The Real Reason WFAN Dropped the Mets

The Mets have no one to blame but themselves.

Not just for another season in the red, their fifth consecutive season below .500 – way below .500 – but for the recent decision by WFAN, their official flagship radio station of the past 26 years, to not renew their contract to carry Mets games to make a deal with their crosstown rival Yankees.

Essentially, WFAN filed for a divorce.

Of course, any corporate decision made anywhere in this country, arguably the world, is ruled by money, but in this case it was also hinged by wins and losses. As in mostly wins by the Yankees, and losses by the Mets.

WFAN waved goodbye because for the past 26 years, the Yankees have won way more games than the Mets, and that translates to more money in the till, but more so, the Yankees have played way more games in the postseason than the Mets, and that’s where the really big bucks accumulate. More games – more postseason games – means more airtime, more commercial time, more revenue, more exposure overall, and so on.

When the Mets season is over, as it has been frequently in the last half-decade with the final pitch of the regular season, they’re left with filling airtime at night with the likes of Steve Somers. Now who doesn’t like schmoozing with Steve Somers, we grant you, an infectious listen, no doubt. But if you’re in the postseason, as the Yankees generally are – even with this season’s conclusion in doubt – those extra games can rake in much more revenue than The Schmoozer (sorry, Steve).

There are some who might believe that WFAN switched because Mike Francesca, their popular afternoon host, is an unabashed Yankees fan, but nothing could be further from the truth. Mr. Miked Up has been a Yankee rooter his entire life, and certainly the entire 26-year run of the Mets “on the FAN,” but that didn’t initiate any contractual changes during this time.

No, it’s always about the Benjamins, as they say, and this was no exception.

In 1987, when WFAN came into existence, inheriting the Mets from the reincarnated WHN 1050 AM station, station execs gladly welcomed Mets games into their programming, bracketing the games with longer than was the norm pre and post-game shows while promoting the games literally 24 hours a day as the nation’s first all-sports radio station.

And they said it wouldn’t last!

Actually, they said that about ESPN, too, the first all-sports television station – that launched in 1982 – and now both formats have spawned hundreds of copies.

In a way, you could say ESPN TV gave birth to WFAN radio, but that’s another story.

In 1987, the Mets were the “It” team, the toast of New York, the World Champions of baseball. These were the Doc and Darryl, Keith and Carter, Mookie and Wally Mets. They were on the back pages. They were on the front pages. Sometimes for the wrong reasons, but that’s another story, too. Still, they were the water cooler team of New York.

They Yankees? Yeah, they were good, too, but no matter how many games they won, or how many batting titles and other individual achievements they could muster, they could never find their way into the postseason, despite the heroics of Don Mattingly, the antics of Dave Winfield, and the legs of Rickey Henderson.

WFAN was so enamored with having the Mets that they threw the switch from being WHN to WFAN, from frequency 1050 AM to 660 AM at Shea Stadium on July 1, 1987. Legendary radio host Don Imus, was given the honor of pushing the button, or whatever it was that actually zapped over to the new location on the dial.

Imus was a holdover from the previous regime at WNBC, which held the 660 frequency for many years. His morning show gave The Fan immediate gravitas, humor, and headlines.

And by the way, in case you have forgotten, or never knew, it was Imus who nicknamed Chris Russo, the Mad Dog. One morning, during one of Russo’s wild and crazy rants, Imus proclaimed, “You’re like a mad dog!” It stuck. So next time you listen to the doggie on satellite radio, know where that came from.

So here we are, about two weeks left to go in the season, and the Mets are without a radio home for 2014. But fear not, baseball audiophiles. Mets exec Jeff Wilpon announced immediately after WFAN officially said adios that negotiations were under way with a new radio partner for ’14. You could say the lead horse in the race is WEPN, the radio version of ESPN in New York, but nothing is definite yet, and there could be a dark horse candidate.

WFAN is a 50,000Watt radio station, the strongest signal the government will allow. There are a total of seven such stations in New York Metro, among them WEPN, WABC (a former Mets residence at the very beginning, from 1962-63), WCBS AM, WINS, WOR, WBBR, and WQEW.

In the recent Arbitron ratings “book,” as it is known, three of those stations made it to the Top Ten, including WFAN, WINS, and WCBS AM. In fact, the FAN made a very strong showing, coming in at No. 10 overall, with a 3.8. That means 3.8% of the radio audience listens to the FAN during the course of a week, and that includes all shows and games. WEPN, by comparison, rated just a 1.6.

However, in the all-important category of listeners aged 25-54, the demographics brought this competition a little closer, with the FAN again topping EPN, 5.5 to 2.9.

Those are radio’s stats. Those are their batting titles, win totals, and ERA. Those are the numbers that sets the ad rates, and everything else hinges off of that.

So if the Mets switch allegiances to ESPN does that mean their ratings will suffer? Perhaps a bit, but not necessarily because of the switch to a different radio station.

It’s still all about the wins and losses.

