For the third season in a row, the Mets are not looking like a good team. A miserable 2010 was followed by a winter of frugality that has not inspired a lot of ticket purchasers, which is bad for the embattled owners of the team. But for the average fan, who does not often get the opportunity to sit in premium box seats in a new ballpark, the Mets’ misery is a windfall.
Care to sit directly behind home plate on Tuesday night at Citi Field, close enough to hear Jose Reyes dig his spikes into the dirt of the batter’s box? As of Monday afternoon, thousands of tickets for the game were available on StubHub, the ticket exchange Web site, including 33 directly behind home plate for $69 and service charges. Face value for those tickets is $134.
If you would prefer to sit in Metropolitan Box 121, between third base and home plate, $28 (and fees) would secure a seat there. Tickets in that area range in price from $80 to $134, according to the Mets’ Web site. In fact, if you’re not picky about where you sit or who is playing, you can get into the ballpark for as little as $3 a seat.
Generally, slow Mets ticket sales are not likely to be helped by a homestand that features two teams that, like the Mets, entered Monday in last place in their division: the Houston Astros (5-11) and the Arizona Diamondbacks (6-8). Even during a week of school vacations, these games could be the least marketable for the Mets all season. Still, it is a sign of trouble for the Mets, because the value of their product is shrinking by the game.
“Those are breathtaking drops in value,” said Marc Ganis, the president of SportsCorp, a sports marketing consultant. “That has to be alarming for the Mets. And those tickets aren’t even sold yet. That’s frightening.” Ganis said that Web sites like StubHub generally reflected the actual value of tickets on the open market. Fansnap.com, a clearinghouse that aggregates available tickets from various Web sites, offered $68 tickets to Tuesday’s game at Citi Field for $12, and had some upper-deck seats available for as little as $3.
“That has to be a scary proposition for the owner of a team,” Ganis said, “because it’s a major indicator of the future problems.” Ganis said the Mets were actually an aberration because attendance in baseball has been rising in recent years. “Bud Selig and his people have done an excellent job because the overall numbers are up, even with the Mets’ numbers dragging them down,” Ganis said.
The Mets are averaging 30,738 fans after six home dates , which places them 13th out of 30 teams. Last season, they averaged 32,401 in 79 dates, which placed them 12th. Their overall attendance in 2010, 2,559,738, reflected a 19 percent drop from the year before, when they drew 3,154,270 in Citi Field’s first season. The decrease was the largest in baseball over that period.
Not surprisingly, the Mets lost $50 million last year, and they expect to lose a significant amount again this year. An increase in ticket sales would be a much-needed boost for the Mets, who had to borrow $25 million from Major League Baseball last fall and are seeking a buyer for a portion of the team.
Unfortunately, the Mets have internally projected that their attendance will be lower this year than last year, mostly because attendance figures often reflect what happened the year before, and because there is a perception that the team will not perform better on the field.
In 2010, the Mets finished with a 79-83 record, 18 games out of first place in the National League East and 12 games back in the N.L. wild-card standings. But they had moments of promise; they were competitive in the first half of the season, going 18-8 in June, and headed into the All-Star break a game back in the wild-card race at 48-40.
That optimism quickly disappeared after a 2-9 West Coast trip, and by the end of the season, the drop in attendance was staggering. In the off-season, the Mets replaced roughly half of their roster, adding 12 new players for the modest expenditure of $10.8 million. No big stars were added, though, tempering fans’ hopes for a turnaround.
Now the team comes home to play in front of what are likely to be sparse crowds at Citi Field. Even after the Mets ended a seven-game losing streak with a 3-2 win over the Atlanta Braves on Sunday, it was only their second win in 12 games. That is close to the worst possible start for a franchise that yearned for a quick start to the season. But for fans looking for a bargain, it is an opportunity. Too bad they cannot buy their beer on StubHub as well.