Bet On the Wilpons Surviving and Thriving

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I’m ambivalent about the Wilpons settling their part in the Madoff lawsuit.

All along, I was relatively disinterested in the entire episode. The circumstances were what they were and once the trial was completed, then the direction of the Mets would be determined. Because they were so badly hurt by the Madoff Ponzi scheme, the money that was once available to the Mets to pursue players was no longer there; they were forced to scour the bargain bins and deal away veterans Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran while sitting by haplessly and avoiding any bidding war for big free agent names that, given their on-field state, likely wouldn’t have come to the Mets under any circumstances apart from the Mets being the highest bidder. (See Jason Bay.)

Now that the lawsuit is over (and you can find details of the settlement here on NYTimes.com), it’s become clear that the supposed experts didn’t know any more about the nitty gritty of these types of deals than the media/social media would-be experts who were lending their opinions regarding issues about which they knew nothing.

Yes, the sources and “experts” might have information and insight about the law and the financial world, but that information and insight stemmed from personal experience and not from what they were privy to in terms of information as to what the Wilpons’ strategy was going to be to save themselves.

In the end, the Wilpons chose to settle and for now they’ve bought themselves time with what wound up as, by all accounts, a very favorable deal considering the alternatives.

What we’re presented with from those who provide commentary to the reporters telling the story is something to the tune of factoids that are kindasorta true, but only true from their point-of-view. These are not absolute facts like in a math/science problem that’s been solved; they’re interpretations.

I don’t recall reading or seeing anyone suggesting that the Wilpons were going to be able to settle the case and save themselves. Every outcome ended with them having to sell the franchise because their financial footing was no longer viable.

Look where they are now.

As much as the context is provided that the case was settled and their creditors are off their backs for the time being, there are ongoing doom and gloom revelations about the bonds that funded the building of Citi Field; the loans to the banks due on the club and SNY; and how the Wilpons are still in dire financial straits.

“X loan with Y bank of $400 million comes due on <THIS> day.”

“The bond interest payments must begin late in the year <BLANK>.”

“They’re still going to put a subpar product on the field because they don’t have the money to pay for players.”

Don’t buy it.

The Wilpons didn’t get rich being stupid.

Guilt, innocence or willfull blindness no longer matter because they settled the case and put themselves in a great position to end up retaining control of the franchise.

I said long ago that the Wilpons and Saul Katz had to know what was going on with Madoff, but there might’ve been a “don’t tell me what I don’t want to know” aspect of the gains they were making with the disgraced swindler.

They didn’t ask. Madoff didn’t tell. And everyone rolled merrily along.

Then Madoff got caught and the Mets were in the middle of the cesspool.

What the chroniclers of the case and the Wilpon-bashers have failed to account for is how smart the Wilpons are. They didn’t get rich being dumb or lucky and they’ve hired lawyers whose specialty is extricating their clients from situations just like these and helping them maintain their businesses and positions.

What I find funny (ha-ha and sad) is that a bunch of non-financial, non-lawyerly reporters felt that they were somehow qualified to provide commentary on issues that they probably only had a baseline understanding of and were simply regurgitating what they were told by “experts” and believed everything that was said because they had neither the aptitude nor the education to question what was being offered as what “would” happen in this lawsuit.

The settlement was pragmatic and smart and you can bet that the Wilpons are going to figure a way to keep control of the franchise when the loan payments become onerous by refinancing and extending the timeframe in which they have to pay.

What this means to the Mets and how they’re going to move forward remains to be seen. Will Sandy Alderson stay? Will the Mets examine a contract extension to keep David Wright past 2013? And what’s going to happen if and when all the decisions they made due to financial constraints wind up being seen as a net positive (a term that became familiar during the lawsuit) because the Mets couldn’t continue tossing bad money after bad money in a self-destructive attempt to placate angry fans and overpay for players who weren’t going to help them one way or the other?

They’ve cleared some players they no longer needed and are moving in the direction of paying players what they’re worth rather than giving them a large contract to keep pace with the big spenders in baseball. Letting Jose Reyes leave could eventually be seen as a smart and lucky baseball decision. They’re concentrating on development and giving their own young players a chance to play.

In a few years, we might one day look back at this and say something to the tune of, “The Madoff mess actually led the Mets back to prominence because of the seeds that were planted out of necessity because there was no money to buy ready made players.”

The Wilpons survived mostly because they, their lawyers and advisers are smarter than you.

Don’t think they’re not preparing to get their other financial ducks in a row, because they are.

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Joke Or Not, If Alderson’s Unhappy, He Should Leave

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To the best of my knowledge the Mets aren’t paying Sandy Alderson with IOUs from one ply peeled from two-ply pieces of toilet paper.

Nor are the checks written in the penmanship of someone right-handed trying to write left-handed and signed, “Jeff’s Dad” as if Jeff Wilpon were trying to pay Alderson with whatever’s left of his dad’s teetering financial empire.

Alderson’s being paid in real money and he’s being paid a lot of it.

Alderson has decided, as he’s making his way to spring training, to start a Twitter account. The first tweet was either a badly worded or misunderstood joke or a shot at the Mets’ paucity of funds.

Under the handle MetsGM, Alderson said:

Getting ready for Spring Training-Driving to FL but haven’t left yet. Big fundraiser tonight for gas money. Also exploring PAC contribution.

Whether it was an attempt at comedy or a legitimate kick at the fact that he doesn’t have any money to spend, he’s oblivious if he didn’t realize that saying that would be construed as a negative toward his employer.

Can you imagine one of George Steinbrenner’s GMs saying something like this and still being the GM the following day?

Or Vince Lombardi so openly disparaging a team that he tried to craft into the epitome of professionalism and year-round proper representation of the Green Bay Packers?

It wouldn’t happen because there was a baseline, known code of conduct of what would and wouldn’t be acceptable from any and all employees of their teams.

Alderson was a Marine and should understand that even if the Secretary of the Navy is from a different party as the President or disagrees with policy, he’s not going to publicly say something so negative—even in a joking context—about his bosses or his branch.

Alderson was a lawyer and a respected GM for the first decade of his career with the Athletics. Then, when he moved to the forefront, his own personality came to light.

Along with the resume of being Vietnam veteran and well-spoken military man and adaptive, intuitive corporate lawyer, there’s another side to Alderson—a snarky, credit-seeking and obnoxious side that has reared its head repeatedly.

