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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Move On Up, Come On Down

For any Mets fan who survived 2009 by telling yourself it couldn’t get any worse, this one’s for you. It’s 2010, and, technically, it didn’t get any worse.

The 2009 Mets limped to the finish line with 70 wins — and required a three-game sweep of the Astros the final weekend to accumulate that many. The 2010 Mets, on the other hand, have blown by their most recent predecessors with nearly two weeks to go. These Mets can boast of 71 wins and…

…well, not much else at this point, but improvement is improvement. The Mets may not have learned anything about sharp management of their affairs, and they may be playing out the string in too-familiar Quadruple-A fashion, but…um…

Did I mention they now have more wins than they did last year?

For lifting the 2010 Mets to heights the 2009 Mets could only dream of, you can thank non-2009 Met Dillon Gee for taking the ball and giving the Mets six scoreless innings in return; non-2009 Met Hisanori Takahashi providing the Mets two more scoreless innings toward the end; non-2009 Met Ruben Tejada —a non-starter in Jerry Manuel’s addled mind — doubling to deep left with one out in the tenth; and 2010 non-entity Nick Evans pinch-singling into the third base hole while Tejada ran to score the game’s only run as the mysteriously indispensable Luis Hernandez took a breather.

Evans was a semi-essential component of the last Mets club to improve its previous year’s record by one game. That was in 2008 (89 wins), when young Nick emerged from the Binghamton bushes and gave the Mets a relatively competent performance across 50 pennant race games. With everything on the line two years ago, when the Mets needed to improve on their 2007 total (88 wins) by two games, Evans started in left and batted fifth, behind Carlos Delgado. The Mets lost, Shea Stadium closed and Nick Evans all but disappeared from view.

Nick — with 80 major league plate appearances since 9/28/08 — is supposed to be in the lineup tonight, starting in left for the first time in just over a year, filling in for entrenched incumbent Lucas Duda. It’s not all bad for Lucas, however; now that his average has sunk to .031, he is entitled to a discount at Baskin-Robbins. Tejada will also be granted the privilege of starting at second over Joe Morgan Luis Hernandez this evening. Now that the Mets have clinched a better record for 2010 than they had in 2009, I guess Jerry can afford to tinker with his set lineup.

The thrill of edging the 48-95 Pirates 1-0 in extra innings for a landmark 71st win will likely prove Evansescent in the scheme of things, but at least the hundreds who attended the game at Citi Field and dutifully reported to their Promenade locations were given a cheap thrill when they were waved down by Alex Anthony to fill in some of the empty seats in the expensive Field Level sections. The Mets could afford to be generous, as rain diminished whatever enthusiasm existed to begin with for a Mets-Pirates matchup in the middle of September. Announced paid attendance, which is generally fiction as regards bodies in the ballpark, was 24,384, an all-time low for a regularly scheduled Citi Field game (14,733 were on hand for Jon Niese’s June 10 one-hitter, but that was a makeup date).

Just as improvement is improvement, a good deed is a good deed, even if it cost the Mets absolutely nothing to invite everybody to sit downstairs once it became abundantly clear downstairs would otherwise be a ghost town. I suppose it became abundantly clear months ago, when MON for Monday and PIT for Pittsburgh intersected amid the September portion of the pocket schedule. The Jets opening their new stadium (with a Same Old result) likely would have dampened physical attendance whether it rained or not. There’s a reason a series like this in stamped with the dreaded Value classification. It’s a dog whistle to the most slightly attuned fan that these games aren’t really worth your time or money — diehard company excepted; I’ll be at two of the next three games. (The only dog whistle I ever hear is METS! and I instinctively howl at the moon.)

Among the many insults perpetrated by Mets management toward Mets fans this 71-win-and-counting season is the BETTER SEATS LOWER PRICES campaign that pretends you’re being done by a favor by being offered tickets that start at $11. All things considered, eleven dollars for a Major League Baseball game — even a lonely, rainy Mets-Pirates game — seems fair. But the implication in those ads is that’s $11 per ticket (plus service charges and handing fees if you order via phone or Web) for what we, the Mets, consider the worst of our inventory: weeknight games against the lamest team we could find. Implicit in the deal, also, is you will sit as far from the action as we can put you, unless we recognize the folly of our overall pricing scheme and realize it’s kind of silly to isolate you up there.

