Two years ago, there seemed to be no limit to the amount of money the New York Mets could charge for a ticket to one of the three regular season “Subway Series” games against the Yankees.

The Mets made many of the Yankees tickets part of their season ticket plans for the final season at Shea Stadium, with “seven packs”—one ticket apiece to seven selected games, including one Subway Series tilt— and sold them for at least $140 per seat. Demand for the tickets was so high that fans who wanted to simply purchase a ticket to a Subway Series game had to register for an online drawing by mid-February.

Now, a mere two years later, the Mets may not even be able to give away tickets to this weekend’s Yankees games at Citi Field, which seats almost 16,000 fewer people than Shea. Mets executive vice president of baseball operations David Howard told Newsday this week that the team is offering unsold “high-priced, premium” seats to former season ticket holders.

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Empty seats at a Subway Series game would be the exclamation point on the ticket woes the Mets are enduring during their second season at Citi Field. No team in the major leagues has suffered a bigger decrease in attendance than the Mets, whose average attendance through 21 home dates is 31,892, a 17.6 percent drop from the 38,714 they averaged in the same span last year.

An imperfect storm of factors turned the market for Mets tickets ice cold. Mets fans were scarred and angry by late-season collapses in 2007 and 2008, and the Mets didn’t make them feel better in 2009, when a team with a $149 million payroll finished 70-92.

Management also annoyed fans by paying little attention to Mets history at Citi Field, which was built as an homage to the Brooklyn Dodgers’ old Ebbets Field. When Mets legend Dwight Gooden signed a wall at the Ebbets Field Club—a restaurant inside Citi Field—early last season, the Mets ordered it erased (the team eventually relented and made plans to display signatures of team legends throughout the stadium).

Nor did the Mets endear themselves to their middle class fans when they opened Citi Field seven months after Citigroup became the symbol of American corporate excess and needed a $45 billion taxpayer-funded bailout. Citigroup paid the Mets a reported $400 million for the naming rights of the new stadium.

Nothing makes fans feel better than winning, as the Yankees learned last year. The new Yankee Stadium opened to much criticism when hundreds of the most expensive seats went unoccupied early in the season. But nobody was complaining about ticket prices when the Yankees clinched their 27th World Championship in the Bronx Wednesday, November 4.

Such relationship-restoring success seems farther away than ever for the Mets, which enter this weekend in last place in the National League East with a 20-22 record. A perfect symbol of the franchise’s star-crossed ways occurred Wednesday, May 19, when outfielder Angel Pagan became the first major league player in 55 years to hit an inside-the-park homer and participate in a triple play in the same game—and the Mets lost to the Washington Nationals anyway. As embarrassing as that was for the Mets, it’d be nothing compared to the sight of empty seats this weekend.

Last Updated on May 21, 2010 advertisement