Fred Wilpon

Unforgiven: A Mets Gunslinger Returns

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sell-teamI don’t know if I’d call myself “a man of notoriously vicious and intemperate disposition” but I have to admit, I do feel a bit like William Munny out of Missouri today. Part of this feeling comes from being out of the loop for most of the last few months, and partly because I’m seeing and hearing things in the Mets blogosphere that irritate the living hell out of me.

As for my absence; I’m proud to announce that I’ve “graduated” from my Front End Web Development course at General Assembly and my project; a re-design and re-launch of Gotham Baseball is coming soon. As for the other, the list is long.

My pal Shannon over at MetsPolice (which awarded me the “Gunslinger of the Year” Mazzie award earlier this year) is calling Mets fans that didn’t show up to Banner Day “front runners”.

Here’s the problem. 99 Banners.

Last year the Mets had about 300. This year, 99.

I can do math, that’s down 66%.

What the hell am I supposed to do if the Mets decide not bring Banner Day back in 2014? What possible argument would I have?

I have never went to a Banner Day in my life. I have no problem with any fan that cherishes it, or puts an illogical level of importance on said event that is built for little kids (which is nice), or pom-pom fans to gush about their team even when its an embarrassment (which is pathetic). But “front runner”?

Seriously?

A Mets fan has ever right to refuse to attend games because the team, once again, is a joke. This is not 1984 with a slew of pitching (and positional) prospects just waiting for a Gary Carter or a Keith Hernandez to take it to the next level. This is a franchise still in the throes of a major financial armageddon with an ownership that keeps telling us that they have a plan, and a GM who sounds like Baghdad Bob every passing day.

Are Lee Child fans that refused to go see “Jack Reacher” because casting Tom Cruise as Reacher was akin to calling Colin Cowgill an MLB outfielder “front runners”? No. Because people have the right to determine that they’ll say no when they are asked to participate in a circle-jerk.

If the Wilpons refuse to have an “Oldtimer’s Day” or choose not to celebrate the 1973 Mets, or continue to ignore what a Fan Fest would mean to the fan base because “Banner Day’ was under-attended, then it is on THEM.

Some people can’t afford to drop 200 bucks to take their family to see a Mets game. Even on Banner Day. Maybe they want to wait and see what the next Tom Seaver looks like in person instead of watching Shawn Marcum make millions to throw 85 mph fastballs. Maybe, just maybe, thses fans feel like they are owed a decent ballclub after 30-plus years of mostly wasted, stupid baseball?

I have said it before, and I will say it again; until the Wilpons sell or put a team on the field that demonstrates the same financial commitment that they are asking of us, they can go screw. If they cancel Banner Day because fans are fed up and stayed home, it’s just another reason to demand the Wilpons to sell the damn team.

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Another pal of mine, John Delcos, took Mets Triple-A manager Wally Backman to task the other day for answering a question honestly about prospect Zach Wheeler.

Yesterday, Las Vegas manager Wally Backman told a local radio station: “Personally, I think if he has a couple of more starts like his last start he’ll be headed to the big leagues, and rightfully so.’’

Huh? I don’t recall GM Sandy Alderson saying something like that.

I’m not saying Backman is right or wrong in his analysis or projection of Wheeler, just wrong in saying anything of that nature in the first place.

Backman manages Triple-A Las Vegas. He does not speak for the Mets’ organization, and his comments put undue pressure on everybody, from Backman, to Wheeler, to Terry Collins, to Alderson.

Once somebody from the organization, even Alderson, suggests a timetable, a clock starts ticking. So, what happens if Wheeler isn’t up in two starts? What then? Another timetable? You can’t keep teasing the fan base that way.

Backman is out of line in making such statements. But, could it be he spoke because the Mets don’t have a policy in place on how to publicly handle Wheeler?

John, I respect you, and enjoy your work, but c’mon.

Backman answered the question posed to him as honestly as he could. I prefer that to Alderson’s vague “There will come a time when his performance converges with our needs.” nonsense. As for teasing the fanbase, I’ll take Backman speaking honestly to Alderson make-believe “considering” players like Justin Upton as possibilities “that just didn’t work out” for the 2013 Mets.

I guess I will just keep my front-running ass at home hoping that one day the Wilpons’ ability to run a major-market baseball teams with higher aspirations than “having a chance” will “converge” before my 50th birthday.

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.

The Fred Wilpon Files: Whatever Happened To Bob Raissman?

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There was once a sports media critic in this town named Bob Raissman. He was a must-read, whether you agreed with him or not. I always felt he was more even-handed than the Post’s resident finger-pointer Phil Mushnick (still a great read, even though I agree with what he says about 2% of the time), while the current king of media watchdogs, Neil Best, didn’t start his Sportswatch column until 2005. So for me, it was Raissman and Mushnick, Mushnick and Raissman.

Raissman was never afraid to take on any subject, went out of his way to find and promote new talent, and was always willing to take on any opponent, even a powerful baseball owner:

Does anyone believe Wilpon, a successful businessman, did not make every attempt, work every angle, ask a slew of questions of all baseball sources at his disposal (not just Phillips), before opening his wallet to bring in a player like, well, let’s say, Mo Vaughn? Does anyone believe Phillips squashed the idea of Alex Rodriguez coming to the Mets without Wilpon’s input and approval? “Fred and I are only as good as the info we get,” Mets COO Jeff Wilpon told the Daily News’ Adam Rubin. Hogwash. That’s not the issue. When the “info” was good, and the Mets went to the playoffs and World Series, Fred Wilpon shared in the credit. Now, ownership says recent “info” provided by Phillips was bad. Does that mean Wilpon should not share the blame? You can’t have it both ways.

Then, the Daily News became a sponsor of SportsNet NY, buying ad time on the partly-owned Wilpon network and producing the “Daily News Live” show, of which Raissman is a regular contributor.

Now, it is rare that any critical commentary of Fred Wilpon makes the Daily News period, let alone Raissman’s column. In fact, when Wilpon’s post-Madoff “Love Mer, Feel Sorry for Me” media campaign that blew up in his face, there was Raissman, defending the man he once mocked as “Skill Sets”:

“Wilpon can’t win. Face it, for years, in times of Mets turmoil, he’s been hammered for being PR’d up and carefully choosing his words. Now, when he flaps his yap, the heat comes down. In reality, Wilpon was just parroting what plenty of fans, and media types, have already said” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/24).

Then again, we’re talking about a guy who crossed the picket line during the 1991 strike at the NYDN, so having a conflict of interest isn’t anything new to Raissman.