In which case, come on down.

Value…interesting concept at Citi Field. If, for some reason, you envisioned September 13-16 against the Pirates as the series for you, and you decided this was the series when you’d like to break out of the de facto upper deck, what were your straight-up options? Put aside StubHub and take the Mets up on their BSLP offer. What else could you buy for this series that wasn’t the left and right field wings of Promenade? According to the ceaselessly fascinating Seating & Pricing guide on mets.com, the next least expensive seats are $15, Promenade Infield. There are some good views up there (just as there are in Promenade not Infield), but let’s say we’re being aspirational. This is the Pirates, we should be able to do better, right?

Next up is Pepsi Porch, a singular section of upper-level outfield bleachers with an intriguing perspective, where tickets for Mets-Pirates start at $24. Start? You mean there’s an end point? Indeed, there’s Pepsi Porch Gold, for $36. Those are for the first two rows of Pepsi Porch. So for twelve dollars more than Row 3, you get to sit in…Row 2. When the Brewers are here in two weeks — a Bronze set (which you have to have to come up with these prices) — the Row 3/Row 2 disparity will grow to sixteen bucks: $32 vs. $48.

Think about that: The Mets want you to sit in the outfield for a game against the Brewers for as much as $48 plus fees and charges. That’s per person. The same dynamic holds in Left Field Landing and Left Field Landing Gold: $32 for Rows 3 and back, $48 for Rows 2 and 1.

Included with Gold versions of Pepsi Porch and Left Field Landing but not with regular Pepsi Porch and Left Field Landing: access to the Caesars Club, where you get a voucher for a free…check that, you just get to come in and buy stuff if you want something.

The Mets are very big on Gold and, for that matter, Platinum, even if the night in question is framed as Bronze. They figured that by casting their lower rows on a given level in a more precious metal, they could ask for more paper. The Caesars Club seats, outside the airport lounge for which the Excelsior level is commonly known, can be pretty nice. How nice? Mets-Brewers in Caesars Club Bronze will run you $80 per ticket plus fees and charges. But if you wanted to sit in the first two rows, that would jump you to $96. For the Value-able Pirates series, Row 2 is a mere $72…a $12 step-up from Row 3.

Not included with any of these seats: a deep-tissue shoulder massage.

I could go on with this until we’re well into triple-digits, but you get the idea. And you see why there are so many empty seats at Citi Field for Mets-Pirates games and Mets-Brewers games and, for that matter, Mets-Phillies games like those Gold games played this past weekend. I was fortunate to come into a very nice ticket on Sunday. My Sunday ticket had no price listed on it, and I was very grateful to have it and use it, no questions asked. Curiosity, however, drove me to examine the Seating & Pricing chart to see what that ticket would have gone for had it been sold through standard channels.

It was conceived as a $204 ticket. A $204 ticket for one baseball game. The Mets created a pricing structure built on the idea that a very good ticket — not the absolute best in their portfolio, but a definite no-complaints seat — should or could fetch $204. Since most people go to games with other people, the idea was at least $408 would be spent for two tickets in this section. If it was a family of four that wanted four very nice seats, it would become $816.

For one baseball game. That was the thinking.

As Sunday’s funereal procession of Met outs ensued, I partook in a bit of getting up and walking around — Citi Field’s designed for that — and when I came back to my section, it didn’t seem to matter where I sat. There were, for the Gold game against our division rivals, plenty of empty seats. I plopped myself down at one point in a seat a row or two behind where my theoretical $204 seat sat. It was conceived with an asking price of $174. Nobody came along and told me I was sitting in his or her seat. It was unoccupied before I got there because it was unoccupied all day.

A little rain came toward the end of Sunday’s game. Sure would be nice to get out of it. Fortunately, the last several rows of my section were covered. I went back there, found an entire row of $144 seats that weren’t being used and waited out the inevitable final strikes from Roy Oswalt. The Mets were all wet, but I stayed dry.

$204…$174…$144…you don’t have to pay that to go to a Mets game, obviously, but the Mets thought somebody would. I’m sure somebody somewhere did. I’m sure even in this economy there are companies that gauged such seats as an investment or legitimate business expense. I’m sure there are individuals who really like those seats and can swing the payments. I’m sure that now and then somebody decides to splurge for a special occasion.

