The ball jumps off of Mike Piazza's bat, and sails deep into left-center field, Flying with it, the hopes of Mets fans everywhere that their team has staved off defeat (at least for an inning anyway) in Game 5 of the 2000 World Series. The cheers die quickly as they start…the ball settles into Yankee centefielder Bernie William's glove…the Mighty Mikey has flied out.
Since that moment _ in my opinion, the worst moment in Mets' history _ lack of vision and horrendous decision after horrendous decision _ have all but destroyed the club's image and its fans' willingness to buy tickets to witness the carnage.
Now, as the organization attempts to redeem itself with a long-neglected farm system that is a year or two away from what promises to be a bountiful harvest, Fred Wilpon's most important task still lies ahead;
Company's coming, time to get the house ready for ‘em.
CHANGING YOUR STRIPES
Through his general managers, Wilpon has spent money unwisely, traded for players on the downside of their careers, and ignored players that could have helped changed the perception of his team, both in the grandstand and around baseball.
Now, if he wants the clean slate from Mets' fans that he's been seeking this off-season, he needs to do a few things.
Like take a page out of Angels owner Arte Moreno's playbook.
"If you have the opportunity to get better, why don't you take it? Our baseball people felt we needed to change our pitching, so we signed Colon and Escobar," said Moreno from the team's spring training facility. "(We also needed a right fielder...(so) what am I supposed to do? (What happens) when I tell the Los Angeles papers I had the opportunity to get a player of (Guerrero's) caliber and didn't? I would have been doing a disservice to the fans."
"A lot of times, when (new owners) spend that kind of money, it doesn't work out."
With all due respect, Mr. Wilpon, Moreno didn't just add 30 million to the payroll.
He cut ticket prices, concession prices, canceled the naming rights for what is now Angels Stadium and made sure that all the club stores had affordable merchandise for dads and moms to buy the kids a little something. Like a five-dollar cap.
That's fan-friendly, not airplane races on Diamond Vision.
Moreno's vision is to make the Angels _ very much the Mets, the second team in town _ a force to be reckoned with. It's working.
Just before spring training began, Moreno instructed team employees to walk around Toros Stadium with handfuls of Angels' hats, handing them to children they see in the stands. When they run out, they are told to order more.
This is the kind of things an owner and an organization must do to win back fans that shelled out big bucks to see an awful team. Moreno's doing it for a team that won a World Series two years ago.
That's where it starts. Not having promotional dates where the "first 12,000 fans" get a calendar from Joe's Meats. Not having to check the color of a game to decide whether you can afford to take your two kids to see a team that's finished in last place the past two seasons.
Wilpon was booed by the crowd during the preseason Mets Caravan in 2001. His response? "I don't understand why they're booing, we went to the World Series last year."
Maybe, if this was Nelson Doubleday _ who was lucky if he knew the players on his own team _ we could understand an owner being this out of touch with the fans. But aren't we told that Fred Wilpon was a die-hard Brooklyn Dodger fan?
Did he say that in 1947, '49, '52, and '53, when the Dodgers lost to the Yankees?
Somehow, I doubt it. So don't ask your fans to do the same.
ELIMINATE THE NEGATIVE
Roger Cedeno. The inane color-coding of games...when you're in last place, no game is "premium." Orange jerseys. Fran Healy. Calling the plan, "The Plan." Having opposing players on Mets Extra after a loss. (Hint: Mets fans turn the channel.) Insisting that Mets will play competitive baseball in Sept., get there first. The ridiculous MSG-FSNY partnership; one team, one cable channel. The idea that any veteran pitcher on this team is untouchable. The Art Howe Report. The color black on any home jersey, cap, or jacket. The inability to develop a power-hitter in the minor league system. The term "We battled."
Sir, may I have some more?
Gary Cohen, Gary Cohen, Gary Cohen. More bleacher seats. Magglio Ordonez. Pinstripes and blue caps at home. A new stadium that does NOT look like Ebbets Field, (this is the METS, not the Dodgers. They left, get over it). David Cone as a lead analyst. More minor league updates on Mets Extra (10 seconds of notes over the closing music is pathetic. Mets' fans care about their prospects).
THE BOTTOM LINE
This is New York, not Milwaukee. Start acting like it, or you'll wind up with their fan base.
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