As GM of the Athletics, Alderson’s success was tied to two things: money and Tony LaRussa. When the A’s spent money under Alderson and were managed by the Hall of Famer LaRussa, they won. When the money dried up, they slowly declined; then LaRussa left and the team came apart.

Alderson went to the Padres, behaved like a capricious tyrant and created factions that were beholden to him to craft an aura of dysfunction where everyone was looking over their shoulders for someone holding a knife.

It’s been this way in every job he’s undertaken since and is now happening again with the Mets.

Whether he wanted the Mets job (and it certainly appeared he did when he was interviewing for it) or took it as a favor to Bud Selig is irrelevant. He took the job and is being compensated heavily for it. He’s gotten everything he wanted including the high-priced hirings of his lieutenants Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi. He hired the manager he wanted in Terry Collins. If he had a load of money at his disposal, there’s no guarantee he would’ve wanted to spend it on Jose Reyes because it’s never been his modus operandi to invest so much money in a player who relies on speed and doesn’t get on base.

But that’s neither here nor there.

The circumstances with the team are what they are, financially and practically.

Financially, ownership is under siege from a lawsuit that they claim is doling out blame and holding them accountable for transgressions that they are not guilty of committing.

That will be settled in time and the Wilpons will either find a way to maintain control of the team or sell it.

Alderson may or may not be the GM of the new owner; he may or may not remain as the GM if the Wilpons retain control.

Practically, even if there was a ton of money available, the free agent market was such that the Mets were unlikely to dive deeply into it to bring in enough talent to compete in a loaded division. The farm system needed to be rebuilt and the big league club overhauled. In actuality, the Madoff trial is giving them the built-in excuse to refurbish the club correctly—something I would think Alderson would embrace to put a club together devoid of the $200 million superstar since those contracts almost inevitably become onerous by year four or five.

That too is secondary to the perception of the team.

On the one hand, okay, it’s a joke; on the other, he’s the GM and shouldn’t be openly attacking his club even in jest. If you’re the GM of the team and there’s even a split-second hesitation as to how a joke is going to be interpreted, then it shouldn’t be said. Once it has to be explained, it was a bad joke.

If it was a subtle attempt to say publicly what he says in starker terms privately; if Alderson is unhappy with the money at his disposal; if he doesn’t like working for the Wilpons; if he took the Mets job only as a favor to Selig; if he wants out and is being passive aggressive to get that information into the public sphere, then he should resign and stop taking the Wilpons’ money to be the GM of the club.

This type of stuff is why they’re the “Mets”. I don’t mean the Mets organization. I mean an adjective for a punchline of whatever can go wrong, will go wrong and that the employees—even in the upper reaches of the hierarchy—are willing to make negative and embarrassing comments to highlight that fact.

Done with appropriately hideous timing befitting the “Mets”, while the team across town is enduring their own humiliating scandals involving their GM Brian Cashman and his bevy of girlfriends and divorce, one of whom was apparently stalking him, Alderson decided—as seems to be the Mets wont—to make the Mets the butt of evening gossip and laughter. For the titular head of the baseball operations, someone whose conduct and skills in dealing with the media and manipulating the language to prevent such a thing from happening, it was a stupid and inappropriate comment to make. Former GM Omar Minaya’s biggest fault was crisis control and a lack of skill with the language, but I have no recollection of him saying something like this about his employers.

The Mets are not going to stop being a joke until they cease treating themselves as a joke. It comes from a clear set of rules that are adhered to from the simplicity of wearing a coat and tie when traveling on the road to not criticizing the organization.

From the time of Alderson’s hiring, I said that the Mets have to cease the practice of acting as if any star player who joins the organization is doing them a favor; that any and every player they currently have is here out of desperate necessity rather than out of a business agreement between parties. Until the Mets make the conscious decision to stop laughing at themselves, why should anyone else hesitate to laugh at them?

If there are people within the current organizational structure who don’t want to be part of the Mets, then they should leave. When I said it 15 months ago, I was referring to the players. But it also applies to the GM.

If Sandy Alderson doesn’t want to be part of the Mets, then he should go. They’ll get someone else.

//

It’s Not Your Business

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For all the criticism he received for saying it, Jeff Wilpon was right when he said it wasn’t anyone’s business whom the Mets were considering—if there are indeed investors—to buy into the club. If they were a publicly traded company or a public trust, then yes, it would be the business of outsiders as to who’s trying to buy in. But they’re not.

Fans and media members are under the mistaken impression that they have a right to know.

They don’t have a right to know.

There’s a misplaced belief that because a fan is a fan of a team, they have a direct say in how that team is run. And they don’t. A baseball team is not a public endeavor; you, as a customer, have a say in one way and one way only: don’t purchase tickets; don’t watch the games; don’t indulge in the product and the problems you’re complaining about will solve themselves naturally.

This is a America; this means you’re free to purchase or not to purchase.

It’s that simple.

We’ve become a society of busybodies (or yentas; or whatever your individual ethnicity uses for slang to describe someone who’s into everyone else’s affairs in an unwanted manner).

What makes it worse is that the tiniest whisper from anywhere—regardless of where it’s from—becomes the basis for uninformed speculation disguised as fact.

Any tiny little bit of information—from what Jose Reyes ate while being courted by the Marlins; to the McCourts lavish and silly spending habits; to Dale Sveum not getting a second interview with the Cubs—are grounds for discussion.

I certainly don’t like people interfering in my affairs especially when it’s of absolutely no concern to them, nor do they have a right to be discussing it as if it is; as if they have some inside knowledge from a game of telephone that may or may not be accurate.

This is evident everywhere and it’s part of the reason I openly wonder how smart Billy Beane actually is. If he were a true “genius” as is suggested in Moneyball, he wouldn’t have to put on this pretentious “geniusy” air when he makes a decision like firing his managers. Ken Macha was fired after leading the A’s to the ALCS; they were swept and Beane fired him for “lack of communication”; Bob Geren (Beane’s “best friend”) was fired earlier this year because the Athletics were terrible and Geren was running the club in a haphazard and disagreeable way to the tastes of his veterans; Beane presented a case study in blaming others by referencing the constant media scrutiny and speculation about Geren’s job as the main reasons why he was fired. It couldn’t be that Beane himself might have been somehow responsible for what was going on, now could it?

What’s wrong with saying he fired them because he felt like it; or that he needed to make a change; or for whatever?

The appellation of “genius” for Beane might be better-described as a clever and gutsy opportunist who, out of necessity, altered the way he approached the running of his team, was successful for awhile, and when his techniques became publicly known, his success disappeared along with his “genius”.

