The Wilpons Are Going Nowhere, Part II—Evil Fred

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It’s time to stop with the “yeah buts” and come to the realization that the Wilpons are more resourceful than they’ve been given credit for. Fred Wilpon didn’t get rich by being stupid and the money they’re borrowing, while viewed as a desperate lifeline with the opportunity to pay down a debt that’s set to rise exponentially in 2014, is a daily business endeavor for people who have the money to purchase a sports franchise in the first place. If a person owes the banks hundreds of millions of dollars, it benefits neither the banks nor the borrower if there’s a default. In fact, it’s a disaster. Therefore it behooves the Wilpon creditors to help them, and if that means providing a loan at favorable terms and the Wilpons borrowing against SNY, then that’s what they’re going to do. It’s easier to assist the current owner than it would be to stage a liquidation or for MLB to force them to sell the Mets.

Since the Bernie Madoff swindle was exposed, there’s been an overt attempt to display the Wilpons in an unfavorable light by tossing everything that’s happened to them personally and with their ballclub into one giant Dutch oven and somehow concoct a palatable meal with ingredients that don’t mesh.

When they backed out of the agreed upon deal with David Einhorn they were “being the Wilpons.” Actually, the deal was unfavorable to them as Einhorn wanted significant say-so in the operations of the club and preapproval as majority owner. With Einhorn being so aggressive, the relationship was doomed to end with a power struggle for control of the club and it was a battle that the Wilpons, still trying to find their financial equilibrium, would probably not be in shape to win. They were wise to pull out from it when they had the opportunity to do so.

Steve Cohen and Jim McCann were buying their way in? Both have questionable histories in their business lives with Cohen employees investigated and arrested for insider trading and McCann’s 1-800-Flowers operation accused of overcharging customers.

Is it the people or is it the businesses they’re involved in that leaves them ripe for financial mistakes that, to the layman, would view as “illegal” or “wrong”? I have no idea what Cohen and McCann were up to. Perhaps they knew what was happening with their companies and perhaps they didn’t. Either way, it’s ridiculous to link that with Wilpon involvement. Because these people were investing in the Mets, it was equated into the Wilpons being at fault as if they’re supposed to comb over every little instance in a friend/potential business partner’s past before accepting his or her money to be a partial owner of the club.

Bill Maher bought his way in as well and he’s a controversial, potty-mouthed, unabashedly left wing political commentator and comedian who likes to smoke pot. Does that mean that Fred Wilpon is sitting in Maher’s Jacuzzi with a group of strippers and getting high? Given the nature of the attacks against the Mets owners, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the implication.

All that’s missing is the ominous music in the background, Fred and Jeff Wilpon walking in slow motion, and a ludicrous connection from so far in outer space that people believe it because it’s so asinine.

Every huge business with tentacles flowing all over and poking multiple pies on numerous platforms will have circumstances that don’t look quite right. Sometimes that’s intentional and sometimes it’s not.

In opposition to the obvious accusations of graft that accompanied Frank McCourt’s tenure as Dodgers owner in which MLB essentially shoved him out the door as bankruptcy filings indicated that he was possibly taking money from the club to maintain a lavish lifestyle like some sort of Beverly Hillbilly, the Wilpons are well-liked by the other owners in baseball and Fred Wilpon is close with Commissioner Bud Selig. Selig, if he could help it, wasn’t going to take steps to force the Wilpons out. Perhaps it was friendship or perhaps it was that Selig and his inner circle people examined the Wilpons’ plans and understood that if they settled the Madoff lawsuit with trustee Irving Picard, regained some of the money they lost, and got their array of businesses back on solid financial footing, then they could do as they just did and secure a loan to have more cash available to spend on the team.

While the easy decision is to take that money and purchase cosmetic upgrades, given the manner in which GM Sandy Alderson and his staff have gone about rebuilding the farm system and swiped top prospects from the Giants (Zack Wheeler) for the soon-to-be-free agent Carlos Beltran in the summer of 2011 and Blue Jays (Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard) for R.A. Dickey, it would make little sense to spend for the sake of it. There are players out on the market that can help the Mets, but the strength of the NL East and their own weaknesses makes it risky to even part with a second round draft pick as compensation plus pay the amount of long term dollars it will to get a Michael Bourn. The Mets could use Bourn, but is it worth it at his agent Scott Boras’s current requests? No.

The important fact is, though, that they can do something significant with the money available. This team isn’t far away from contention. With the young pitching they’ve accumulated; their new young catcher with All-Star potential d’Arnaud; David Wright having re-upped to stay long-term; the pitching and Ike Davis, they’re on the verge of taking the next step.

