I know the big New York Mets news is supposed to be whether one rich guy is going to buy a controlling interest in the team from some other rich guys, but I’m more interested in another news item: Michael Bloomberg’s apparent presidential campaign endorsement by Mr. Met.
Mr. Met will be on hand to pitch the opening of the Bloomberg campaign’s new office at 39-36 Bay Boulevard in Bayside, Queens Thursday night.
While not an official endorsement from the Mets organization, Mr. Met is a beloved good luck charm who knows that Amazin’ things can happen in a political campaign as well as on the baseball diamond.
The New York Post didn’t comment much more on this, but it’s curious for several reasons. First off, “good luck charm” or no, getting the support of a giant baseball-headed homunculus who’s possibly best known right now for giving fans the finger seems like a dubious benefit, though I suppose it’ll get the attention of sports fans who otherwise wouldn’t be paying attention to the opening of a campaign office. But also, it’s unusual for sports teams (or sports team mascots) to be weighing in on presidential politics at all.
But then, the Mets and Bloomberg share a special relationship. In 2005, New York’s then-mayor shocked the city by announcing the construction of new stadiums for the Mets and Yankees less than four years after declaring them unaffordable, as part of his doomed bid for the 2012 Olympics. The eventual benefit to the Mets owners was more than $600 million, with $380 million of that coming out of city coffers via property-tax breaks, forgone parking revenues, free land and infrastructure, and other goodies. (The Yankees ended up with more than $1 billion in benefits, with nearly $700 million coming from the city.)
It’s probably a bit much to consider this a direct quid pro quo — after all, anybody can rent Mr. Met for the low (?) price of $600 an hour. Still, there’s something unseemly about a politician making a nine-figure gift of public funds to a business, then getting the support of that business when staging his next campaign. Not unusual, mind you, but still unseemly.
Campaign finance records show that Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon have given out donations to lots of national and local pols, though not much lately. (They also show that neither lives in New York City — Fred lives on Long Island, and Jeff in Connecticut — so they’re not even among the taxpayers who were billed the most for the new stadiums.) Maybe this is all best taken as a sign of the casual cronyism between politicians and wealthy business owners that is pretty much the defining characteristic of American democracy. It’s just sad that Mr. Met is getting dragged into this under orders from his employer, though that’s not unusual these days either.