The Mets stink. Everybody knows it, no secret there. There isn’t really too much to talk about with regards to the 2009 season. Hopefully Omar is going to manage to sell off some piece to some desperate team. He probably won’t. Maybe we can start talking about next season soon, but I’ll leave that to a subsequent post.
This post is devoted to talking about one of the few bright spots of 2009: the unveiling of shiny new Citi Field. I think, at least for now, shiny is the best word to describe Citi Field. Coming from ancient Shea (which they apparently really let go at the end of 2008), Citi is clean, modern, and attractive. The urinals look like escape pods from a space faring vessel of some sort (would have taken a picture, but, you know…). The concourses are open and airy and allow a view of the field even from the line for hot dogs.
Citi is like all of the modern ball fields I have been to (Coors, PNC, Minute Maid, Safeco): the marketing word is “intimate”. Some have said this is just a sneaky way to be able to reduce supply and raise ticket prices, but that doesn’t make sense to me. Why not just raise ticket prices? Wouldn’t they make more money if they had more mouths to fill with hot dogs? I think there is something to be said for the experience at these new ballparks. Every seat is a good seat, even the “cheap” seats ($30 doesn’t really qualify as cheap in the real world). You aren’t craning your neck to see the plate, you aren’t staring at the back of the head of the person in front of you, you aren’t a thousand feet in the air, and you don’t need binoculars to read the numbers on the back of the jerseys. These are all good things. I think (hope) that most fans could care less about the waiters and the sushi and the indoor dining options and the fun zones for kids and the multilevel team stores, but they are there and they don’t really detract from the game except that those “customers” could be replaced by people who, you know, care about the Baseball game.
The one Major League failure that Wilpon and Co. have made with Citi field is that they barely indicate what team plays there. There is a sign that says “Mets” on the scoreboard, a list of championship years and the old apple by the center field entrance, and a few old pictures of Mets greats from the past on the outside of the stadium in left field. That is it. I am not exaggerating. I had read about people being upset by this, and I thought it was silly, but when I actually visited myself I was shocked. How could they have been so dismissive of Mets history? There ought to be a Tom Seaver baseball here, a Mike Piazza baseball bat there, pictures of the ’86 team jumping up and down at home plate after game six. I actually felt offended walking around, looking for something Metsy to look at, and coming up empty.
What really pissed me off was the level of homage paid to the Dodgers, who as you may recall are a current Major League team who the Mets play nine times a year. I don’t have a problem with the stadium design taking inspiration from Ebbets Field. The Mets franchise was built on filling the void left by the departure of the Dodgers and Giants. Mets blue IS Dodger blue. But they take it way too far at Citi Field. Jackie Robinson was a great man, but his rotunda does not belong at a Mets ballpark. Period. Put it in a museum, put it in LA, put it anywhere else. It is offensive to me, as a devoted Mets fan, to stand in the Jackie Robinson rotunda. Is Fred Wilpon even a Mets fan? After seeing the rotunda, I felt betrayed. Architecturally, the rotunda is a beautiful space. The light spilling in during a daygame is as close to breathtaking as a ballpark is going to get. But the entire atmosphere is ruined by a stupid six foot tall plastic 42, looping videos of Dodger players (mixed in with gag-worthy praise for the rotunda from the Robinson family), and a complete lack of respect for the Mets franchise and tradition. Being a Mets fan, being an underdog in your own town, is about taking abuse. Usually the abuse comes from management (see the Seaver trade, the Kazmir trade, the Cone trade, etc) and from Yankee fans. I guess there is no reason to expect any different from ownership.
But all of that was easy to put aside, on a sunny day, watching a Mets win. Citi is a nice field, and only needs some Mets-specific customization. I had a great time, and I would pay $30 again for an upper deck ticket. A new stadium is now one less item Mets fans will have on their “Maybe Next Year” list. Still remaining on that list would be a number 2 starter, a number 3 starter, a number 5 starter, a left fielder, a right field who can take a walk to save his life, a second basemen with functional knees, a catcher hitting above the Mendoza line, a manager who think statistics are more useful then his “gut”, a general manager who develops a decent farm system…