New York Mets fans are frustrated and who can blame them. 2006 is a long time ago and combine that with two collapses and a whole lot of losing anyone would be fed up, let alone a New York sports fan. Despite the Mets winning more games than he had the previous year for the first time in four years, Mets fan are still clamoring for ownership to sell the team.
The roars for a change in ownership have gotten so loud that soon it will stare the entire organization straight in the face. Starting on opening day, two billboards will be put up either saying “Sell The Team” or “New Owner Needed”, just minutes away from Citi Field. The billboards will stay up for four weeks.
Mets fan Gary Palumbo got tired of expressing his frustration over the team on social media and decided to let his voice be heard in a larger way. Palumbo raised the $5,000 needed for both billboard behind the backing of 175 other fans. This is similar to what Jets fan earlier this NFL season which eventually led to the firing of both the teams general manager and coach (although I think the three wins may had played a role too).
While the billboards are unlikely to force Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz to change their position on selling the team, it shows something that many people are overlooking, Mets fans are lost. Here’s the thing, there is a separation between the product on the field and how it got there, and that is where lies the problem for fans. Ever since the name Bernie Madoff popped up, the Mets team and money have disappeared quicker than a Madoff’s investors money. Without a winning season since 2008, fans have watched the Mets continually try and replace players with a patchwork group of veterans past their primes or “second tier” free agents. The teams payroll has gone down from $143 million in 2011 to $85 million last year. This year the payroll should come in somewhere just under $100 million barring any more subtractions of payroll (we’re looking at you Dillion Gee).
The upcoming season is a promising one for the Mets, no one would argue that. With a good young pitching staff and a lineup that on paper could hit well, the Mets have the makings of contending for a playoff spot. Mets fan realize that and they’re happy about that. Yet, even if the Mets make the playoffs this year the Mets fans view on ownership won’t change.
The problem is that despite everything that has happened following the Madoff scandal, the owners have used this team as a way to build themselves back up instead of treating it like the business it is. “To make money you have to spend money” is how the saying goes, and ownership has hoped that spending pennies that could reap in profits to offset the supposed losses from Madoff. Instead combined with a subpar product, the fans have almost boycotted Citi Field in protest of what’s happened. There are certain standards that come with a team playing in New York and being cheap isn’t one of them.
We understand that you don’t need to have the biggest payroll in the league to win a championship, we see that shown yearly. On the other hand, what reasonable explanation is there for a team playing in New York to have a lower payroll than Tampa Bay? Owner Fred Wilpon has been on record saying, “once the fans start coming back we’ll be able to put money into the team.” Hello, Fred, we’re not coming because the product is lacking because you refuse to money into it! Last season the first two months of the season was wasted continually watching the likes of Jose Valverde or Kyle Farnsworth trying to close out games because they were cheap. Forget the fact they weren’t good, why would that be important? Plus, the fact that Wilmer Flores has practically been handed the starting shortstop job bothers fans, not because he may not be any good, but because any viable options couldn’t be looked at because the price tag was too high.
This isn’t the way a New York team operates. Every Mets fan who can look down the road has a ticking clock in their head because when Matt Harvey approaches free agency we wonder if this is another Jose Reyes situation, where we debate whether to trade him or just let him because resigning him won’t be an option. Sandy Alderson has continually talked about his fear of signing multiple guys to long term high money contracts and I believe him to some extent. Then again, what else is he suppose to say? I don’t expect him to get in front of the media and say something like, “Well we would have liked to grab a couple of guys but their price tags were above what we’re allowed to pay.”
The whole situation is a joke. That’s why when we the weekly Troy Tulowitzki rumor pops up you just have to shrug it off. The debate is over the prospects, I’m sure they’ve haggled but in the end a package could be worked out, the problem is the money. Even if the Rockies gave the Mets a similar amount to what the Dodgers gave the Padres in the Matt Kemp deal, it still would be too rich for the Mets too take on.
Alderson has done a nice job building up a team on a piggy bank allowance. With the help of guys already in the farm system and some young guys that Alderson has brought in, the team now has a foundation that fans can see brighter days ahead. To think, if he had some more money, maybe the veterans surrounding those young players would make this team look more like a threat than a contender if everything breaks right. If this team wins, its in spite of ownership, who will reap all the benefits of fans being drawn back in by a winner they haven’t helped create.
The ownership group isn’t going anywhere, any chance of that was lost when Wilpon’s close friend and commissioner at the time Bud Selig allowed Wilpon to take out loans and build up debt to keep the team running. Know any other professional sports teams that are run under those circumstances? All Mets fans can do is look toward the future, the team on the field has the looks of becoming a winner again and with that then they can put Wilpon to his word of putting money back into the team with a fuller stadium. The days of $150 million payrolls may be over, but is it too much to realistically ask for $115 million payroll? If it is, this won’t be let go, but the ownership group should be.