Dear Mets Fan:
As we come to the close of a very disappointing season, I wanted to reach out to you on behalf of the entire New York Mets organization and tell you a few things.
First off, we’re sorry. We’re extremely sorry for how the 2009 season unfolded. We’re sorry for our performance on the field and we’re sorry for our performance as the stewards of this organization. We did a very poor job for you. I suppose you knew that if you stuck with us through this awful year, but I think it’s necessary that somebody with responsibility for this mess take responsibility for this mess.
We’re sorry for the way our team performed between the lines. Wins and losses are a matter of competition and clearly our competitors outclassed us in 2009. There is no way to guarantee how successful a team will be on the field, but a baseball team should able to guarantee you a few things: that they will always hustle; that they will always execute the simple fundamentals of the game; that they will not give up no matter the score or their record. It is clear that the 2009 Mets did not live up to that implied guarantee and, for that, we are sorry.
We are sorry as well for the caliber of our roster, particularly in the second half of the season. You know about our injury situation. Obviously we did not deploy the players we planned to for much of 2009. Again, some things are out of an organization’s control. But a good organization is prepared for all contingencies, and I feel we should have had a more Major League-ready corps of replacements at hand, whether on our higher-level minor league teams or through acquisition.
We are also sorry for the injuries. An unprecedented avalanche of aches and pains befell most of our topline players at one time or another in 2009, and while it is the players who hurt the most, we know the effect of their absences took a toll on you. As with wins and losses, injuries are sometimes simply a part of the game, but we also see, as we look around our sport at other, healthier organizations (and those who suffered injuries yet persevered with greater results), that there are measures that can be taken to minimize the repercussions from injuries and perhaps the incidence of them.
You have my apologies for the above. Now I would like to tell you about how we might go about preventing a repeat of the horrors of 2009 in 2010.
First, we greatly appreciate the hard work put in by our general manager Omar Minaya. He was hired as general manager at the end of the 2004 season, and two season later we were a division winner and playoff team. He did a great job to get us there, but it is abundantly clear he did not succeed at taking us to the next level or even maintaining the level we achieved. Omar will be offered a consulting position in the organization for the duration of his contract with the New York Mets, because we do value his experience and opinions on some baseball matters, but he will no longer be our executive vice president, baseball operations or general manager.
Jerry Manuel was a breath of fresh air when he succeeded to the manager’s office in the middle of the 2008 season. We do not hold Jerry responsible for our failure to hold a first-place lead of several games last September; we believe he was one of the major reasons we contended as we did. But there is no way one could watch the 2009 Mets and not take issue with how this team was run. Players performed not just badly but in embarrassing fashion, whether it was fielding, hitting, baserunning or pitching. We are dismissing Jerry as our field manager and releasing his coaching staff, all of whom — like Jerry — are decent men who tried what they considered their best yet presided over a massive failure in 2009. We will evaluate each of them for other positions in our organization, but you will not see any of them in Mets uniforms next year.
The doctors and trainers we employ are all qualified professionals, but it has become apparent they do not adequately serve the needs of the New York Mets. It cannot be a coincidence that our Disabled List remained so crowded through 2009 or that certain players’ prognoses and diagnoses so wildly diverged from reality for so long. We are replacing every doctor and every trainer who works with the New York Mets.
We will be undergoing a most through and extensive search to fill the above positions. We are taking the same tack throughout our organization. Nobody in player development or scouting will be immune to reevaluation in the offseason, and we are prepared to make changes in those slots as well. I promise you we will not jump at the first candidates we see to become our new head of baseball operations, our new manager or our new medical team. We have done that far too often in the past with deleterious effect on the long-term good of our organization. I look forward to offering you specifics as soon as we have them.
Rest assured, we have the resources to compete for free agent talent, but I think you understand large contracts aren’t going to solve all of our problems. This isn’t a copout or a veiled allusion to the money my family’s other concerns may have lost to Bernie Madoff. We are going to start building a serious farm system, with an emphasis on doing everything on the field the right way. Ostensibly we do that now, but you could never tell from watching our team perform.
