Are the Black Clouds Over Citi Field Finally Dissipating?

Think how dark the post-game media sessions were under Willie Randolph.  Then remind yourself of the reoccurring folly and fall-out from Jerry Manuel’s post-games.  Eventually, in the dwindling days under the prior regime, the media effectively lost their respect for Manuel, and also for Omar Minaya.  While part of that was deserved, another part stemmed from the media being conditioned to gather for an almost nightly feeding frenzy, be it in the Mets’ clubhouse, or on the road.  The sharks always circled looking to take another bite out of Omar, Manuel and Willie, and of course, the biggest chunk of chum, the Wilpons.  And often enough, the media just instigated a given night’s bad atmosphere if news was slow.

Omar’s PR ineptness in the end caused the arrival of Assistant GM John Ricco on the scene.  Then his impotence showed, which caused Jeff Wilpon to play an ever increasing role in the Club’s daily operations.  Too many times, Jeff was just inundated with having to perform damage control, be it covering for Omar, or Ricco, or Omar and Ricco, or for, or on behalf of, his father.  But the fact he was overly involved to begin with represented a long standing problem which caused friction between him and the fans.

June 18, 2012; Flushing, NY, USA; New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson (left) and owner Fred Wilpon before the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

Those final years off Roosevelt Avenue under the old regime were akin to an emerging perfect storm.  A confluence of ruinous circumstances, mishaps, and mismanagement, crippled this franchise, of which, lest we forget, the organization is still trying to heal and recover from.

Fred Wilpon became enemy Number One of this franchise.  By 2002-03, Nelson Doubleday could no longer stand to be partners with Fred Wilpon, and the two brokered a contentious deal whereby Fred Wilpon and Family purchased Nelson Doubleday’s half of the team, and became sole owners of the Mets.  On his way out, Mr. Doubleday mocked the soon to be, new rookie overseer of the Mets; Jeff Wilpon; and also foreshadowed the demise of the Mets when Nelson Doubleday proclaimed Fred Wilpon would run this team into the ground.  Via the Madoff Mess and Omar’s reign, within nine years of making that declaration, the former Mets owner’s prophecy came true.  Fred Wilpon took one of the most stable franchises in Baseball, and ushered in chaos.  By 2010-11, a highly irate fan base stopped short of storming Citi Field with torches and pitchforks in hand.  Worse, they stopped going.

This season, and in this recently concluded series against the Yankees, Citi Field hosted it largest crowd ever.  Sure the Yankees had something to do with that.  But the point is, now that summer is in full swing, instead of their parent’s torches and pitchforks, little Mets fans are being brought to Citi Field armed with signs, and foam fingers, in support of their new favorite young players.

In any scenario, this season’s attendance was still going to play a major factor in Fred Wilpon’s finances.  The projected 2012 loss is still on the books.  But whether your received it as good news or not, the fact Fred Wilpon won his legal case and finally gained closure from the Madoff scandal, relieved the Mets of an immeasurable weight placed on this organization’s back.  It was with that good news in Spring, the Mets 2012 season effectively started.

Sandy Alderson did the rest.  Since accepting the position of General Manager of the Mets, he initiated a grand purge of players inherited from the outgoing GM, and largely promoted Omar’s minor league prospects.  In the process, Sandy Alderson substantially lowered Mr. Wilpon’s operating costs down to more manageable levels, all things considered.  Initially however, those budget cuts were met with rage by the fans.

Here we are none the less, and for me personally as a fan of this team, Sandy Alderson’s major contributions so far have been in accumulating a small fortune in minor league pitching talent, and secondly, and more importantly, he broke down the giant tent, and drove the media circus out of town.  In hiring manager Terry Collins, and with Sandy Alderson, the Mets have two alpha-males running the show now.  They have the media tamed, and respectful of the players, and the jobs they all do as individuals, again.  Sandy Alderson will never be short for words.  His front man however, is his first line of defense.  I pity the fool who tries giving Terry Collins the Willie, or Jerry treatment.

Ever since his arrival and all season so far, we’ve dealt with one member of the Mets’ front office; Sandy Alderson.  To date, there hasn’t been a single John Ricco sighting, and more telling of where the Mets are, and where they are heading, there have been no Jeff Wilpon sightings either.  All is well.  Thank you for your concern.  There’s nothing more to see here.  Go back to your farms – Is now officially a retired script.

In Spring Training, few, if any experts, picked the Mets do anything, other than finish last, or next to last.  On June 24, 2012, the New York Mets were denied their fortieth win of the season.  But this is not about the Yankees.  Although this series, or one of the past few series, might get assigned as the line of demarcation one day, indicating where the Mets started to go “right” for a change, like any storm front bringing doom, rain clouds, and gloomy weather, the previous era needed time to break up and dissipate.  There’s no precise moment you can point to the sky and say there! – that’s when the clouds started to break.  And so it goes without saying, for long there have been big, dark, rumbling, angry, blackened storm clouds hovering over Citi Field, and greater Flushing.

The true test for fans, and the Wilpon’s true savior this season still lies ahead.  The Subway Series was a spike in attendance because followers of the Bronx team piled into the park as well.  The attendance norms for Mr. Wilpon are still yet to be established.  So far, the Mets are on pace to draw 2.5 million fans.  They are averaging 28, 214 per game.  That’s not bad, but for playing in New York City, they only rank sixteenth in Baseball, and eighth in the National League.  So, Mr. Wilpon is not exactly out of the woods yet.

Mr. Wilpon needs us, so this still remains largely Mr. Wilpon’s problem.  But in the nick of time, it looks like Fred Wilpon may have things going his way for a change.  Is there a silver lining in the clouds over Flushing these days?  Don’t let the Subway Series sway you.  The Mets fought well, but their bullpen failed them again.  That’s a Met problem.  It wasn’t necessarily the Yankees.  So to ponder such things as silver linings is still fair at this point.  Or, for argument sake, give the reason why not.

We fans do not have a clear blue ceiling yet.  We get that.  Neither does Mr. Wilpon.  But the dark skies over Flushing Bay are most definitely starting to break up.  A partly sunny forecast for tomorrow is the best news Citi Field has had in years.  Whether that translates into better attendance figures for Mr. Wilpon remains to be seen.  But I would say this.  The fact this team now has the fan’s undivided attention again bodes well for the owner in the summer ahead.

The season has already been remarkably unlike others.  Tremendous pitching performances this season, highlighted by a no-hitter, one-hitters, and the breaking of one of Jerry Koosman’s club records, have led the way.  Offensively, for portions of the first half of this season, David Wright flirted with .400, but more importantly to fans, he has played like an MVP.  For a team with no power, the Mets are still fourth in the league in runs scored.  So that means they are scoring through more sustained, and dramatic methods, than relying on the long ball, which for the fans, has been fun to watch.

That said, the derisive cries for the Wilpons to relinquish ownership of this club, have, or at least have started to dissipate as well.  We haven’t heard one single Mets fans complain about Mr. Wilpon throughout the regular season so far.  In spite of the Yankees Sunday night, on the one hand, look how this young team has radically changed fan’s attitudes.  Then when you consider Mr. Wilpon, these kids have been flat out AMAZIN’!  The Mets have played even beyond his wildest hopes this season, and made us fans forget all about him.

 

You can check out more of what I do at the BrooklynTrolleyBlogger or catch me on Twitter @BTB_mikeBHurst

Topics: David Wright, Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon, Jerry Koosman, Nelson Doubleday, New York Mets, Rising Apple, Sandy Alderson, Subway Series, Terry Collins

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