New Year, New Beginning

With hours to go until the New Year, 2011 is taking its final bows, and 2012 is ready for its debut.  Most people look upon the New Year as chance for a fresh start, a chance to evaluate their lives and set new goals – maybe look for a new job, find a new hobby, or reconnect with family and friends.

For the Mets, it’s definitely time for a change.  This is a baseball team in a shambles.  They are millions of dollars in debt, and have taken loans from Major League Baseball in order to stay afloat.  They lost their star shortstop in free agency to a division rival, and traded two key players during the season.  They’ve done little to build the team during the offseason, except adding a mediocre outfielder and three pretty good relief pitchers.  And if the 2012 season goes as poorly as most predict, at least two of those pitchers will be gone at the trade deadline.  To top it off, Saul Katz and the Wilpons are having trouble finding minority investors, resorting to perks such as “Access to Mr. Met” and “Owners Workout Day” in order to lure them in.

All of these problems, along with a third consecutive fourth-place finish in a division that’s only getting tougher, have created a swoon of negativity among Mets fans that has reached a level not seen in Flushing since the Midnight Massacre era.

Following the infamous trades of Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman in 1977, Shea Stadium became a ghost town for the rest of the decade.  Finally, the de Roulet family, who had inherited the team from Joan Payson, sold the team to a group headed by Nelson Doubleday, Jr. and Fred Wilpon in 1980.  Under the new ownership, the team rebuilt and enjoyed a string of winning seasons from 1984-1990.  Out of the darkness, an age of unprecedented success arose.

Doubleday sold was forced to sell his stake in the Mets to Wilpon and his company, Sterling Enterprises, in 2002.  And after 32 years of ownership, Wilpon, once the face of the resurrection of the team, is now the face of its failure.  His risky financial decisions and involvement with Bernie Madoff have led to the near financial ruin of the franchise.  This is clearly a new period of darkness in Mets history.

But while Mets fans have filled Twitter, blogs, talk radio shows, and their local sports bars with negativity (and who can blame us?), there is a spark of  hope.

Reporter Bob Klapisch recently tweeted that the sense in MLB is that the Wilpons have 3-4 months to get investors in place, and their finances stabilized, or else they are out.  This isn’t just an unfounded rumor, or crazy speculation.  The Mets operated at a loss in 2011.  They will operate at a loss in 2012, barring a miracle.  An MLB franchise, in New York, cannot sustain itself like this for long.  And MLB (no matter how close Bud Selig is to Fred Wilpon), cannot let a New York baseball team run itself like this for long.

Getting new owners, with deep pockets and a sense of how to run a business, is the best thing that can happen for the franchise.

In the meantime, GM Sandy Alderson and his Geek Squad are doing the most with what they have.  They are focusing on building the minor league system.  And even though, as my boss said, there is no guarantee that prospects such as Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler will stay healthy or effective long enough to make an impact on the big league club, every successful team has a deep minor league system.  Even if all of your prospects don’t make it to your team, you can use them as chips to trade for immediate needs at the big league level.  This is a philosophy that has worked for the likes of the Boston Red Sox, and even the free-agent-happy Yankees.  The Mets minor league system isn’t yet deep enough to be used in this way, but they should continue to build it, even if it means more near-term suffering at the big league level.

So, should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?  No.  Let’s remember the good times – Jose Reyes screaming around the bases after hitting a line drive into the gap, Carlos Beltran drilling a ball into the bullpen while Gary Cohen shouts “We’re going home,” K-Rod and Billy Wagner nailing down saves, and Carlos Delgado launching moonshots.

Let’s remember days of auld lang syne: the Mike Piazza-led Mets of the late 90s, the winning teams of the 80s, the pitching-rich, gutsy teams of the late 60s and early 70s.  The World Championships of 1969 and 1986.  The division titles. The Grand-Slam Single.  The Catch (and the second version of The Catch).

