Feb
11

Casting a wary eye across town

By

I couldn’t decide whether to title this one “Meet the Mess” or something less antagonistic. See, I don’t hate the Mets per se; generally, I find it more exciting when New York has two competitive, well-run baseball teams that are both embroiled in division crown pursuits. Lately, though, I’ve just sat back and laughed at the Mets much to the chagrin of their fans.

I’ve long been amused by the relationship between the Mets and their fans and the Yankees and their fans. Simply put, Yankee fans don’t hate the Mets while Mets fans absolutely abhor the Yankees and their fans. We seem to view the Mets as the unlucky younger brother that can’t catch a break. Seven game lead with 17 left to play? They won’t hold it. Bases loaded with the NLDS winning run at 3rd? Walk it in. Great catch by Endy Chavez in Game 7 of the NLCS? Serve up a longball to Yadier Molina.

Perhaps, Yankee fans deserve the scorn we get from Mets fans. We do tend to take perverse pleasure in watching the Mets find new and exciting ways to blow games, leads, chances. It’s what Jets fans had come to expect out of their own team prior to the past few seasons, and it’s how Red Sox fans, until 2004, behaved for decades. But while Mets fans loved their lovable losers, Yankee fans smirked at the bumbling Mets.

Today, though, it’s hard out there for a Mets fan. The team, under the auspices of Omar Minaya for the past few seasons, had tanked. That Yadier Molina home run took a lot out of the club, and in the second year of a new ballpark in New York City, they were having a tough time filling seats by the end of the 2010 season. This year will be the start of Sandy Alderson’s rebuilding process, and with some key contracts expiring soon, the Mets will have room to maneuver.

Or at least that’s what the players and their fans thought. Shortly before pitchers and catchers, the Madoff hit the fan. We had heard rumblings of some fiscal issues the Wilpons might run into in conjunction with the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, and everything exploded a few weeks ago when the Madoff Trustee filed suit for $1 billion against the Wilpons. The owners know they’re going to be on the hook for at least a few hundred million dollars, and even as Mario Cuomo enters the picture to mediate the dispute, the Wilpons are looking to sell part of the Mets.

For now, the owners want to hold onto a majority stake in the team and, more importantly, control. They want to sell perhaps 25-30 percent of the team — to raise approximately $250 million — but I can’t imagine too many people willing to shell out those dollars would be willing to take a backseat to ownership that hasn’t done much winning lately. If the Mets are sold entirely before the year is out, I wouldn’t be shocked.

The fans who just want baseball are the ones who lose out. In an ideal world, the Mets, playing in New York and with their own TV station, should have a payroll around $150-$160 million, and they should be able to dominate the NL with their financial edge. Instead, the club has to essentially bribe season ticket-holders to re-up for their plans this year. Bondholders are suffering as well.

As a Yankee by birth — Thanks, mom and dad! — I draw no joy in these stories. Too many people were ruined financially by the Madoff scandal, and the Mets, a baseball team that serves as a diversion from real life, are going to be dragged down. Still, as I’ve cast my glance across town lately, I’m glad I’m a Yankee fan. Our team’s biggest problem is the back end of the rotation, and that certainly puts things into perspective.

  • http://www.bronxbombersreport.com Craig

    I could just be talking nonsense, but this might be a nice situation for Mark Cuban to try to get involved in.

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      It definitely is, and his name has been floated a few times over the last few weeks. The challenge for Cuban is still the same as it was with the Rangers’ bid. Can he raise enough money to buy a stake in the team? Will MLB let him into their ownership club?

      • Ray the Anti-Handle

        He might just be tired of bidding against impossible odds. Such a shame.

      • http://www.twitter.com/jordansmed JGS

        I’m sure he can raise the money, but Selig will never allow him to join the Owners Club.