Yet it’s a baseball game. It’s a Mets game, one of 81 they play at Citi Field in a given year. Sometimes it’s Platinum, sometimes it’s Value, sometimes it’s one of three shades in between. But mostly it’s ridiculous.

Absolutely ridiculous.

I’m guessing the pricing of Citi Field tickets wasn’t pulled out of some Met executive’s deepest, darkest cavity. I’m guessing there was an examination of what other entertainment options were asking and getting and a study to determine what the market would bear. I’m guessing there was some semblance of logic applied to portraying certain games as hot tickets and others as bargain specials. I’m guessing somebody saw asking substantially more for Row 2 than Row 3 as clever as opposed to gouging. I’m guessing there’s a balance sheet somewhere in somebody’s office that proves this is supposed to make sense.

It makes none to me, no more than the extended tryouts given Lucas Duda and Luis Hernandez make, to put it in baseball terms.

Y’know, I love Mets baseball enough to have watched the Mets and Pirates Monday night with only brief excursions to check in on the Jets and Ravens, the Yankees and Rays and the Nadals and Djokovics because all those headline events are secondary in my book compared to the Mets and Pirates.

I love Mets baseball enough to celebrate a 71st win because it’s more than 70.

I love Mets baseball enough to have scared Avery the Cat off the couch when I whooped it over Nick Evans driving home Ruben Tejada in the tenth inning.

I love Mets baseball enough to accept just about every gracious invitation I’ve received these past two sodden years to Citi Field and to arrange not a few outings on my own.

I love Mets baseball enough that I have plans to see the 71-73 Mets six more times this season and am honestly wondering if I should go a seventh or eighth time besides because there will be no more chances to go at all pretty soon.

Sure enough, I love Mets baseball, but even someone with as much love for what they mean to me finds the way they market their tickets hateful. It’s arrogant and mean-spirited and I don’t blame anybody for leaving thousands and thousands of their seats empty game after game. The subpar product is one thing — lousy seasons happen to even well-run organizations. But the Gold and the Silver and all of that? The slicing and dicing of our blue and orange veins in the hope our wallets will bleed green? The pretense of doing us a big favor by selling us their worst seats for a reasonable price a big four times over the final four months of the season? The idea that the lowest ticket price for this weekend’s series against the Braves is $23 (plus fees and charges) because back in February it seemed like it might be an attractive matchup and if you can attract people, the next thing you do is shake them down for as much as you can get from them?

You’re not attracting fans with this way of doing business in 2010 and you won’t do it in 2011. You’re doing the opposite. You’re repelling them. The market is not bearing your delusional pricing structure. You’re in the second year of a new stadium and nobody cares. Whatever you envisioned with World Class Citi Field — and however lovely it is in spots — has not come to be. The scare everybody felt at the prospect of being left out as if these were the early ’90s and Citi Field was going to be jam-packed Camden Yards has passed. It got you through 70-92 2009 with 3.15 million tickets sold. Whatever the final record in year two, even though it will be better than it was in year one, you’ll be nowhere near 3.15 million tickets sold. And wherever you wind up in attendance after 81 games this year, chances are you won’t see it next year.

My most basic advice? Cut it out.

Cut out the Platinum, Gold and so on crap in 2011. What you’ve got isn’t glittering. Your Value setup wherein the left and right field seats are $11 and the ones in the middle are $15? Split the difference and make them all a lucky $13 for every game next year. Make your so-called Promenade boxes $18. Do what you want with your suites and übercushy home plate seats, but come to grips with the rest of your locations being fine and dandy but not Rockefeller & Vanderbilt and price accordingly. Price realistically. Remember that your customer, ultimately, is not some imaginary high-roller with $204 to drop at will, but the diehard Mets fan who comes out in the rain on a Monday night in September when there are objectively better things to watch on television so he or she can see his or her favorite team play and — hopefully — beat the Pirates.

Do more for that person than telling him or her that this one time, we’re gonna give you a break…but just this one time.

21 comments to Move On Up, Come On Down

  • Jestaplero

    Consider me one of the repelled. I used to go all the time, but I find the prices so offensive I am boycotting. I only go if someone gives me a free ticket.

  • Inside Pitcher

    Greg – Thank you.

