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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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300,000 Not So Strong

The Mets’ 2011 promotional schedule seeped out quietly last Saturday morning, its highlights embedded in a press release. Given that I look forward to knowing what swag the Mets will be introducing into the Metsopotamian ecosystem, I’d prefer a midweek prime time press conference live from the East Room of the White House and expect it covered on every network. Still, as far as I’m concerned, anytime is a good time to announce the coming of Magnetic Schedule Day, Lunch Box Day, Build-A-Bear Workshop Day and other days devoted to the distribution of Mets goodies.

Except the Mets aren’t having Magnetic Schedule Day, Lunch Box Day and Build-A-Bear Workshop Day…in fact, they’re cutting back on the goodies in general.

Thankfully, Collector’s Cup Night remains in place.

It took the Mets longer than I’d like to say what they’d be giving away and when we could potentially sync it to our ticket plans. Not their ticket plans, but ours. The 5-, 11- and 17-Game Flex Packs may offer flexual healing to some (each includes a bonus game), but others just want a series of what Randy at The Apple invented last month: the 1-Game Flex Pack. The Mets didn’t announce until the Grapefruit League schedule was underway that on March 14 you could buy one ticket to one game.

And that they’d be giving away in the course of the season MORE THAN 300,000 ITEMS!

You heard right…MORE THAN 300,000 ITEMS!

The 2011 Mets: Quantity, If Not Quality.

But not so fast there with the quantity, because even though the Mets’ release emphasized the giving away of MORE THAN 300,000 ITEMS! the truth is that’s a big comedown from the very recent past of 2010 and 2009, when there were nine more promotional dates apiece, thus more promotional items handed out (or sitting in boxes awaiting a loving Mets fan home). Last year’s release touted MORE THAN 400,000 ITEMS! In 2008, in a different stadium, it was MORE THAN 500,000 ITEMS!

I have to confess I hadn’t before noticed the Mets counted everything they were giving away. Then again, before this spring, there weren’t far bigger numbers being thrown around attached to stories regarding loans and lawsuits. You probably don’t notice notations about total swaggage if stories aren’t appearing every day questioning your team’s ability to remain a viable big-market entity.

Yet you look at this promotional schedule and you can’t help but wonder if the Mets are heading if not geographically but figuratively to Pittsburgh…though that might not be fair.

The Pirates give out much better stuff. So will most every team whose Web site I checked. However many hundreds of thousands of pieces will be moving doesn’t seem to be an issue for those clubs.

The 2011 Mets: Like Nobody Else.

What worries me as a fan of the New York Mets as an institution is not that they’ve scheduled far fewer giveaway dates (pending in-season additions, a couple of which usually surface) but that far fewer giveaways indicates fewer sponsors are dying to get in on the action of promoting the Mets. Not that visiting Citi Field isn’t like living inside a commercial already, but we’ve come to accept that there’s no such thing as “Helmet Day” per se anymore, that these babies are sponsored, and that somebody’s footing the bill because they see it as good business.

It seems fewer companies are looking to get their feet wet with Mets giveaways this season, or dip their toes too deeply in the Mets’ troubled waters, contaminated as their image might be by the circling financial sharks. And if such giveaway merchandise isn’t sponsored, it won’t be given away nor have a day to call its own.

The following brands were title sponsors to promotional dates in 2010 and will be again in 2011:

Budweiser, Caesars, Chevrolet, Citi, Delta, Dunkin’, Geico, Gold’s, Harrah’s, Lincoln, Nathan’s, Premio.

The following brands were title sponsors to promotional dates in 2010, but — according to the promotional schedule on mets.com — won’t be in 2011:

Build-A-Bear, EmblemHealth, Goya, HealthPlus, Natural Balance, Pepsi, Subway, Toyota, United Healthcare, Verizon.

(Goya, HealthPlus and Natural Balance each sponsored events in 2010; the others sponsored merchandise.)

Only one promotional sponsor listed for 2011, Parts Authority, wasn’t a promotional sponsor in 2010. That represents, as of now, a net loss of nine promotional sponsors since last season.

Several of those companies not plastering logos on items remain Mets sponsors for the presumable long haul. There’s still a Pepsi Porch. There is still, as far as I know, a Verizon Studio. I haven’t heard that there won’t be a Subway sign off which Daniel Murphy can scrape a questionable home run. Citi Field will likely still feel like the inside of a commercial. But the promotional schedule’s paucity (“300,000” notwithstanding) indicates a palpable inching away from the Mets in some sense. And other than Parts Authority, nobody new has stepped up to fill the giveaway void.