It has to be remembered that the Madoff nightmare began in December of 2008 when the contending Mets from 2006-2008 were on the downside of that cycle. It took another two years for the entire apparatus to come down completely with Omar Minaya fired and a new regime—with the aforementioned limited funds and mandate to rebuild the farm system—in place with Alderson.

Five year plans are five year plans for a reason. It takes at least three to get rid of the dead weight (Jason Bay); change the template of how they find players; draft well and let the young players develop; and to alter the perception of the team as a dead-end, transforming it into a destination that players will welcome rather than use because they were traded there or have no other choice.

It’s hard to remember, but there was a time that no one wanted to go to the Phillies, the Dodgers, the Yankees, the Red Sox. Things change.

No matter when the club finally turns the corner, the Wilpons will be the owners of the team. They’re going nowhere. By the time 2014 rolls around (or even 2013 if the young pitching comes along faster than expected), no one’s going to say a word about the ownership since the on-field product will make the Mets fans and fans in general forget that Bernie Madoff even existed and the media members whose agendas are all-too-clear will run out of places to put the goalposts to salvage their predictions—few of which have come to pass.

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Josh Hamilton’s Divine Intervention

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Josh Hamilton once needed a drug and alcohol intervention.

That’s been changed to divine intervention.

The quotes from Hamilton were as follows:

“He said, ‘You haven’t hit one in a while and this is the time you’re going to,'”

The “He” Hamilton was referring to was God; and what He told Hamilton was that he was going to hit a home run in the top of the 10th inning of game 6 of the World Series.

Hamilton did.

Then the Rangers lost the game in 11 innings.

And Hamilton added the caveat that God didn’t specifically tell him that the Rangers were going to win the game, just that he was going to hit a homer.

Um. Okay.

I’m not going to get into a Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens-style rant against religion, but I’m curious of the reaction had Hamilton said something to the tune of “I kept this to myself, but Santa Claus told me last Christmas that I was gonna hit a homer in game 6 of the World Series in 2011, and I did.”

Would people have taken this revelation as seriously as they did his validation from the “real” Almighty?

Or would they have wondered whether he’d either fallen off the wagon or the drugs that nearly ruined his career had sabotaged his brain into a state of delusion for which he should be locked up?

Even for those who don’t take the tenets of religion—any religion—literally, does anyone really believe that God whispered to Hamilton that he was going to hit a home run? If he’s up there, wouldn’t God have things on his mind other than Hamilton and the Texas Rangers?

The entire Middle East is imploding; the United States is broke and embroiled in two ground wars; Thailand is almost underwater; and Turkey just had a massive earthquake, but it’s okay because God is going to take care of it all as soon as he finishes watching the World Series.

If it were my alternate universe and Hamilton was referring to Santa, what kind of jokes would be made at his expense?

But because it’s an uplifting story of someone who overcame demons that almost destroyed his life; one who recovered his one-in-a-million talent and has fulfilled it and more, it’s okay to utter such objective lunacy to the public and not be ridiculed. Since so many others believe (or say they believe) and it’s something he clings to to keep him sober and sane, then it’s okay to engage in this type of fantasy.

I’m not anti-religion. I’m not bothered one way or the other if someone believes; I understand the need for community, charity, connection with something bigger than the self; I’m for anything that keeps the masses under some semblance of control. If there wasn’t religion, people would find some other security blanket to cling to—or other reasons to kill each other. But when the entire roster of candidates for President of the United States from one of the two major parties are taking various biblical texts as if they’re fact and ignoring all scientific studies because of those written words, we’re entrusting the survival of the world to the hands of the mystics.

Do those uttering these ludicrous statements truly believe them? Or are they appealing to a constituency as a means to an end?

I can deal with the latter. The former? Not so much.

Sports are a microcosm of society and this style of divine intervention isn’t isolated. It was Adrian Gonzalez who, following the Red Sox collapse, said:

“I’m a firm believer that God has a plan and it wasn’t in his plan for us to move forward.”

“God didn’t have it in the cards for us.”

If I’m paying Gonzalez his lofty salary, I don’t need to hear a built-in excuse for why he and his team failed. If he really believes this, it’s something I would have a serious issue with.

Evander Holyfield and Reggie White used to claim to have been healed by God and no one really batted an eye. Holyfield was able to fight; White was able to play football, so whom did it hurt? The money rolled in for themselves and their business associates.

But how far is this going to go?

Is it faith?

Is it a coping mechanism?

Is it a way to maintain calm during times of great stress?

Or is it a form of derangement?

Did the fervent belief that Hamilton espouses give him the confidence and calm to be able to ignore the pain of his injuries and exhaustion from a long season to have the power to hit that home run off of Jason Motte?

Perhaps it’s all of the above.

But let’s keep things in their proper context and in the realm of reality here and try to keep religion off the field of play.

Let’s keep things in perspective.

God didn’t hit that homer.

Hamilton the human being did.

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