    On behalf of all of us who come to see the team we love despite the feeling that we’re being fleeced, thank you for finding the perfect words to express our feelings.

  • Amen, brother. Aside from distance, the ridiculous pricing of seats is the primary reason I only attend 1-2 Mets games per year. The price structure is Yankee-esque; that is to say, it hurts my bottom.

  • BlackCountryMet

    Greg, absolutely right. When I came over in 2009 I had one good seat(Caesars Club) and one average seat(next level up) These came to approx $200 for September games midweek against the Braves!! I had a real hard time convincing my mate(not particularly a baseball fan) to fork out. Whilst there I checked what a season ticket, in a seat I would like to sit in would cost….$9000. A season ticket in a seat I could PUT up with sitting in….$5000. My soccer team in England(West Brom, sometimes in Prem League,sometimes the one below) play between 19 & 23 home league games and the most expesive season ticket costs $740. Even my mates Man utd s/t is on $1300. I do think that the Mets charge some ridiculous prices for “run of the mill games” and consequently probably price die hard fans from watching them more often

  • I think you’re right in the problem is less Mets and more entertainment/NY/etc, but also right that the Mets don’t have a leg to stand on at the moment to get away with it.

    With the exception of the club access, btw, you’re insane if you buy the “Gold”. I got comped tickets to LFL two weeks ago (actually decent seats, row 4, i enjoyed it) but there was _no_ problem ‘missing’ row 4 and walking to row 1. oops. I just upgraded! (obviously, doesn’t apply on the field level due to the people whose job it is to stand in the way. That’s what they do, simply stand in the aisles in your way.)

    But I don’t want them to split the difference. For one, they’re not going to do it on the promenade because it’d raise their lowest priced ticket which is still less than 2008 Shea. (Also, they _should’ve_ charged differently at Shea. UR section 4 versus section 34? worth it.) And on a splurge day (or a september where everythings cheaper on stubhub) I could grab a ‘bronze’ ceaser’s club or a backrow Pepsi Porch and enjoy it, that extra bump to make the level evenly priced would hurt. And row 2 of left field landing is easily worth twice as much as row 10. I do hope they address the prices further next year, but we’ll see I guess.

    Also, the Mets (supposedly, this was a Francesa interview after all) caught flak from the season ticket holders (the ones that actually commit to giving them money for this team, so they better appease them!) for lowering prices midseason last year, so they pledged not to do so this year.

    The Mets need to do more promotions. at Shea there was always a ton of this. the LIRR ticket discount, the Wendy’s 2-1 deal, etc. I wonder if that going away was a factor of the economy or the Mets just choosing to do away with it.

  • Dak442

    If the Wilpons haven’t learned yet, they will soon: it’s a lot easier and cheaper to watch the games at home. Paying over $50 to sit in the outfield? Seriously? A $200 day for my (3-person) family, BEFORE we start with the food and beer, and home plate is a mile away? No thanks.

    The pricing structure is terrible, and the prices overall are a ripoff. I haven’t bought a ticket yet this year and don’t plan to. I still go to a fair amount of games via freebies through work, but I also used to buy 10 or so. Not at these prices. I’d happily pay $50 a ticket for a great field box seat. I will not pay that for jazzed-up bleachers.

    People always say “Oh, Broadway tickets are $150 now.” Yes, but most people go to one show a year, and half of them (if not more) are tourists and this is their big vacation for the year. The core baseball consumer is a hardcore fan who goes to 10 or more games a year. You can’t rely on one-timers and tourists. Besides, there’s like 800 seats in a theater!

    • Movies, particularly if you want IMAX/3D are approach $15 too. everythings getting more expensive.

      But actually, I disagree about the one-timers thing. I think you can and do ‘rely’ on those. There are a ton of casual Mets/baseball/NY fans that can and do go to 1 or 2 games a year. Winning gets more of them. You’re always going to profit off of diehards. I went to 15 or so games this year. but getting that casual fan to pay more attention, watch more games, and maybe head out to a game is how you sell out. Look at the Phillies. Are there more die-hard phillies fans now? no, but the Phillies have become talked about and interesting, so those casual fans come out. the Eagles fans come out.

      • Dak442

        I think that would make for a fascinating study – the percentages of attendees who go to one game a year, vs 5, vs 10, vs more. Say you make a case that there are maybe a million people who go to one game a year. That leaves 2MM tickets sold to repeat customers. And I think those repeat customers are buying fewer tickets than they did in the past, due to the prices.

