One can’t help but wonder, these days, whether the things people have the gall to complain about – for example, credits cards taking too long to process – would have been quite so contentious in a different time; before technology made everything instantaneous and before twitter allowed bloggers to exchange projections so quickly that by the time the season began, fans already knew how it was going to end.
With the Mets, many of the problems currently being incessantly grumbled about do, in fact, deserve to be discussed, and ultimately denounced: Fred Wilpon being named head of the MLB finance committee, for example, seems a pretty good indication that Rob Manfred will take the same tack as his predecessor when it comes to monitoring the Wilpons’ financial abilities. Similarly, the Mets recent announcement that ticket sales project to increase by 19% seems to be less truth and more like equal parts exaggeration, attempt to avoid a lawsuit, and naïve self-deceit, because despite certain well-known promises, the payroll does not seem to be rising with the numbers of fans in the seats.
However, at a certain point, complaining becomes more of a chore than enduring the thing you’re complaining about. For me, that point, or at least a point that illustrates my point, came in 1982.
1982, devoid of context besides what the Mets did that year, really does not stand out. The Mets entered the season after a strike-shortened 1981 in which they’d gone a combined 41-62. They started off 27-21, before going 38-76 the rest of the way, including a 14 game losing streak from August 17th – 31st.
Fans had a lot to complain about in 1982: George Foster, the big new acquisition who was going to take the NL East by storm, hit 13 home runs. Dave Kingman batted .204. The highest OPS of a starter was John Stearns’ .764 – and he only played 98 games. It was, to be sure, not a good year. But there was one thing that no one complained about: Diamond Vision.
Diamond Vision, the high definition, for the time, video scoreboard, debuted in 1982, and although unimpressive compared to today’s video boards, 1982 Mets fans were satisfied: attendance increased by almost 620,000, albeit from an all-time low. The team on the field was no good, but Diamond Vision made it more interesting to watch. Which brings us back to today.
Despite a plethora of mostly-deserved grumbling directed at the Wilpons for spending an estimated $8 million on a new scoreboard without upgrading at shortstop (although, as we’ve previously covered, the free-agent shortstop market was nowhere near as deep as the trade market, suggesting that the lack of a replacement for Wilmer Flores is more due to an unwillingness to part with prospects), I find it hard to believe (although around the Mets – I can’t stress this part enough – you just never know), that the $8 million spent on upgrading the scoreboard and facing of the second level in the outfield – which I, for one, fully support – is $8 million removed from the player spending budget. The Wilpons have plenty of cash, and if you want to complain that they’re not spending enough of it on players, by all means be my guest. But please, recognize that the money spent on the scoreboard was not the last precious pennies in the Wilpons’ now empty bank vault. The Wilpons have plenty of money to spend: spending on a scoreboard and declining to spend on players are completely unrelated. There’s more where that came from: it’s just a matter of whether they ever decide to spend it.
So complain about thriftiness all you want. Bash the Wilpons for their shifty finances with my most sincere blessing. But I think it’s plain to see that some things just don’t need to be complained about, and a brand new scoreboard is one of them.