The New York Mets. What can you call a team that has done everything, from being “The Amazing Mets and being the two time World Series Champions, lead by the likes of players who have been immortalized in the lore of Mets discussions; Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Tug McGraw, Cleon Jones, Ron Swoboda, Tommie Agee, Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, and Ron Darling.
What can you say about the Mets teams of the present era? The Amazings were no more; they lost the subway series to their hated cross-town rivals, and have played a secondary role to the Atlanta Braves for the past decade and a half. Then there was the 2007 season of the New York Mets. In short, the Mets held a seven game lead with seventeen remaining and proceeded to watch the lead dwindle away and lose on the final day of the year to complete one of the biggest collapses in the history of professional sports.
That is the great thing about sports in today’s world. Yes, that 2007 Mets season will be forever remembered in baseball history books, but the game of baseball is a business, and the New York Mets epitomize that to the enth degree.
FRED WILPON/STERLING EQUITIES
The resurgence of the Mets financially stems back to the full purchase of the team by Fred Wilpon in 2002. Wilpon is the co-founder and chairman at Sterling Equities. He is also the chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the New York Mets. When Wilpon purchased the full control of the team in 2002, the purchase amount then was $391 Million. Currently in today market according to Forbes Magazine, the New York Mets are worth a reported $824 Million (There will be more discussion on the Forbes evaluation later on in the report). Along with all of his major sports transactions, he also has widespread experience in the real estate industry. To expand on Fred Wilpon’s real estate experience, in 1972 Sterling Equities (SE) was founded along side with New York Mets current President Saul Katz. This organization was created to develop and invest in real estate. Since inception SE and its affiliates have been involved with or purchased $17 million worth of commercial property, 45,000 residential units, $8.5 million worth of retail property and three major sports complexes. In 1980, SE acquired the partnership interest in the New York Mets. In 2001, SE brought baseball back to Brooklyn with the Brooklyn Cyclones. Brooklyn is the Single-A affiliate of the Mets, and the stadium, KeySpan Park, was constructed by Sterling Development. In the following year, 2002, SE became full owner of the New York Mets Organization, and in 2005, Sports Net New York (SNY), a regional sports network in the New York tri-state area, is formed by SE in partnership with Time Warner Cable and Comcast Corporation. Sports Net New York (SNY) will be discussed in the following section.
SPORTS NET NEW YORK
SNY is New York’s regional sports network that was founded by Sterling Entertainment enterprises, Time Warner and Comcast. The 24/7 365 network features up to 125 New York Mets games a year “as well as provides unparalleled live sports and local news coverage to the Tri-State area through three nightly “SportsNite” shows and a daily “Sports NY” show.” “SNY is available to viewers in New York, Connecticut, most of New Jersey and northeastern Pennsylvania. In addition to Mets games, SNY is also the official year-round television home of the New York Jets, providing viewers with the most exclusive coverage and access to the Jets organization and its players. SNY will also televise other professional and collegiate sports, including basketball and football games from the Big East and Big Ten conferences, as well as classic sports and event programming. SNY also features exclusive interview and magazine programs.”
Not only being the home to anything sports related to the New York area, the on-air talent is home grown talent as well, the lineup includes; Ron Darling, Keith Hernandez, Ralph Kiner, Lee Mazzilli, Harold Reynolds, Darryl Strawberry, Ray Lucas and Greg Buttle.
Prior to the Omar Minaya, and the creation of SNY, there was Steve Phillips. Steve Phillips gets a lot of the blame for the decline that the Mets have found themselves in. Instead, Phillips should be given a lot of the credit. Baseball is a game where your legacy is based on what you have done lately, but in the case of a General Manager, it has a lot to do with how you have built your team for the future (eg. Dan Duquette and the Boston Red Sox). Phillips joined the Mets front office in 1990, was promoted to the position of GM in 1997, and was fired by Fred Wilpon midway through 2003 after a 29-35 start. In the Mets return to glory in the late 90’s, he put together a team made up of big stars, big stars that could win the big game. With players such as Al Leiter, Mike Piazza and Robin Ventura, they made it to the 2000 World Series against their cross-town rivals, the New York Yankees. Phillips did make some questionable moves in his time as well. He was responsible for signing high-priced aging free agents that were largely ineffective and had enormous contracts; Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, Pedro Astacio, Mike Bordick, Bobby Bonilla, Rickey Henderson, Kenny Rogers, Jeromy Burnitz and Kazuo Matsui. Phillips to his credit did a good job drafting to prepare the Mets for the future; David Wright, Scott Kazmir, Lastings Milledge and Jose Reyes.
