I haven’t been as pessimistic about how the Mets will do this year as some other people. Take, for example, everybody. Sports Illustrated has them slated for a last place finish, and they’re far from the only ones. If you follow any of the team’s beat writers on Twitter, you’ve been treated to an unrelenting barrage of negativity over the winter. Last night, Stephen Colbert opened his show with “Today is baseball’s opening day. Better luck next year, Mets!” And Chris Rock just went on Letterman to, in part, commiserate about the sorry state of the Mets: “My team is broke!”
Understandable, to an extent, but still grinding. It’s gotten to the point where thinking the Mets shouldn’t just give up right now is almost a revolutionary act of courage.
Now, I have no delusions that they’re primed for a World Series run this season. I like to keep my optimism on the sunny side of sanity. But the way people talk, you’d think they were headed for a dismal 100-loss season, and that simply is not the case. At bare minimum,the Mets will be infinitely more entertaining than the ugly, boring teams of 2009/2010. Because when it comes right down to it, a sports team’s job is not to win on your behalf, to be a proxy for success in your own life. The job of a team is to entertain you, and I think the Mets can achieve that modest goal this year.
More importantly, I believe the Mets put themselves on a good track for the future (all of the Bernie Madoff nonsense notwithstanding; we’re not even gonna go there). The new front office led by Sandy Alderson recognized 2011 for the rebuilding year it is and didn’t mortgage the future for 2 or 3 extra wins, preferring instead to build long term. They made some low risk/high reward pickups like Chris Young and Chris Capuano, and added some depth for a fraction of the money Omar Minaya would have handed out. As The New York Times pointed out earlier this week, they addressed most of their holes for the paltry sum of around $10 million. Last year, $6 million of the Mets’ money went to Jeff Francoeur and Alex Cora, which is about $5,999,999.98 too much.
In short, I felt like the team was in capable hands again. They even made a few strides toward increasing fan friendliness by offering smaller ticket plans and instituting a kids’ section at CitiField, where youngsters could sit for $10 and even get a visit from Mr. Met. That is exactly the kind of thing a team in the Mets’ position should do: make the stadium-going experience more affordable and build up fan equity while the team rebuilds.
But the Mets being the Mets, they had to find some way to screw up the un-screw-up-able. The kids’ section was originally called Mr. Mets’ Landing. Now they have a sponsor. Wanna know who?
Yes, the section is now sponsored by BJ’s Wholesalers, the poor man’s Sam’s Club. I guess it fits in with the level of sponsors at CitiField right now, what with Arpielle Equipment and cash-for-gold scams, and I think there’s even an Agway in centerfield. But my objection is not so much the business as the name.
Did anyone in the Mets’ PR/Sales/Promotions/Whatever Department think for a moment about the wisdom of naming any part of their stadium after a place called BJ’s? Were they just so overjoyed at having any sponsor they didn’t look at the contract? Nobody stopped for the half second it would have taken to realize the double entendre implications? Nobody? In the front office of one of the richest teams in baseball, not one person?
If you think this won’t go unnoticed by every hack comedian or sportswriter (usually the same thing) who wants another excuse to dump on the team, you’re living in a dream world.
Here’s the thing: When you’re in as bad PR shape as they Mets are, you have to try extra harder. Stuff like this is the opposite of trying harder. It’s not trying at all. It’s saying to the world, We absolutely could not give less of a shit about what we look like. And not in Let Your Freak Flag Fly way, but in a Wearing Sweatpants to Go to the Bank way.
I doubt Sandy Alderson and his Nerd Herd have anything to do with this end of the Mets’ business. But maybe they can prevail on ownership to bring some people on board who have the slightest clue of what they’re doing. Because when it comes to PR, the Mets are even worse off than they are on the field.