  • I’ve been screaming about the price tier for a couple of years. In order to have that kind of ticket price escalation you have to put a quality product on the field. It’s kind of hard not to have your blood presure go to 200 when you take your family to a game and you know for the price your paying you could’ve have spent the weekend at the beach, then to top it off you see Oliver Perez cliping his nails in the bullpen and Luis Castillo on the bench with his cap cocked to the side and spitting sunflower seeds.

  • Obviously I am in complete agreeance with this. I do think it will take one more year before they come to their senses and lower ticket prices – and I mean LOWER, not just shuffle games from Silver to Bronze and then pretend they lowered ticket prices.

  • Tom

    Great piece. I moved down to Atlanta back in April… What a huge difference. I bought tickets to Home Game 1 of the NLDS (if the Braves get in obviously), Field level just past the visitor dugout, Row 10, for $40. That’s the same price as they are regular season…

    The Mets can charge more, but if their prices were more in line with Philadelphia, they might have a lot more bodies in the ballpark. And don’t price all Field Level tickets to include Club Access. That’s the real pricing issue.

  • Andee

    It’s easy to see that they envisioned Citi as a playground for the wealthy, like the new Yankee Stadium. But rich people want to be associated with the smell of a winner, and the Yankees are such a license to print money that they can far, far outspend their mistakes and deliver that winner year after year. The Mets can make noises that they can spend just as freely, but we know they can’t. If they could, Oliver Perez would be clipping his nails sitting on his bed in Culiacan instead of just sitting there in the bullpen like a bag full of old kitty litter, stinking of failure.

    How can you be a Brooklyn Dodgers fan of old, and only want rich Manhattanites sitting in your seats? Would Jackie Robinson approve?

  • LarryDC

    I was just starting to feel bad that I’m going to go two full seasons without getting my first taste of CF. Now I’m feeling better.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    Sorry to learn that you too are not among the elite that can splurge a few hundred dollars just on tickets alone without giving it a second thought.

    As you know, after the euphoria of seeing the park for the first time wore off, we really didn’t enjoy ourselves and not because of the poor performance of the players on the field. We felt “second class” as you had once put it.

    Even if the Mets were winning, the ticket prices are an insult and the affordable ones just as insulting since if we sat in the same seats we did in July, a few nights back we would not have seen Duda dudah an easy fly ball in left.

    And don’t forget six dollars for an itsy bitsy cup of Itsy Bitsy ice cream brought right to your seat by a “hospitality assistant”, not just an ordinary food vendor. That’s the biggest insult of them all – making us pay through our noses while thinking we’re so simple minded that the words “hospitality assistant” appearing on on the badges would make us feel more special even though we can’t enter the park through the entrances named after players and there are less escalators for us poorer folks to use to make it all the way to the upper promenade.

    And why doesn’t Mr. Met ever come up there to say hi to the kiddies? Don’t they count as much as those with the wealthy parents?

    The Wilpons probably feel there are enough fools who will be parted with their money and hopefully they’ll soon learn they are the fools.

  • [...] might have missed it with all of the off-field stuff going on yesterday, but Greg Prince wrote a brilliant piece about the frustrations of the Mets ticket pricing scheme at Faith & Fear in [...]

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  • Greg, I’m so far behind in my good reading that I already know the final totals for wins and attendance that you looked at as being 2 weeks away.

    But I’m glad you wrote how crazy the ticket pricing chart is. The Yankee games I can see gauging the buyers because Yankee fans deserved to be gauged.

    I want to throw one word out there, courtesy of my father. “obnoxious”. That’s the word he’s used every time he’s tried to look at the seating/pricing chart to find a game to go to with my mother or with friends since Citi Field opened. Now that I think of it, I don’t know if he’s describing the process or the prices or both. He still has only been to games there courtesy of me.

  • [...] I do know who should handle their advertising. Never mind that he exists only on AMC. Judging by actual attendance at Citi Field, most Mets fans have come to believe the Mets exist only on SNY. Never mind that he’s from 1965. [...]

  • [...] simpler, right? (We won’t get into how sections are still sliced and diced to within an inch of their lives, except to say there seem to be a few less delineations within the [...]