In the Bleak Mid-Winter: Some Random Thoughts
I think most Mets fans are hoping for a scenario that goes something like this: a combination of losses on the field and in the courtroom that forces the Wilpons into selling. Then as 2013 dawns, the team has rich new ownership, a dream team in the front office and a roster full of dynamic young players.
Not so fast. One of the keys to the Wilpons’ losing control of the team will be a further decline in attendance. Declining attendance is usually connected to a poor on-field performance. A poor on-field performance means one of two things: either a rash of devastating injuries or the reality that the new “core” of Duda, Davis, Tejada, etc. isn’t very good. If the latter is indeed the case, then the team is in for a long stay in the basement.
The last time ownership changed here was after the 1979 season when a perfect storm of poor play, financial woes and front office blunders dragged the franchise to hell. Already down and out for three seasons, the Mets struggled for nearly four more years after the Wilpon-Doubleday group took over, going through three managers in the process. It wasn’t until the end of the 1983 season and the arrival of Ron Darling, Darryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez that things began to look up.
It’s a conundrum. I think everyone wants the Wilpons gone, but to hasten their demise, the team has to be awful. If they are awful however it means a total rebuilding (just two players from the 1980 team, Mookie Wilson and Wally Backman lasted to 1986) and several more years of 5th place finishes. If they play better and hover around .500, the Wilpons may just decide to try and hold on, which means more teetering on the edge of financial ruin, etc. etc.
One wonders if the Wilpons couldn’t benefit by hiring a spokesman to handle all of their media contacts. I can’t help but think that at 74, Fred may no longer be up to the task of dealing with the press. His New Yorker interview last spring angered and alienated both fans and players. His recent words after the owners meetings reassured us that his family is “holding up well” (well, that’s a relief) and that he hopes the fans will “give the Mets a try” (as if the team is a brand of snack food).Hard to gauge, but I’d be willing to bet that every time Fred opens his mouth, he costs the Mets 10,000 tickets sold. Where is Jay Horowitz while all this is going on? Perhaps it’s time for a younger, hipper, more believable mouthpiece and one with no current ties to the Wilpons to intervene.
Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia and Zach Wheeler are the Mets next great hope. Just ask Baseball America, hey they’re never wrong—right, Fernando? My hope is that Sandy Alderson is quietly shopping them around, just to see what they could get in return. Let’s face it; probably none of these guys is the next Stephen Strasburg. About the only thing more dangerous than trading away young pitchers is depending on them to develop into franchise-saving stars—right, Pulse?
So Scott Boras found his “stupid owner” in Detroit, eh? On paper that Tiger batting order looks terrific but in the field…well let’s just say that they are going to have to score a lot of runs! Remember the Howard Johnson in center or Daniel Murphy in left experiments? How did they work out? It probably also means that we can cross off Detroit from the list of possible destinations for David Wright this summer.
David Einhorn got a hefty fine from the U.K’s finance regulator for insider trading. First Bernie Madoff and now Einhorn. The Wilpons can sure pick’em.
I may not get to Citi Field at all this season, but I do plan on several trips to Coca-Cola Park, home of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. The Buffalo Bisons are coming in for three separate stands, so I hope to get a glimpse of some future Mets, right here in Allentown. Coca-Cola Park is a beautiful place to take in a game, not a bad seat in the house, with a friendly staff and reasonably priced tickets and food. Think about this for a moment: a minor league community with a reputation as an industrial wasteland (thanks again, Billy Joel) one that hadn’t hosted a professional baseball game in nearly 40 years, was able to build a great stadium literally from a patch of weeds. The Iron Pigs, despite a poor record, have set minor league attendance records each year since their inaugural season in 2009. Meanwhile, there is another stadium that also opened in 2009 about 100 miles to the northeast that is unloved by the fans, has poor sight lines, charges exorbitant rates for food and celebrates someone else’s heritage. What went wrong?
And finally, if you expect that the Mets will “go big” in this June’s draft and spend lots of money on premiere talent, I have a bridge in New York I’d like to sell you. I do have this rich old guy with a Brooklyn fetish interested but if you make me a strong offer…