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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS | ST. LOUIS vs. NEW YORK : NOTES

New Stadium for Mets Could Be Ready by 2004

October 17, 2000|PAUL GUTIERREZ

NEW YORK — Plans for a new stadium for the New York Mets are picking up momentum, according to Met co-owner Fred Wilpon.

"Talks are actively in progress," Wilpon said before his Mets clinched their fourth National League pennant with a 7-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Though he wasn't clear about who was involved in said talks, Wilpon did say that the New York City mayor's office and governor's office were playing their respective parts.

The Mets hope to be playing in the new stadium, which would be built in what is now the parking lot beyond Shea Stadium's left-field bleachers, in time for the 2004 season.

The Mets' new digs would include a retractable roof and would also pay tribute to Brooklyn's long-gone Ebbets Field with a facade and rotunda similar to the Dodgers' old home.

But Wilpon does not want to see the 36-year-old Shea, the sixth-oldest stadium in use this season, become a victim of the wrecking ball. He would like to see the stadium reconfigured and turned into a football-only facility for a team looking for a new stadium.

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The strong play of the Mets' young and inexpensive outfield--second-year player Benny Agbayani and rookies Jay Payton and Timo Perez--will allow the Mets to stand pat at that position and fervently pursue the high-priced jewel of the upcoming free-agent class, Seattle Mariner shortstop Alex Rodriguez, and re-sign left-handed starter Mike Hampton.

"With a payroll like ours," Met General Manager Steve Phillips said, "you have to be able to afford it in other areas. Certainly, our outfield qualifies as that."

The Mets' $81.8-million payroll ranked fifth in the major leagues this year.

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New York's infield was its strength in 1999, as the Mets had the best defense in the National League with a .989 fielding percentage, committing only 68 errors, 32 less than the next closest team.

This season, having lost acrobatic shortstop Rey Ordonez to an early-season injury and with Todd Zeile learning a new position at first base, the Mets fell to ninth in the NL with a .980 fielding percentage and 118 errors.

New York's youthful outfield, though, has been a defensive strong point for the Mets in their run to the NL pennant.

Said Manager Bobby Valentine: "Our outfield defense picked up where our infield defense left off."

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St. Louis committed two errors in an inning three times in the series, including Monday night, when a pregame drizzle made things slick.

"It rained for four hours out there today," Cardinal first baseman Will Clark said. "When you grab a wet baseball, they generally don't fly in the right direction."

The Mets, who didn't commit any errors Monday, must have used different balls.

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League MVP candidate Jim Edmonds batted just .227 and struck out nine times in 22 series at-bats.

THE SERIES

Mets win series, 4-1

Game 1: New York 6, St. Louis 2

Game 2: New York 6, St. Louis 5

Game 3: St. Louis 8, New York 2

Game 4: New York 10, St. Louis 6

Game 5: New York 7, St. Louis 0

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