As mentioned previously, Mets of the past couple years have been a disappointment, and with recent struggles with their bullpen, another collapse is could be on the horizon. As we have learned though is that baseball is a business and the Mets have secured their spot as one of the most financially successful teams in sports by solidifying their sponsorships and opening Citi Field next year.
In November of 2006, Citi Group, the world’s leading financial services company with 275,000 employees in over 100 countries and territories teamed up with the New York Mets on “an exclusive 20-year, multifaceted strategic marketing and business partnership that includes the naming rights for Citi Field, the new world-class home of the Mets, scheduled to open by Opening Day 2009”.
The ballpark is being constructed neighboring Shea Stadium in Flushing Queens. The $850 million stadium is being subsidized with $450 million in public money. The agreement with Citi will pay the Mets $20 million a year for the next 20 years.
Citi Field will be considered a retro park, will follow the brick and steel-truss that was started by Oriole Park at Camden Yards. “The new stadium is planned to have a capacity of 45,000 (42,500 seats, – 2,500 standing room). The exterior facade and entranceway rotunda will be reminiscent of Ebbets Field (which was long sought by Mets owner Fred Wilpon, a Brooklyn native)”. “Citi Field will feature unprecedented sightlines, amenities, and comfort for Mets fans, sports fans and visitors to the New York metropolitan area. The open-air ballpark connects the Mets’ National League heritage to the future and to the City through a number of unique design elements. Citi Field will feature natural grass and capacity for approximately 45,000 fans. A contoured seating configuration will bring spectators closer to the field on all levels to provide optimal sightlines for a more intimate and entertaining experience throughout the park”.
The architectural highlights of this stadium are amazing to the say the least. Find below some if the details;
• structural steel “bridge” motif throughout Citi Field reinforces the Mets’ connection to New York’s five boroughs while also symbolically linking the team’s storied tradition to its future. Design elements call for exposed trusses, light towers, scoreboard structure, and a roof canopy that recall the ballparks of yesteryear
• This landmark partnership will accelerate Citi’s and the Mets’ current significant commitments to the community with new resources to develop and launch outreach platforms and programs in and beyond New York City, involving both the Citigroup Foundation and the New York Mets Foundation
• A landscaped plaza around the ballpark will welcome fans, improve access and egress, and create space for pre- and post-game activities, vendors, and other amenities
• The Concourse level features 360-degree, walk-around circulation around the ballpark with expansive field views and ample standing room. The Promenade level features a split-deck design providing uninterrupted views into the ballpark from the circulation and concession areas
• In addition, Citi and the Mets through a pledge to the Jackie Robinson Foundation will help create the Jackie Robinson Foundation Museum and Education Center in lower Manhattan. As much as a tribute to Jackie Robinson, the Museum and Education Center will educate children about Jackie Robinson’s pioneering spirit and leading role in social change. This partnership will support new programs for the Jackie Robinson Foundation, including leadership development and scholarships for students who exemplify Jackie’s humanitarian ideals
With the Mets new field and new business partner Citi, the Mets have had the opportunity to branch out in the communications world and start a new partnership with Nortel. This Nortel Solution will serve as the foundation for future communication applications “that can provide access to player statistics via wireless LAN, special IPTV replay viewings and multimedia-based communications to various areas of Citi Field. In addition, the company is to provide applications to facilitate ticket sales, concession sales
and incident response” “Together with Nortel, we are advancing the state-of-the-art in ballpark design and technological innovation at Citi Field. More than just sharing our vision, Nortel has enhanced it, offering a solution that will seamlessly integrate technology into our business operations to help increase our productivity and service to fans.” Dave Howard, Executive Vice President, Business Operations, New York Mets.
To sum up this report we have to look at the recent state of the front office and the recent results it is putting on the field. Omar Minaya took over for the departed Steve Phillips and with increasing revenue and an increased operating budget; Minaya had a lot of room to play with, and a bigger responsibility if things did not work out his way. Since the announcement of Mets and Citi becoming business partners, the team’s value has increased nearly 64 percent to $804 million, revenue has increased nearly 22% to $235 million and player salaries have increased just the same; 2005 – $101,305,821, 2006 – $101,084,963, 2007 – $115,231,663, and 2008 – 137,391,376. With the increase in value and revenue the Minaya and the Mets have jumped head first in the free agent market the past three years with the following signings;
• January 6, 2005: Traded catcher Vance Wilson to the Detroit Tigers for infielder Anderson Hernandez
• January 13, 2005: Signed free agent centerfielder Carlos Beltran to a seven year, $119 million deal
• January 17, 2005: Signed free agent pitcher Roberto Hernandez
• January 27, 2005: Traded minor league first baseman Ian Bladergroen to the Boston Red Sox for Doug Mientkiewicz
• March 20, 2005: Traded catcher/first basement Jason Phillips to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitcher Kazuhisa Ishii
• June 7, 2005: Selected Mike Pelfrey with the 9th overall pick in the amateur free agent draft
• November 18, 2005: Traded outfielder Mike Cameron to the San Diego Padres for outfielder Xavier Nady
• November 24, 2005: Traded first baseman Mike Jacobs and pitchers Yusmeiro Petit and Grant Psomas to the Florida Marlins for Carlos Delgado and cash.
