In continuation of part 1 of this post, I’ll list the Cons of having Reyes leave and go to the Marlins. I had to take some extra time because I wanted to see this from a ‘big picture’ perspective and consider more than just the Dollars and Cents issues focused on in the ‘Pros’ section.
1. Less butts in the seats ? - Even with all of that stuff I just said, there are certainly immediate financial implications not in favor of the Mets franchise. The loss of Reyes, added to fans’ expectations of a 70 win season are not going to bring any extra people to the games. The team has seen a significant downward trend in attendance since moving into new Citi Field for the 2009 season. The trend is skewed a bit by 2008 being the farewell to Shea Stadium season, in which their 4.04 Million attendance figure led the National League although the Mets missed the playoffs by 1 game. The next season, during which the team was ravaged by injuries and won only 70 games (lowest total since 2003), the attendance dropped to 3.16 Million (22% decrease). The portions of that decrease which are due to the team’s performance versus that caused by the more expensive ticket prices for Citi Field are nearly impossible to calculate so we’ll ignore that for now. So, here we’ve set the stage for a little display of numbers. I’ll list the total attendance and the team’s reported payroll for the last 7 years beginning in 2005. To quantify and compare the changes we’ll invent a “factor” number which is explained in the equations below. The year 2005 is relevant because it was the beginning of the most recent ascendancy of the team under GM Omar Minaya in which they saw a 12 game improvement from the prior season. For argument’s sake we’ll assume every 1 person counted in attendance equals $100. It is most likely more, but being that attendance means ‘tickets sold’ and not people who are present, its good enough… and besides that, its a nice round number. Here we go:
Year: Attendance($100)/Payroll in $ = “Factor”
2005: 2.829M($100)/$101.3M = 2.79
2006: 3.379M($100)/$101.1M = 3.34
2007: 3.854M($100)/$115.2M = 3.34
2008: 4.042M($100)/$137.8M = 2.93
2009: 3.168M($100)/$149.4M = 2.12
2010: 2.559M($100)/$134.4M = 1.90
2011: 2.352M($100)/$118.8M = 1.99
As you can see, the team has been lowering its payroll over the last 2 seasons as a survival tactic. There are numerous factors involved in this, but none are more glaring as the team’s performance during this team. During 2006 and 2007, the team was adding salary while remaining competitive. The combined effect of this led to a “factor” of 3.34 between the 2 variables in each sason. The 2008 team was competitive as well, but the 20% increase in payroll from ’07 to ’08 was well ahead of the merely 5% increase in attendance. 2009 obviously was a backward step in both areas (8% increase in payroll; 21% decrease in attendance). In comparison, the Phillies have gone from a 2.79 “factor” in 2005, to a 3.49 in 2008. They’ve added payroll with Free Agent acquisitions in the past 3 years, so they’re “factor” has been lowered to 3.18, then 2.66 and apparently 2.12 this past season. The lower “factor”, although indicative of the team’s direction, is not as big a factor for the Phillies mainly because they won the NL East 5 consecutive years and have a guaranteed attendance of 3.5M no matter what happens in 2012.
The conclusion that can be made from this is that the fans will surely come out to see a winning product. To maintain that product, payroll will usually increase as players get raises and new talent is brought in to replenish the team. As long as the attendance dollars keep rolling in, a team can keep its fanbase satisfied. When there is uncertainty, the fans don’t show up, and if the expenses get too close to income … Time to Rebuild ! So now we will have to wait and see what kind of impact Reyes’ departure has on attendance. The 2012 Mets payroll is estimated to be $95 Million. In order to see even a slight increase in this “factor” number I invented, the attendance will have to be at least 1.9 Million. 6 teams in the NL drew below 2.2 Million in 2011. so its a possibility that it may be less, but due to the size of the New York market it would not seem likely. The last time attendance was below 2 Million was in 1997, but I think just the fact that this discussion is taking place shows how bleak the Mets’ financial position is at the moment.