Perception has become reality. So Sveum’s not getting a second interview with the Cubs but is a finalist for the Red Sox job; if you were interviewing for a job, would you like the fact that you were bypassed for a second interview broadcast for all to hear as if it means something? Maybe someone from the Red Sox whispered to the Cubs that Sveum’s going to get their managerial job and it made no sense to do another interview; maybe the Cubs didn’t like Sveum’s tie; or maybe they wanted to hire someone else.

The “why” is irrelevant; the fact that it’s not anyone else’s concern is the point.

Sports “reporting” has turned into a never-ending gossip column; but the most interesting gossip columns are about sex, drugs and drama.

This stuff isn’t interesting and, for the most part, it’s not even accurate.

Gossip rarely is.

//

Jose Reyes And The Truth Of Lies

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It was entirely believable that Jose Reyes signed with the Marlins so early in the free agent process; without seeing what other offers were out there; declining to go to the Mets and seeing whether they could and would match or surpass the Marlins deal.

After all, the Marlins have a history of…signing…big…name…free…age…

Um…well, they signed Carlos Delgado after the 2004 season. The contract was heavily backloaded and didn’t have a no-trade clause, so naturally they traded him—to the Mets, whom he’d spurned to sign with them—following the 2005 season.

Never mind that.

They have sane ownership widely respect…ed…in…base…ball…circl…

Actually, Jeffrey Loria is petulant, disingenuous, capricious, bullying and sneaky.

Well, okay.

They’ve known on-field stability with their man…a…gers….

So, Ozzie Guillen is the seventh managerial change that Loria has made since taking over as Marlins owner in 2003 and that’s not counting Bobby Valentine, who essentially had the job until he got into an argument with team president David Samson (Loria’s son-in-law) during Valentine’s interview.

The players enjoy the…at…mos…phe…

Alright, Logan Morrison has filed a grievance because the Marlins demoted him for reasons he and the Players Association think were based more on his use of Twitter than for his play.

There’s an air of professionalism perm…e…at..ing…the…tea….

Okay. Hanley Ramirez is a diva who’d make Madonna look reasonable; doesn’t play hard all the time; and has taken the “prodigal son of Loria” act to its logical conclusion by acting like Loria.

Er…ah, so…playing the game fairly and in an aboveboard manner is the hall…mark…of…the Mar…lins…organ..i…za..ti…

Oh, well there’s that overblown issue of using Leo Nunez AKA Juan Oviedo while he was an illegal immigrant living in the United States and pitching for the club under an assumed name and that the team presumably knew about it and said nothing.

Aside from all that, it’s Utopia.

Are you getting the picture?

This whole “story” started when someone, somewhere said that Marlins had agreed to terms with Reyes, pending a physical.

The news blasted across the internet; Twitter went bonkers; people searched for information; Mets fans whined; Marlins fans rejoiced; those with a stake in roasting the Mets teed off.

It went on briefly and with a white hot intensity.

Then it stopped.

Because the report was a lie.

Typical of social media, it followed the script that a rumor based on nothing usually does: it’s reported; it’s repeated; it’s reacted; it’s refuted.

Fast, frenzied and embarrassing, if there was any shame or plausible deniability left for those with a clear and blatant agenda in Reyes leaving the Mets, it was extinguished with this bit of “news”. Prepared with their purposeful bashing, it came and went, did its damage and receded. The backtracking was half-hearted because, as a form of self-justification, we again saw the vitriol doled out on the Mets front office and ownership…even if there was none to be passed around.

Let’s just say, hypothetically, that the report was accurate and Reyes had signed with the Marlins.

What then?

Would it be because of his craving for the stability, sanity, atmosphere, adherence to rules and professionalism with the Marlins that was missing with the Mets?

Would it be the money?

Does it matter?

And how are the Wilpons and Mets GM Sandy Alderson to be held accountable if Reyes signed immediately with one of the first teams he visited before making the rounds and chose not to go back to the Mets with the offer to see if they’d match or surpass it?

What were they supposed to do if that had been the case?

The Mets and Alderson asked Reyes and his agents the Greenbergs what it would take to sign the player; they received silence in response; Alderson basically said, “okay, shop around and get back to us”.

If Reyes decided not to do that, who, if anyone, is to blame for that?

The argument that the Mets should’ve signed Reyes to an extension before this is ludicrous. Despite protestations to the contrary—using his games played from 2005-2008 as a basis—he is not a guarantee to stay healthy and perform as he did at his best over the first half of the 2011 season. He missed almost the entire 2009 season with a torn hamstring and 5 weeks of this season with more hamstring woes; he had hamstring troubles in his first two seasons and his 2010 spring training and part of that season were compromised with a thyroid condition.

This is not Lou Gehrig or Cal Ripken.

The idea that the Mets should have traded Reyes at mid-season is just as idiotic. They want to keep him; the number of players who’ve been traded and then return to the team that sent them away as free agents are limited and unimpressive (think Austin Kearns). Worst case scenario, he leaves and they take the draft picks; had they dealt him, he wasn’t returning and the hit the team would’ve taken for dealing Reyes, Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran wouldn’t have been worth the potential bounty unless a trading team got unimaginably desperate and sent them a Bryce Harper/Mike Trout-type, blue chip, can’t miss prospect.

So they kept him. He’s a free agent. They’re interested in making an offer when they know what the market is and if they can afford it.

That’s the way it is.

Reyes has a right to sign with anyone at anytime.

He’d be stupid to do it with such expediency unless someone offers a Jayson Werth contract of lunacy, but that has yet to happen. Because he hasn’t signed anything.

Not even on Twitter.

There’s a troubling rush to judgment and a stimulus response of rage inherent with any unverified statement presented and accepted as fact.

Reyes may stay with the Mets.

He may leave.

The decision was not made last night.

But we received a preview of the true face of those who have a vested interest of their own in the outcome.

It’s an ugly face.

It’s a duplicitous face.

Now that we know what it looks like, we can see through the subterfuge of what they’re selling.

And we can point it out and shun it.

In a sense, it’s worth the attention that it’s received as a means to uncover the truth.

The truth of lies.

//

Alderson And The Experts

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You can watch the Sandy Alderson interview with Kevin Burkhardt on Mets Hot Stove above and make your own determination as to what he’s actually saying.

The body language/tone/behavior/baseball experts on Twitter and in the media took the “look” of Alderson as ranging from profoundly negative to depressed to near suicidal.

