Our own EIC Kate Feldman recently wrote about the vise grip this franchise seems to have on its loyal-to-a-fault fan base. You should read her piece, it’s spot on. Then, in Sunday’s Newsday, beat writer Marc Carig laid down the law with a scathing indictment of the lack of transparency coming from the team’s ownership and front office with regards to the Mets’ perpetually hazy financial situation and seemingly tenuous commitment to fielding a winning product.
If you’re an avid Mets fan — you’re reading this, so you probably are — none of the statements and assertions made in either of those articles are particularly new. Mets fans have seen this movie for years, and the plot never changes regardless of whether the team makes it to the World Series or fails to reach the postseason.
Sorry to break it to all of you: it’s not changing any time soon. With a prime location in the country’s biggest market and a huge fan base willing to buy tickets and pay for all the ballpark concessions and accoutrements, the Mets are good business. No matter how angry fans are at the team’s performance or how frustrated they are at the lack of necessary offseason reinforcements, the Mets will always be good business. As long as that’s true, the Wilpons will continue to reap a financial reward that no one would willingly walk away from. As long as that’s true, nothing’s going to change.
So, you might ask, how does change occur in the bleak and dire situation I’ve described? Well, it definitely isn’t spurred by online anger and vitriol, not by tweets about the aptness of the infamous Mr. Met middle (?) finger or by jokes at the expense of the unfortunate social media staffer in charge of the official account the day after the Yankees trade for Giancarlo Stanton. Like all change, it happens with action.
What that action is specifically is up to you. It could be a personal decision to limit your devotion to your beloved team — which isn’t an option for those diehards that are in way too deep at this point with no feasible way out. It could be going to five games a season instead of 10 as a way to spend more time pursuing less painful hobbies, such as gardening or working on that screenplay idea you had from college. It could be giving your (innocent) season ticket representative a piece of your mind as you begrudgingly sign up for another six-month-long torture session.
My suggestion is, though, that you be smart about your act of defiance. Here are a few good ways to do that:
1. Check out StubHub. Like Kate said in her article, a true boycott of the Mets is essentially impossible and — regarding a baseball team — would be woefully ineffective. If you want your voice heard about the state of the team, at least in my opinion, you have to go to games. A guilt-free way to do is to buy your tickets from other fans instead of directly from the team. Your compatriots retrieve some of the money they shelled out while you get to go to the game. A win for all parties involved.
2. Revitalize the Citi Field parking lot atmosphere. Before any given Mets game, you’ll undoubtedly see beers drank and cornhole played by both home and away fans. You may even see food grilled. What if, instead of waiting on that Shake Shack line, you and a few friends set up shop in Flushing Meadows Park to get your lunch or dinner fill before walking over to the stadium? This one’s another multi-level win, from improving the pregame atmosphere to saving you both time (in the ballpark) and money (in your pocket).
3. Take the train to the game. This one is actually a method endorsed by the team! Parking, to the tune of $25, is another major revenue stream for the Mets and choosing to use the LIRR or subway would save you some serious dough in addition to helping out the environment. The 7 train gets crowded after games, and Mets-Willets Point is sometimes a tough station to get home from in a timely fashion, but voting with your wallet is a serious commitment that requires certain sacrifices. Change isn’t easy.
4. Use outdoor vendors to your advantage. They aren’t as filling as the ones inside Citi Field, but the soft pretzels sold on the boardwalk and in the parking lot on the other side of the train tracks are usually just $3 and are always worth it. Same goes for the $1 water bottles right out of the cooler.
5. Do your shopping beforehand. This one is another big time-saver. Want a Noah Syndergaard or Michael Conforto shirt? You’ll save a nice chunk of change by getting it at a local sporting goods store than inside Citi. You also won’t have to miss entire half-innings just to check out the team store.
There have been varying opinions as to the true financial health of the Mets’ ownership group, owing to their financial gain (and eventual loss) from the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. Debts from the Madoff case have provided a reasonable explanation for the team’s somewhat reluctant approach toward free agency and absorbing hefty contracts. But, years after the resolution of the financial crime committed by a close Wilpon family friend, that excuse starts to look less and less legitimate. And if recent news reports about Wilpon-run Sterling Project Development playing a big role in the Islanders’ stadium deal at Belmont Park are true, there’s a major cash infusion into the family’s coffers in the years to come.
Before us, then, are two possibilities. The first is that the Wilpons aren’t hoarding their money away from investing in the Mets, it’s that they don’t have much of it anymore. The second is that they’re doing fine financially and the choice to run the Mets on the budget of a Minnesota or a Pittsburgh is one of their own volition. There isn’t much evidence in support of the former claim and if the latter is true, it’s time for MLB to step in and intervene.
But, from Bud Selig’s friendship with the Wilpons to Rob Manfred’s jokes about the Royals being bigger spenders than the Mets, relying on the league office to pull a Frank McCourt is about as unlikely as Jose Reyes not being the starting second baseman come Opening Day.
So, Mets fans, the tide turns to you. If you want to turn this thing around, you make it happen in any way you like. Big or small, loud or quiet, flashy or tame, it can make a difference.
Photo credit: Bill Streicher – USA Today Sports