Is it really a void, though? Will we be, if you’ll excuse the laughable expression, suffering because we’ll have fewer opportunities to purchase tickets that will entitle us to a thing with a Mets — and a sponsor — logo? I don’t think I’ve ever had my ticket scanned at Citi Field and felt deprived because no giveaway was scheduled that day (being Fan No. 25,001 is a different matter). I’d rather there be a handful of really good ones than a load of “whatever” any year.

Are we getting closer to that ideal? Let’s take a look.

In 2010, the following was given out, one to a customer, generally to the first 25,000 customers, and the rough equivalent of the same will be given out again in 2011:

• An Opening Day premium
• A ski cap
• A plastic cup
• A gift card for use at a coffee & donuts chain
• A sports bag
• A beach towel
• Two caps
• A player bobblehead
• A drawstring bag
• A koozie (like a sweater for your beer container)
• A t-shirt

Some of the names of the items — “winter hat” has replaced “ski cap” — have changed. No doubt colors, designs and themes are up for grabs, too. Last year there was a Mets Hall of Fame cap; this year there is no Hall of Fame Day, but there is a “Cap and Hot Dog Eating Contest,” which sounds like a lot to digest (do you have to eat your cap before or after downing your frank?) — but we’ll assume two caps will be given away. There’s no Home Run Apple Bank this Opening Day, but there will be a Mr. Met bobblehead, so the “wow!” factor is a welcome wash. A Jose Reyes banner (after the trading deadline, FYI) replaces the Johan Santana koozie as accompaniment to Fiesta Latina.

New for 2011 is a tote bag, previously a hardy perennial, back after a one-year hiatus.

Gone from 2010? No magnetic schedule for the first time since 1996; no scarf; no water bottle; no travel mug; no Build-A-Bear; no blanket, no umbrella…and no Wright Foam Finger, though that was an All-Star add-on to get us all to vote our third baseman onto the National League squad.

As far as sponsored events — besides the Hall of Fame commencing a new gap between inductions — there is no Senior Stroll on the schedule and no Hispanic Heritage Night (also, no Pepsi Refresh Night, though that was a late addition last year). Bark in the Park will be back, but without a pet food sponsor.

Pyrotechnics Night, an unsponsored blast in 2010, is not scheduled to explode in 2011. It’s not listed, at any rate.

Cap Trade, a Subway Series tradition, returns, as does the companion ritual of fans making up addresses and phone numbers in order to nab one of the 5,000 Mets caps Chevy will trade you in exchange for your contact information (along with, theoretically, an old cap, but they’re not sticklers about that part). I’ve always assumed the idealized spirit of Cap Trade taking place when the Mets play their crosstown rivals imagines people who don’t usually attend Mets games showing up to Shea/Citi and becoming so moved by the occasion and atmosphere that they will switch allegiances on the spot. “Take this horrid piece of junk with its loathsome NY and give me that shiny new number with the splendid NY on it!”

Great symbolism. Betting it doesn’t actually happen.

My 2011 takeaway on the substance of the 2011 giveaways:

• I look forward to Ike Davis Bobblehead Night in July and sincerely hope Ike cuts a less bland ceramic figure than Jason Bay did last July.

• It’s great they’re enhancing Opening Day with Mr. Met. Opening Day would be plenty on its own.

• I’m sorry they’re skipping the Hall this year. It took so long to revive, and there are dozens of worthy candidates populating Ultimate Mets Database just clamoring for induction.

• My fridge will miss the magnetic schedule. 2010 still graces its side and I’d like it to shift into the Alderson/Collins Era, lest Jerry Manuel wander into my kitchen and insert Mike Hessman for defense.

The rest of the reduced slate could be swell or it could be lousy. When the Mets make the images available, I might be tempted to buy a ticket I wasn’t otherwise planning on purchasing. For example, if the towel features a Sistine Chapel-like rendering of the ball going through Buckner’s legs, I’m totally there on Towel Night. At the moment, all I see is the word “Towel” on a night the Mets are playing the Phillies. I hope the subliminal message doesn’t concerning throwing in the towel at the mere sight of Cliff Lee.

That there’s less slated than in past years bothers me from a State of the Franchise perspective more than a personal enrichment view. Last year’s blue and orange scarf will survive another windy April just fine, thank you. They can keep their Collector’s Cups and Cap Eating Contest. Give me a 1986 tribute (if not on the scale of what they did in 2006, which was only five years ago, then at least a little something with heart). Give me a salute to an icon along the lines of what the Cardinals are doing for Red Schoendienst and Stan Musial, the way the Dodgers are doing something for Fernando Valenzuela, the way the Giants are celebrating Willie Mays, the way the Royals are acknowledging Buck O’Neil and Willie Wilson…the way the ever-imaginitive Athletics are having not just Rickey Henderson Bobblehead Day but MC Hammer Bobblehead Day.