If you read the transcript of the juicy bits of what he said here on MetsBlog, you can make an entirely different judgment.

Those who are ripping the Mets as a matter of course for the relentless need to complain; because there’s an editorial mandate to do so or because it’s designed to drum up webhits in a trolling sort of manner; to push a book; or just because, here’s the truth: they either don’t want to understand reality or are utterly incapable of doing so, and they’re not accepting facts.

If you dissect the Mets 2012 situation financially and in talent, they’re not going to be anything more than a fringe contender for a Wild Card spot if they bring Jose Reyes back and have everything go exactly right.

Some are actively trying to tilt at windmills, aggrandize themselves as influential voices and catalyze a new ownership.

The Wilpons are not selling the team. This is the position they’re in at least until their part in the Madoff lawsuit is completed and they have a firmer grip on what the circumstances are. Anyone hoping for a Mark Cuban to walk in, buy the team and start spending, spending, spending the team back into relevance hasn’t the faintest idea of how an organization—sports or otherwise—is run; Cuban did all of those things the Mets are entreated to do; but what the ignorant outsiders are failing to grasp is that the Dallas Mavericks went through multiple incarnations of players, coaches and a lack of success before hitting the jackpot with an unexpected championship last season.

The Red Sox, Yankees and Phillies proved this very year that spending capriciously for star players doesn’t automatically guarantee a championship.

The Mets have gone down that road. They signed the big names—Johan Santana, Jason Bay, Billy Wagner, Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez; they filled all the holes; they did everything the fans wanted them to do including building a new ballpark.

They haven’t won.

In fact, they degenerated into a disaster.

It’s not because of the Madoff Ponzi scheme and the Wilpon’s entanglement in that nightmare, it’s because they were top-heavy and shoddily constructed—built to win immediately for a short window.

The window closed and they hadn’t won.

It’s not Omar Minaya’s fault; it’s the Jeff Wilpon’s fault; it’s not Bernie Madoff’s fault.

It happened. And it happens to the teams that are perceived as doing everything the “right” way.

Sandy Alderson was hired to fix the Mets and that’s what he’s doing whether you like it or not.

Do you believe that John Henry intended to spend $160 million on payroll when he bought the Red Sox? If he did, then what was the purpose of hiring Theo Epstein and his young, stat savvy crew of Ivy League educated, sabermetric wizards? Why did he hire Bill James? Why did he hire Billy Beane only to be spurned at the altar?

Henry wanted to create the Moneyball Red Sox patterned after the cheap and efficient method in which Beane (and, in part, Alderson) transformed the A’s into a dominant franchise without spending a ton of money.

Things morphed into the Red Sox competing with the Yankees for the same players and a championship or bust attitude. It’s part of the reason for the 2012 Red Sox catastrophe and departure of both Terry Francona and Theo Epstein.

People wanted the “Red Sox way” and that’s what they’re getting.

Alderson has the people—Paul DePodesta, J.P. Ricciardi—from that school of thought; a similar school of thought that has made the Rays into a team that wins with a non-existent payroll and an atrocious ballpark. When the Stuart Sternberg regime took over the Rays, they knew they could’ve won a few more games if they’d spent some money on mediocre big leaguers to look better than they were. But is there really that big of a difference between 68 wins? 76 wins? 82 wins?

No.

So why bother wasting cash to lure a negligible number of extra fans?

Reyes will either stay or he won’t;  barring a sudden leap from the pitching staff, some luck with bullpen signings/trades and the new Citi Field dimensions helping David Wright and Bay become what they were before entering baseball’s version of the Grand Canyon, Reyes’s presence isn’t going to help the team escape the morass in which they’re currently trapped. The club will save some face and make people who already have Reyes out the door look foolish, but that’s all.

It takes a brutal assessment and sheer courage to say to the fans that the team isn’t going to be able to contend with Reyes, so why overpay to keep him? The National League East is a nightmare. If the Mets had the cash of the Yankees and Red Sox, they’d be able to cobble a contender from the current market by signing Jonathan Papelbon; C.J. Wilson; Josh Willingham.

They don’t.

This is why Alderson was brought onboard. I saw no negativity in what he said concerning the rebuild—and that’s what it is; his body language indicated what those who are looking for “clues” wanted to see; his tone was matter-of-fact, realistic and intelligent; his content was comprehensive and honest.

Alderson asked Reyes’s representatives what it would cost to sign him; they received silence; the Mets told him to shop around and come back. What else are they supposed to do? What else can they do?

Nothing.

Reyes will be presented with offers from other clubs; the Mets might be able to match them; if they can, he’ll stay; if they can’t, he’ll go elsewhere (watch the Angels) and the Mets will move on in a rational, coherent and coldblooded manner to turn the team into a profitable and successful franchise that can spend money to fill holes, but also has players who were developed internally or are unappreciated foundlings that come through.

This is where they are. Stop complaining about it. If you don’t like the product, don’t go to the games and come back when the team is deemed worthwhile for you to spend your money to watch.

Perhaps the Mets would be better off is Alderson was that straightforward about the team. Maybe then the armchair analysts would shut up.

//

Your Sunday Morning Barf

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Don’t tell me this bit from the Box Seats feature in today’s New York Times is meant to be sweetsy and tongue-in-cheek; a small vignette about parenting and the realities of life being a sports fan.

It’s contrived and nauseating.

Alan Schwarz tells us about his son Teddy as Teddy comes to the realization that the Mets have traded Francisco Rodriguez. In all his benevolence—that may or may not have actually happened—young Teddy offers to provide the Mets with a cash influx of $29.03 in an attempt to save K-Rod from the transaction wire.

Why is it that I can picture Jeff Wilpon paying a visit to young Teddy, smiling a friendly smile with his head tilted at the adorability of it all, peering at the money in a pile on the table in singles, quarters and pennies, thanking Teddy for his generosity…and reaching down with his left hand to brush the money into his right before pocketing it, winking and departing?

Rather than write a formulated piece about some fantasy of “lost innocence” with canned and phony dialogue meant to get the readers say, “awwwww”, how about explaining to the kid the realities of the situation that the Mets didn’t want to keep K-Rod because he’s overpaid and he committed an assault against his father-in-law in the Citi Field family room in full view of other players’ families and their children, some of whom one would assume are the same age as cute little Teddy? Or say that in order for the Mets to be something more than a laughingstock they needed to get rid of K-Rod as quickly and decisively as they did.

When I see the words “lost innocence” at the beginning of anything, I pretty much know what I’m getting.

And I was right.

