1973

A Mets Fest, the Winter Caravan and Old-Timers’ Day

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For about two years now, I have been telling Mets fans to flex their ticket-buying muscles and force the ownership of the team to either sell or run the team in a fashion that befits a major market team with a new stadium and its own regional sports network.

Do I want to stay home? No. But how else can a fan show his/her displeasure with a dysfunctional franchise that has low to zero credibility? Yes, Mets GM Sandy Alderson may have made a shrewd trade to acquire top prospects in exchange for Mets fan favorite and Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, but hasn’t the window for winning a World Series been pushed back a few years now? Lowering expectations for the third straight year? That spells zero accountability to this fan.

Yes, I’m angry. I’ve rooted for this team since 1975 and have covered it since 1996. I love the team and distrust the ownership with equal passion. I’ve been told by many — including my wife — that I have allowed my dissatisfaction with the ownership cloud my judgement. So in an effort to make a positive impact rather than a negative one, I’d like to help the Wilpon ownership group from continuing to punch itself in the face.

The cheapest seat in the house on Opening Day? 63 bucks. Dumb. The logic behind it? Even dumber.

The Mets introduced two new alternate jerseys this offseason, as well as a new cap. The jerseys were promoted by email. And the new on-field cap? David Wright wore it — without any fanfare at all — in Nashville, as he was “re-introduced” to the fanbase with his new extension. Now that’s just silly. Fact: A contest to design a new cap, much like what the Brewers are doing, would have been smarter. It also would have allowed for a fan-type event during the cold winter.

The Astros were the worst team in baseball last season. Like the Mets, they have seen significant declines in their season ticket and overall sales for years, despite a new ballpark. How did they intro their new jerseys and caps?

They had a party

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20121102&content_id=40159356&c_id=mlb

The Reds have a new ballpark, had a great 2012, and are primed for another run at the NL Central title. They’re not considered a major market team. They’ve sold tickets pretty well the last few years. How do they get ready for the 2013 season?

Reds Fest

There is NO reason for not trying to do this with the Mets fan.  With all of the aforementioned ability to support and promote their own product,  especially with tickets sales being down every year since Citi Field opened, the idea that the Mets don’t have an annual Fan Fest is incredibly short-sighted.

The team used to do a Mets Caravan, but that stopped after the 2006 season. Is this why?

… (Carlos) Delgado and (agent David) Sloane were still taking their time, mulling offers from the Mets, Marlins, and Orioles. The Mets were about to stage their annual Winter Caravan, a somewhat corny old-school promotional event in which most of the team visits city schools, hospitals, and business offices to kick off the start of season-ticket sales. On a Sunday evening, during another conference call with Delgado’s agent, Wilpon demanded the first-baseman’s answer by the next day so as not to “interfere” with the Winter Caravan, Sloane says.

“I’m not stupid enough to believe they were serious,” Sloane says, still angry. “I knew what they were trying to do, which is why I told Carlos that when you’re confronted by a bully, you hit him in the mouth.” Sloane delivered his punch on ESPN, which suddenly ran a report saying the Mets had withdrawn from the Delgado sweepstakes. At midnight Sunday, a stunned Jeff Wilpon, watching TV at home, called Minaya, who spent Monday re-entering the hunt. To no avail: On Tuesday, Delgado signed with Florida. “I don’t think he ever really wanted to be a Met,” Wilpon says..

Old Timer’s Day - This year marks the 40th anniversary of one of the Mets faithful’s favorite teams, the unlikely “Ya Gotta Believe” pennant winners of 1973. First off, any excuse to get Tom Seaver, Yogi Berra and Willie Mays in the house, wearing #Mets gear, is a win-win, no matter the cost. Secondly and perhaps most importantly, it is another teachable moment for a young team trying to find its identity in a ballpark built for the owner’s friends from Coney Island Ave. Mix with a few HOFers is good for everyone. Great photo opps abound.

duke-dimag-mays-mantle

Lastly, like Banner Day, it’s another way for this ownership group to show the fanbase they actually care about the traditions that Mets fans miss most. Banner Day was a great way to begin that process, but Old Timer’s Day shows a real commitment; ’cause it costs time and money. Because it seems like that’s the problem.