        • jsbrendog (returns)

          fuck selig. cuban would be great as an owner cause he actually gives a crap and is willing to spend to win. I would buy season tickets to the mets if they hired ozzie guillen and cuban was the owner

  • bakekrukow412

    Did you hear about the Mets jerseys at Wal-Mart?
    They were recalled because they were a choking hazard.

  • bonestock94

    This could be the final stumbling block to building a good Mets franchise. An unobtrusive owner(s) plus that front office will absolutely get it done.

    10 years ago I hated the Mets and was constantly embroiled in arguments with their fans, but lately its too pathetic to laugh. I’d like to see them good again.

  • long time listener

    I hate the Mets more than anything. More than the Red Sox, even. It’s probably a function of growing up in Queens as a Yankee fan in the 1980s. I cried the night the Mets won the World Series. Then, my heart hardened, and I weep no more.

    • Brian

      Traitor! You get back to PA where you belong!

      • Brian

        by PA I mean Pinstripe Alley, not Pennsylvania

      • long time listener

        I’ll go anywhere to talk about how much I hate the Mets. An Al Qaeda website, a “To Catch a Predator” chat room, a “Sex and the City” fan page. If they’re talking about hating the Mets, I will be there.

    • Andy in NYC

      Heh. Lifetime Yankee fan as I am, I still walked out of the bar I was in with a grin on my face in Oct. ’86, because Boston lost.

      Mostly I just feel sorry for the Mutts, because their management is so incompetent. I grew up in Manhattan, though; your mileage may vary.

      • long time listener

        If it was any other team, I’d feel sorry for them. Because it’s the Mets, I want the Dolans to take over. If that doesn’t say pure hate, I don’t know what does.

    • mac1

      long time listner…

      good perspective for those of us who grew up Yanks fans in the 70′s and watched how quickly the Mets took over the town in the mid to late 80′s.

  • Roberto

    You want to talk about financial fraud, how about the caste system that is the new Yankee Stadium. $48 for two vodka cranberries @ Jim Beam club.

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      Well, that’s not fraud; that’s just the club exploiting a market. It’s a completely different issue with the new stadium and the Yanks’ approach to revenue.

      But anyway, who’s buying vodka cranberries at a baseball game?

      • Evan3457

        Not me; I’m too smart for that.

        No, I’m the guy buying the bottles of water…at $5 each.

        D’ope!!

      • Kiko Jones

        I’ve not been to Citi yet but I hear they have decent beers for $6.50 unlike the Budswill they charge $8 at YS. Which is why I have the $5 water instead. It may be expensive but at least I’m not drinking garbage.

        • Pasqua

          VERY good beer selection at Citi (at the “Beers of the World” stands) and decent prices.

        • JerseyDutch

          Can you even get Bud at YS? That would almost be an improvement over the Miller Lite that seems to be pervasive there. I think the government should force them to legally call it “bere” to distinguish from the real stuff.

        • CBean

          if you don’t buy the beer at your seats, they actually have decent beers at some of the concession stands for about the same price. Still pricey, but at least it’s not Bud.

  • Yankeefan91 Arod Fan

    the only good thing the mets have is that beautiful stadium they have i love going to citi field but of course yankee stadium comes first.

  • JeffG

    Wow, so cold but I like it… nice piece of writing Ben.

  • Kiko Jones

    Great piece, Ben. I’m a diehard Yankee fan but as it turns out my earliest baseball memory is watching the Mets clinch the ’73 National League pennant and their subsequent 7-game World Series loss to the Oakland A’s. Perhaps my refusal to buy into the hate mentality—which I respect and understand but do not share—has a lot to do with my younger years as remote control for my dad, switching between the respective Yankees and Mets TV broadcasts on WPIX (11) and WOR (9) back in the day. He didn’t prefer one team over the other; he just loved baseball and lived in New York, so we supported both hometown teams in our house, although my allegiance was truly with the guys who played in that stadium some 20-odd blocks away from our Bronx apartment.

