Earlier today, the New York Times’ Michael S. Schmidt reported the Mets are currently leading the Majors in one important category — besides the number of times their manager asks the no. 3 hitter to bunt, that is. Citi Field’s average paid attendance thru 22 games is 31,892, 6,852 fewer than 2009’s average total of 38,744. That’s the largest decline in the big leagues, and while there’s many ways to rationalize the drop (Metsblog’s Matthew Cerrone helpfully suggests “the quality of SNY™s broadcasts” encourages fans to stay closer to their home television sets), there’s no one quite as skilled in turd polishing P.R. as the Amazins’ executive v.p. of business operations, David Howard (above, second from right).

Howard blamed the early-season decline on bad weather in April, the team™s disappointing play in recent years and the economic downturn. (The weather in April was warmer and drier than normal in the New York area.)

œWe are confident as we continue to play better, the weather gets warmer and school ends that we will draw more fans and end the year fine, he said.

It didn™t help that the Mets started the season by losing 8 of their first 12 games before putting together a winning streak at the end of April. The team is 14-8 at home and 18-17 over all.

œThe winning streak has definitely helped, Howard said. œThe fewer season-ticket sales has allowed us to sell more walk-up sales, and we have had four record walk-up sales so far this season.

With all due respect to Mr. Howard, who is to ethics what Tony Bernazard was to humility, there are several other contributing factors that must be acknowledged before we determine whether the Mets fucked over their fans and taxpapers alike with a half-empty new stadium. Amongst the real reasons Citi Field is the most peaceful place in Queens other than the Flushing Public Library :

1) that volcano in Iceland really cut down on on European fans traveling to April games.
2) tremendous excitement throughout the tri-state area over the NJ Devils’ playoff run.
3) competition from a little motion picture called “Furry Vengence”
4) construction on the Jerry DiPoto wing of the Mets Hall Of Fame has been delayed for several months
5) many NYC cab drivers have no idea who or what “Citi Field” is (TRUE, this has happened to me, twice)
6) it hasn’t been widely publicized enough the Mets aren’t actually paying any portion of Gary Matthews Jr.’s salary
7) Terror – everyone’s on edge about major public gatherings being likely targets in NYC. Mets games, too!
8 TV commercials for McFadden’s at Citi Field. What right-thinking person wants to run the risk of ever running into those assholes?
9) superior HD sound quality for WFAN broadcasts, just too hard to resist (OK, now I’m really ripping off Cerrone)
10) unlike Garry Mathews jr., the Mets are paying 100% of Oliver Perez’ salary.

OK. That’s all I’ve got.