Is there any better promotion for Mets baseball than the news that the Mets have invited Brandon Allen to Spring Training ?
Sorry, too easy. I’ll try to maintain a clean slate for Brandon Allen, the Quadruple-A first baseman brought into supplement the Mets’ existing “glut ” at that position. Once upon a time it was easy to dismiss an agate-type transaction involving a Robert Allen who had an additional name up his UCL-less sleeve and that heretofore underknown R.A.  worked out quite O.K.
By midseason, we might require no further enticement to come on out to Citi Field than the knowledge that 2014 Brandon Allen is making 2013 Chris Davis look like, well, 2013 Ike Davis. On the off chance that Allen, Miguel Socolovich , Joel Carreno  and Anthony Seratelli  don’t bust out of St. Lucie limbo and into stardom, however, there will be other reasons (besides stubbornly ingrained habit) to make the trip to Flushing this year.
Will one of those reasons be that the Mets sign somebody who doesn’t require a grudging benefit of the doubt ? Somebody who, if he succeeds, it won’t be a surprise? Somebody who, if he disappoints, will generate a different kind of dismay than that to which we’ve become accustomed (“can you believe the Mets spent THAT much on THIS guy?”). Sterling Mets hasn’t dug deep for years and it’s reported as premature fact  that they won’t again — never mind whether they’re actually able  to secure the services of legitimate major league talent — but if we knew how these things are going to unfold out this far in advance, we wouldn’t be counting the days until Nats @ Mets, March 31.
The count, by the way, is down to 129.
Given the prevailing mopey state of player procurement, I doubt there’s much mood to get in on the ground floor of the season that’s a mere eighteen weeks from lurking right around the corner, but in case you’re getting antsy and you don’t mind not knowing who’s going to play many of the skill positions, the Mets have been kind enough to clue us into their 2014 promotional schedule  well ahead of 2014. It’s a welcome change from the tradition of recent winters when they waited interminably to tease us with the exact date, time and location for another go at Collector’s Cup Night. Same for single-game ticket sales , which have been ongoing by specially distributed code for a few days already and will be open to all comers as of Saturday. I don’t know if this is wholly the influence of Lou DePaoli , the guy who came from Pittsburgh to take over (more or less) the Dave Howard role in the front office, or just a sense on the part of decision-makers that if all they have to sell is a promise-free Mets experience, the earlier the selling begins, the better.
Either way, it’s nice to learn of some of what’s awaiting the first 15- or 20,000 hands when they pass through Citi scanners on specially marked Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the days when the club generally charges the most for admission (whereas the Mets seem rather adamant  that you won’t be getting any additional bang for your dynamically priced weekday buck).
First off, no Collector’s Cup Night is listed. Huzzah! The conception of Collector’s Cup Night in 2010  was a fraud because a cup with a design shouldn’t be put on a pedestal as if it’s a special event. A cup with a design should be available 81 times a year at every concession stand in the house. Simply offer a large fountain beverage in an attractive vessel and charge an extra dollar or so for the keepsake. That’s how it was done at Shea.
Speaking of the dearly departed, I shook with delight when I saw “Shea Stadium 50th Anniversary Canvas Print” as the item in the spotlight for April 19. Now that you put on a pedestal. Given ownership’s elimination of Shea Stadium itself before we could wish it a happy 45th birthday, I’ll take the Canvas Print version of Shea as a belated historical victory for preservation of memories if not Mezzanines. And if it’s hard to believe that six years after the Wilpons pretended nobody would miss Shea they’d try to amp up attendance at its successor facility by giving away a reminder of what was replaced, what’s M. Donald Grant thinking down where he resides? Dastardly Don signed off on the trade of Nolan Ryan to California in December of 1971, yet Nolan will reappear in a Mets uniform, albeit in bobblehead form, come May 10 vs. Philadelphia
Nolan Ryan struck out 15 Phillies in 1970 when he was 23. Grant transformed him into an Angel before he turned 25. Bobblehead Ryan will be presented as a 22-year-old 1969 Met, well before it seemed like a swell idea to trade him (and three others) for Jim Fregosi (and nobody else). If we’re adjusting past misjudgments to sell current tickets, we might as well polish them to a high-gloss sheen.
