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.


David Berg has been following the Mets since 1990, and counts himself as a "die hard fan" -- the agonies have been numerous and arduous, but he's still watching every game he can, determined to "earn" the satisfaction when the Mets eventually win it all. In his non-spare time, David is a designer of graphics, web sites, and games. See his work at Shrike Design
  1. 7up17togo October 1, 2014 at 12:34 pm
    a measly 7 post season appearance in 53 years….that says it all.
  2. DanB October 1, 2014 at 4:41 pm
    I question your theory that small market team fans really want the big market teams to act small. You can’t be David if there is no Goliath. If these people wanted to live in a big market or root for a big market team, they would and some do. Vive la difference! I know as a big market fan, I resent my team acting small. I can understand Selig not caring that the Mets stink (there has to be a few every year) and I can understand him being happy the Mets are helping keep salaries down (which they are not really doing since they are increasing the demand for low level players). But the idea of any team that doesn’t try to maximize its potential being good for baseball is down right wrong. Having Met fans sitting home, not watching ball games is not good for the Mets and not good for the game of baseball. The focus on prices is silly when the real problem is less demand by fans for the product.
    • argonbunnies October 1, 2014 at 4:56 pm
      You need Goliaths, but how many? Do you think any AL team that battles the Yankees is really clamoring for the White Sox to break the bank?

      The idea that small market fans want their teams to find clever ways to win cheaply, while big market fans want their teams to just buy titles, is insane. I’d parallel it to some problematic perspectives on real-world socioeconomic status except, y’know, it’s just baseball. But I’m pretty sure that fans of all teams want their team to win, and it takes a truly ridiculous amount of “doing it the wrong the way” to sully that.

      I’m certainly guilty of that latter — I wasn’t complaining in 2009 about how the Mets’ huge payroll didn’t give the Marlins a chance. I’m worried about my team, let the Marlins fans worry about their team.

      But that’s kind of Bud’s point, right? There are only so many wins and so many playoff spots to go around. For every free agent the Wilpons buy to give hope to Mets fans, that’s one more piece of hope the Marlins fans lose, watching an opponent grow stronger while their team stands pat. So Bud’s just as happy to see the Wilpons not do that.

      I still hate the Wilpons, but that’s because I’m a Mets fan, not because I’m looking out for the best interests of The Game.

      That said, I agree with you that if EVERY team were trying, first and foremost, to field the best team they could, that would be ideal. But good luck with that…

      • DanB October 2, 2014 at 12:38 pm
        You don’t think people don’t like watching big market teams acting like big market teams? Then why are the Yankees and the Dodgers consistently the highest attended games on the road? I do agree with you that people don’t care how their teams win just as long as they win. However that doesn’t mean a fan of a small market team doesn’t realize when their GM paid too much of their payroll on one player just like fans of big market teams realize when their teams are acting cheap. Nobody wants their team run poorly. By the way, when I complain that the Mets are under capitalized and not reaching their potential, I am not advocating buying free agents for the sake of adding payroll. Their are other ways they could spend money. How about promoting prospects based on skill and needs rather then saving money on arbitration? How about not cutting costs on scouting? How about investing in AAA so they don’t play in Las Vegas? How about finding a better backup shortstop then Omar Q? And how about hiring a real COO, someone with the proper skill set so the Mets don’t have embarrassing promotions and lawsuits and medical mishandles and musical chair outfield walls and a home stadium with no reference to the home town?
  3. DanB October 2, 2014 at 1:01 pm
    To summarize, I don’t think it is a bad thing forbaseball that there are small and big market teams. But it is a bad thing for Selig to try to force big market teams to act small as it is for small market teams to act big.