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Who's footing the bill? (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday November 29, 2005 11:58AM; Updated: Tuesday November 29, 2005 12:29PM
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• $20 million in additional ballpark revenue. The 2005 Mets, despite another non-playoff season with only 83 wins, posted the third-highest single-season jump in attendance in franchise history, selling about half a million more tickets last season than they did in 2004. (Feel free to subscribe some of that buzz to the halo factor created by the signing and pitching of Pedro Martinez, a terrific investment.) The Mets figure about $40 in revenue (ticket price, parking and concessions) for every ticket sold. That's an extra $20 million they didn't have from what was generated in 2004.

It gets better for the Mets. They anticipate selling at least three million tickets in 2006 -- another $8 million jump in revenue. And if you don't think New York is the capital of the baseball world, chew on this: next year the Yankees and Mets will draw more than three million fans in the same season and possibly draw a combined seven million fans. Even last season, a year in which neither team won a playoff series, the city of New York alone outdrew the entire National League in 1952, part of the so-called Golden Era of baseball, and the entire sport in 1934. These are the good old days, folks. The game never has been better.

"The biggest variable has always been ballpark revenue," Mets executive vice president David Howard said. "And the key element to increasing your season ticket base is access to postseason tickets. It's what drove sellouts for the Knicks and Rangers all those years. Yankees fans have had postseason tickets for 10 years in a row."

Now Mets fans have a legitimate reason to expect postseason games at Shea Stadium. Nothing is guaranteed, but the Mets did fill their two biggest holes -- first base and closer -- with the two best available players at those positions.

The Mets' appeal goes beyond Shea, too. Do you know the top draws on the road last year? Here's the list: 1. Red Sox. 2. Yankees. 3. Cubs. 4. Mets. Like any commissioner, Bud Selig knows that having two strong teams in New York is good for business.

• $23 million in additional MLB-distributed money from satellite radio, advanced media and coming sale proceeds from the Washington Nationals. The satellite radio money (about $2 million per team) did kick in for the 2005 season, but after payrolls were set. The Mets say they do not count their share of the Nationals profit (about $11.4 million) as operating income, but however they account for it, they can expect a nice check in the mail soon.

The Mets, even with their TV network set aside for a moment, have a good business plan in place. Delgado, Wagner, Martinez, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, David Wright and their catcher to be named all will be under their control through at least 2008, which happens to be their final season in Shea Stadium. That means the Mets should remain an interesting, competitive team in the years leading to their privately-funded ballpark, when their revenues should rise again, even with their debt service factored. And should the Mets become must-see TV, and especially if they return to the postseason, they will have even more money to spend in subsequent winters.