U can’t touch that. But U can try.

Props to the Mets for rolling out a raft of town and village nights and health awareness days and ethnic heritage nights and focused-interest theme dates every year. The Mets deserve credit for being aggressively community-minded and for supporting dozens of fine causes annually. Yay, as ever, to the Mr. Met Dash. Yay, even more, to 81 baseball games a year and winning as many of those as possible.

But would it kill them to produce a John Milner bobblehead? It’s not like the A’s are the only ones who had a Hammer.

Do a few fun and clever giveaways and keep your…I won’t call it crap, because I’d gladly accept it, but don’t try to impress me with sheer volume — or making less sheer volume sound like more sheer volume than it really is.

I’d probably press the point further, but I actually feel a little guilty asking the Mets to go the extra 90 feet for me, the customer, considering the trouble ownership is trying to ward off. When Daddy’s laid off at the plant on December 16, you don’t hand him your Christmas list the minute he arrives home, y’know? The Mets aren’t Daddy and we’re not the kids, but I do worry for their well-being. I’d like to think they’re doing their best by us given the circumstances.

That I find myself thinking of the big-market, large-payroll Mets who play in a still fresh ballpark carved by caste in these terms saddens me quite a bit. They are in a big market and they do have a large payroll and I don’t expect the Acela Club windows to be boarded up, but that feels like no more than a matter of keeping up appearances. I didn’t like the sense they looked down their nose on me as a non-fancy customer, but it never occurred to me they would lack the resources to match their high-end attitude. It makes me want to tell them, “T-shirt night? You don’t have to give ME a t-shirt. I have plenty of t-shirts. Can I bring YOU a t-shirt? I’ve got a VAUGHN 42 around here somewhere I’m not using…”

The 2011 Mets:
Maybe It’s Not That Dire Yet.

Or maybe it is.

Jason and I look in-depth at how the Mets can burnish their 50-year legacy in the just-released 2011 Amazin’ Avenue Annual. That’s just one of about 50 reasons to read the damn thing. Order it here. The 2011 Maple Street Press Mets Annual also includes contributions from each of us and a slew of really knowledgeable Mets writers. Order that one here. Both should be available at retail in the New York area as well, but don’t put off getting a copy of each. They are incredibly well worth your time and money.

 

18 comments to 300,000 Not So Strong

  • Florida Met Fan Rich

    How embarressing will it be if the Mets don’t draw enough people to these games and the people giving away this “stuff” have to take it back home with them!…

    Maybe they should have given something away for every home game to the fist 3,703.7 people! Then they really could have gotten some milage out of the “300,000 giveaways”, and the sponsors would not have to take it back home with them!

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    Excellent!

    Thanks so much for looking outside the box and in-between the lines regarding a possible connection between less promotional days and many a business not willing to make a financial investment in the form of a giveaway to promote their own product. No doubt the cost to manufacture 25,000 of these promotional items is a drop in the bucket for major corporations like Toyota and Pepsi but it is a sign of how the business community perceives not only another big drop at the turnstiles but also a smaller television and radio audience catching the promotional spots leading up to the event.

    I suspected something along these lines when seeing that a Mr. Met Bobble-head doll was to be given out on opening day. When in the last 25 years did an OPENING DAY require a promotional item to induce ticket sales?

    The Wilpons did this to themselves, not because of the Madoff situation or the performance of the players in the field but due to what you so accurately pointed out as them looking down their noses at us being non-fancy customers. This explains why many of us loyal to the orange and blue will still have nothing to do with franchise as long as it’s owned by the Wilpons.

    It’s not sour grapes for one would be naive to believe that owners of most all sports franchises are concerned about their fans beyond what they can get out of them, but this total disregard, if nothing else, is an example of poor business sense for one doesn’t cut-off the lifeline that feeds them by making the business transaction all one-sided.

    Wonder if there will be any Mr.Met bobble-head dolls left over from the 25,000 that will be on hand.

    • Though it’s counterintuitive, most teams give something away on Opening Day. Perhaps the sponsors know there’ll be a sellout that day so it will be worth their investment, or perhaps it’s honest-to-goodness goodwill toward their fans on the parts of the clubs. The Mets have handed out trinkets on and off for years for Game 1, but they raised the stakes last year with the Home Run Apple bank, which was (and is) very nice.

