Jan 04

Citi Field Expensive; Mets Must Groom Future Fans

Eventually, the shine comes off newest houses, which is something the Mets are learning about Citi Field, which has never been the home the franchise had hoped.

Citi Field hasn’t given the Mets a home-field advantage both on the field and in the stands, with attendance gradually declining since it opened in 2009 at 38,941 per game.

Last season, the Mets drew 26,528, as they learned what the Blue Jays, White Sox and Orioles – teams that made up the first wave of the new stadium construction – found out. They’ll come if you build it, but they won’t come again if you don’t win.

They also learned that in Texas, Houston and Cleveland.

Fans are willing to pay for the novelty of a new stadium, but the real attraction is the product on the field, and in that regard the Mets have been a disappointment.

I started thinking of this after reading a report from sports marketing publisher Team Marketing Report, which noted the Fan Cost Index increased 2.3 percent last year to $212.46, with Citi Field the seventh most expensive at $229.68.

The index measures the cost of this odd shopping list: four average-priced tickets, two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four (regular-sized) hot dogs, parking for one car, two programs and the two least expensive hats.

Baseball used to call itself “a bargain in comparison to other professional sports,’’ and it used to be true. Nothing is inexpensive anymore, including going to the movies.

Of course, a stadium in New York figures to be expensive (the Yankees are second at $337.20 and Fenway Park is an astronomical $350.78), and you can knock that price down by going on bargain nights, skipping the programs and hats.

However, the Mets don’t make it easy for the fan. For example, it would be nice if the Mets allowed you to bring your own food into the ballpark, but I don’t know of any team that allows it.

I understand the economics of it – the same principles explain player contracts – but the costs of the going to a baseball game is something the keepers of the sport should be more aware of in developing its future fan base.

Attendance has been up in recent years, but much of this can be attributed to new stadium construction, built for the large part with taxpayer funding.

However, the gravy train can’t last forever and the Mets must be aware of grooming the next generation of fans – and ticket buyers.

Jan 03

Safety Nets Could Be Gone For Collins In 2015

When the New York Mets extended Terry Collins the past few years, they did so with the reasoning of injuries and the inability of the front office to provide him with quality talent.

Collins shouldn’t expect those safety nets if the Mets sputter again this year.

Despite still having general manager Sandy Alderson having an aversion to spending, the Mets have been pointing to this summer because of the return of Matt Harvey.

The thinking in Flushing is a healthy Harvey will push the Mets over .500 for the first time since 2008 when they finished 89-73. Since then, ten teams qualified for the playoffs with at least that record.

In addition to Harvey’s return from elbow surgery, the Mets have issues with Curtis Granderson’s return into a potent offensive force, David Wright coming back from injuries, and their concerns with Juan Lagares and Wilmer Flores becoming full-time players.

There are also questions in the rotation and bullpen, and behind the plate. Those are all important questions, but the Mets don’t seem inclined to throw money at them.

That squarely puts the onus on Collins.

Jan 02

Answers Mets Hope To Get This Season

The New York Mets have more than a few questions that could be answered after this season. How they are will determine the progress of their rebuilding phase, or if they have to start over again.

If these issues are addressed in the positive, next winter could be especially brutal. Sandy Alderson could survive, but it’s doubtful Terry Collins would be extended again.

Here are the players under the most scrutiny:

Matt Harvey: Any pitcher coming off elbow surgery is a concern, but we’re talking about the club’s marquee arm, one whom they are basing their future. If he proves healthy and has a good season, the Mets could entertain thoughts about signing him to a long-term contract to bypass his arbitration years. If he’s not healthy or is re-injured, how can the Mets go into next off-season assuming he’ll come back strong in 2016? Answer: They can’t.

WHEELER: Facing a big year. (AP)

WHEELER: Facing a big year. (AP)

Zack Wheeler: The Mets resisted trade overtures for him in the belief he’ll blossom into a star. That could happen if he learns to improve his control and reduce his pitch count. That would be the next step in his development. If this is a lackluster season and Noah Syndergaard shows something, they might listen, especially if they don’t fill their offensive holes or still have a question at shortstop.

Jon Niese: Often injured and ineffective, teams no longer clamor for him. If he halfway lives up to expectations perhaps that might enhance his trade value and it will be easier to move him. They might be able to do that at the trade deadline if he has a strong first half. If Niese is a bust this season, the Mets will be looking for another left-hander next winter.

Juan Lagares: He’s the Mets’ centerfielder based on a limited window last year. He needs to improve his on-base percentage if he’s to become their leadoff hitter. If he doesn’t make strides in that direction, the Mets could again be looking at a centerfielder and leadoff hitter. Ideally, they would like to fill both voids with the same player. They have a chance to do that with Lagares.

Curtis Granderson: Twenty homers won’t cut it. Another mediocre season will have the Mets looking again and staring at another non-productive long-term contract. Since the Mets aren’t prone to eat lousy contracts, there could be two more years of heavy strikeouts.

David Wright: He hasn’t hit over 25 homers or driven in at least 100 runs since 2010. For the most part, attribute injuries. If he’s healthy and produces mediocre-to-poor numbers, there will be even more grumbling about his contract. I’ve written Wright is the Mets’ most pressing question, even more than Harvey. A bounce-back season will answer a lot of questions.

Wilmer Flores: He enters spring training with the inside track at shortstop. The Mets eschewed several more expensive options the past two years in the hope Flores would answer this question on the cheap. If he doesn’t pan out this year, they just might be forced to pay in the free-agent market or deal one of their young pitchers.

 

Jan 01

Happy New Year Dear Readers

Greetings all.

I hope you all had a great New Year’s Eve, and will have an even Happier New Year. I wish all your dreams and aspirations come true, and if not, at least you’re making headway.

After all the time I spent in the hospital last year, my most important resolution is to look forward and try to make every day count. Part of that includes keeping up the blog and hopefully adding to it this year. Thanks for your support and I look forward to chatting with you during the year.

Wishing you all the best, John.

Dec 31

Zobrist To Mets Not Happening

There are numerous times – too many to mention – when ESPN demonstrates a tabloid mentality, which is to say it throws something on the wall hoping it will stick. Such is the case when it endorsed the position of the Mets trading for Tampa Bay infielder Ben Zobrist.

ZOBRIST: Another stab in the dark. (AP)

ZOBRIST: Another stab in the dark. (AP)

There is undoubtedly a lot to like about an in-his-prime Zobrist, specifically his grind-it-out mentality all teams professing to be contenders must have on their roster. He’s versatile, always hustles, has a career .354 on-base percentage in his nine-year career with a respectable .783 OPS, all statistics ESPN used in making its case.

However, he’s not in his prime. The stats the network failed to mention are the most telling. Zobrist’s best season came in 2012 when he hit .270 with 20 homers, 74 RBI, a .377 on-base percentage and .848 OPS.

Those numbers declined the two following seasons. Also omitted are the prospects the Rays will undoubtedly seek, keeping in mind the Mets have no intention of dealing their young pitching.

Also conveniently forgotten is Zobrist will make $7.5 million in 2015, and will become a free agent after the season. There’s no way the Mets will pick up that salary and if ESPN was paying attention it would know the franchise’s financial mentality. It should be mentioned the author of the piece was not Adam Rubin.

So, the Mets will give up a handful of prospects, pay a lot of money for an infielder who has only played 52 games at shortstop the past two seasons – where the Mets have the most need – and will likely leave after the season?

Considering his gradual decline and he’s 33-years-old, this is not the move the Mets should or will make.