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 “The Mets Could Use a Buck Showalter”

The American League Division Series mirrored the regular season because in the end the Yankees were a game better than the Orioles.

The fact that the Bronx Bombers won the American League East yet again in 2012 wasn’t unexpected. What was surprising story was how the Baltimore Orioles, long a laughingstock, gave the Yankees a run for the money in both the regular season and in the first round of the playoffs.

After years of looking for quick fixes compiled with a failure to develop young talent, the  O’s farm system finally started to bear a lot of fruit. Talent is one part of the story. The real reason for their success is that their manager, the taciturn Buck Showalter, who longtime Yankees fans remember as the man who preceded Joe Torre as manager, has changed the culture around the Chesapeake River. Losing, which was routinely accepted  by the Orioles organization, would never be tolerated by Showalter. Buck had even complained about the Orioles baseball cap because it bore the face of a smiling bird, which in his mind, is a wimpy mascot.

Mets fans have to understandably be envious of the Orioles. Terry Collins has been managing the Mets longer than Showalter has had the Orioles job. Like Buck, Collins has a no-nonsense personality. He says the right things in his pre and post-game press conferences but I don’t sense even the slightest shift in culture at Citi Field on the part of the players nor ownership since he became the Mets manager two years ago. Frankly, I think that many players tuned him out as they endured their annual post-All Star Game descent in the standings.

From what I hear, Orioles general manager Dan Duquette solicits input from Showalter on player personnel and doesn’t dare make a trade without consulting him. Buck is not reticent about approaching Duquette with a list of needs and expecting them to be addressed. I can’t picture Terry Collins doing the same with Mets general manager Sandy Alderson .

Raul Ibanez has long been one of the best clutch hitters in baseball. Last year the Phillies let him walk when he became a free agent and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman quickly signed him. That’s one reason why the Yankees got to play October baseball and the Phils didn’t  this year.

Ibanez’s two home runs in the pivotal Game 3 of the ALDS made him the toast of New York. That was the nice part of the story. The unpleasant side was how the media seemed to openly celebrate the failures of the man Ibanez pinch hit for, Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod’s career may be in decline but he doesn’t deserve that kind of enmity.

These are heady times for the Brooklyn Nets. Point guard  Deron Williams graces the cover of the current issue of Sports Illustrated while the team will be followed this season on NBA-TV’s  “The Association,” pro hoops answer to HBO’s behind-the-scenes look at the NFL “Hard Knocks,” and the Showtime’s similar treatment of the baseball word few get to witness, “The Franchise.”

The just held New York Comic Con has quietly overtaken its non-related San Diego namesake as the most attended costumed geek fest in America. While it does remain a comic book trade show open to the public as the name implies, it has become a key stop for companies from all over the entertainment spectrum to showcase their wares. CBS brought in key cast members from its sophomore hit, “Person of Interest,” for a panel while ABC and the CW did the same thing for their new fall shows,  “666 Park Avenue” and “Arrow,” respectively.  Fox may have been the smartest TV network at the Javits Center last week as they brought in the cast from “The Following,” a show that will not debut until February. Advance buzz is crucial for films but it’s even more important for a new television show.

Wrestlers have always been live action cartoonish characters and they have always generated long lines of autograph seekers at comic book conventions such as this one. Among the former World Wrestling Entertainment stars who came to New York Comic Con last weekend were Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, Tito Santana,  Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, and Booker T Huffman who was promoting his autobiography, “From Prison to Promise.” (Medallion Books).

Alex Karras, who passed away last week at the age off 77, was a pioneer in what has now become commonplace–professional athletes becoming entertainers. Michael Strahan owes a large debt to Karras.

Boomer Esiason is a man who never rests. He co-hosts with Craig Carton the very successful WFAN morning drive show;  he is one of the panelists on CBS’s Sunday NFL pre and post-game shows; and he is the radio analyst of Westwood  One’s “Monday Night Football” broadcasts. As if he’s not ubiquitous enough, Esiason has lent his name to the upscale restaurant at Bowlmor, the Times Square bowling and entertainment center. Be sure to try the lamb chops and grilled chicken there.

Speaking of Boomer, I mistakenly gave him one more job in my last column as I said that he was a spokesman for Eight O’Clock Coffee. A PR rep for the company told me that while he enthusiastically discusses Eight O’Clock on his morning show during their live commercial spots, he is not a spokesman for the brand.

After convincingly defeating the 49ers in San Francisco, 26-3, I guess that it’s safe to say that Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is making sure that his team is not resting on its Super Bowl laurels.

The Jets had a great Sunday as well as disappointing running back Shonn Greene finally had a big game racking up 161 rushing yards helping Gang Green dispense of the Colts 35-9.

Jets conrnerback Antonio Cromartie prevented Colts receiver, and long one of the NFL’s best, Reggie Wayne, from having a big day but he was flagged by the refs for four  pass interference calls. Antonio is going to be facing each opposing team’s best wideout in light of Darrelle Revis’s season-ending ACL injury. Jets head coach Rex Ryan answered affirmatively when I asked him during his post-game press briefing whether Cromartie’s pass interference calls is a cost of doing business. Cromartie said that he can prevent those calls although he added with a smile that the referees may have been a bit overzealous at times.

Fox Sports replaced the man of a thousand voices, Frank Caliendo, with another funny guy, Rob Riggle, who hosted this year’s ESPY Awards. ESPN just signed Caliendo to strengthen their Sunday NFL preview show that competes with those of CBS, FOX, and the NFL Network.

If you are looking for golf resorts where you can play beautiful courses at bargain prices, be sure to visit South Carolina from Thanksgiving right through  February when off-season winter hotel rates and green fees kick in at both Hilton Head Island and Kiawah Island. Barring a strong cold snap, you can reasonably expect temperatures there to be in the 60s in late November and early December.

Like many, I am not a fan of electronic greeting cards. A website, www.sincerely.com has created Ink Cards that allows a sender to use their computer to create a physical greeting card that is actually mailed out “old school” with a stamp to the recipient.

In a world of high tech gizmos such as Apple’s Iphone 5 and Samsung’s  Galaxy Note II it’s nice to know that someone can still invent a delightfully simple but very much needed product. A company called Cleanlogic which makes various soaps, lotions, loofas, and exfoliating cloths, has come up with Fresh Drop. The company promises that if you place a drop of this liquid product into your toilet beforehand, it will eliminate all subsequent odors. This is indeed a great country!

Posted under Baseball Cap, Chesapeake, Dan Duquette, Game Descent, Game Press, Lloyd Carroll, Mets Fans, New York Mets, Orioles Baseball, Quick Fixes, Real Reason, Sandy Alderson, Taciturn, Top Story, Wimpy