These days the people are feeling a lot of pain as the country recovers from the recent recession. There is another type of pain being felt by the loyal fans of the New York Mets who have invested their heart and soul and their money in a team that guarantees annually to disappoint its followers.
Once again the legions of New Yorkers who have given their all have seen their team end the season with a dismal fourth place finish. While the first half of the baseball season held out the promise of some success in October, the team lacking in quality players and owners with deep pockets, again found itself playing in a semi-empty ball park with no hope for the coming year.
As a general rule a team that continually disappoints its fans ends the season by picking a scapegoat, with usually the manager or general manager taking the heat for poor performances. The Cleveland Indians, who looked so promising in spring training, fell into disarray and their final games were run by an interim manager. Terry Collins isn't really culpable for this year's Met's sad finish and general manager Sandy Alderson has performed heroically with the talent given him. Their problem is not the team on the field but the people who run the Mets.
At the end of every losing season Mets fans are promised that next year will be a better year. But sadly there is no possibility that next year can be anything better than this year. In fact, with the chance that the Mets may trade or lose their few stars such as David Wright or R.A. Dickey, it will be very hard next year to distinguish them from a Triple AAA team, with the possibility that the majority of the players on the field will have just arrived from the minor leagues.
If fans need to look for a great owner's success story they need only look south to Washington D.C., home of the Nationals. The Nats are in the playoffs for the first time since they were relocated from Montreal. Their success has been hard fought with the investment of enormous amounts of money and the strong desire to field a winner. They spent millions on proven talent and skillfully marketed and developed players in their farm system. Although only in D.C. for a few years, the Nationals were actually expected to be in playoff games two years ago when their pitching ace Steven Strasburg suffered a serious injury requiring Tommy John surgery.
To their credit the Nationals owners, the Lerner family, kept their eye on the ball and are determined to give their fans a winner. This year their attendance has risen sharply and season ticket purchases were at an all-time high. New faces have been added and that team has consistently beaten some of the top teams in the National League.
For the Mets it's still the same old story. The Wilpons faced with their Madoff losses and rising budget costs have added a few new fractional owners but that hasn't been reflected on the field. There has been no push to bring on faces for the future and nothing has happened to give Mets fans hope that next year will be any different than this year.
The Wilpons and the other owners are very honorable people. They have a sterling reputation in the real estate business and are well-known for their personal philanthropy. But there is more to owning a team than just running it as a day to day business. Love them or hate them, people pay close attention to our teams in New York City and the sports that they play. What passes for a team in Oshkosh doesn't measure up to what this region needs and demands: a winner.
It's not my business as an observer to tell the owners of the Mets what they owe our city and state. But it's time for the Mets to become a competitive part of the city sports scene and to give their beleaguered fans some real hope. If they can't and won't do it then make way for a new team off the field, who will spend the money and the effort to build a world class organization? There is no doubt that the sale of the Mets franchise will yield a hefty price. Too much time has gone by and the Mets are still hapless and hopeless. The fans and the players deserve a better fate than the one they have been subjected to.
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