Frugal Mets Fit Bud’s Brand of Baseball
I was watching the Mets-Marlins game last week when retiring commissioner Bud Selig stopped by the Mets’ broadcast booth to chat about the state of the game and, briefly, the state of the Mets. Bud basically repeated his standard spiel about how the game has thrived under his stewardship, how competitive balance is bringing hope to more fans than ever before, and how he has total confidence in his buddies the Wilpons. I’d heard it all before, but in this new context, hearing it while watching the small-budget Mets pitch and hit, it finally dawned on me: Bud is right. By not acting in the best interests of their own fans, the Mets ARE acting in the best interests of Baseball.
It is the Mets and Cubs who allow fans of small market teams to have hope. Not everyone can just buy their way to a title. The Yankees and now the Dodgers get to be the loathed over-spending juggernauts that make even other big spenders look out-classed, and Rays fans won’t grumble about the payroll advantage of the Orioles and Blue Jays.
If ALL the big market teams bought themselves all-star lineups, fans in Miami and Milwaukee might not buy their owners’ promises of contention. Look how attendance declined in Baltimore when Ripken retired and the Yankees and Red Sox were leading the game in payroll dollars and wins every year. But in 2012 the O’s did a few smart things, caught a ton of breaks, were incredibly clutch, and all the fans came back to watch them make the playoffs. All without the team breaking the budget.
This is Selig’s plan for the Wilpons:
Don’t be the Yankees. Don’t be the Angels. Don’t act like any rich team that can afford to spend first to win and THEN draw fans. Instead, join the ranks of the un-privileged. As long as you give your fans hope, as long as you’re close enough that a 2012 Orioles miracle run is at least possible, then you’re doing your job. And if that miracle run ever actually happens, well then, you’ll make a tidy profit at the gate, and can reinvest some of that into your payroll because you’ve earned it The Right Way. The proud, gritty, clutch, home grown way. The not-inflating-FA-salaries way. The way plenty of other teams HAVE to do it.
If I were from Milwaukee, I might not want any New York team to have a big payroll either. The more teams my Brewers could face on a level financial playing field, the happier I’d be.
We Mets fans: although, in the context of NY sports, all we’re asking from ownership is a good faith effort… in the context of BASEBALL, we’re actually asking to be SPOILED. And Baseball isn’t interested in accommodating us. Every season needs its feel-good stories, its Royals and Pirates. One day, that’ll be a small-budget Mets team. Until then, we just have to wait our turn.
Yes, I am a Mets fan, and no, I’m not actually cool with this. I’d rather be a LITTLE spoiled. But Selig’s perspective does make sense to me (from where he’s standing), and I suspect we should steel ourselves for the Wilpons to behave accordingly as long as they own the team.