As long as we’re bobbling creatively, if we can have a 1969 Nolan Ryan, we can have a 1973 Willie Mays. The Giants are in the first weekend of August, so hell, let’s have the real Willie Mays join us. He’s Willie Mays. He was New York’s in the ’50s, the New York Mets’ in the ’70s and never without a good word for what the city means to him still . He was given a Night in the Polo Grounds in 1963 and a Night at Shea Stadium in 1973. Citi Field is overdue to Say Hey.
Mr. Met, who’s never been traded and could never be torn down, will star on a Canvas Print all his own on August 30. David Wright gets a similar treatment on May 24, one day before Banner Day 2.3. There’ll be a Met cereal bowl for 15,000 on July 6; my friend Sharon asked if that means the Mets will acquire Coco Crisp — I would guess the generic equivalent is more likely. And speaking of generic equivalents, three Player Poster dates are penciled in. Which players? The schedule doesn’t say. With Matt Harvey shelved, David Wright canvassed and little else certain, can you blame the schedule for being so diffident?
Every Friday but one will offer a t-shirt. I don’t suppose the shirts will vary in size. The Mets’ customers do, don’t we? Every Sunday will conclude with a Mr. Met Dash. There will be 2014 magnetic schedules for all on Opening Day and 2015 magnetic schedules for all on Closing Day (excellent grace note). Fireworks Night will explode three times, either pleasing 126,000 pyrotechnic maniacs or diluting the phenomenon altogether. Four postgame concerts have been slated, though only two have been specified: Boyz II Men on August 16 and Huey Lewis & The News on July 12.
Huey, you might recall if you share my capacity for retaining minutiae, helped sell out PNC Park when the Mets were visiting in 2011  (and DePaoli was running their show). Two years later, PNC Park was selling out because the Pirates themselves were the News. Y’know what, though? I’m all for catchy distractions and neato curios to enchant us while we find ourselves between pennant races. When you don’t have a contender to sell, you sell everything else. You pour on the cereal bowls, even if they won’t be sponsored by Dairylea.
Twenty years ago at this time, coming off the sludge-covered wreckage of 1993, the Mets were preparing to instill a fan-friendly ethos in St. Lucie in the hopes of transporting it to Shea. They were encouraging autographs and tripling up on fireworks and constructing a theme park beyond the outfield fence (the short-lived Nickelodeon Extreme Baseball) and introducing the DynaMets Dash and rebooting good ol’ Mr. Met after forgetting he existed for a couple of decades. Boyz II Men was still a chart-topper in those days, so you wouldn’t have seen them performing after a Mets game, but had postgame concerts featuring amiable out-of-code acts been in vogue in 1994, you might’ve had a shot at hearing, I dunno…Stealers Wheel on the same night you watched David Segui.
The Mets turned out better than expected in 1994 though they were still stuck in the middle  with mediocrity (which was also better than expected following 1993). I don’t know what to expect in 2014. But I expect to be surprised if I haven’t wrangled a Shea Stadium 50th Anniversary Canvas Print by April 19 and a Nolan Ryan bobblehead by May 10.
UPDATE: We have a candidate to fill in one of those Player Posters! And he’s an outfielder! The Mets are reportedly  on the verge of signing Chris Young. Not that Chris Young , but this Chris Young . Good news: this Chris Young hit 32 home runs in 2007 and was an All-Star in 2010. Bad news: this Chris Young compiled a 0.0 WAR in 2013, which is more recent than both 2007 and 2010. Decent news: I’ve heard of this Chris Young. Probable news: Mets management is excited that it doesn’t have to order a whole new “Chris Young” clubhouse stall nameplate.