Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Flushing Away Beltran, Reyes, Wright... and Fans?

Notice the Reyes jersey at the lower left.

Recently, Jon Lewin, the Blue & Orange half of the blog Subway Squawkers, had this to say about the way his favorite team is being run:

Ownership should know that, even if fans can still have fun at the ballpark watching a lousy lineup playing a lousy game, my tickets in the fifth row of the promenade behind home plate were only $6.50 each, plus StubHub fees.

And unless I missed it, they didn't bother to put the attendance on the scoreboard. It wasn't too long ago when the Mets would ask you to guess the attendance and put up four different figures, all much higher than whatever they are drawing now.

In the late 1970s, after team president M. Donald Grant (the M standing not for Mets but for Miser) broke up the team that won the 1969 World Series and the 1973 National League Pennant, Shea Stadium was so sparsely attended that it was nicknamed Grant's Tomb. They were down to 9,740 a game in 1979, which remains the lowest per-game attendance for any New York team since the Giants' last season in the City, 1957, 8,493.

Even in their 1965-73 mediocrity, the Yankees topped the Mets' 1979 figure, their lowest figure being 12,550 in 1972, the only time since World War II that they've been under 1 million for a season in home attendance. Not since 1935, the Depression year between Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio, were the Yankees under that 9,740 figure in peacetime. And the Brooklyn Dodgers, aside from The War, hadn't been lower than the Mets' 1979 figure since 1938.

It's not nearly that bad now: 28,664 going into tonight's start of a 3-game Interleague series against the Oakland Athletics. That's 13th out of 30 in MLB, 8th out of 16 in the NL, and 2nd in the NL East behind the Phillies, who are leading all of baseball with 45,431. (The Yankees are 2nd, and first in the American League, with 43,765, though I suspect the San Francisco Giants, as defending World Champions and with a great relatively new ballpark, would jump from 3rd at 41,673 to 1st if their ballpark could hold more than that.)

And that's before the upcoming Interleague series with the Yankees, which will get 41,000 each night. (Don't call it a "Subway Series," it's not a World Series.) But it is after an Interleague series with the Whatever They're Calling Themselves This Season Angels of Anaheim that got 29, 31 and 36,000.

No, the Mets aren't doing that badly at the box office. But, as Barbara Walters (or, rather, her Saturday Night Live portrayer, the late great Gilda Radner) would say, "Wumahs are wunning wampant." Wumahs that the Mets will wefuse to we-sign Jose Weyes, David Wight and Cahwos Beltwan. I mean, rumors are running rampant that the Mets won't be able to come up with the money needed to re-sign their 3 biggest players: Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran.

The Mets' money problems aren't as bad as those of the Los Angeles Dodgers, whose owner, Frank McCourt, lost millions defending himself in a nasty divorce case, and whose team has been taken over by MLB, which is apparently close to a deal with a new buyer.

But Met owner Fred Wilpon needs a lot of cash. He's already sold a 20 percent interest in the team. And Beltran is almost certainly gone after this season, which would leave his Met career a failure. (Not surprising, since he got that huge contract on the basis of 2 weeks of play, albeit in the 2004 postseason.) And of Reyes and Wright, at least one will most likely be Flushing Meadow history by Opening Day 2012.

Squawker Jon continues:

If the Mets want to reduce the gloom and doom surrounding the club, how about putting an end to rumors that they might aim to keep Reyes, but then they would have to move Wright. What's next - Shake Shack will only have hamburgers OR shakes, but not both?

I actually read somewhere that this could be the best time to trade Wright, before his value goes down more. Yeah, when he's on the DL with a stress fracture in his back - that's the time to move him!

Wright, like Reyes, is a very good player who has done well in New York, unlike, say, Jason Bay. Nobody should be untouchable, but moves just to cut costs can help you end up with an infield like Wednesday night's - Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, Ruben Tejada and Willie Harris.

Now, there is talk that Reyes wants "Carl Crawford money." Last December, the Boston Red Sox gave Crawford a contract worth $142 million over 7 years, or about $20.3 million a year.

Whether Crawford will turn out to be a good pickup for the Red Sox remains in doubt: The Sox, after a hideous start, have been rampaging, especially against the Yankees. But we've seen the Sox looking great in June, and still gotten away with singing that old song, "See You In September." Or October.

Still, Crawford led the Tampa Bay Rays to the 2008 AL Pennant. Reyes has not only never played on a Pennant winner, but in the stretch runs if 2007 and 2008, when the Mets blew September leads in the NL East and missed the Playoffs completely, he pretty much vanished.

If Reyes wants "Carl Crawford money," he needs a Carl Crawford achievement. Yes, he is on a hot streak. Yes, he is currently leading the NL in batting average. Yes, he can still run.

He has never delivered when the Mets have needed it most.

I'm not saying he needs to win seven Pennants like, oh, I don't know... Derek Jeter, arguably the 2nd-best shortstop in the history of the game behind Honus Wagner. I'm talking about one.

Until he does something like that, he's LeBron James. Or a pre-2009 Alex Rodriguez.

Scratch that: He's not that talented-yet-underachieving.

And if all 3 of those guys are gone, how many people will come out to Citi Field? Or Pity Field, as I like to call it?


Since Squawker Jon mentioned Shake Shack, I believe it's time for some Met jokes.

THIS JUST IN: Shake Shack is now serving "Black OR White Shakes." Not both.

Citi Field has been renamed Boro Field.

The 7 train has been renamed the 6 1/2.

Pretty soon, the Mets will be like the Cleveland Indians in the movie Major League. Without, you know, winning 33 out of 42 to close the season.

Maybe they should have gotten Dennis Haysbert to step away from the Allstate ads to play Pedro Cerrano one more time:

"Bernie Madoff. You should have listened to Jobu. Is very bad to steal Fred's money. Is very bad."

Instead, the Mets have become that other guy from the Allstate commercials: Mr. Mayhem. And their chances are... wait for it... shaky, shaky!

Okay, in all seriousness, they're only 4 games in the loss column out of the Wild Card lead. Which goes to show what can happen if you have management that knows what the hell it's doing -- and wants to win.

But you gotta have both. Do the Mets have either?


UPDATE: On July 28, the Mets traded Beltran to the San Francisco Giants, also sending them $4 million to cover the rest of Beltran's contract, for pitcher Zack Wheeler. This was actually a good trade, since Wheeler helped them win the 2015 Pennant and the 2016 Wild Card.

On December 7, 2011, Reyes signed with the Miami Marlins for $106 million over 7 years (an average of $15.1 million a year). He was a best with them, and with the Toronto Blue Jays, and with the Colorado Rockies, before returning to the Mets on June 25, 2016, helping them reach the Wild Card.

David Wright has remained with the Mets, and has become their all-time leader in hits and home runs, but injuries meant that he barely contributed to their 2015-16 success.

And the Red Sox won the 2013 World Series -- a little more than a year after trading Crawford to the Dodgers, who were once again flush with cash after having been bought by basketball legend Magic Johnson. But they haven't won a Pennant with Crawford, either.

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