Why So Far?

Although Mars moves in an elliptical orbit that averages about 141 million miles (228 million kilometers) from the sun, the Mars Climate Orbiter traveled some 416 million miles on its way to Mars from Earth. When the Mars Climate orbiter was launched on December 11 last year, Earth and Mars were just 136.6 million miles from each other. Why then did the orbiter have to go so far to get there? Did it take the long way around?