And one last “by the way.” WFAN switched from handling Jets games to Giants games some years ago for the exact same reason they just courted their new girlfriend in the Bronx.

ADDENDUM: METS RADIO HISTORY

In what will be their 54-year history next year, the Mets will have made eight radio station switches. They started on WABC (1962-63), then made their first association with WHN (at the time a country music station, by the way) from 1964-66. They jumped to WJRZ from 1967-71 (which leads to an interesting trivia question regarding what station Mets fans first heard them win a World Championship in 1969). It was back to WHN from ’72-74, then another migration to WNEW AM from ’75-’77. The WMCA “Good Guys” broadcast Mets games ’78-’82, and it was back to WHN from ’83-87 until Imus “pushed the button.”

Posted under Airtime, Andy Esposito, Benjamins, Commercial Time, Corporate Decision, Extra Games, Fifth Consecutive Season, Flagship Radio Station, Mets Games, Mike Francesca, Miked, New York Mets, No Doubt, Pitch, Postseason Games, Real Reason, Schmoozing, Sorry Steve, Top Story, Yankee

Karpin Paints A Perfect Mets Season

Howie Karpin is a fixture at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field. The Bronx native and Riverdale resident is an official scorer for Major League Baseball, and for the past 30 years has covered the World Series and Stanley Cup Finals as well as being an accomplished radio sports reporter.

His passion is baseball, reporting games for radio stations in the tri state area, and now scoring a good amount of Yankees and Mets games as the guy who determines a hit from an error on the field up in the press box where we sit. A fan of the New York Mets contemplate when good fortune will return for their franchise because the team is off to their third worse start since their inception in 1962.

So here is Karpin, during the past year, in between scoring games, doing his research. And plenty of going back in time to select the greatest wins in Mets history and for those who joke about the Mets, they would say, “How many great games have the Mets played?

There could be more than the 162 games that Karpin chronicled in his latest work, “Imagine a Mets Perfect Season – 162-0” published by Triumph Books. Yes, 162 games, the schedule for a team in regular season play. But the Mets going 162-0, especially for a Mets fan is far from reality.

“The nature of the game-the grind of a 162-game season does not lend itself to team perfection as it does in the National Football League or college football,” says Karpin. “There have been undefeated teams in both pro and college football, but not in baseball. Nor is it likely to ever happen. But within the boundaries of this book, it does happen to the Mets.”

Meaning, as Karpin, says, “In nearly 50 years of existence, the New York Mets have provided many memorable regular season moments.” Of course, always remembered was the run to a World Series championship in 1969 and how the Mets became the team in New York City.

The memorable moments, that is a theme about the 162 games that are highlighted by Karpin. Because as every Mets fans knows, there have been more than a share of unmemorable moments, a huge amount at their old ballpark, Shea Stadium, in Flushing Queens.

You don’t have to be a fan of the New York Mets to share in the memories that Karpin recaps. There is the emotional game of the first sporting event in the city since the September 11, 2011 disaster. Titled “Emotions Run Deep in Tribute to Post 9/11 America,” the game at Shea Stadium against the Atlanta Braves, a game where rivalries meant nothing and a start of the healing process in New York.

There is no particular order of significant games with the 162 that Karpin recaps so well. “The history of the Mets was thoroughly researched to put together a mythical, undefeated season,” says current New York Mets third baseman David Wright who provided a perfect foreword to the book.

“In this book, time is no problem,” says Wright. So well put because you can don’t have to go from page-to-page, and the summations of each game are captured with the highlights Mets and baseball fans always remember.

Because the Mets, as much as they have become the secondary baseball team in New York, have a brief and interesting history, though not as long, as the Yankees on the other side of town. The managers and players that have worn the uniform have been interesting personalities from Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver to the Hall of Fame New York outfielder, the great Willie Mays.

“From the very first season of 1962 to the miraculous championship year of 1969, to a second world title in 1986, right up until a new era at Citi Field, the Mets have put together a glorious history in their own right,” says Karpin.

Each game selected is chronicled by month, again in no particular order. The box score of some games and photos of the players that are a part of this 162-0 season provide smiles for Mets fans that have not much to be happy about as of late. And there are of course, some of the less memorable moments.

The book is dedicated to the memory of Bill Shannon, the longtime official scorer of New York baseball and writer who tragically passed away last October. A longtime friend of Karpin who gave him his opportunity to score games in the press box, Shannon was an inspiration in putting this must read together.

Because as everyone knows, in New York the Yankees have been the memorable team, but after going through the pages of these 162 games, it certainly appears the past 49 years have been memorable for the New York Mets.

E-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Bronx Native, Game Season, Going Back In Time, Good Fortune, Great Games, Major League Baseball, Mets Games, National Football League, Nature Of The Game, New York Mets, Official Scorer, Perfect Season, Radio Sports, Rich Mancuso, Stanley Cup Finals, Top Story, Tri State Area, Triumph Books, Undefeated Teams, Yankee Stadium

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on April 18, 2011

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