Rumors Buzz; Fans Get Stung
Some Winter Meetings so far, eh? Ready for another day of nothing from the Mets? Brace yourself for Sandy Alderson’s parting quotes about “laying the groundwork.” Sure, point to the calendar and say that Opening Day is four months away. Just ignore the fact that the bulk of the player movement has happened and with a few notable exceptions, all that is left are the lame and the halted. Like a last minute Christmas shopper (guilty as charged) Alderson will storm into the market on the day before (in this case late January) and frantically pick over the leftovers. Hello Cesar Izturis.
Perhaps more so than the other major sports, baseball player transactions can be franchise-altering events. The trades for (or of) Tom Seaver, Gary Carter, Mike Piazza and Carlos Delgado where all clear signals of the immediate direction the Mets were headed. Everyone remembers Game 5 of the 1999 NLCS for Robin Ventura’s Grand Slam Single. Do you remember the two starting pitchers that day? Try Greg Maddux for the Braves and Masato Yoshii for the Mets. With the season on the line, the Mets had to send the unheralded Yoshii against the future Hall of Famer. Despite Yoshii’s heroics that season, it was commonly believed that the Mets needed another established starter to get them over the hump. That’s why the December 1999 acquisition of Mike Hampton was so significant. It clearly showed that the Mets were going for it. The box office boomed and the Mets went to the World Series the next year.
Most of us are longing for that next signal move, the move that gives us real hope that the team is finally off the skids and ready to be competitive again. There are several problems with this. First, given the reported state of the Wilpon’s finances, I highly doubt that this type of move is happening anytime soon. Curtis Granderson is all we get. Alderson was quoted that they need to realize more revenue before they spend more on player salaries. In order to make more revenue they need a winning team. To get a winning team, they need to spend more money. See where this is going? The second problem is that the internet has been “monetized,” which means that some folks have figured out how to turn your surfing into their profit.
A little Internet Marketing 101 here: every visit to a site is recorded. Those records can be tabulated and converted into a neat little chart that someone’s sales force shares with current or prospective advertisers. The better the traffic (site visits), the more they can charge for those banner ads and other sponsorships. Now, I am all for capitalism and I realize that no one is forced to visit a site. There are many ways to drive traffic to a site, but one of the best ways is via original content. When your subject is likeable, popular or important, the traffic comes easily. But what if the subject is in a prolonged decline, contains mediocre performers, has poor management and is under the thumb of someone that most folks love to hate? What if you can’t buy anything from this site like tickets or merchandise? Factor in a lack of writing skills and the spectre of being fired if you offend the boss, which limits the amount and type of original content. Finally, consider that the site can’t just be abandoned, but it must make a profit. So, how do you build and maintain an audience? Go back to the first sentence of the previous paragraph for the answer.
I had long suspected this vulnerability of ours was being exploited by a certain Mets blog, but my epiphany came the day they announced the Huey Lewis concert. Remember the post earlier in the day, quoting Jeff about an impending big announcement? It was quite disingenuous, as after all Alderson was at the GM Meetings and some rumors were already being circulated. Like moths to a flame, the rest of the blogosphere went nuts speculating over the coming announcement. I know it got my attention and I wonder just many times I refreshed that site waiting for an update. I’ll wager I wasn’t the only one doing this. Then came the sting and the letdown. All of those clicks counted however, Mr. Advertiser.
Much damage (plenty of it self-inflicted) has been done the Mets brand. These antics from an affiliated website only add to the feeling that a turnaround is not soon in coming. Just to show how dumb they think we are, they basically invented a Ryan Braun rumor, only to back away with a “who, me?” post about a week later. I am done with that site. There are plenty of indy pages run by some dedicated bloggers that have the same news and have it unfiltered.
As my bio states, I am a long time Mets fan and was present at some of the best moments in team history. I want the Mets back. I am glad to see that the rest of the media is starting to wake up to the decay of this club’s fortunes and reputation. Anyway, some food for thought as the winter meetings wrap up and in the next weeks when The Lead Writer excretes “Mets are considering,” “Mets have talked with” or “Do the Mets match up with…?” posts that are certain to come at a near manic pace in an attempt to get you to click onto the site. If you don’t mind it, then fine. My sense is that many fans will once again get their hopes raised by these stories, only to have them dashed all over again. At the very least, by ruining a cheap form of entertainment, Jeff and his minions have shown that their reverse Midas touch potentially extends to anything remotely associated with the team.
It certainly isn’t much fun being a Mets fan anymore, don’t you think?