But it’s time to concentrate on the future, and make January 1, 2012 the first day of a new beginning for the Mets.  It’s easy to be bearish on this team right now, but we Mets fans are not front runners.  We are some of the most loyal fans in all of sports.  We’re not spoiled by success like some other fans.  Our team is our family, and a part of our lives.  Yes, we want them to succeed, and they will again.  This may be the end of an era for the Mets, but it’s also the beginning of a new one.

Paul is a freelance writer, blogger, and broadcast technology professional residing in Denver. A New Jersey native, he is a long-suffering Mets fan, a recently-happy Giants fan, and bewildered Islanders fan. He's also a fair-weather Avalanche and Rockies supporter. In his spare time, he enjoys the three Gs: Golf, Guitars, and Games.
  1. 86mets December 29, 2011 at 8:56 am
    Remembering Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes does nothing but bring painful reminders of just how much the Wilpons have screwed up this franchise. So I think I’ll refrain from taking a stroll down that particular memory lane. Piazza, however, does bring back fond memories of good times past. Hopefully, good times again aren’t too far into the future. Maybe the Mets will be blessed with some good luck in regards to their farmhands in the near future, something they have not had in a while. Happy New Years!
  2. NormE December 29, 2011 at 10:09 am
    “We’re not spoiled by success…”

    You have to love that line.

    Happy New Year JJ, and the same to all my fellow bloggers.

    Keep thinking of Winston Churchill during WWII.

  3. gary s. December 29, 2011 at 1:59 pm
    Happy New Year Joe and to all your elves that post all year on Mets Today.As for the Mets, as the Old Perfessor Casey Stengel would say “in 2 days it’s gonna be Jan 1, 2012 and in 10 years there’s a good chance it’s gonna be January 1, 2022”.Maybe if we wish real hard we will find our way to the playoffs in between a few times.
  4. John D December 29, 2011 at 3:50 pm
    Add to all that the news in the NY Post this morning that S&P downgraded (again) the almost $700 million dollars of bonds the Mets issued to fund Citifield Field.This will further increase their debt-service costs. Its hard to see how much longer the Wilpons can hold onto the team. Decreased attendance will be the final nail in the coffin (if they can hold on until the regular season). I haven’t heard one Mets fan say he is looking forward to going to a game this year. In fact, most I know say that they will not go unless tickets fall into their laps.
    • Bill December 29, 2011 at 6:40 pm
      John D, those bonds were issued years ago, so the downgrade does not directly affect debt service costs (at least, not on any existing bonds). Whoever bought the bonds just lost some capital if they sell them. If they bought them to hold for the 5% interest and there is no default, the downgrade doesn’t matter at all. Not that this is good news, but it doesn’t have a direct effect. And Steve S, there is probably no way for the investors to do anything to “get the money back”. They bought bonds that carry some risk and pay a premium interest rate. If you make a bad investment you don’t get to demand the money back. Wish the Mets could get the money back for Perez and Castillo…
      • John D December 29, 2011 at 7:57 pm
        Bill – Thanks for the info.
      • Steve S. December 29, 2011 at 9:37 pm
        Don’t the debt holders and banks get paid back if and when the team is sold? What am I missing?
  5. Steve S. December 29, 2011 at 6:07 pm
    Trading Wagner to the Red Sox to save some money—and losing the draft picks—was the first hint of the Wilponzis’s money troubles…..

    When attendance goes down to 1.7 million or so this year, and the creditors yell for the money back, the Wilponzis will be forced to sell.

  6. Joe December 30, 2011 at 10:28 am
    This too shall pass just as the fallow years after 2000 did. If the team will have only a short period of light and rest on sand in which the darkness will be just over the horizon or some hope for longer consistency remains to be seen.

    Ownership has to go. Until then, years like ’11 when 18M was wasted on two useless players, another such amount on an ace who didn’t play, another on an OF who hit like a 4th outfielder, etc. that lead to 77 wins is not a great situation. A new start has to start somewhere.

  7. Joe January 1, 2012 at 5:55 pm
    Mora retires. Some good audio here, including via Bob Murphy who at one point [not in the clips provided] noted how “fun” that year was.