      Even with the proliferation of “packs,” OD tix are sold on an individual basis, just less of them traditionally (in a tradition that dates to around 1998). I’m sure it will be a full house on April 8. One hopes for company starting April 9.

  • nestornajwa

    Given the state of the Mets and the NFL labor dispute, only seven weeks into 2011, it’s a lock that the final great sports moment of the year was the Jets beating the Patriots.

  • Florida Met Fan Rich

    I don’t think I have ever heard of a team having to do a give away on Opening Day!

    How sad is that and you can still buy tickets to it LIMIT 8…Thats Great!

    Excellent article and point. Do you thimk they will get 25,000? I would hate to see the Mr. Met bobblehead go unwanted!

    • Joe D.

      And how long ago was it that opening day tickets could only be purchased in a package set along with other dates?

  • Florida Met Fan Rich

    Just got back from the Mets 6 to 5 victory over the Boston Red Sox!

    The place was packed to capacity. The berm was totally full with people even sitting in foul territory!

    Over 7400 people and the park only holds 7000! I hope this is not going to be the only sell out of the year!

    LETS GO METS!!!!….Beating the Red Sox brought back memories of 1986!

  • I strongly feel that there is more to come, just not released yet. red tape? slow to sign on the dotted lines? Are they really cutting the magentic schedule out? (in 2009 it wasnt’ even on Opening Day, it was the first Sunday)

    I remember hearing about pyrotechnics day again, but where is it?

    The giveaway schedule looks mighty sparce, I find it hard to believe it’ll stay that way. I remember the promotional schedule showing up later and later every year (ticket sale dates too) and having late additions. So we’ll see again. As you mentioned, bigwigs like Pepsi haven’t sponsored anything yet. Maybe they’re bickering over price, trying to work a discount?

  • dak442

    I was surprised to hear they were giving away Mr. Met bobbleheads on Opening Day. It does seem pointless – it’s not as if people are on the fence about Opening Day and decided “Hey, a bobblehead, let’s go!”. Now I just have to arrive early enough to actually GET the premium this year – missed out on the bank (and the first two innings) last year thanks to some of New York’s Dumbest waving me off from every lot and directing me to a spot under a highway in Flushing Meadows Park.

    I bought a flex-pack last week, unwilling to chance getting single-game sale Opening Day tickets. I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the offering. I got a six-pack with some decent games, nice upper-deck seats right behind the plate, averaging about $20 per. No bullshit “service charges” or even a delivery fee! According to the promo calendar I’ll be getting Dunkin Donuts cards, though if memory serves, last time they did this it was a contrived setup where you had to buy $5 worth of stuff to get $2 free or somesuch. They’re still in a drawer somewhere.

    Second consecutive year for me without the indispensable magnetic calendar. Maybe I’ll make one.

  • Guy Kipp

    No Hall of Fame inductees this year? Since that’s not a giveaway promotion, I just cannot see the logic in discontinuing this one year after they opened the Hall of Fame exhibit in the bowels of Citi Field. Makes no sense–which, of course, means it makes perfect sense.

  • rich porricelli

    As so much has been stripped away from the “Ballpark” experience over the years, I wonder why they still give away anything at all!
    No doubt Greg can give a list of the stuff we use to get, some of which we could actually employ in our daily lives(my personal favorites are the serving trays, ski cap, and seat cushion).Really my point is that we dont go for the stuff, even if its for our kids, seems quaint and almost out of place now..Hows that for a post 9/11 mentality..
    I must close on a positive note..Last night I watched a good portion of the Mets/Tiger spring game (3/7)and did this only to listen to Ralph Kiner..I never tire of that man (or his Hank Greenberg stories). He is the last and greatest living link to our origins. As long as he is around (and Mr Met)I will feel the continuity that we all seek from an earlier-and not necessarily a better time…

  • Joe D.

    Just went on the website to see about single game purchases (figured out the password for Flex Pack buyers single ticket pre-sales was WRIGHT) and found the cheapest opening day ticket went for $41.

    Dak, you got seats behind home plate in the upper prominade for about $20.00 each? Must have been some bargain!!!

  • JerseyJack

    WoW ! The A’s are actually having a 3rd bobblehead promo. The other is for Ray Fosse !!

  • [...] seen that it’s tough for the Mets under current ownership to maintain a promotional schedule in line with that of recent years. Can’t rustle up sponsors for nicknack giveaways as readily as [...]