors committed. Oddly enough, this happened in 2010. Typically, defense has been known as a trait of successful ball clubs, but this trend has been bucked recently. The 2016 and 2017 World Series Champions, the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros, each happened to finish in the top ten of errors committed.
It is hard to argue however that a club needs to put up at least somewhat competent defense to be successful over the course of the season. The most recent World Series Champions, the Boston Red Sox, finished seventh in least errors committed last season. Where the Red Sox play during the spring, JetBlue Park at Fenway South, is a near exact replica of Fenway Park in Boston. The Red Sox realize that their players need to practice on a field that mimics the one back home so that their players can get accustomed to the playing conditions. While Citi Field doesn’t have the green monster, there are some odd features nonetheless. It would help out new players, and probably even some ones that were on the team last season, if the Mets played their spring training games on field like they have in Queens.