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

Sports Beat “Jay gets his day”

Bobblehead doll giveaways have long been popular promotions at ballparks. Normally the souvenir is a likeness of a current or former player. Tomorrow the Mets will probably have what has to be a first as they will be giving all who come to Citi Field a bobblehead of their longtime public relations director Jay Horwitz.

I have known Jay since 1980. Yes, we’ve had some disagreements over the years and some of the arguments have been heated, but to Jay’s credit, he has always been willing to listen; hasn’t held grudges; and most importantly, has given me the access that I need.

There is no doubt that Jay will be enshrined into the Mets Hall of Fame when he retires but that won’t be for another 30 years. Congratulations, Jay!

The most important aspect of Jay Horwitz Bobblehead Day is that a portion of the ticket revenue will be earmarked for the Hope Shines for Shannon Foundation. Shannon Forde, a St. John’s University alumnus, has been working in the Mets media relations department for 20 years. In 2012 she was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. The costs associated with fighting that insidious disease are staggering. Amazingly, Shannon continues to work with enthusiasm and vigor while raising a family.

The National Hockey League announced that a pair of games involving the three local teams will be played at Yankee Stadium during Super Bowl week. The Devils will play the Rangers in one game while the Islanders take on the Blueshirts in the other. The Rangers will be the visiting team in both contests.

It makes sense that the Devils game would take place at Yankee Stadium since it’s located very close to the GW Bridge, I find it disgraceful that the NHL has turned up its nose at Citi Field.

While I understand the economies of scale of having two games at one venue, Citi Field is adjacent to the Islanders’ Nassau/Suffolk fan base. Queens has more Islanders fans than any other borough including Brooklyn where the team will be moving in 2015. It also would have created more buzz for the NHL to utilize both of New York’s ballparks.

The US Open gets underway at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Monday but you can catch some quality tennis there today and tomorrow for free as the US Open Qualifying Tournament for a number of wild card spots will be taking place.

The PGA Tour makes its annual stop in our area as the Barclays Tournament will take place at Liberty State Park Golf Course today through Sunday. There will be free shuttle buses running from the Pavonia PATH stop in Jersey City.

Posted under Blueshirts, Director Jay, Economies Of Scale, Fan Base, Forde, Grudges, Gw Bridge, Hall Of Fame, Insidious Disease, Lloyd Carroll, National Hockey League, New York Mets, No Doubt, Public Relations Director, S University, Stage 4 Breast Cancer, Ticket Revenue, Top Story, Two Games, University Alumnus, Yankee Stadium

It’s Now Collins Turn To Lead The Mets

New York – Now it is up to Terry Collins to lead the New York Mets, at least for the next two years with an option for a third at least to 2013.  He was introduced as the 20th manager of the New York Mets at Citi Field Tuesday morning and the questions were asked.

What must be done to turn the tide in Flushing? After two consecutive losing seasons and questions about who will be where in the lineup, Collins certainly has a huge task. Expectations for the Mets to contend in 2011 are very slim with limited payroll flexibility, and probably no significant additions to the roster.

The new manager immediately said he wants to win. He emphasized speed on the bases and mentioned how important it was for Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay to stay healthy.  Previous manager Jerry Manuel knew how important that was, but for Collins to see success it will require more than Beltran and Bay playing at full strength.

“I want to win, and there is no doubt in my mind we have the talent to win,” said the 61-year old Collins, an intense and competitive individual who expects nothing more than winning. He reminds you of a general leading his troops to war. A veteran baseball man with expertise coming back to the dugout after an 11-year hiatus should not be an issue.

Collins knows the game, so adjusting to a new situation, in the big city will be the question. Can he handle a losing situation?  Time will tell because Collins will always have a skeptical past to his resume after dismissing himself from his managerial duties with the California Angels with 29 games remaining in 1999.

But that had no bearing on the decision to bring him on board. He beat out Mets homegrown favorite Wally Backman, third base coach Chip Hale, and minor league instructor Bob Melvin who had the previous managerial background to lead.

“We believe Terry’s knowledge of our players, intensity and direct approach will make an immediate, positive impact both in the clubhouse and on the field,” said new General Manager Sandy Alderson.

There is also intensity that comes with Collins. An emotional man in the dugout when he piloted the Houston Astros before the Angels, and perhaps what his predecessor Jerry Manuel could not do, Collins will be able to. That is bringing the intensity and fire to the Mets clubhouse.

Though we can’t put the entire blame on Manuel’s personality and Collins will inherit most of the mess that Manuel had to work with. Luis Castillo with the big contract, probably no way Oliver Perez gets traded, and if the Mets can’t eat the remaining $36 million of his contract, Collins may have to put him back on the mound. And he has to deal with a controversial closer Francisco Rodriguez who is coming off thumb surgery and a legal issue of assault.

An immediate impact will be on the youngsters that Collins knows well. He served as the Mets minor league field coordinator this past season and is familiar with Ruben Tejada, Ike Davis and Josh Thole.  No doubt Alderson and the new Mets regime, all familiar with Alderson, took that into consideration when they hired their new manager.

What Mets fans will see is a more intense and feisty individual, something Manuel lacked. There will be no laugh in the pre and post game meetings with members of the media that symbolized Manuel during his tenure as manager. Collins is straight to the point and on a mission to try and turn things around at Citi Field.

“I really hope that when we get together as a team in spring training that the lines of communication open up,” stated Collins. “They have to be open on a daily basis and the players have to realize my passion for the game and my passion for excellence.”

Time will tell how the Terry Collins managerial reign will unfold. “We want to be the last team standing net October,” said Collins who definitely has proved to have a passion for the game.

A bold statement for sure, and an experienced leader who immediately took charge as a new era has officially started at Citi Field.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Bob Melvin, California Angels, Carlos Beltran, Citi, Doubt In My Mind, Dugout, Full Strength, Hiatus, Homegrown, Jason Bay, Managerial Background, Managerial Duties, Mets New York, Minor League, New Situation, New York Mets, No Doubt, Rich Mancuso, Third Base Coach, Top Story, Tuesday Morning, Wally Backman

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on November 25, 2010