    I’m unashamed to say I love the ’86 Mets. (Maybe ’cause they seemed like the anti-Mets: when they were down and out, they came thru in the end and didn’t let you down.) Anytime someone beats the Red Sox I will rejoice but it was a little sweeter when the boys from Flushing did it. And I will root for them against anyone except the Yankees. I know I may be one of an extremely few that feel that way, but whatever.

    So, like you I see the Mets “as the unlucky younger brother that can’t catch a break” and as a NYer who loves the game I too “find it more exciting when New York has two competitive, well-run baseball teams that are both embroiled in division crown pursuits.” Maybe the one good thing to come out of the Madoff scandal is Mets fans ridding themselves of the Wilpons. If only.

    PS: I did an informal, unscientific survey of a couple dozen Met fans (acquaintances, friends, and relatives) right before the ’09 WS and found that 66% of them were rooting for the Yankees over the Phillies (albeit most of them “holding their nose”); 22% for PHI, and the rest tuned out completely. I was surprised to say the least.

    • The209

      Tighten this up a little, and you have a great “weekend” column.

  • A.D.

    Don’t know with what regard the Wilpon’s are held as owners, but given that they let Minaya keep his job for so long and they + Minaya have failed to invest in the draft and farm seems like not the best. In that case if this financial situation pushes them out of ownership, may not be the worst for the team.

    • Kiko Jones

      It would benefit the team and its weary fans to have the Wilpons sell, particularly to folks who have a clue. As a Mets fan buddy of mine said yesterday:

      I rather hope for a buyer who ‘gets’ how valuable an MLB property in New York City is, and knows that to maximize the revenue capabilities of said asset, there has to be a winning team on the field, and a ‘fun’ connection from the fans to the team.

      Too much to ask in Flushing? We’ll see…

  • Eisbaer

    I’m a Phillies fan, so I have the best of both worlds: I get to make fun of the Mets AND hate them too.

  • pollo

    The Mets hopelessness is as American as apple pie. Sorry can’t agree with you here Ben.

    WFAN + The Mets is an institution. There was no greater radio than Russo after the 2007 collapse. None.

  • Januz

    I grew up in Queens, so I actually rooted for Boston in 86. The in your face reaction I got from Met fans was worse than what I got from Boston fans when the curse was broken.
    As for team, I strongly suspect that even in a bad economy, a team like the Mets (Like the Cubs were), can be sold for a premimum price, because of the New York location (Despite the Willets Point junkyards). If I am correct, and the Wilpon’s, are not stupid, then they are going to have a low payroll, and will gut the team further, while having a superior management staff (To make it more valuable for a potential buyer). If I am wrong, and the team is NOT sold, and the junkyards are not cleaned up (Which increases the value of the team for obvious reasons), they will be bad for another decade or so, and the Wilpon’s will get pennies on the dollar (Sort of what most of Madoff’s investors got). Very interesting story to watch.

  • steve s

    It’s hard to believe that someone who devotes so much time to writing about NY baseball can make such a completely empty-headed assertion that Yankee fans don’t hate the Mets. Just listen to Gary Cohen and Darling talk about anything Yankee if you need to get your Met hate radar jump started!

    • Joe

      Agreed. There are plenty of Yankee fans out there that hate the Mets and their fans.

  • Esteban

    I’ve never hated the Mets, and as my mom was a Mets fans (since converted) I watched the 1986 video more than a few times. I don’t really understand the hate. You’re mad that another team gets more coverage in the Post or the Daily News? Who cares? The Mets, except for six games a year, pretty much have no effect on the Yankees. If, Mo forbid, the Mets were in the playoffs and the Yankees weren’t, I would have no trouble rooting for the Mets to win.

    I do hate Mets fans because they seem to care more about the Yankees losing than the Mets winning, in a similar manner to Red Sox fans. Listening to WFAN during any period in which the Mets are playing well and the Yankees aren’t is absolutely unbearable.