Good thing I’d prepared myself or I might’ve caught a second glimpse at my morning pineapple.

Would that count as me “losing my innocence” as well?

Perhaps I’d have been better off. Then I’d want the $29.03 for lost sustenance and punitive damages.

It’s for your own good.

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The Present And Future Of The Mets

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While the situation is still fluid, judging from the reporting of the Mets pending deal with David Einhorn, it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement for both sides.

According to this NY Times article, in brief and to the best of my understanding, Einhorn is infusing the organization with cash to continue operations and will have the option of purchasing the entire team if the Wilpons lose their case in the Madoff mess. If the Wilpons are able to maintain control of the franchise, Einhorn will keep a minority stake and get his investment money back.

The debate as to the wisdom of this will rage with those knowledgable and not weighing in, but from what’s being publicly divulged, it sounds good for both sides.

As for the reactions to a financial guy buying into the Mets and the attempts by the media, bloggers and fans to “influence” the negotiations in some way (stopping Einhorn; entreating Mark Cuban; “forcing” the Wilpons to sell), here’s my advice: wake up.

Using Fred Wilpon’s comments in the new issue of the New Yorker as a cause célèbre is a convenient way to complete a column and try to exert phantom power, but MLB and the Mets aren’t going to care about the desires of outsiders; they’re not going to pursue Cuban and beg him to buy in because some perceive him to be the answer to the Mets prayers; and they’re not going to shun Einhorn because he’s not “of the right background” as if his genealogy is not adequate to gain his membership card; he’s a Wall Street guy and Wall Street guys are the ones with the money.

And, um, the lauded Rays front office is loaded with Wall Street/financial guys.

I discussed the Wilpon comments last week; you can read that posting here.

As for the Mets current struggles on the field, what were you expecting?

This team isn’t good. They’re not equipped to contend even in the watered down National League; they’re in the toughest division in the NL and plainly and simply do not have the talent to hang with the Marlins, Braves and Phillies throughout the summer. Whether they win 73 games; 78 games; 80 games or whatever is largely irrelevant for 2011.

Mets fans don’t want to hear that; Mets club personnel don’t want to say it; but it just is.

This season is designed for GM Sandy Alderson to reconstitute the club from top-to-bottom; that might include trading Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez. The borderline derangement at the thought of Reyes either being traded or allowed to leave as a free agent is typical of the response which caused prior club regimes to undertake acts that are now retrospectively ludicrous; maneuvers that were done only to accrue the short burst of positivity that comes from doing what the fans and media want.

The problem is that’s how they got into this mess to begin with.

So Mets fans and analysts have to ask: do we want to aspire to be the Red Sox—who were as much a laughingstock as the Mets are currently before John Henry (another financial guy) bought the team—or do they want to remain the “Mets”; not the noun Mets; it’s the adjective “Mets”—a meaning we don’t have to go into here because it doesn’t need to be explained.

The rampant panic as to the potential loss of Reyes is ignorant of reality. The Mets hired Alderson because he has a history of doing what he feels is right for his organization in lieu of what’s popular. Of course some of that was wrongheaded and selfish as was the case when, as president of the Padres, he tried to validate his role in Moneyball instead of making sound decisions; but given his statements since taking over the Mets, he’s learned from his mistakes as any competent executive must do.

The fleeting nature and crisis-a-day atmosphere is part of the 24-hour news cycle and it can be a detriment to running anything correctly.

This current club is not the one that will return the Mets to glory. Fans calling for the signing of Reyes immediately to preclude his departure; for aggressive (and stupid) player moves are the same fans who wanted Omar Minaya fired for the past 3 years after Minaya did what they called for him to do!

That’s what Jeff Wilpon, Tony Bernazard and the rest of the crew who were in charge of the club since 2004 created.

So conscious of public perception, the Mets were a creation of that stimulus response; it was a vicious circle; the pattern must be interrupted and altered for it to change in the long-term.

Regardless of the residue of what that management did and didn’t do, the Mets under that dysfunction, came close to winning it all in 2006; and were undone by circumstances and self-destruction in 2007 and 2008; by 2009-2010, the entire foundation came crumbling down.

But these things are rebuilt quickly and rarely is it done with one player such as Reyes; if he leaves in one fashion or another, it’s up to Alderson to figure out how to move forward; judging such a departure as catastrophic is short-sighted and leads to desperate stupidity.

Deranged ranting and self-indulgence won’t help this team in 2011, a known “bridge year”; once the sale to Einhorn is complete and the financial health of the club is stabilized, more will be known. They might choose to try and retain Reyes or they might not, but it won’t be that one decision that will make-or-break the franchise; in fact, dealing Reyes might be the building blocks of a return to prominence for the Mets—you don’t know.

The Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Reyes, Beltran and possibly K-Rod moneys are all coming off the books; which players from other clubs who might come available in a trade for a variety of reasons renders doomsaying for the future meaningless.

Let it shake itself out and trust the baseball people.

There’s really no other choice.

****

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****

Please purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide.

I published a full excerpt of my book here and recently received a 5-star review on Amazon.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

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//

New Yorkered

Books, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

Did you hear?

Mets owner Fred Wilpon allowed New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin insider access for a piece in the new issue—link—and the antics of the embattled owner have become fodder for more ridicule hurled at the organization.

This is on top of the Bernie Madoff mess; the on-and-off field player issues; and the attempt to sell a portion of the team while still maintaining control for the Wilpon family.

Dissected everywhere by voices credible and not, it would take far too much time to selectively retort to individual analysts. Some make salient and sensible points; others use this as ammunition to tear into the Mets and Wilpon.

This is a story because it’s a prominent piece in a reputable magazine; the Mets are always a target for abuse; and there are agenda-driven writers making it out to be more than it is.

Fred Wilpon has always been a yeller, but has shied away from actual interference in the club machinations; son Jeff was seen as the meddler, not Fred. His contribution has been signing the checks and getting his dream ballpark built. That he watches games and criticizes like a fan is unsurprising and no different from any involved owner who cares about his team.

Billy Beane was seen to have been tearing into his manager’s moves during the Moneyball fantasy and he was the hard-charger whose actions were evidence of the organizational boss who wanted things done his way; Wilpon does it and it’s more humiliation flung at the organization.

But Beane was considered an infallible genius; Wilpon a clueless fool.

It’s all about perception and framing.

