The New York Mets season comes to a close today against the Miami Marlins. The fans continue to speak with their wallets, as attendance declined at Citi Field for the third straight season.
Even with R.A. Dickey's quest for 20 wins, which surely boosted attendance, the team sold only 2.2 million tickets. In Citi Field's inaugural season of 2009, the team drew 3.1 million fans. But with another mediocre display, the novelty of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda and the privilege of buying an overpriced beer in the Caesar's Club continued to wear off.
Reality is, over the past four seasons it's been incredibly easy for fans to forget about the Mets by late summer/early fall. The return of the NFL, college football and the MLB playoffs (in which the Yankees usually play a prominent role) have made it easy to ignore the Mets and their dismal play. But that's what management deserves. They haven't provided fans a product worth investing in, financially or emotionally, after the month of July.
Overall revenues are down for the Mets, and after losing $70 million in 2011, another loss is expected this year. So it's a financial Catch-22 for the organization. They need more money to improve their product, but can't bring any more money in because fans aren't showing up.
As has been addressed in this space many times before, the likelihood of Mets management ballooning the payroll for 2013 is slim to none. The more likely scenario is keeping the payroll as is, hoping for a break-even year and targeting a return to profitability in 2014. Nearly $60 million of Jason Bay and Johan Santana salaries will be off the books after the 2013 season.
A bold management move in the midst of marking time would be to seek offers for David Wright. The Mets hold an option on Wright for the 2013 season. Ownership views Wright as the face of the franchise because he's the team's longest tenured player, an All-Star, and a clean-cut guy. But if a package came the Mets way that included players with high ceilings for 2014 and beyond, that would fit the team's plan, right?
I don't think the Mets would be so bold, because they think without Wright they have no individual players that fans would come to the ballpark to see. But the fans aren't coming anyway, the team has turned into chronic underperformers, and the organization is losing money.
If ownership honestly views 2013 as a lost cause, then I believe most fans would accept moving on from Wright. He'll be 31 in 2014, quite possibly in the waning years of his career and he'll command huge dollars. Granted, he's a homegrown guy who grew up a Mets fan and you just don't want to give him away. But if another team blows Sandy Alderson away with an attractive offer, he has to pull the trigger. If he doesn't, then it's just more mixed signals from an ownership group that can't figure out left from right.
I think most Mets fans thought that David Wright and Jose Reyes would anchor the left side of the Mets infield and be the cornerstones of a winning franchise for years to come. Unfortunately poor decision-making torpedoed that dream and with Reyes gone it may be time to part ways with Wright as the franchise enters another era of rebuilding.
Pete is a lifelong Montauk resident and former sports talk host at 88.7FM WEER. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.