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Ticket sales might have influenced Mets' decision to pitch Jacob deGrom for home opener

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Sandy Alderson cheekily admitted that the Mets' may have arranged their starting rotation to maximize ticket sales in the early days of the season.

The Mets line the field on Opening Day 2014
The Mets line the field on Opening Day 2014
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Returning to the baseball mound after months of rehab due to Tommy John surgery, most assumed that Matt Harvey would get the nod to pitch on the Mets' home opener against the Philadelphia Phillies on April 13. After announcing that Jacob deGrom would open Citi Field, Sandy Alderson acknowledged that secondary factors influenced the decision to have Harvey follow deGrom, including ticket sales.

The Mets sold 2,148,808 tickets in 2014, drawing 42,442 fans on Opening Day but only 29,146 for their second game of the season and 20,561 in their third game. The precipitous drop in attendance has become routine for the generally moribund Mets of the 2010s, whose total attendance figures have been in the bottom percentile in the National League.

Year Home Opener Game Two Game Three Game Four Game Five Game Six
2014 42,442 29,146 20,561 35,845 25,424 26,928
2013 41,053 22,239 21,519 24,935 28,474 29,780
2012 42,080 39,526 27,855 23,970 26,927 34,614
2011 41,075 31,696 35,157 24,865 25,878 25,758 (D/H)
2010 41,245 38,863 25,982 28,055 33,044 33,672

The idea that fans are more likely to buy tickets on days when specific pitchers are scheduled to pitch certainly has merit. In the waning days of 2012, when R.A. Dickey in the middle of a magical run that would earn him National League Cy Young honors, attendance was generally up on the days when he was pitching. At times, when the knuckleballer was announced as a pitcher in a series, he was outselling his fellow rotation mates by thousands of attendees. When Dickey won his 20th game on Thursday, September 27, 31,506 fans attended the game- as opposed to the 22,890 that came to see Jeremy Hefner on the Wednesday the 26th, the 25,286 that chose to see Collin McHugh on Tuesday the 25th, and the 22,072 that chose to see Jenrry Mejia on Monday the 24th. At a time when tickets range from $11 to $426 at face value, a few thousand more tickets would generate substantial revenue for the team.

It is important to point out that deGrom has more than earned the honor of being on the mound for the Citi Field opener. The right-hander went 9-6 with a 2.69 ERA (130 ERA+) in 140.1 innings in 2014 en route to winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award.