For all the things that were published in the piece, we don’t know what else was said regarding Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran. Didn’t it occur to anyone that if Toobin was following Wilpon to the degree in which he was able to write a 12 page article on the Mets owner, that Wilpon probably said quite a bit more—much of it likely positive—than what was printed?

Could it be that Toobin and the editors of the New Yorker knew what the reaction would be? What the number of webhits would be? How many extra copies of their somewhat pompous magazine would sell to the Mets fanbase—a fanbase that is generally more blue collar and presumably isn’t a regular reader of the New Yorker?

The majority of the piece isn’t even about the Mets. It’s about Bernie Madoff; it’s about the way Fred accumulated his fortune; about his family and the reaction to the Madoff disaster.

Did anyone bother to read it or were they taking the same tack as Toobin, picking and choosing that which was more convenient to reach the end result of another tool to swing at the Mets?

It looks bad to have the criticisms against players in print, but in truth it won’t matter at all in the grand scheme; players are notoriously pragmatic when it comes to getting paid; if the money is there, then they’ll willingly sign with the Mets.

As for the statements about Beltran, Wright and Reyes, they were harsh to be sure, but were they inaccurate?

Carlos Beltran has been a loyal Met; he’s played hard and brilliantly, but he signed with the Mets for one reason: they offered the most money. And this was after he and agent Scott Boras tried to sell Beltran to the Yankees for fewer years and less money than what he got from the Mets.

David Wright is a terrific player, but is he a mega-star along the lines of Alex Rodriguez? Of Albert Pujols? No.

Reyes wants to make up for the signing of the far below market value contract he signed in August of 2006; a deal that precluded his arbitration years and cost him a lot of money; a deal he signed simultaneously to Wright signing his longer and more lucrative extension. Reyes is going to want “Carl Crawford money” as Fred said. If the Mets offer the highest amount of money, he’ll stay (if he’s not traded first); if not, he’ll leave.

The number of players who do as Cliff Lee did and go to the venue of their preference at the expense of money is very, very few and far between; Jim Thome did it as well, but these are veteran players who had either gotten paid already and were in the twilight of a great career (Thome), or were going to get their money one way or the other (Lee).

Reyes is not one of those players; he’s looking to cash in. All will be forgiven if there are enough zeroes on the check.

Fred has never openly meddled with the player moves as Jeff has been perceived to have done. It’s going to be up to GM Sandy Alderson and the money available whether the Mets offer is higher than other clubs pursuing Reyes and, given his history, Alderson isn’t going to take the money that’s coming off the books—Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, possibly Francisco Rodriguez, Beltran—and hand it all over to Reyes at the cost of 3-4 pieces that might provide more use to the club over the long term than one player.

The implication that Wilpon’s comments will scare off potential free agents or employees is ignoring both the past and present in terms of owner/player relationships.

George Steinbrenner was a raving maniac; a convicted felon; a twice suspended owner; a reviled and loathed madman for whom no one wanted to work—until he offered them enough money to look past his faults; beyond the rampant and repeated lunacy of the appropriately nicknamed Bronx Zoo. He got away with things because he spent cash and his teams won. Lo and behold, upon his death he turned into a “great man” rather than a capricious, mean and bullying force who embarrassed baseball and his club times too numerous to recount in a small space.

I don’t know if you can go through the list of sports owners and not find a vast percentage who were clownish and brutal in their treatment of underlings. Marge Schott; Jeffrey Loria; Ray Kroc; Tom Hicks; Peter Angelos; Drayton McLane; Vince Naimoli; Frank McCourt—all said and did things that created controversy and a media frenzy.

You can focus on their negatives or their positives based on whatever’s convenient.

Steinbrenner donated tons of money to charities and paid for the educations of the children of killed-in-action firefighters and police; Loria’s team wins under a minimalist budget; McLane’s teams were successful and his overruling his baseball people turned out to be right several times; Angelos’s teams were successful early in his ownership; McCourt’s teams have been a pitch or two away from back-to-back World Series appearances.

Had the Mets gotten one extra hit in 2006, 2007 and 2008 there was a legitimate possibility of three straight World Series appearances/wins.

How would that have altered the view of the Mets and their ownership?

Skilled writers who clearly had an agenda like Toobin can adjust stories to highlight points that will draw the most attention; the media-at-large can take that to establish or bolster their own personal biases and beliefs.

That’s what’s happening now.

It’s meaningless.

It’s ridiculous.

It’s a farce.

You can say the same about the Mets if you want, but it won’t be due to this article by Jeffrey Toobin or the over-the-top reactions to it.

****

I’m administrating a discussion group on TheCopia.com. Click on the link to leave a comment or start a new topic. Check it out.

****

Please purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide.

I published a full excerpt of my book here. Conveniently, it’s about the Mets.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

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//

A Diet Coke Sitz Bath

Books, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

Mike Francesa has always had an ego; such was expressed in a 1996 Sports Illustrated profile in which former WFAN program director Mark Mason said it was as “big as all outdoors”; but there’s a difference between believing what you so so fervently that you present it in a matter-of-fact way and don’t care one way or the other as to the reaction or response and not listening to dissent or acknowledging being wrong.

There’s something to be said for, “this is what I think; and if you don’t like it, too bad.”

But there’s a line between confidence and self-indulgent narcissism.

Francesa crossed that line long ago.

Now, he’s ventured into the world of arrogance meeting obfuscation meeting Diet Coke.

Interpreting what the subject of an interview is really saying by reading between the lines is an important part of being in the media; but twisting what the person said to suit one’s own needs is not only inaccurate, but it’s unprofessional.

Two years ago, the Mets had gotten off to a good start over the first 50 games and Francisco Rodriguez was fantastic early in the season; this was before injuries ravaged the entire team and relegated them to a laughingstock as 2009 was the next step in the downward spiral that they’re now trying to repair with a new baseball braintrust.

On the West Coast, Brian Fuentes was closing games for the Angels as K-Rod’s replacement; he got off to a terrible start and Francesa, discussing the Angels, Mets and K-Rod, said something to the tune of the Angels had openly admitted their mistake in letting K-Rod leave.

This struck me as a huge story. A team allowed their homegrown free agent closer to leave—the same closer who had set a record for saves in the previous year—and was now confessing that it was a mistake a month into the next season?

Wouldn’t that cause a tremor and aftershocks in the Angels clubhouse with Fuentes? With his teammates? With other players around baseball who would think it odd that the team was burying one of their players in favor of the one he replaced?

It was unheard of.

It was unheard of for a very good reason—it wasn’t true.

