Amway Partnership Latest Sign Mets Will Never Change Under Fred Wilpon
It's like Fred Wilpon wants to perpetuate "LOLMets."
The last time the New York Mets owner was in the news, the news was good news. Wilpon was telling reporters including Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com that the Mets' financial woes were over. Thanks to that, they can spend.
The Mets shall be the Mets once again.
Now comes a reminder that the Mets being the Mets entails a lot more than them just spending money. It also entails them doing things that only the Mets would do.
On Monday, Howard Megdal of Capital New York came out with an interesting scoop. It appears that, somewhat quietly, Amway has moved into a storefront at Citi Field, the Mets' home ballpark.
That doesn't make any sense. But these being Wilpon's Mets, it also makes too much sense.
We know a couple of things about Amway. One is that Amway just doesn't have stores. Will Leitch of New York Magazine pointed out that Amway has a store in London, but the Citi Field store is the company's first in America. It's just not in the habit of opening them.
Nor should Amway be in the habit of opening stores. It works through independent business owners (IBOs) to sell an array of different products. It doesn't need stores to do that.
But here's the other thing we know about Amway that makes its partnership with Wilpon's team even odder: Amway's business practices are on the sleazy side. Amway recently had to pay around $150 million to settle a lawsuit that alleged it was nothing but a big pyramid scheme.
Wilpon had his own problems with a scheme recently, of course, as he was facing a $1 billion lawsuit regarding the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme.
Rubin has reported that Wilpon is only going to be out $86 million after all the bad noise, and Wilpon has said that it wasn't "the reason" for the Mets' financial troubles in recent years. But it was definitely a reason for the Mets' financial struggles, and the entire thing cast a dark cloud over the Mets that is just now supposed to be going away.
Now here's Wilpon's team making bedfellows with Amway, an alleged pyramid schemer. There's probably nothing sinister going on behind the scenes, but the big public-relations picture is bad enough for the aforementioned dark cloud to stick around awhile longer.
Typical Mets. They're always dreaming up new ways to alienate a fanbase that has had to put up with plenty of heartbreak and generally depressing nonsense. The Amway partnership is just the Mets' latest innovation for rubbing their fans the wrong way and easily one of their most cunning.
The timing could be better. When Wilpon spoke about the team's finances being squared away earlier this month, he did so while making a not-so-subtle plea for Mets fans to come out to the ballpark.
This is, to me, a break-even business. I always strive to break even. I'm not looking to make any money. I strive to break even. So if [fans] don't show up, that's hard. So you have to balance it. We fed it pretty good the last five or six years. I think if the market was such, yes, the payroll could go up, but not to just have payroll go up so you can write headlines -- if that, in fact, improves the team.
Wilpon is right about the fans not showing up. Records on Baseball-Reference.com show that attendance at Citi Field has declined steadily each year since the ballpark drew more than three million fans in its inaugural season in 2009. By staying away from Citi Field, Mets fans made it harder for Wilpon's club to break even.
Not that Mets fans can be blamed for staying away. The Mets haven't won more than 80 games in any of the last four years, and the seasons have been marred by poor performances from high-priced players. Mets fans have had every reason not to give the team their hard-earned cash.
There's a promise in Wilpon's words. Something along the lines of, "The more you come out, the more I can spend to make the team better. You can trust me."
Only Mets fans can't trust Wilpon. They've been conditioned not to by consistently mediocre play on the field and baffling decisions by the front office, such as the contracts given out to Jason Bay, Oliver Perez and Francisco Rodriguez.
The Mets' track record under Wilpon is littered with promises of progress that have gone nowhere at all.
The Mets had been doing better lately. It cost them, but at least they finally got rid of Bay early in the offseason. The extension they gave David Wright was a nice tip of the hat to the fans, and they made a darn good deal when they traded R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays for top prospects Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard.
To boot, Mets fans can look forward to seeing Zack Wheeler in the team's rotation soon. General manager Sandy Alderson deserves credit for stealing him from the San Francisco Giants in the Carlos Beltran trade in 2011.
But you just never know with the Mets. Their failed pursuit of speedy outfielder Michael Bourn was a public relations loss on several different levels and a a reminder that Wilpon's Mets aren't always thinking clearly.
The fact that the Mets didn't get Bourn after going hard after him was a disappointment to the fans who really wanted him. For everyone else, the fact that the Mets were prepared to pay Bourn about $50 million was baffling because of the concerns over how his legs are going to age. He would have been a big signing, sure, but he would have been another Mets albatross waiting to happen.
Now, just weeks after the Mets flirted with and failed to sign Bourn, Amway has come to town. This is yet another reminder that Wilpon's Mets aren't always thinking clearly. They went from flirting with another potentially disastrous free-agent signing one minute to sullying their public image the next.
It's all part of the greater Mets experience. No organization in Major League Baseball is perfect. They all make mistakes and do things that make them look silly from time to time. But looking silly is the Mets' specialty.
They are baseball's very own Mr. Bean.
Players have come and gone, as have managers and general managers. But Wilpon? He's been a constant.
He first arrived on the scene in 1980 and became the majority owner of the team in 2002. In the 11 years since then, the Mets have made the postseason once. In the other 10 seasons, they've watched over $1 billion go to waste and inspired who knows how many mocking headlines.
It will all end someday. Wilpon can't own the Mets forever, and he might be inclined to just sell the team in the near future if he thinks he can get something close to what the Los Angeles Dodgers sold for.
But this near future might not be near enough. Forbes estimated last March that the value of the Mets went down in 2012, not up. If he has even a fraction of a notion to sell the team, Wilpon may be inclined to wait until the organization's value is up.
Until then, well, long live LOLMets.
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