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.