New York Mets: Offseason Signs of Trouble
I really wanted to write a positive article about the offseason prospects for the New York Mets. Unfortunately that's impossible, since all the recent news out of the Mets' camp is very disconcerting.
After some high points during the 2011 season, it would be great to think that the Mets were going in the right direction. Sadly, that doesn't seem to be the case.
With the Wilpons still in the front office, the franchise is dealing with a number of issues that will impact the team that takes the field in 2012 and beyond. Of course the long-suffering Mets faithful will feel the affects of the team's continuing turmoil.
Here's a look at the current signs of trouble for the Mets:
Citi Field Changes
The Mets' brass have now decided that it's time to make changes to Citi Field after only three years of existence. Parts of the monstrous outfield walls will be moved in and lowered in height.
They also will be changed from black to blue to match the team's colors. Why the front office didn't think the team colors were important in the first place is still a mystery.
Why are the ballpark changes happening now? The cynical Mets fan in me seems to think it's to take the attention away from the team's real problems.
While Citi Field didn't produce many Mets homers, it proved a hitters' paradise for the speedy Jose Reyes. Perhaps the change in dimensions is a sign that the club's most exciting player may be on the way out.
Citi Field Fanwalk Expansion
Citi Field's Fanwalk, consisting of personalized engraved bricks paid for by fans, was a successful part of Citi Field's grand opening in 2009. Three years later, they're back.
The club issued a press release recently that the Fanwalk would be expanded in commemoration of the franchise's 50th anniversary.
The bricks are priced between $195 and $395. While a portion of sales will benefit the Mets' various charitable foundations, the bricks appear to be merely a convenient way for management to bring in revenue.
Non-Player Staff Cuts
In a further sign that the Mets are having financial difficulties, the team announced a 10 percent reduction in their non-player personnel.
The organization employed approximately 180 staff members on the business side of the club. This week the team announced that at least 15 employees were given their walking papers.
While this has no bearing on the players on the field, it's an obvious cost-cutting move.
Bernie Madoff Lawsuits
The fallout from the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme continues to follow the Wilpons.
The team owners are still involved in several lawsuits related to their involvement with Madoff. The Wilpons' plan to sell part of the team to David Einhorn fell apart. Needing to raise money, the organization is still trying to sell shares in the team's ownership.
The Mets' financial troubles are not a good sign for fans dreaming of expensive free agents or holding on to Jose Reyes and the team's few stars.
Jose Reyes May No Longer Be a Met
Along with David Wright, Jose Reyes has been the face of the franchise for the past six seasons. The National League's defending batting champion is a free agent, and Mets fans are desperate for the shortstop to remain in Flushing.
Meanwhile, the Wilpons are looking to cut costs and cap the team payroll at $100-$110 million. Rather than tell fans they can't afford to retain Reyes, the owners are holding out hope that they can keep Reyes at a bargain price.
Reyes is a hot commodity and almost certainly will get a big offer from another team in baseball. The thought of seeing Reyes playing in another uniform, especially one of the Mets' division rivals, is one that is sure to cause fans distress.
Offloading Players to Trim Payroll
This week it emerged that the Mets are thinking of parting ways with Angel Pagan. After being handed the center field position in place of Carlos Beltran, Pagan has become a pretty good player and a popular one with the fans.
While certainly not an All-Star, Pagan has been a solid contributor for the Mets. That the Mets are looking to offload him for a cheaper alternative such as Rick Ankiel is quite worrying.
Which players might be next?
Mets Players Making News but Not for Baseball
R.A. Dickey is planning on heading to Tanzania in January. Instead of practicing his knuckleball, Dickey will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Yes, that's right.
The cerebral Dickey will be climbing the 19,000-foot mountain in order to raise money for Red Light District Outreach Mumbai which deals with the issue of human trafficking.
While certainly noble, this type of undertaking right before spring training is potentially risky. Let's wish Dickey the best of luck and hope that he comes back ready to pitch.
Being a Mets fan is tough enough already. With the crosstown Yankees regularly shelling out money for the game's top free agents, it's hard to see New York's "other" team fail year after year.
Mets fans are faithful, but they certainly aren't stupid. With all the recent moves by the Mets' management, It appears than fans' loyalty is once again being taken for granted. It's getting harder and harder to believe in Tug McGraw's rallying cry "Ya Gotta Believe."
Mets fans, what are your thoughts?