I scoured the web, searching for various stories in the California papers, ESPN, MLBTradeRumors and other sites to see if there was anything anywhere that indicated the Angels expressing regret—publicly—that they replaced K-Rod with Fuentes.

I didn’t find anything because it didn’t exist. Not even the worst-run teams in sports are going to allow themselves to be quoted ripping one of their players in favor of a former player—one they chose to let go.

Is it possible that someone told Francesa privately that the Angels regretted letting K-Rod go? Of course, but he didn’t provide any background to the assertion other than that the Angels regretted it and left it there as if his simple utterance was good enough for everyone to accept it.

It was a factoid. Not a fact.

Francesa’s gotten worse as he’s been left alone to do his own show without a partner to check him on the things he says that are in the realm of megalomania/egomania. I was no fan of Chris Russo, but he performed that function.

The dismissals of callers has gone on ad infinitum; but Francesa’s become delusional.

This week alone he made two ridiculous statements that are easily torn to shreds by anyone who has a basic concept of baseball.

His ironclad decree that the Yankees will always be able to stay toward the top of baseball because of their financial might sounds like it would come from a die-hard fan and not one who is supposedly the expert baseball analyst Francesa thinks he is.

Did he miss this past off-season in which the prize of the free agent crop, Cliff Lee, spurned the higher offer from the Yankees to go back to the Phillies because he was familiar with the team and atmosphere and straight out thought that the Phillies had a better chance to win?

Has he been paying attention to the new trend clubs (and players) are employing in signing long-term contracts to prevent said players from ever seeing free agency? It just happened with Ryan Braun and had previously occurred with Troy Tulowitzki and Ryan Howard.

Here’s the math: the more young players who sign long-term deals to preclude their first few years of arbitration/free agency, the fewer will be available to sign with the Yankees or anyone else; nor will they be available via trade. Revenue sharing has allowed teams to spend money they heretofore didn’t have to try and compete with the Yankees.

Do you really think that Tim Lincecum is ever going to be a free agent while he’s still healthy and in his prime? That Felix Hernandez will be traded to the Yankees simply because the Yankees want him?

Those days are over and aren’t coming back. All they have to hang onto is their supposedly bursting farm system and the money to buy the aged veterans who are a massive risk—see the offer they made to Carl Pavano.

As for the farm system, you can rave about the “high-end” prospects like Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos, but as the Phil Hughes injury and team-induced failure of Joba Chamberlain has proven, you cannot automatically expect a player to fulfill his hype just because there have been rules, regulations, news stories and overprotective measures enacted to place him in a box and “guarantee” success.

The Yankees are always going to be contenders?

Does he remember the fall of the Yankees dynasty from 1965 to 1975? When they couldn’t do anything right? It happens more quickly than you realize and all it takes is one crack to slowly allow seepage to poison the whole foundation until it comes crashing to the ground; it can happen to the Yankees; it can happen to anyone.

Age; terrible contracts; failed free agent acquisitions; unfulfilled promise of prospects; bad trades; injuries and the dearth of available replacements all contribute to such a downfall.

The pieces are in place for the Yankees right now.

Then we get to the most egregious of the Francesa assertions: that Mets GM Sandy Alderson had called around to other teams during their 5-13 start to try and clean out the house.

At least that’s what Francesa’s tone implied after his interview with Alderson in which Alderson said he was calling other GMs to “gauge the market”.

There’s a bit of a difference—no, there’s a giant difference—between calling another club and saying, “What are you willing to offer for Jose Reyes; David Wright; K-Rod; the light fixtures; Jeff Wilpon; whatever?” and calling to say, “If you’re ready to deal and we’re still playing like this, call us when the warm weather hits and we’ll talk about anyone.”

It all returns to the Francesa fantasy to “break up da core” of the Mets. He’s wanted it for so long; believes—again as is his right—that it was the right thing to do after the 2008 season and thinks it’s now a bit too late, but still an alternative.

But it’s not due to analysis. It’s the propping up of the self that’s so entrenched in his mind.

“I hafta be right.”

Much like his pre-season predictions in which he made such idiotic declarative statements like “I’ll pick the Twins because I always pick the Twins”, there was no research; no basis; no nothing. Just an agenda based on his own enormous opinion of himself.

It’s getting worse and worse as he transforms from irritating in his arrogance, but making a good point occasionally, to simply formulating stories that don’t exist and living in a universe all his own.

****

I’m administrating a discussion group on TheCopia.com. Click on the link to leave a comment or start a new topic.

****

Please purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

If anyone would like to purchase an autographed copy, leave a comment; Email me; contact me on Facebook or Twitter.

Become a fan on my Facebook fan page. Click on the link.

//

Logic, Reality And Madness

Hot Stove

Let’s say you’ve got a friend who claims to have a foolproof system to win at blackjack. He’s got other people involved with him who are giving him money to play at the table, he’ll take a small percentage of the winnings and you don’t have to do anything other that front him to the money with which to play.

You give him, say, $100.

He takes that $100, plays blackjack, doesn’t appear any more skillful at the game than any of the other hacks sitting around the table and the dealer has a 20. Everyone loses. This continues for most of the night; he wins some hands; loses some; doesn’t appear to be doing any better than anyone else. There’s no pile of chips in front of him at any point.

But your friend comes to you at the end of the night and hands you $175. You got your money back plus an extra $75.

“How?” you ask. “I saw you losing.”

“Don’t worry about it,” he replies. “I got a system.” Then with a wink and a knowing smirk, he walks away.

You shrug, don’t ask questions and continue giving him money to play with. Hey, you’re making money; why ask questions?

Logically, shouldn’t you know that something shady is going on? That maybe he’s not “winning” at all; that maybe he’s giving you money he got from someone else and is playing and playing and playing and playing with other people’s cash, accumulating volume without any realistic profits? A false gain?

You probably would know if you have any common sense at all, but given the nature of the situation, that you’re not hurting anyone directly and you don’t have implicit knowledge of his scam, what’s the difference? But you’re complicit. You’re benefiting. And you’re leaving yourself wide open for consequences if the well runs dry and he can’t find people to continue fronting him cash.

Sounds like Bernie Madoff, doesn’t it?

Let’s try another, baseball-related analogy that has to do with ridiculous gains during tough times—a hallmark of the Madoff scheme and his “always win” results.

Tony La Russa is a true baseball innovator; as close to being a genius as there is in a manager. That said, he’s taken advantage of his reputation for knowing what he’s doing to try things that might get another manager fired. If the inexperienced Don Mattingly comes up with some basis for batting the pitcher anywhere but ninth, his bosses are going to scream, “What the hell are you doing?!?” La Russa does it, and it’s an innovation based on research. He gets away with it because he can.

