Poor Murray Chass. The Red Sox aren’t playing the Yankees again this season, thereby depriving him of his favorite subject; that means that he’ll have to write completely nonsensical columns about other subjects.
Like the Mets! In today’s column, written the morning after the Mets clinched their first division championship since 1988, Chass manages to find a raincloud in the midst of the Champagne celebrations. “When is losing good for business?” Chass asks in the lead of his piece. “When the Mets are on the verge of clinching their first division title since 1988 and their fans buy tickets hoping to be at the game when they do.” The Mets, Chass claims, “sold more than 10,000 extra tickets for last night’s game at Shea Stadium because they had lost all three weekend games in Pittsburgh and still needed one victory to wrap up first place in the National League East.” (Chass actually implied the team might have considered losing some more games in order to sell some more tickets: “No one can blame the Mets for trying to make a few extra bucks.”)
Wow: 10,000 extra tickets. That is impressive. It also seems to have absolutely no relation to reality. Last night’s attendance was 46,729; in Chass-land, that means the Mets sell only around 36,000 tickets on nights when the team is not on the verge of clinching their division. In fact, in the entire second half of the season, the Mets’ home attendance has dipped below 45,000 only nine times, has been under 40,000 thrice, and under 35,000 only once (August 18 versus Colorado).
This completely made up piece of information transitions into an extended riff on the Mets’ problems with left-handed pitching (“Now that they are there, though, the Mets have to deal with a slice of reality. They have recently had trouble beating left-handed pitchers”) before explaining why the losses against lefthanders actually have nothing to do with the opposing teams’ starters (“According to Elias Sports Bureau, in the 25 games started by right-handers before last night, the Metsâ€šÃ„Ã´ starting pitchers had a 3.74 earned run average. … In the 19 games that left-handers started, the Metsâ€šÃ„Ã´ starting pitchers had a 7.18 E.R.A.”).
I think I finally have the formula down: Start out with an incorrect anecdote; awkwardly transition to a totally seperate subject; then explain why the reader should ignore everything just written about said seperate subject. (At least the Times seems to realize Chass isn’t going to lure new readers to the paper; under the paper’s Times Select program, some of the paper’s columnists are put behind a wall, necessitating on-line readers to pay for the columns separately. As you can see from the front of the Sports Section, Harvey Araton is one of those columnists today; Murray Chass is not.)
EDIT: Even Chass’s colleagues at the Times seem to be refuting his claims of 10,000 extra tickets being sold. As Jack Curry wrote in yesterday’s paper, the Mets had sold 40,000 tickets for Monday’s game as of Sunday night; it appears as if about 2,000 of these were sold after the Mets lost to the Pirates, which would mean the most ticket sales could have increased is 8,000. This, of course, doesn’t take into account Mets’ normal day-of-game sale numbers, which could be 500 or could be 8,000; we’ll never know, which isn’t surprising: the Times has a track record of not providing context when it’s needed to make sense of a story.