We were very good this year. We came out to Citi Field in increasing numbers and spent our hard-earned money on $10 cans of Budweiser and $6 hot dogs. We boosted TV ratings on SNY and purchased every playoff round’s unique $30 t-shirt. Yet instead of getting the speedy leadoff hitter (Denard Span or Dexter Fowler) or run producer (Yoenis Cespedes or Justin Upton) the fan base is crying out for and that this team so obviously needs, we got a bunch of replacement level players on the cheap to patch holes. To quote Clark Griswold, “Well if this isn’t the biggest bag over the head, punch in the face I ever got…”
Owner Fred Wilpon has said that our meager payroll, kept at levels closer to a small market team than a major market franchise since the Bernie Madoff scandal broke, would increase as attendance and revenue climbed. General Manager Sandy Alderson has echoed these sentiments. Not counting the playoffs, the Mets finished 12th in Major League Baseball in attendance averaging nearly 32,000 fans per home game. Team payroll ranked 21st. The teams ranked lower in payroll are either rebuilding (Braves, Phillies) or averaged 25,000 fans or less per game (Marlins, Astros, Indians, A’s, Rays, Diamondbacks). The only exception is the Pittsburgh Pirates, who don’t have a huge cable TV deal and charge half as much for tickets and concessions in a small market.
The Mets’ extended playoff run gifted ownership an estimated $45 million windfall. The departure of free agents Daniel Murphy, Dillon Gee, Bobby Parnell, and midyear additions Cespedes, Tyler Clippard, Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson, plus Michael Cuddyer’s surprise retirement shaved $40 million off the payroll. Tack on the savings on Bartolo Colon’s reduced contract, Jennry Mejia’s PED suspension, and the release of backups Anthony Recker and Kirk Nieuwenhuis and that number goes up to $45 million. Given the savings and playoff windfall, it’s easy to see why Mets fans were optimistic we’d either bring back Cespedes or sign another big bat free agent.
Cubs fans who watched their slugging young team make the playoffs but come up short due to lack of pitching and too many strikeouts, went all in this offseason, signing Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, John Lackey, Trevor Cahill and bolstering the bullpen with Rex Brothers and a trade for Adam Warren. Giants fans, who have three recent World Series trophies to brag about, just missed the playoffs last year and are using their payroll savings from free agent departures to significantly improve their team’s chances in 2016. Thus far, they’ve added pitchers Jeff Samardjiza and Johnny Cueto and are looking to sign either Alex Gordon, Upton or Cespedes to take over left field.
The Red Sox, Cardinals, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Tigers and Orioles are all opening their checkbooks this offseason as well. Meanwhile the stingy Mets have settled on average veteran players like Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jerry Blevins, Bartolo Colon and now Alejandro de Aza. Nobody is paying to see these guys play (okay, maybe to see big sexy’s helmet fly off in the batter’s box) and none of them is a game changer.
We’ve been blessed with an unbelievably good, young pitching staff that will be affordable for two or three years. We have a real chance to go for it. Instead ownership is using additional revenue and savings to pay down debts as Howard Megdal pointed out earlier this week. Smart owners invest in their franchise, capitalize on opportunity and reward their fans. We deserve better.