“It wasn’t popular, it wasn’t effective, fans weren’t responding and it wasn’t selling very many tickets,” (Mets VP Dave) Howard says. “The fans spoke volumes. It’s a very expensive promotion and it wasn’t producing the sales and marketing results we wanted for that investment. It died of its own unpopularity “

Now, let’s be honest Dave, the landscape has changed dramatically for the team since the mid-1990′s. Its ability to ptomote and engage the fans for this type of an event is vastly improved. Also, given that the team’s endgame is to rebuild for the foreseeable future, you should be trying EVERYTHING to get fans in the ballpark. You can only watch Shea Goodbyw so many times.

I wish it was only a cost-effectiveness issue. But it’s not. Frankly, the Mets can’t even send out a promo video w/o doing something dumb like trying to avoid the existence of a 20-game winner who just won the organizations first Cy Young Award in almost 30 years. It is the fear of ridicule, of blowback and of honest feedback from a fanbase that’s tired of the losing and the stupidity.

In 1989, Davey Johnson was omitted from the list of some two dozen people invited to Old-Timers’ Day.

From the Times:

That’s as much my fault as anybody,” said executive vice president Frank Cashen, who dismissed Johnson last May 29. “I thought it was just the 1969 team we’re inviting and I’m still not sure who’s involved, but Old-Timers’ Day is supposed to be joyous and having Davey back might put us and him in an untenable position.”

Why?

If the Old-Timers’ Day crowd cheered Johnson, would the Mets’ front office and Harrelson be embarrassed? If the crowd booed him, would he be embarrassed?

Like many, many, many others have said many, many, many times, the Wilpons and by extension, their PR and Marketing departments lack a cohesive link to their smartest and most loyal fans.

Maybe it’s time to listen to a few of them.

In 2013, Ya Gotta Remember the 1973 NL Champ Mets

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(Note – An earlier version failed to not the John “The Hammer” Milner passed away at the age of 50 after a long battle with cancer in 2000. He hit .296 in the 1973 World Series against Oakland – MH)

One could make the argument that the 1973 New York Mets season was even more improbable than the 1969 Impossible Dream.

A popgun offense barely managed to support an excellent pitching staff. A manager — while much beloved — was being undermined by a few of his aging veterans, including the great Willie Mays in his sayonara season. A front office, either hampered by ownership or clueless in its own right, that seemed unable to acquire a single impact offensive player to complement Rusty Staub.

Yet, they beat the Big Red Machine and took the Fightin’ A’s to the bring before a controversial managerial / front office / player decision to start Tom Seaver in Game 6 up 3-2), instead of George Stone (12-3, 2.80 ERA), saving Seaver just in case a Game 7 was even needed. Seaver, it is rumored, pushed Berra to start him. Or perhap it was Chairman of the Board M. Donald Grant, or even Berra himself, who wanted his best to finish the A’s off as soon as possible. Whoever made the call, it was questionable, as Stone had pitched brilliantly against the Reds in the NLCS, limited the Machine to just three hits over 6 2-3 innings of a eventual 2-1 loss in a  12-inning Game 4 .

But, nonetheless, it was an incredible season that fell just short. Punctuated by the iconic “Ya Gotta Believe!” chants of the late Tug McGraw, it is a season amd postseason held , especially by those who lived through it, as a very special memory.

In this, the 40th anniversary oif that special team, I’m hoping that someone in the Mets’ promotions and/or PR hierachy deems it proper to salute this team at some point next summer.  Maybe invite some of those old A’s and Reds, have a special presentation with Pete Rose and Buddy Harrelson, have Yogi with us one more time in his orange and blue. Willie Mays, Rusty Staub, Felix Millan and the whole crew that can make it. Make nice with Ken Boswell. Bring back Matlack.

If I can’t get Oldtimer’s Day back for good, this is a great compromise. Now as you may already know, some Mets fans are upset with me, but I still hope my pals Darren from The7Line.com and Shannon from the MetsPolice.com will still help me get the word out to get this done.

June 27th is my 45th birthday, a number that has special significance for the 1973 Mets. It’s be a great birthday present. It might even get me out to Citi Field.