As the 2012 season embarks, there are rumors swirling that the Binghamton Mets, the AA affiliate since 1992, will be sold to Canadian interests and relocated. One scenario that has been mentioned is that the B-Mets head north of the border, and the Mets will take over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats- currently the Blue Jays AA team. However there is an option that I would like to throw out there – what if the Brooklyn Cyclones became the Mets AA affiliate?
The Mets have denied reports that Binghamton will move, but the fact remains that, unlike some other affiliate teams like Brooklyn and St. Lucie, the Mets do not own the Binghamton franchise and their affiliate agreement is set to expire at the end of this year. The reality is that there will be a AA Eastern League team in Ottawa next season, and that team will represent the Toronto Blue Jays. The only question is who will make the move – a Mets team or someone else’s?
A scenario that might make sense for the Mets is to make the Brooklyn Cyclones their AA affiliate, and find a new location for their Short Season A team in the New York-Penn League – whether that location be Binghamton, New Hampshire, Batavia, etc. This makes sense on a few different levels, the first of which is economic. The Cyclones are located in a borough that would be the fourth largest city in America, were it removed from Greater New York. They routinely rate as the top draw in the NY-PL (a June through September season) and are annually amongst the attendance leaders in all of Minor League Baseball. Were they to move to a full season league, with games beginning in April, there would be a market for these tickets. True, Coney Island can be uninviting in mid-Spring, but have you spent a mid-week April night in Binghamton, NY? The B-Mets draw an average on 3,167 people a game year round, while the Cyclones pull in about 7K a night during the summer. If attendance drops by less than 50% during the cold spring months (April & May) the team is coming out ahead.
Speaking of coming out ahead, as we noted earlier the New York Mets own the Brooklyn Cyclones (valued in the neighborhood of $5MM) but do not own the B-Mets. With a longer season, and a bigger gate, a AA team is in the position to make more money. When the Cyclones broke into existence in 2001, it probably seemed prudent at the time to have them play in a short season league for a few reasons – there are always kinks to be ironed out and Coney Island’s economic boom time is during the summer Since then, Brooklyn has proven itself an unqualified success and there is no reason now why it cannot handle a longer season, and Coney Island has had a renaissance that stretches it’s busy season (the world famous Cyclone roller coaster is set to open this weekend). The Wilpons, coming off an improbable victory (of sorts) in the Madoff Saga may want to increase their good fortune by making a profitable asset even more so. With more tickets being sold, and higher profile players coming through – the average B-Met is more likely to make an appearance in Queens than the close-to-the-lowest-rung-on-the-ladder Cyclones – the Wilpons’ investment in the club is bound to go up.
The fly in the ointment of this may be the Yankees, or more accurately, the Wilpon pettiness toward the behemoth from the Bronx. As you may (or may not) know, the AAA Scranton Yankees will spend 2012 as a nomadic team, playing chunks of their ‘home’ games in various locations like Batavia and Rochester while their stadium in Scranton is renovated form the ground up. The Yankees had reached an accord with the independent Newark Bears to use their stadium for the year, but the Mets, for no discernible reason, used their territorial claim on northern New Jersey to veto the move. When the Yanks offered cash or an evergreen reciprocal offer, the Mets still refused. Suffice to say, if the Yankees can make a stink about the Mets switching the classification on a minor league team on their turf (and it is unclear if they can) rest assured they will, just to return the favor. Surely they would not like to lose the Staten Island Yanks – Cyclone rivalry, and while the Yanks own the SI team and probably would not mind making that franchise higher profile, their current (and independently owned) AA affiliate in Trenton may not like the idea.
The Mets took a chance that Brooklyn was ready for baseball, and it was proven to be right. Making the team higher profile now would be a just reward and a sound economic move. And this is a crowd that could definitely stand to make more of those.