Time To Let The Grown-Ups Do Their Job
NOTE: this is a guest post by Joe Spector. Please direct your comments to him.
There’s a false premise many Met fans have had since Sandy Alderson’s arrival. The idea that some Met fans have become Fred Wilpon’s de-facto personal budgeteers; primarily concerned with the man’s bottom line, as if it were “our” money over what’s best for the success of the team. It’s the typical all or nothing mentality that pits groups against groups and here in our case, Met fan versus Met fan. Why? I guess it’s the desire to be right or at least to say you were right all along. Maybe it’s just pure frustration.
It’s a bit of a stretch when you think about it because it assumes that merely lowering payroll by approximately 25% will help solve the Wilpon’s financial problems. Not to mention the seriously ignorant view that Alderson was hired to simply be an axe man at Bud Selig’s request. Many times Alderson has stated on conference calls that it was never a prerequisite for accepting the job as GM to do anything of the sort so to say it is, is literally calling the man a liar. At the very worst, the Wilpons may end up owing as much as $386 million dollars in the Bernie Madoff claw-back lawsuit. While saving about $40 million off the current payroll is nothing to sneeze at, compared to owing $386 million, it’s a you know what in the bucket in the grand scheme of things.
The problem I have is this idea that all the Wilpons want to do is save money, at all costs — and be damned everything else. As dysfunctional as this ownership has been over the years, I just don’t see them sitting around acting like Gollum counting their “precious” dollars when they have much bigger issues to tackle. It’s basically the what came first, “the chicken or the egg” argument that is front and center for ownership. Does having a $200 million dollar payroll truly equal success? Does success come before being able to sell out Citi Field night in and night out? Where does the economy play into this? Where do the vast entertainment options that New Yorkers have play into this? These are the questions the Wilpons need to be asking themselves.
Can this team have success with a payroll under $120 million a year? I think absolutely and if you want empirical evidence that it can, just look at the teams that have made the playoffs this year. Of the eight teams in the playoffs this year only 2 had payrolls over $110 million. The Yankees and Phillies combined for over $375 million in payroll. The Cardinals and Rangers have payrolls no greater than $105 million. Of course that may change for both teams as both have potentially high-priced players entering free agency, Albert Pujols being the most obvious.
The point is as it’s always been not just in baseball but in life: that money really isn’t the barometer of success. Even if in the sake of baseball it makes some fans – cough, cough, Yankee fans – feel entitled to it. In the end it all comes at a price and don’t fool yourself into thinking that you the fan, the ticket patron, the merchandise buyer, doesn’t pay for it. Go ask a Yankee fan how much they spend at a game on average. Try taking a family of 4 to a game today. Fellow blogger Taryn Cooper and I spoke about that the other day. People have a disconnect between ticket prices and team payrolls so much so that they still complain that prices at games for tickets/concessions/merchandise are so high yet keep demanding higher and higher payrolls. Be it the economy or a general malaise, it was shameful to see how many empty seats there were at Yankee stadium during the ALDS. Perhaps the Steinbrenner family should offer some home refi’s with a luxury box next year to soften the blow on its fan base?
It’s such a catch-22 when you think about it. When the team becomes more successful and rises, so again will its ticket prices. In fact the Mets are instituting dynamic pricing for its 2012 ticketing. Whether that makes things easier financially on the casual fan is yet to be seen. But in the end the Mets and other MLB teams are basically corporations and as corporations they too have to earn a profit to remain active. Instead of thinking that people like Alderson and his supporters are merely trying to save Fred Wilpon a few bucks, think of it as a corporate restructuring from the ground up with the intent to actually save the company, the team. Maybe if the boys in Washington D.C. over the years were just as serious about that as well, we wouldn’t be in the financial mess we’re in today.