In case you missed it, the Mets recently killed a plan by the Bronx Bombers to temporarily move the latter's Triple-A affiliate from Scranton-Wilkes Barre to Riverfront Stadium in Newark. The move would have taken place for one season while the Yankees completed renovations to PNC Field in Scranton. And now it won't.
Here's the prologue to the Mets' decision according to NJ.com's Jerry Izenberg:
The Yankees' current Triple-A franchise is anchored in the twin cities of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, an area in northeast Pennsylvania that has always supported baseball on some level. But the Yankees organization decided that PNC Field, the Triple-A team's home park, is in desperate need of renovation. The job will take all of 2012.
And back in New York, management came up with a magnificent public relations idea. Newark had been the bellwether of all Yankee minor league teams dating as far back as when Jacob Ruppert was paying Babe Ruth's salary across the river. Newark, through horrendous mismanagement, has seen its minor league team dissolve.
Newark has a ballpark. With that in mind, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman visited the city's Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium, which does need work. He met with Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo. Together, they hammered out an agreement that could be done for the least money.
Izenberg then goes on to dramatically demonstrate the repeated refusals by the Mets to acquiesce to the Yankees' plan. He cites a handshake agreement between the clubs for a reciprocal offer to be made to the Mets should they ever need it for one of their clubs as well as the Yankees' offer to sweeten the pot with cash. No dice.
It takes a shade over two hours to drive from PNC Field to Riverfront Stadium, home of the Can-Am League's Newark Bears. And there's enough differences between the two -- different states, cultural dynamics, demographics -- to make it a viable change. It's only two hours' drive, but it's a little more than that in terms of locale. This is more than relocating to the college baseball stadium in town.
It also takes a lot of people to fill the empty seats at Riverfront. The Bears rank near the bottom in attendance this season, averaging 845 fans through the turnstiles while the ghosts of Newark baseball's past openly state that soccer may have been a better bet than an independent league team. Even Izenberg -- who, by the way, has long since departed Newark for the cozy confines of Las Vegas -- believes the Bears botched things up badly according to the NY Times:
"My Newark Bears didn't need the suburbs; they were totally supported by the city," said Izenberg, now a columnist emeritus who lives in Las Vegas. "I realize I was emotional and sentimental. People tell me I'm living in the past, and obviously the soccer constituency is different and large, but I still believe that baseball could have made it again in Newark. They just did everything wrong."
And now, of course, the Mets, with all their Madoff troubles and bloated payrolls and regular seasons faillures, are piling on because the Yankees were looking to step in and temporarily save Brick City from baseball extinction.
I know, it was only temporary. It was doing the Yankees a favor. It was good karma.
And what if it took off? What if minor league baseball exploded in Newark with the Yankees brand attached to the tenant rather than the like of Jose and Ozzie Canseco? You don't think the Yankees would treat a single season as a test case for future business interests? You don't think the Mets asked for something in return?
Yes, the Yankees offered money. But how much money? And was it enough for the Mets to let the Yankees pay for a season-long focus group with what would be the highest-level minor league team in the greater New York City area by far? (And no, it would never be enough to make a dent in the Madoff proceedings.)
Did the Mets ask for something else in return? Perhaps they revisited their thoughts from June about moving a minor league club of their own to Long Island in return for a more permanent Yankees move? If the Yankees didn't support that before, would they start now? The Mets blocked a planned Yankees move of their Double-A affiliate to Long Island back in 1994. Perhaps the wounds are still fresh?
I won't be so dismissive as to say, "The Mets had their reasons to do it and we should be supportive." That's not fair. Newark baseball has a proud history, and a Yankees farm team would have been a nice boost to it.
BUT... you, cynical baseball fan, should know better than to see this as anything more than a business move. This isn't as simple as Madoff or Jose Reyes's contract or the incompetent Wilpons or the Mets taking a chance to stick it to the Yankees at the expense of the fans or what have you. It's about how this deal affects the Mets' business now and in the future, and resulted in a business deal the Mets refrained from completing for reasons known only to them.
It's worth asking, though: Would you have done things differently?
I'm not so certain I would.