• November 29, 2005: Signed free agent pitcher Billy Wagner to a four year, $43 million deal, plus an $8 clup option
• December 5: 2005: Traded minor leaguers Gaby Hernandez and Dante Brinkley to the Florida Marlins for catcher
Paul Lo Duca
• December 22, 2005: Signed free agent outfielder Endy Chavez
• December 27, 2005: Signed free agent pitcher Chad Bradford to a one year, $1.4 million contract
• January 4, 2006: Traded pitchers Jae Weong Seo and Tim Hamulack to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Duaner Sanchez and Steve Schmoll
• January 22, 2006: Traded pitcher Kris Benson to the Baltimore Orioles for pitchers Jorge Julio and John Maine
• May 24, 2006: Traded pitcher Jorge Julio to the Arizona Diamondbacks for pitcher Orlando Hernandez
• July 19, 2006: Traded infielder Jeff Keppinger to the Kansas City Royals for infielder Ruben Gotay
• July 31, 2006: Traded outfielder for Xavier Nady to the Pittsburgh Pirates for pitchers Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez
• August 20, 2006: Received pitcher Guillermo Mota from the Cleveland Indians for future considerations
• August 22, 2006: Traded Evan MacLane to the Arizona Diamondbacks for outfielder Shawn Green and cash.
• November 15, 2006: Traded pitchers Heath Bell and Royce Ring to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Jon Adkins and Ben Johnson
• November 20, 2006: Traded pitchers Henry Owens and Matt Lindstrom to the Florida Marlins for Adam Bostick and Jason Vargas
• November 21, 2006: Signed free agent outfielder Moises Alou
• December 6, 2006: Traded pitcher Brian Bannister to the Kansas City Royals for pitcher Ambiorix Burgos
• December 7, 2006: Re-signed pitcher Guillermo Mota to a two year, $5 million deal.
• January 16, 2007: Signed free agent pitcher Scott Schoeneweis three year, $10.8 million contract
• July 30, 2007: Traded minor leaguers Drew Butera and Dustin Martin to the Minnesota Twins for Luis Castillo
• November 20, 2007: Traded pitcher Guillermo Mota to the Milwaukee Brewers for catcher Johnny Estrada
• November 30, 2007: Traded outfielder Lastings Milledge to the Washington Nationals for outfielder Ryan Church and catcher Brian Schneider
• January 29, 2008: Traded outfielder Carlos Gomez, pitchers Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra to the Minnesota Twins for pitcher Johan Santana.
Some have worked out in favor of the Mets and some that have not. If you look closely, you can pinpoint on deals that hurt them financially and depleted them in their minor league system. The history of the transactions shows, trading prospects for veterans on the decline of their career and the signing of veterans to deals that seem generous (eg. Scott Schoeneweis three year, $10.8 million contract). To delve more deeply into the Mets current situation within their minor league system, for the year of 2008 they only had one player in the top 100 prospects; Fernando Martinez at #34, and the three prospects that were dealt in the Johan Santana deal are all rated in the top ten in the Minnesota Twins system.
For the Mets to regain their grasp on the NL East a rebuilding of their minor league system in necessary, and with the extra revenue that they are generating through their new business dealings, signing his priced free agents may not be necessary in the end. Sounds like an easy solution but in the New York market, a winner is wanted at all costs with no delay. Can the Mets succeed with their current strategy….it is a possibility, but can they change their current one and introduce a new one, one like the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who have enjoyed success going on 6 years running with a payroll nearly the same, 118,825,333, revenue at $200 million, and a estimated value of $500 million.
Devon Teeple is a staff member of the Business of Sports Network which includes the Biz of Baseball, the Biz of Football, the Biz of Basketball and the Biz of Hockey. He is also a intern with the Football Outsiders and collaborator with the Plymouth River Eels. Devon is available as a freelance writer and be contacted via email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org