The year is 2018 and the month is April. It's Opening Day, in fact, and fans are filing into Citi Field by the dozen nearly two hours before the 1:10 PM first pitch on this Monday afternoon. There's a palpable buzz in the air as the 45,000+ excited spectators in attendance are ready to celebrate and they're getting in early so they can hop on the lines to grab food. They don't want miss the ceremony and all of the excitement to follow.
You see, the Mets are coming off of their first World Series championship since 1986 and the fans are ready to shower their favorite club with love. Satisfaction with the organization is, after all, at an all-time high after ownership showed their commitment to the team. Not only did they win a championship but they also re-signed a number of their best players to multi-year contracts.
"We wanted to show Mets fans that we were committed to winning," said the Mets owner. "We've got one ring in hand, it's time to fight for our second—that's the toughest one."
This Mets owner knows a thing or five about winning World Series rings and since he purchased the team from the Wilpon family before the 2016 season, he's made it his top priority to bring the Mets back to glory. It's really the only thing Mets owner Derek Jeter cares about—winning. The fans, despite some early queasiness over being owned by a Yankees legend, quickly warmed to the idea and they love their owner just as much as their owner loves his team. You can easily see Mets owner Derek Jeter sitting in the Citi Field owner's box proudly donning his Mets cap and rooting hard for the Mets at almost every home game and even some of their road games. An odd sight at first, Jeter's love of the Mets is clear.
How did it happen, you might ask? When and why did Derek Jeter buy the Mets? After retiring, Jeter decided he'd take a little time off from the game but almost immediately put out feelers that he'd be interested in purchasing a big league team. Near the end of 2015, when the Wilpon family finally fell into bankruptcy due to their enormous debts against the team, Jeter decided he was ready to get back into the game after a year off and he, with the help of a group of very wealthy investors, submitted a $3.2 billion bid that the Wilpon family couldn't ignore.
By the middle of 2016, Derek Jeter was officially the Mets' owner and the media hype was close to unbearable. That's when Jeter, after a number of interviews focusing on his time in the Bronx, requested an indefinite moratorium on Yankees talk.
"Look, I had a long, fulfilling career but the past is the past," Jeter said. "What I was able to do in the Bronx was a great chapter in my life but I'm ready to move on and focus solely on helping the Mets win championships."
"Everybody knows that baseball is a team game and I was just a part of the team with the Yankees. And honestly, I was a pretty overrated part of those teams. I realize that, I'm not stupid. I didn't win those rings all by myself."
"The media's worship of me over the years was always flattering but it was kind of embarrassing and in some ways, a little creepy. I mean, I'm not a god. I'm just a dude—a dude who made simple plays look way more complicated than they actually were, a dude who isn't even one of the top three players in Yankees history, and a dude who got to sleep with a who's who of famous women. Seriously, I gave out some gift baskets to women you could only drea... ah man, we're real far off topic here. No more questions about the Yankees, dammit!"
From that moment on, Jeter never mentioned his Yankees career ever again. In fact, the only time he would ever make mention of his former organization was to show Mets fans how not to run a team. You see, after Jeter retired, the Yankees went into a downward spiral that saw them bottom out in 2016 with 102 losses. A combination of old age, injury, and bloated contracts to fading stars turned the once-proud organization into a laughingstock.
Over the same period, the Mets were on the upswing, beginning in 2015 when they completed a miraculous 90-win season and clinched a Wild Card berth. By the time Jeter took over as owner in 2016, the team was at the top of the NL East and appeared poised to win a World Series at some point. The new owner wanted to keep the Mets' outstanding core together.
"I realize it takes 25 guys to win and I hope to be able to help surround David Wright, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Travis d'Arnaud, and all of the other young stars on this club with quality players. We've got a real strong core and I credit Sandy Alderson for his work over the last few years. Dude, that had to be rough not having any money to spend."
After sharing a joke and a hearty laugh, Jeter continued his press conference by outlining his plan for the organization going forward.
"I plan to fully invest in this organization. We're going to invest at the big league level, the minor league level, the amateur level, scouting, statistics, whatever is necessary to build a championship -caliber organization. We want to be at the cutting edge because that is what I, Derek Jeter: New York Mets owner, believe in."
Needless to say, most Mets fans were quickly on board and the few stragglers jumped on when Jeter himself announced the re-signing of ace pitcher Matt Harvey late in 2016 to a seven-year contract worth $315 million. Jeter personally negotiated with agent Scott Boras, mentioning at Harvey's press conference that the club was planning to do everything in its power to keep Harvey a New York Met for the long term.
"We want Matt Harvey to be a New York Met for life. We want him to go into the Hall of Fame with a Mets cap. When you think of Matt Harvey, think of the New York Mets, and think of winning. We're very glad we could keep Matt in the fold here."
Back at Citi Field, the festivities are about to get started on this warm April afternoon. Fans filed past the new statues of Tom Seaver, Keith Hernandez, Mike Piazza, and other greats outside the ballpark, into the Jackie Robinson rotunda, and up the escalators into the corridors decorated from bottom to top with Mets memorabilia and pictures of the glory days.
At 1:00 sharp, Howie Rose steps up to the microphone and begins the ceremony. Before the players are presented with their World Series rings, the Mets' announcer begins to introduce a very special person but the fans already know who it is and begin chanting at the top of their lungs: "DER-EK JET-ER" is heard loud and clear, mixed in with the familiar "LET'S GO METS!" chant. For the first time in a long time, the Mets are on top of the baseball world and the team's ownership is beloved. All is right and it's thanks to their savior, Derek Jeter.