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…

A Mets fan since 1971, Dan spent many summer nights of his childhood watching the Mets on WOR Channel Nine, which his Allentown, PA cable company carried. Dan was present at Game 7 of the 1986 World Series and the Todd Pratt Walkoff Game in 1999. He is also the proud owner of two Shea Stadium seats. Professionally, Dan is a Marketing Manager in the Bulk Materials Handling industry. He lives in Bethlehem PA with his wife and son, neither of whom fully get his obsession with the Mets.
  1. Brian January 30, 2012 at 7:55 pm
    I don’t think the new core as you call them will be particularly good, but hopefully I’m wrong.
  2. Rob January 30, 2012 at 8:02 pm
    Speaking as one Mets fan who is simply tired of all of this, I’m prepared to spend the next three to four years mired in awfulness if the Wilpons will just let it all go. Continuing my theme from earlier posts, how can centi-millionaires like the Wilpons — with their massive financial problems that probably lower their net worth down to deci-millionaire status — hope to continue to own a baseball team that requires the resources enjoyed by billionaires. It takes a billionaire to own a baseball team these days (or a bunch of centi-millionaires who have pooled their resources and don’t care how much they spend on the venture).

    I say let them finish in last this year, evict the Wilpons and then look forward to new management who can come in and rebuild from the ashes, using several last place finishes to restock their minor leagues and put a competitive and winning product on the field in the next four years. Otherwise, it’s gonna be a loooong decade.

  3. DaveSchneck January 30, 2012 at 9:43 pm
    That was one depressing post. By the way, the Wilpons did hire a new spokesman, to the tune of $3 mil per year. It’s Sandy Alderson, the next commissioner of baseball.
  4. Dan B January 31, 2012 at 12:35 am
    Wow, I thought I was depresssed researching the Wilpon’s financial mess. Hopefully, things don’t have to be all bad. All Fred Wilpon has to do is wake up one morning and say, “well, if I sell controlling interest to someone with more money and a good plan, I can still be a part owner and maybe this team can bounce back.” The next owner is not a guarantee. But trying to get by for the next five years by reducing payroll to $45 million and living off of the shared network revenue like the small market teams do doesn’t sound so exciting, either. Or maybe Mr. Wilpon has another plan. Something we haven’t thought of. After all, who thought we would win down by two in the ninth inning with two outs in Game Six…
  5. Jay C. January 31, 2012 at 5:17 am
    Good God, my heart bleeds for you Dan. I wonder how you make it through each day. I think I may shed a tear for you right now…

    You have a wife and kid. You have a career (sounds professional anyway). Concentrate on that and I’m sure you’ll be all right.

  6. gary s. January 31, 2012 at 10:00 am
    If i go to few games this year (vs Miami to see Reyes) i will only buy the tickets from stubhub from a reseller,.These tickets have already been paid for and the revenue does not go to the Wilponzi’s.I will not buy a ticket thru the ticket office till the Wilponzi’s are gone.
    • Mike B January 31, 2012 at 10:20 am
      Gary I applaud your effort. But we really have to hurt the secondary market too, this way they dont buy tickets off the mets to sell. That being said I am going to at least one Miami game as well to see my Fav player.
  7. Joe January 31, 2012 at 10:14 am
    Bleak? It’s going to be 60 tomorrow. Hard to be bleak in that type of weather.

    Fact is that the team has been a Potemkin Village for the last few years. Just good enough to be respectable but not good enough to get to serious October baseball. Spending loads of money to get 70 something wins is a bit pathetic.

    Anyway, 2013? How long did it take after the 2000 WS to get back? After signs of hope 2006-8, the team has been in a holding pattern until 2011 when the letting go and cutting began. The team has had a lot of bad years. They will have some more. People will continue to watch. BTW, Daily News reports the team is looking to add a lefty to the bench. I thought they were done.

    • Mike B January 31, 2012 at 12:19 pm
      A lot of words come to mind to describe the Mets in the last few years. Respectable is def not one of them.
      • Joe January 31, 2012 at 1:25 pm
        They were in or around First Place most of the first half of 2010, dropping off the map mid-Summer. Many noted they were quite competitive even in 2011 from May to July, after a lousy first few weeks.

        “respectable” is a fitting term to use for chunks of both years. Not so much late, but early, yes.

  8. Dan B January 31, 2012 at 12:50 pm
    I appreciate the concern but my life is great. I am even looking forward to this season. To me baseball is like pizza–even when it is bad, it’s still good. My expectation is low for win totals but I still hope for the best. Besides, there are a lot of stories to follow. Nobody knows how good Santana, Bay, Pelfrey, and Wright will be. I am curiois about the new fense. And we have lots of young players to follow. And there is always that one player not on the opening day roster that turns out to be a big surprise. If nothing else, I can root against the Phillies.
    • gary s. January 31, 2012 at 1:06 pm
      Well said.Especially about the pizza.As a met fan i’m used to a lot of cold lousy slices.
  9. chad February 3, 2012 at 1:56 am
    man, your a winey biatch. get a life