    The Mets are in bad shape. A friend of mine who’s a diehard Mets fan laughed at Mets representatives that called him soliciting to buy a limited season ticket plan. If they couldn’t get my friend to go to games, I have no idea who will go to Mets games.

  • Regis

    I don’t know how other Yankees fans are but I can’t stand the Mets. I hate them. The only team that I hate worse than the Mets are the Red Sox.
    I remember the first time the Mets beat the Yankees in an interleague series, one of my coworkers plastered the back page of the paper on her cubicle. Are you kidding?
    For the past few years, Mets fans have had heartache after heartache after misery piled on them. And that’s awesome because I can’t stand the Mets.

  • Fair Weather Freddy

    I don’t hate the Mets, just their fans. One of my worst moments was when I went to the Met-Yankee game at Shea the day Matt Franco got that game winning 2 run single to bet Rivera. The Met fans were celebrating like they won the World Series. How sweet it was that October when the Yanks beat them when it really counted, and won it in THEIR ballpark.

  • JerseyDutch

    I don’t hate the Mets at all. Their fans can get a bit obnoxious but oh well. The one thing I love about them is whenever anyone trots out the “Yankees are trying to buy a World Series” argument, I point out the fact that Mets have the #5 payroll in the league and can’t compete.

  • Dustin P

    Do not understand why any NYY fan would focus any attention on Mets.

    • Rob G

      Gee it isnt like there is no BIG news relating to the Muts these days is there?

      • Dustin P

        What does any Mets news do with NYY? There is no reason to even have any thought about NYM, with all the success of NYY. It is your town.

        Maybe there should be some sound articles on RAB on the NYY starting pitching.

        • Rob G

          Why dont you troll over to a Redsox blog to find out why they signed Aceves and think he will be a starting pitcher if the Redsox SP is so solid and set? Many question marks there – Beckett, Lackey and Dice K and the expected regression of Bucholz compared to his 2010 performance!!

        • jsbrendog (returns)

          then don’t read it and/or go somewhere else. waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah

  • CMP

    When the Mets have their big salary dump this summer, hopefully the Yankees can get in line and land someone decent. If Santana’s healthy, I’d take him for 50 cents on the dollar.

  • Jess

    As bad as last year and the off-season has been, things could get even more fun this year for the Mets. The media generally liked Jerry Manuel who was a good man and had great sense of humor. They gave him good press. Terry Collins is the opposite. The media is going to hate this guy. He has been described as a jerk and so dull he will make Buck Showalter look like Rex Ryan.

    That clubhouse is going to be awesome.

  • Russ

    The problem with the Mets and their fans is that they have obnoxious, insecure little brother syndrome.

    They just have this massive inferiority complex that has grown to the point where it has turned into an ugly irrational obsession with the Yankees.

    By this point, it seems like they would, if given the choice, rather see the Yankees not win then see their own team win. It’s just so twisted to the point where in 2009, there was what appeared to be a majority of Mets fans rooting for the Phillies, who are supposed to be their most hated rival, against the Yankees in the World Series. It’s just a sick, warped mentality at this point and it’s only gotten worse as this inferiority complex and obsession has gone from the fan base into the organization itself. It’s a bad way to run a team and it’s become the impetus for a lot of the bad moves they’ve made in the past decade, their desire to compete with us has completely overshadowed making decisions based on what they need to do to win their division.

    To the Yankees and Yankee fans, the Mets are nothing but a nuisance, the obnoxious kid brother who wants to play with you and your buddies but who you just want to leave you alone. It’s why I hated the Subway Series, because it was a no-win situation for the Yankees. Win and well, you are supposed to beat the Mets. Lose, and holy crap, you just lost to the Mets and will never hear the end of it.

    The Mets and their fan base would be best served if they just pretended the Yankees don’t exist and worried about getting their own house in order and the teams they are actually in competition with instead of being obsessed with the imaginary competition that’s all inside their collective heads.