I understand there are some of you for whom on-field performance is all, and that as long as the Mets are winning, then you’ll be happy with us. Of course winning is paramount to me and everybody else here. Our goal remains another World Series title as soon as possible — as well as our team playing a brand of baseball of which you’ll always be proud and never ashamed. But I also know many of you have concerns about our new ballpark, and I would like to address those as its first year ends and the rest of its life approaches.
Thank you if you bought one of the 3.15 million tickets we sold in 2009. Every single one of those transactions is valued by us. Whether you were a full season-ticket holder, a partial season-ticket plan holder or someone who attended individual games (perhaps dealing with ticket brokers in the early going when demand was inflated), your patronage is important to us. Moreover, your loyalty in a season like the one we’ve just completed towers over our thinking.
We owe every one of you an apology for the way we conducted our business regarding the inaugural season of Citi Field.
It was bad luck that we opened a new facility of which we were justifiably proud as our nation sunk into its deepest recession in decades. We planned Citi Field during a more vibrant economy and set much of our pricing with those parameters in mind. It’s not unusual for a sports team to try to get the most the market will bear, and that’s the tried-and-true path we followed.
We were wrong to do that. Quite frankly, we were as greedy as we thought we could get away with being through much of the ballpark on many of our dates. We didn’t take into account the recession. We also didn’t take into account the roots of our game or our team. Baseball’s supposed to provide the most affordable entertainment possible. It’s supposed to be an accessible day or night out with your family, your friends, that special someone. Yet we priced large swaths of our tickets insanely high. We designated some games as more attractive than others and created a complex pricing plan that, now that I’ve examined it closely, makes little sense.
These are baseball games. Simple baseball games. Yet we were regularly asking for $75, $100 and up for decent seats. That’s not the baseball I remember as a kid going to Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. Even accounting for inflation, that’s not close to reasonable. We could have had all our star players healthy, we could have contended for the playoffs, and it wouldn’t have been worthy of what we understand a baseball game to be.
Nor would it have been true to who we are. We’re the New York Mets. We long prided ourselves on being “the people’s team,” yet I now realize the only people who could afford the face value we were charging for too many of our tickets are people I see at my country club.
I’m so sorry about that. We are doing away with categorizing games by tier and we are meaningfully reducing ticket prices for 2010 and beyond. We can still make a very healthy profit without ostentatiously gouging you. We want to give you a reason to buy our tickets and sit in good seats and watch our games. We don’t need to give you another reason to shun us after the year we’ve had.
You’ve perhaps heard our reflexive answer to all criticism of our pricing by pointing to the Promenade level and the relative affordability of those seats. Indeed, we are proud to have maintained price points as low as $11 in 2009, but I must admit, after taking the time to go to our upper deck and attempting to view the field from every section, that we have failed to make these seats worth whatever we were charging you. I hoped for a ballpark that, like Ebbets Field, would have a feeling of “character” to it, so I signed off on some unorthodox angles both in terms of the shape of the seating bowl and the field.
I apologize. I didn’t know it would be so inadequate for the simple act of watching a baseball game. I’m aghast that we sold you as many seats as we did that had no view of the right or left field lines, and that you can’t see the main scoreboards from so many places. This is unacceptable, thus this winter we are working with engineers to see what we can do about redesigning our physical plant to make it work for you. If we are successful, you will see the difference. If we can’t move things around, then we will label those seats with obstructed views what they are and will charge accordingly.
We do have some very nice seating sections in Citi Field, but I noticed that not all of them were filled or particularly vocal. I’m thinking specifically of the Excelsior level which we envisioned as one of many of our “club” areas. I can see now this was a mistake in thinking. I’m not sure why we were so overcome with the desire to foster elitism in our ballpark, but we will pull back from that misdirected objective in 2010. Next year, the Excelsior level — now to be known as the Mezzanine — will be open to all pedestrian traffic as will all its amenities. If we allow our fans to walk through the upstairs and the downstairs of Citi Field, we should allow them through the heart of the park, too.
As chairman and CEO of the Mets, it shouldn’t surprise you I park wherever I want, thus I had no clue we were charging $18 for each car to park in our lots. My deepest apologies for this affront to your intelligence. Parking will be free in 2010. It’s enough you’re buying yourself a ticket. I don’t know why you should have to buy one for your car. We will also offer merchandise and food menu items at price points that won’t make a parent swallow hard when his or her child asks for a cap or a hot dog.