It was the same thing with his conscious decision to compartmentalize his bullpen and have defined roles for his pitchers. While it’s been suggested that La Russa was the originator of the concept that the closer only pitches the ninth inning (inaccurately), it was his alteration of the way bullpens are used that spun into the Jeff Torborg-type of manager who became an automaton with no room for nuance, thought or differing viewpoints.

But La Russa has made his mistakes—some of them of the gigantic variety.

Rick Ankiel is one such mistake.

Starting the then-21-year-old phenom in the opening game of the 2000 NLDS may have been a good idea on paper, but it showed a lack of judgment on the part of the manager. Could La Russa, experienced baseball man that he was, have sensed that Ankiel was so tightly wound that he was eventually going to implode from the pressure? Pressure placed on him by the manager in starting him in a game of that magnitude—the opening game of a playoff series?

Maybe.

But the mistake was made, Ankiel blew up and lost any and all command of where the ball was going and his career as a pitcher collapsed into dust under the weight of expectations, demands and pressure.

It didn’t happen all at once.

Ankiel made it back as an everyday player and has been useful. He has power; speed; and, naturally, a great arm in the outfield. He won’t ever be a commensurately gifted hitter as he could’ve been as a pitcher; there won’t be any MVP candidacy; but had he maintained his composure as a pitcher, he was a Cy Young Award candidate.

He’s built a career for himself where there wouldn’t have been one had he not been able to hit.

And it took seven years for him to make it back to the majors as a hitter. He didn’t give up pitching until 2005; didn’t get back to the big leagues as a hitter until 2007.

Equating this to the Madoff scam, in a best case scenario and considering the gains his investors made, it was as if Ankiel failed as a pitcher in game 1 of the 2000 NLDS and the Cardinals made him into a hitter in time for him to bash his way through the NLCS two weeks later.

As seamless transitions and fantasy stories go, it’s wonderful; but use your intelligence. Does it make sense? Would you believe it if someone suggested it to be possible? Casual baseball fan or not, you know about the history of the game and how difficult it would be to make such an early-career switch. It’s transferable to any career whether it’s sports, financial or whatever.

In the Bernard Malamud book, The Natural, it took Roy Hobbs years to make it back to baseball after being shot. He couldn’t pitch anymore because of his wounds and came back as an outfielder. The book was a nihilistic morality play on how fate can touch the most gifted of us.

The savviest scouts don’t nail every prospect; the best manager makes mistakes; the “genius” GMs gaffe in a bunch of trades.

No one hits on everything he does.

They don’t.

The Wilpons had to know what was going on with Bernie Madoff.

There’s no other explanation for people who are seemingly so smart that they were able to amass these fine fortunes to have been taken in by a clear swindler.

It was unrealistic (at best) to think that during economic downturns the profits would keep on coming in regardless of markets and failure. Sometimes prospects, like Ankiel, don’t make it for one reason or another. It’s the same thing in the stock market. There could be a terrific idea that, for one reason or another, fails.

How could those investing and profiting from Madoff not realize what was happening? Even the most obtuse and hands-off among us would’ve spotted the oddity of his consistent success.

No one is right 100% of the time.

Do you mean to tell me that Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz—the Mets current owners and we don’t know for how much longer—didn’t smell something fishy?

Really?

Whether they were directly complicit in the scheme is beside the point. I don’t know if they were or weren’t; but like Madoff’s family claimed to not have a clue that what they were doing was a giant Ponzi scheme, use your common sense. Simply because they didn’t “know-know” doesn’t absolve them of responsibility.

If an advantage is being taken and they adhere to the old standby of “it’s not hurting anyone” and “we’re all profiting”, they’re still part of the plot by indulging and accepting benefit.

I’m not a financial person and I’m a pragmatist. There’s no moral high ground with me. There wasn’t much for those who were making money with Madoff to do aside from pulling their assets from his operation and who in their right mind is going to do that while they’re making more and more money year-after-year?

Blowing the whistle wouldn’t have done any good. With the intricate way the Madoff scam had wormed its way around the entire world and the people involved, nothing would’ve been done to stop it.

They understandably turned a blind eye and stayed silent. But the truth came out and the “money” that wasn’t actual currency is gone. What has to be understood is that when someone is called a “billionaire”, they most likely don’t have a billion dollars in the bank; what they have is assets and credit. It’s elusive and floating in the air and, as the Madoff case proved, it sometimes doesn’t exist as anything other than a whisper in limbo uttered by a ghost.

The Mets are trying to sell a share of the club.

They’re saying it’s 25% without a controlling interest so the Wilpons can maintain their command. A cash infusion is needed. The media and fans are in an uproar over having been misled or “lied” to by the Mets owners who said that the Madoff mess would not affect club operations; the estimate of how much is being sought in the government’s recovery lawsuit—for the Wilpons who gained in the scam—is said to be in the area of as much as a billion dollars.

Now the sportswriters and commentators are questioning why anyone would pay the nearly $200 million pricetag to have no voice in club operations for a quarter of the franchise. Without any knowledge of this process, I would think that some wealthy person would be interested in a deal to purchase part of the Mets with either a chance to buy out the Wilpons by a fixed date or to sell out and earn a percentage markup of what they put in.

That could be worked out in some way to make it attractive to a potential investor.

This is neither here nor there.

For a long time, it’s been suggested that the Mets owners were damaged severely by the collapse of the Madoff house of lies. This too is irrelevant in the context of worldwide damage.

They had to know subconsciously that something was wrong. Any denial is just as unbelievable as the above analogies.

Certain fantasies have no place in objectivity; any normal-thinking person who can examine a series of insane tales and spot their sheer unlikeliness; unprecedented success is unprecedented for a reason. Whether they’re willing to admit it to themselves or not, they had to know.

Was it due to greed? Ignorance? A silent contract between a schemer and his beneficiaries?

Does it matter?

The end result is the same. The Mets are a financial morass right now in part because of Bernie Madoff; and in part because the red flags of his crimes were shrugged off because everyone was “winning”.

The Mets are not winning anymore on or off the field and the madness is spiraling.

The Mets are for sale because the Wilpons don’t appear to have a choice. They’re paying the price for their involvement with Madoff, directly or otherwise.

This is the only way it could end.

It’s unavoidable.

The inevitable is becoming reality.

As it always does.