New York Mets Season In Review Supplemental: The Owner


The Mets 50th Anniversary Season was a mixed bag of goods.  Read all about it as Rising Apple continues its’ Season In Review series we’re conducting throughout the month.  I for one, can not let any season review exclude the Mets beleaguered owners.  So as a supplement to the series, I thought I’d take a moment and initiate a conversation between myself, our valued readers and my fellow Mets fans regarding ownership.

Feb 21, 2011; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; Mets owners Saul Katz and Fred Wilpon watch New York Mets spring training workout at Digital Domain Park. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-The Star Ledger via US PRESSWIRE

The media exerts a limited degree of pressure on any given organization.  I believe the true power rests in the wallets and pocketbooks of the fans.  There in lies the master of ownership’s anxieties.  It’s all about The Benjamins.  In the Mets case, proof of their preoccupation with our tendencies and delights came in the mail recently in the form of the Wilpon’s now annual fan questionnaire.  I know other teams send out questionnaires as well.  But I hold a belief that if they just keep the front office in order, and field a competitive team, most other matters fall in line, thereby rendering large portions of such questionnaires as something bordering ignorant.  But that’s another post.

With their worst days seemingly behind them, I was content to leave the Wilpons out of the greater debate this season.  But apparently, 2.2 million in attendance was a failure of the fans to support the team as the number didn’t meet projections, or expectations.  I take great issue with that.  In my father’s lifetime, two million in paid attendance was sensational.  Throughout my lifetime, two million paid was a standard of success.  Over the last ten years however, in the age of premium seating and luxury amenities, two million is no longer good enough.  And it is the fan’s fault the owners of Sport raised the bar on the common man and broke his/her budget?

The fans deserve a return on their investment as well.  Since the owners want to number crunch, let’s see what kind of dividends the Mets have paid their patrons and SNY spectators at home.  Crunch these numbers.

The tenth season under sole ownership of the Wilpons is in the books.  The club finished the 2012 regular season with a 74-88 record.  The Mets 50th Anniversary Season was the fourth consecutive season the club finished below .500 as well as their fourth straight fourth place finish.  This past season was actually the sixth time the Mets finished below .500 under sole ownership of the Wilpons, and the fifth time they finished fourth.  Rounding out the past decade, the Mets had one last place finish back in 2003, one third place finish in 2005, two consecutive second place showings in 2007 and 2008, and enjoyed their only first place finish during the 2006 season.  Over that time, the club’s annual average record is seventy nine wins, and eighty three losses.

Ten years ago, outgoing GM Steve Phillips left the club with the highest payroll in the National League, and a last place finish to show for it.  Fred Wilpon then snapped the club’s pocketbook shut on incoming GM Jim Duquette after the owner forked over a rather handsome check to Nelson Doubleday for his half-ownership of the team.  Additionally, the owner was beginning to hoard pennies for the eventual construction of Citi Field.

Roughly ten years later, outgoing GM Omar Minaya left the club with the second highest payroll in the National League, and a fourth place finish to show for it.  Due to the Bernie Madoff scandal, Fred Wilpon was forced to snap the club’s pocketbook shut on incoming and present GM Sandy Alderson.

Sound familiar?  In ten seasons under sole ownership of the Wilpons, one can argue the Mets have completed a ten year odyssey around the maypole.  If you understand European history, you know that wasn’t the most flattering of remarks.  In Wall Street lingo, this stock could be labelled as a ten year dog.  That is less opinion than it is an assessment.

Omar Minaya came on board and somehow convinced the Wilpons to open up the pocketbook again.  In the short term, the plan worked to an extent.  However, today the Mets are still in the process of recovering from that course of action.  The biggest difference between then and the Mets present situation of course, is the Madoff factor.  Sandy Alderson will never have the luxury of experiencing the free spending Wilpons because one of the owner’s chief financial vehicles is now in jail.  Or will he?  I realize Sandy Alderson came to the Mets under entirely different circumstances.  But ten years from now, Fred Wilpon’s now ten year old solo act will look like another typical vicious cycle to the unsuspecting researcher.

There is no rush to chronicle the last ten years of Mets Baseball, here, now.  This is a conversation I’ll be conducting throughout the Winter.  I’ll leave you with the following to get the conversation started.

Play along and let’s say the Wilpons get their books back in black today.  And let’s say October 13th is the day the Wilpons start to march forward with a brand new and reconciled bank account.  Now consider the parameters that have already been set.  Omar Minaya raised payroll to upwards of $150 million dollars.  Payroll was then scaled down to the mid-ninety million dollar range before ending the 2012 season (rounded off) at $100 million dollars.  And comparatively speaking, across town Hal Steinbrenner started a process to scale the Yankees back to $187 million.  Achieving that number may take Hal two more seasons.

Without Bernie Madoffs “reliable returns”, what type of team will the Mets be payroll wise in the future?  Let’s call the future three years from now.  Let’s call two years from now the near future.  And we’ll call the upcoming 2013 season, the immediate future.  As far as next season, Sandy Alderson already told us not to expect much more, if any spending beyond $100 million dollars.  I do no think that number is written in stone however.  And not if they have any intention of signing David Wright this off-season, and still putting a competitive team around him.  After all, didn’t David Wright make that one of his stipulations?

Comment.  Voice your expectations.  This is your team.  Raise the bar like they did to us.