New York fans will tell you how great it is that their teams are built to win every year. About how the resources of the Big Apple are such that they allow for the expectation of a pennant race each fall instead of a string of meaningless games. About how their teams don't rebuild -- they reload. Well, there's a downside to all of those expectations, and it's a result of the very lucrative foundation upon which they're built:
Teams in New York, where fans expect winners year after year, have been brutalized when they overhauled their clubs. Shea Stadium turned into a ghost town for seven years after the Mets traded Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman in 1977 . . . The situation is different now for the Mets because they play in a new $800 million ballpark, not Shea Stadium, which was owned by the city. Like other new ballparks, the financing for the 41,800-seat Citi Field was based on the assumption that the team would have a steady stream of customers for its luxury boxes and premium seats, some of which cost $500 a game.
If Minaya and the Mets organization signal to fans that 2009 is a lost cause and that 2010 may be, too, ticket sales for the remaining home games will suffer. Fans with tickets, already struggling to resell them at face value because of the team's poor play, will be stuck with even bigger losses.
While winning is the best, there is something very rewarding and even exciting about following a team that is tearing it down and rebuilding from scratch. You get to see fresh new faces and are eager to read about prospects about whom you'd otherwise never give a second thought. Sure, you don't want rebuilding to last forever, but living through the process is like going through a rite of renewal along with the team you follow. If anything, one's bond to the team is strengthened as a result of it all.
How depressing, then, it must be for Mets fans to have the team's perceived business exigencies prevent them from experiencing the purifying renewal that comes with a well thought-out rebuild. And perceived it is, because if the Mets try to rejigger on the fly around big names as opposed to rebuilding, attendance and revenue and all of that will eventually crater anyway. Why? Because fans -- especially New York fans -- aren't stupid. They remember the early 90s and "The Worst Team Money Could Buy." Those rosters were built as a result of the same impulse -- win now! -- and with a total disregard for the notion that a house needs a foundation, not just window dressing in order to be livable.
Are the Mets really so ignorant of their own history that they'll listen to the bean counters and ignore the tired and true path to building a strong team? As a Braves fan, I sure hope so, but folks who like their Mets had better hope otherwise.