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.

Dec 26

David Wright Gets It

It was a simple gesture, but further proof David Wright gets it.

The son of a policeman, Wright knew what Jaden and Justin Ramos – the sons of slain NYPD police officer Rafael Ramos – would be feeling Christmas Eve. So, he called to invite them to spring training and to hang with the Mets this summer at Citi Field.

A police source told The Daily News: “You should have seen them — what a reaction. They were really smiling. It gave them a few minutes to smile and be excited.’’

Wright declined to talk to the newspaper about the phone call, which is also fitting.

There are hundreds of athletes in all sports who understand what they mean to people and just always know what to do. It is what makes them so special.

In no small part, this is why the Mets gave Wright that contract and named him captain. He is not only the face of the franchise, but arguably the most important position player in their history.

He’s always been one of the good guys.

Dec 20

One More Time: Tulowitzki Not Happening

OK, one more time: Troy Tulowitzki is not coming to the Mets.

Yes, yes, yes … there have been reports this week the Mets and Rockies are talking. I am sure they’ve spoken since the Winter Meetings. They could be exchanging holiday greetings, or talking about the weather, or trading fantasy football players, but serious dialogue about Tulowitzki isn’t one of the topics.

TULOWITZKI: Keep on dreaming.

TULOWITZKI: Keep on dreaming.

To understand why it won’t happen one must first ask:  Why do the Rockies want to deal him?

It begins with health, and here there aren’t any guarantees. A healthy Tulowitzki would be great to have, but he’s coming off hip surgery that puts his power potential in question. The Mets don’t have to look any further than across town at Alex Rodriguez to understand how a bum hip makes even great players, well, bums.

Couple his questionable health with the $118 million he is owed over the next six years, and you begin to comprehend why the Rockies want to start over. Sure, they’ll have to assume some of his contract to get another team to take him off their hands, but not nearly enough to make the Mets bite.

Having played at least 140 games only once in the past five years makes him a high-risk gamble. Sandy Alderson has spent his tenure as the Mets’ general manager paring down payroll. That’s why he was brought here.

Say what you want about the Wilpons and their budget, but understand that’s not going to change. It just won’t, and it especially won’t with a high-risk gamble with the cost of one or two of their young stud pitchers, even if one of them isn’t Matt Harvey.

The Rockies are concerned about his injury history, salary and want a talented bunch of prospects in return. Given that, those are the same reasons the Mets should run away.

But you say, look at his numbers at Citi Field. OK, I will. Let’s see, five homers, 11 RBI, a .438 batting average and 1.368 OPS in 58 plate appearances over 14 games. Hmm, well, that is impressive, but it’s not the ballpark as much as it is the Mets’ pitching he’s faced over the years.

Understand, he won’t be facing that pitching if he comes here. If you’re hung up on seeing Tulowitzki play at Citi Field, the Rockies will be in for the start of a four-game series, Aug. 10.

Plenty of tickets are available.

Dec 03

So Far, Harvey Buying Into Mets’ Plans

Since it’s only December, everything must be taken at face value when it comes to Matt Harvey. You want to take him at his word, but I wouldn’t be me if I weren’t skeptical after hearing him say at this afternoon’s press conference he was on board with the Mets’ decision to limit his innings this summer.

HARVEY: It is early.

HARVEY: It is early.

Harvey bucked the Mets before, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he did again.

GM Sandy Alderson said there’s a soft cap on Harvey, which is to say there’s no definitive plan. I prefer something more concrete. Even Harvey conceded 200 innings won’t happen, nor should it 17 months after surgery.

“You know what? I’m going to be happy to throw an entire year,’’ Harvey told reporters at Citi Field. “Whatever they decide, it’s in the best interests of both the team and me moving forward. I can’t wait to throw every five days and just be healthy for a full season.

“Looking forward, if you were to map out a whole season, you’re going to have to figure out some changes throughout the year in order to get to a certain point. I mean, if you make 33 starts and seven innings a start, obviously doing the math that’s over what I’m probably going to throw.’’

That’s logic talking, not the usual emotions we get from him. Alderson said the plan is to limit Harvey during the season, but have no restrictions should the Mets reach the playoffs. However, if the Mets are eliminated early, bet on Harvey being further cut.

What the Mets pledge to do is not just yank the plug on him the way Washington did Stephen Strasburg in 2012.

Harvey has been throwing on flat ground six days a week at Citi Field and plans to report to spring training Feb. 1 and face hitters right away.

All this is optimistic, but if Harvey buys into the Mets’ plans this should go smoothly.

One can only hope.

Nov 18

Alderson Defends Moving In Fences

We knew the New York Mets were moving in the fences. This afternoon we learned by how much. Common sense dictates moving in the fences benefits the hitters more than the pitchers, but speaking like any politician you’ve ever heard, GM Sandy Alderson says that’s not the case.

“These modifications are a refinement of previous changes made to the Citi Field fences and continue to be fair to both pitchers and hitters,’’ Alderson said. “A lot of analysis went into this decision. We believe these modifications will increase the number of home runs without adversely affecting our pitchers.’’

Of course, that’s impossible.

In its first three seasons, Citi Field measured 415 feet at its deepest point in right-center. In the last three years the wall was 390 feet. It will now be 380 feet.

Had the Mets played with these dimensions last season, they would have hit an additional 17 home runs while the opposition would have hit 10 more.

It is impossible to project those numbers because it doesn’t into account: 1) wind conditions, and 2) the game situation, which would dictate how hitters are pitched.

Making such a declaration means every fly ball hit last year at Citi Field would have to be analyzed, and quite frankly I don’t believe that was done.

Alderson said the goals in moving in the fences were two-fold: 1) making the more Mets more competitive at home, and 2) increasing offense, which he says increases the entertainment value of the Citi Field experience.

Then again, if the altered fences make the Mets more competitive, it stands to reason the opponents would also benefit. And, it’s not guaranteed the Mets will score most of those additional runs.

The Mets were out-homered by the opposition 71-59 last year at Citi Field. That’s 12 more. Now, if the Mets would have hit 17 more, that’s only a net of five more home runs. That’s less than one a month.

The bottom line is there’s no guarantee the both teams would benefit equally to the fences being moved in. However, one can only surmise if the opposition was 12 homers better than the Mets last season, they enter this year 12 homers better.

Also not being taken into consideration is that the Mets are building their team on young pitching. Why make things harder for them?