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 29

NFL Gets It When It Comes To Scheduling; MLB Missing Boat

As I watched the NFL yesterday on the Red Zone – sports for those with ADHD – it came to me how much Major League Baseball could learn from football when it comes to scheduling.

All of yesterday’s games were played within the division, which illustrates a major flaw in baseball’s scheduling. There were ten games that had some kind of playoff implications, whether it was winning the division or playoff seeding.

Conversely, the Mets ended their season with an interleague game against Houston. Regular readers of this blog know I am vehemently against interleague play, but in particular on Opening Day and in September.

There was an interleague game nearly every day of the season, including two for home openers and eight series in September. How can you legitimately promote pennant races with that many September interleague series?

MLB would be wise if its September schedule, or at least the last three weeks of it, were played within the division. The Mets’ 2015 September interleague series is against the Yankees. If neither team is in the race then there could be a lot of empty seats at Citi Field.

Another thing the NFL does I like with its schedule is the opening week. Clearly, the NFL wrestled the “magic’’ of an Opening Day from baseball with its Thursday night game featuring the Super Bowl champion.

Baseball’s Opening Day used to highlight Washington – the team in the nation’s capital – and Cincinnati, the oldest franchise, the day before everybody else.

This past season, the first regular season game was played in March, while another team was still in its exhibition schedule. There have been other times, notably when the Yankees and Rays went to Japan, when the season openers were played abroad and those teams returned to complete their exhibition schedule.

Opening Day used to be special, now it’s a hodge-podge. The NFL gets it when it comes to scheduling while MLB is falling short.

Dec 21

Mets Matters: Wright Starts Hitting

While much of Major League Baseball was active in a swirling trade market, the Mets were getting ready for Christmas.

The most important bit of news was that David Wright reached the next level in his rehab and is starting to swing the bat and told ESPN he’s on track to intensify his training.

Wright, who turned 32 Saturday, also plans to meet with new hitting coach Kevin Long in Phoenix sometime in January.

Wright is rehabbing his left shoulder, which forced his season to end early.

Also, the Mets traded reliever Gonzalez Germen to the Yankees for cash considerations.

The Mets also declined to get involved in the posting for South Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang.

Dec 05

Flores Buys Mets Time

With the Winter Meetings days away, the Mets’ shortstop options are dwindling. You can scratch Didi Gregorius from their list today after Arizona traded him to the Yankees in a three-way deal that also included Detroit.

GREGORIUS: Never a real option. (Getty)

GREGORIUS: Never a real option. (Getty)

We’ve gone over the Mets’ options several times this week, and to me it all comes back to Wilmer Flores. Flores isn’t without concerns, otherwise we wouldn’t be going over this topic again … and again … and again.

I’ve written several times why Flores should be first in line, ranging from his salary to the asking price from other teams in terms of prospects and salary for any potential replacement. These players, including Gregorius would tie the Mets’ hands in terms of payroll and years.

However, Flores would only burden the Mets for one season, and they enter 2015 as playoff long shots in the first place. Flores buys them time to figure out their shortstop dilemma and that’s attractive to the Mets. If Flores works out, that’s a plus. If he doesn’t, there’s always next year.

I would hope if the Mets were sure about Flores one way or another they would be more proactive.

Nov 10

Mets’ deGrom Should Win NL Rookie Award

The New York Mets should be in the national baseball news today as the postseason awards start this afternoon. It’s just another step in the Mets’ climb toward relevancy.

In an informal poll of voters, pitcher Jacob deGrom is favored to become the Mets’ fifth rookie of the year winner, joining Tom Seaver (1967), Jon Matlack (1972), Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Dwight Gooden (1984). For those believing in omens, the Mets played in the World Series within two years of each previous winner.

DeGROM: Gets my NL Rookie vote. (Getty)

DeGROM: Gets my NL Rookie vote. (Getty)

To say deGrom could be the next Seaver or Gooden is a stretch, but there is a lot to like about him and it isn’t farfetched  to say he’s ahead of Zack Wheeler, and he’s definitely part of the core of young arms.

What was most impressive about deGrom was his composure and ability to command his secondary pitchers. These are things Wheeler must improve. Wheeler also has a tendency to run up his pitch count, frequently forcing an early exit. The Mets could count on deGrom getting into the sixth inning.

A ninth-round pick in the 2010 amateur draft, deGrom made the first of his 22 starts, May 15, and made an immediate impression by giving up just one run in seven innings in a 1-0 loss to the Yankees. He gave us a glimpse of his 96-mph. fastball and darting slider with six strikeouts and only walked one and gave up four hits.

DeGrom turned out to be the kind of workhorse the Mets need by working into the sixth or longer in 19 starts. Ten times he took a game into the seventh or longer.

DeGrom worked 140.1 innings this year, but in this era of pitcher preservation – not recognized by the Giants and Madison Bumgarner – he was pulled from his last start against Houston.

“Obviously, I wanted to make my last one, but they talked to me about it,’’ deGrom said at the time. “The decision was made for me not to, and to end the year healthy. I respect that decision and I look forward to next year.’’

The decision was made in large part by a season-low 92 mph., in his proceeding start against Atlanta, and manager Terry Collins said with a 9-6 record and 2.63 ERA, there was nothing left for him to prove. The lower speed is indicative of a tiring arm.

“We explained the big picture,’’ Collins said. “One more start isn’t going to vary any votes. One more start isn’t going to show everybody that he belongs here.

“One more start could lead to some trouble. The big picture was to make sure when this season was over that those five [rotation] guys were going to be healthy. We think we’ve reached that point.’’

By votes, Collins meant from the Baseball Writers Association, which concludes its voting after the season. Postseason performance is not included, for one reason it gives some players a larger body of work. For example, if the postseason were included, Bumgarner would easily win the NL Cy Young over the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.

The other National League candidates are Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton and St. Louis’ Kolten Wong. Hamilton fizzled at the end and Wong wasn’t a clear-cut standout, although he was impressive in the postseason.

The American League candidates are frontrunner Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox, the Yankees’ Dellin Betances and the Angels’ Matt Shoemaker.