NEW YORK METS: Sandy Alderson Can Only Hope The Club's May Malaise Is Over.
It was the best of months. It was the worst of months.
One third of the season has passed. Controversy is on the rise.
Although Sandy Alderson's winter ended with mixed reviews, the Mets nevertheless started the 2014 campaign well. But the refreshing, feel good atmosphere created by a solid opening month (in which they posted a 15-11 record) ended on Wednesday, April 30th, with delivery of the now infamous email - the one foolishly asking fans to sign a pledge of loyalty.
The backlash was immediate and intense. What had generally been a very patient fan base to that point, felt insulted and responded with vitriol. The local media was quick to condemn the move as well. Soon after, even Ron Darling made the sports radio rounds admitting he failed to properly research marketing's open letter before adding his signature.
Just over a week ago, in what appeared to be a reactive measure, the Mets hired a gentleman named Harold Kaufman to be their new executive director of communications. A smart decision I thought, believing the Wilpon's image is presently at an all time low, and that an objective executive influence could potentially help reconcile the great disconnect between ownership and fans.
Or, so I thought.
Last week, David Newman, the Mets senior vice president of marketing and communications, was quoted in the N.Y. Times as saying,
"Kaufman will help bring the Mets exposure in fashion, food, entertainment and lifestyle — things that target different audiences in addition to the sports audience.”Oh. Excuse me.
I guess the Third Estate of Flushing need not apply.
On a business level, many companies/corporations engage in this kind of courtship. So it's no big deal. However, as it pertains to the Wilpon's sports audience, the majority of us "loyal" fans should be so lucky.
Attendance is up only slightly this season, but nowhere near levels needed to reduce ownership's nearly one billion dollars of debt. Unless imagined or real personalities such as Oscar de la Renta, Emeril Lagasse, Beyonce or Martha Stewart willingly link themselves with a sub.500 club, and additionally coerce thousands of their rich friends to fill the Pepsi Porch, the left field stands and upper deck, I do not see where this strategy benefits the Mets.
In what is fast becoming the anthem of 2014, if the Wilpons would just put a better product on the field, all the designers, chefs, comics, Kardashians, and lowly fans, will come.
However, the Mets chose to follow a more taxing plan. Mr. Autonomous - Sandy Alderson continues to insist increases in payroll must be funded by considerable increases in attendance. That's a very interesting game of chicken he and ownership are playing, that I am confident they'll lose.
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May also brought the firing of hitting coach Dave Hudgens, which I believe was warranted. I agree with Sandy Alderson's assessment. The team's situational hitting was depressing. It's pointless debating what separates good hitting coaches from bad ones, as something clearly needed to be done about this particular situation.
I'm ultimately pleased that Hudgens' pre-occupation with Keith Hernandez' on-air criticisms, as well as his sensitivity to players getting booed, have been removed from the dugout. I feel such worries are symptomatic of a loser. Sorry to put it so plainly.
However, I do believe Hudgens when he intimated that Sandy Alderson's hands are financially tied. When Alderson claims 100% responsibility for the roster, and defends maintaining one of MLB's lowest payrolls for two straight seasons as he did recently on the radio circuits, I simply do not believe him.
In my opinion, the general manager is still defending ownership. Unlike the situation with Frank McCourt and the Dodgers, I tend to think Commissioner Selig offered Alderson's services as a way of maintaining a hands-on/hands-off approach with his New York National League club.
On that note, Friday marked one month since the club sent out that idiotic email. Happy belated anniversary.
The month of May is now done.
Let June begin!