The first home stand of the 2012 season is behind us. On Opening Day, Citi Field hosted it’s largest ever crowd for a Mets game. By Shea Stadium standards however, we fans shouldn’t go patting ourselves on the back. It is still ponderous to me we didn’t sell out. That was never an issue at Shea, which held 14,000 more people to boot. While that topic deserves more attention, what is at issue is Fred Wilpon’s current dependency on fans filling seats this season the way we did on Opening Day, and maintaining that level all summer long.
Fred Wilpon; remember him? Ever since he technically “won the day” in an out of court settlement back in March, Mr. Wilpon has remained silent and out of sight. Unfortunately for him, Opening Day is a singular event offering only temporary immunity from fan angst; meaning, he can’t hide. Opening Day is also virtually recession proof. And there in lies the rub. You only get one Opening Day. For the remaining 75 home dates left on the schedule, there is only Mr. Wilpon, the Fans, and our disposable income to wrangle over.
Truth be told, we can watch our favorite players and team from home. Just because Fred escaped an epic financial collapse, doesn’t mean his fan base suddenly stopped being discontented by him. In simple terms, throughout the Madoff tribulations, we got duped. While that is all largely behind us now, it is not easily forgotten on us. Then typically by the end of April, rest assured, the usual fan and Media moxie returns to business as usual mode once the novelty of a new season wears off, and everything becomes fair game again.
Now I guess if I were Mr. Wilpon, the largest ever Citi Field crowd would seem like a promising sign for the season ahead. After all, Fred isn’t exactly out of the financial woods yet. The club already estimated they will lose another $70 million dollars this season. Until school lets out for the summer, it is difficult to interpret an average attendance of 32,500 during the first six home dates of the season. But if you’re projecting, like I’m sure Mr. Wilpon is, the Mets will draw 2.6 million fans this season. That would be on par with the last two seasons and fall right in line with their projected losses.
The thing is, Met Fans can go a long way towards alleviating some of Mr. Wilpon’s financial stress by simply packing Citi Field with three million strong. And I would submit to our owner, we will gladly pay to watch a rebuilding team – this one at least. We like these guys! We also like the Manager. And we like the General Manager, and his hand picked lieutenants as well. So, you tell me – where does that leave us?
The relationship between Met Fans and their owner started deteriorating after the very first day Nelson Doubleday walked off into the sunset. Under Fred Wilpon, it’s one matter of contention when a confluence of bad decisions over the years brings the club into our present situation. But not being forthright with a very loyal fan base, far more than just strained this relationship. Fred Wilpon’s lack of transparency damn near ruined it. And that’s where we really are. Because quite frankly, Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda are all right by us.
Mr. Wilpon would be committing his greatest folly if he thinks he can lay quietly to the side and out of mind, while Sandy Alderson continues to reconstruct his entire organization. I feel Mr.Wilpon should be standing front and center before his fan base in a manner unlike he ever has before, and openly apologizing to the fans of the Metropolitan Baseball Club for nothing more than not being honest with us. For here’s all he needs to know – You show me the person happy to enter a house where he/she feels disrespected and taken advantage of? That’s why he needs to understand that in both our cases, attendance is loosely tied into respect, and not necessarily the product currently on the field and how much or how little they all cost. That’s why reconciliation should be on our owner’s mind, post haste.
It’s not like we are strangers to each other. Many of us have been at this for thirty-two years now with Mr. Wilpon. For the younger crowd, he’s been your sole owner since 2003. Mr. Wilpon has made it perfectly clear to us, he intends on keeping this club in his family’s hands. And as much as Met Fans will currently deny that’s the kind of structure they like, it’s only because Fred and Jeff come along with the deal these days. But deep down inside, if not Fred Wilpon, we like being a family run organization, and not some cold, distant, impersonal corporate group or a singular megalomaniac. We’ve been this way since our Good Lady Mrs. Joan Jayson.
I know Met Fans as well as the Wilpons just want to get on with things now. But we just can’t make believe nothing ever happened. Fred still has one more matter to deal with before our relationship is to flourish; albeit conditionally; in the future. On the heals of the most calamitous events to ever rock this organization, this would be the perfect time for him to reappear on the scene and just say he’s sorry.
That’s how relationships work. It is also a matter of respect.