The following is an open proposal I just created supporting the idea of a new minor league affiliate for the New York Mets. It is also meant to be taken lightly, sort of, as I'm not even sure that would ever become reality. Then again, I hope it becomes that, or at least be seriously considered. Anyway, here it is.
The state of New Jersey is a very intriguing place for the sport of baseball. For starters, three Major League Baseball teams—the New York Mets, the New York Yankees, and the Philadelphia Phillies—each have a fraction of their fan bases coming from the Garden State. In addition, there is an abundance of minor league teams filled with players looking to either prolong their baseball careers or make the jump to the grand stage that is the MLB. Among the seven baseball teams in existence, only two have major league affiliates; the Trenton Thunder (Yankees; Double-A Eastern League) and the Lakewood BlueClaws (Phillies; Single-A Southern Atlantic League). The rest are members of independent leagues. One of those teams is the Somerset Patriots.
Since its formation in 1998 as one of the original teams in the Atlantic League, the Somerset Patriots organization has been a shining model of success both on the field and off of it. In the field of play, the Patriots have produced a copious amount of division and league championships, including back-to-back Atlantic League titles in 2008 and 2009. Off the field, they have been revered by the community at large, posting consistently high attendance figures at TD Bank Ballpark (by its sixth season, the number reached over 2 million) and making the rounds at numerous community events. With this amount of success in mind, there is no other way to reward this team than to give them an affiliation with a Major League Baseball team. The team that the Somerset Patriots should affiliate itself with is clearly obvious.
The New York Mets were formed in 1962 to fill a void left by the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants; the void being a National League team in New York. Since that time, they have amassed a large and strongly devoted fan base in Major League Baseball, in spite of the slight spurts of success they have had over the years. The core of their fan base resides in the following areas: Queens (the home base of the Mets), Long Island, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and especially most parts of New Jersey, particularly the northern end of the state where Bridgewater Township, the home of the Patriots and TD Bank Ballpark, is located. With that mind, it is fitting that the marriage between the New York Mets and the Somerset Patriots can become possible.
Here is a full list of reasons as to why this union should be:
Location: As mentioned before, a part of the Mets' core fan base resides in northern New Jersey, where Bridgewater Township is located. The team and locale will prove ideal for area fans to support both the overall team and the future Mets players.
Other teams: Also mentioned earlier, two baseball teams in New Jersey are affiliates of major league squads. One team, the Trenton Thunder, is a Yankees farm team while another, the Lakewood BlueClaws, are affiliates of the division rival Phillies. That's two of the three area MLB teams with representation in the state. Giving the Mets that sort of representation in Somerset will fill that gap.
Competition: Of course, should the Mets acquire the Patriots as a minor league affiliate, they will have to place them in a class level. One way to go, which is very preferred, is in the AA level, replacing their current affiliate in Binghamton in the Eastern League. That way, it creates a natural in-state rivalry between the Patriots and the Trenton Thunder, which means big-time attraction for baseball fans in the state. It's a win-win for both sides, regardless of the on-field result.
On-field performance: The Somerset Patriots have attained a lot of success in their short existence, winning multiple division and league titles. The Mets' current AA affiliate, the Binghamton Mets, haven't had that much to cheer about since the early days of the affiliation, where they've won two Eastern League titles in three years (1992, '94). Since then, they've managed to either miss the playoffs or have an early exit. Ditching this kind of inconsistency for a higher level of success would do wonders for the Mets organization.
All of these reasons, and so many more, will allow the Mets organization itself to turn up a profit, getting back gains that they've once lost.
As a Met fan who has spent all of his life in New Jersey, my favorite team was just a mere afterthought in comparison to the Yankees and the Phillies, whether the reasons were logical or just out of pure hatred. Outside of consistently being winners, having the Somerset Patriots affiliated with the Mets would do wonders to bring a sort of representation for the Mets to the Garden State. It would mean that Met fans here would really have something to cheer for rather than going into Trenton or Lakewood, where cheering for the home team would bring about awkward feelings just because of who they're affiliated with. In other words, it would give Mets fans such as myself something to call our own. I, for one, support this idea wholeheartedly. I believe that this could really work.