There is nothing at Citi Field that makes me prouder than the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. Jackie was a great baseball player in New York, a great American and a great human being. I consider it one of my finest accomplishments in my thirty years as part of ownership that I have helped make the New York Mets custodians of his legacy. The Jackie Robinson Rotunda is the culmination of this effort and I still get chills when I enter it.
That said, the New York Mets have a much greater legacy to present and share with our fans, and properly showing it off will be a top priority of this organization next year and every year.
While we appreciate our sponsors’ support, we realize plastering their names on everything that doesn’t move in no way enhances your enjoyment of the baseball experience. Thus, the Caesars Club will now be known as the Polo Grounds Lounge, named for our first home, and it will be redecorated to celebrate the part of our heritage that comes from the New York Giants, just as the Ebbets Club attempts to commemorate our connection to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Likewise, the Acela Club will be recast as the Shea Cafe, celebrating the man who paved the way for National League baseball to return to New York and the stadium long ago christened in his honor. Both venues, along with the Ebbets Club, will be open to all ticketholders.
We began to install a few scattered reminders of New York Mets history through Citi Field in the latter stages of the 2009 season. That was just the tip of the iceberg, I promise you. It took us a while to understand that we are part of a grand historical continuum, but now that we’ve gotten it, you’ll see the evidence. Yes, there will be statues erected to honor the greatest of Mets legends and personalities. Yes, there will be broader and more detailed photographic exhibits throughout the park to shine a light on the players who made the Mets the team you love. And yes, we will, on Opening Day 2010, cut the ribbon on the New York Mets Hall of Fame and National League Museum, making it an attraction and destination every bit as inviting as the ballpark itself.
Naturally, we will resume Mets Hall of Fame inductions in 2010 and make Mets Hall of Fame Weekend a grand and annual tradition. (Details regarding our 2011 Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration will be revealed soon.)
I think we came a long way in the first year of a ballpark in terms of food offerings and general hospitality, but we can do better. We can always do better. We will tailor our promotions so as to offer you items you actually want (and you will get, whether you are among the first 25,000 to show up or arrive a little later) and events you will actually anticipate. We will turn the noise level down so you can speak and hear between innings.
We will also decrease the organizational smugness that still seeps out from too many corners of our operation. We’re lucky to have you come to see us. We need to stop acting as if it’s the other way around. All of our personnel — and that includes me and every member of my family who works here — will undergo rigorous customer service training during the offseason. Whether it’s the counterperson who sells you the beverage growling at you as he or she takes your money or the security guard who won’t abide a simple request to let you tap an acquaintance on the shoulder because that person has a “better” ticket than you, you shouldn’t encounter avoidable annoyances at a Mets game. We’re going to figure out how to be better people in our interactions with you. We have some really great people working here right now. We want all of our employees to live up to that standard.
I’m writing to you because you’re a Mets fan. You don’t have to be, no matter how much it feels like you are locked in to the habit. You come to our games, you watch us on TV, you listen to us on the radio, you wear our logo no matter what, you spend every available waking moment thinking of ways we can improve ourselves. I can’t thank you enough for your support, particularly after a season like the one we just endured, which came on the heels of a very sad ending in 2008 and an incredibly frustrating one in 2007. We must not take your loyalty for granted, and we will not.
I’ve promised you a lot today. I can’t promise you a world championship in 2010, but I can promise you every effort will be made toward securing one and that everything surrounding that effort will be much sounder and more professional. Finally, I will promise you this: If you do not see real, concrete progress toward the goals I’ve set out in this letter, I will put the New York Mets up for sale following the 2010 season. There is nothing I would want to do less. It is my fondest hope that the Wilpon family will be privileged enough to steer the Mets organization for generations to come. But if we show no signs of succeeding in caring for this public trust, we no longer deserve that opportunity.
You, on the other hand, deserve the best. You are Mets fans. We are the stewards of this organization, but it’s your team. It’s about time we remembered it and acted like it matters.
All my best for an Amazin’ future together,
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
New York Mets
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