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Wilpon’s Folly: Time to End the Charade

By Mike Silva ~ December 16th, 2011. Filed under: New York Mets.

When we discuss the Mets we should be talking about free agency, trades, and possible spring positional battles. You probably were expecting me to comment on why it’s a bad idea for the Mets to deal for Oakland ace Gio Gonzalez. Unfortunately, that isn’t my focus, as the big story about the team continues to be ownership and their finances, or lack thereof; and how it impacts operations. Each month there are reports about the Mets just coming in under deadline for a debt payment. It conjures up images of accountants robbing “Peter to pay Paul,” and using credit to make up for any shortfalls. The situation makes for funny headlines like this, but reality is such that it’s sad situation.

This week, two new stories came to fruition. First, that the team took out a $40 million dollar bridge loan from Bank of America to meet debt obligations on Citi Field. Today, a bombshell of a story was run in the NY Post with information from Howard Megdal’s new book, Wilpon’s Folly. Apparently, Fred Wilpon attempted a backdoor deal with Commissioner Bud Selig to deny potential minority owner David Einhorn the ability to gain majority ownership in their partnership agreement. It’s the kind of behavior you would expect out of an episode of the “Sopranos” or “Boardwalk Empire,” but one that shouldn’t be surprising if you follow the National Pastime’s anti-trust exempt history. This proves that Wilpon knew he couldn’t live up to the terms of an agreement that gave Einhorn a path to ownership if certain financial parameters weren’t met. This behavior proves even Wilpon believes he is on borrowed time.

It’s sad that an ownership group doesn’t know “when to say when.” It’s sad that a commissioner, who is paid to conduct his affairs in the “best interest of baseball,” is doing the exact opposite. Most importantly, it’s sad the fans who invest their time and money, some that have done so since the team’s inception in 1962, have to suffer. What was once an escape from the toils of reality has become just as obnoxious and painful as their dreaded 9 to 5. We have discussed all this ad nausea. Megdal’s aforementioned book will give you the who, what, when, where, and why. I suggest you read it to understand  how this organization got to this point.

Despite what we think, the Mets are not a public trust. They are privately owned by Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz. Regardless of what you think about their performance, we don’t have the right to tell them what to do with their team. The league, however, has the right to be concerned with the process. It’s true the Mets haven’t missed a payment, yet, but isn’t that inevitable when you start doing the math. Even if the Mets make the playoffs and win the World Series next year, will that overcome the $430 million in principal of a loan against the team due in 2014; the $450 million in principal of a loan against SNY due in 2015; and the estimated $600 million, due in $25 million increments every six months, on Citi Field? Would that matter if they won three straight titles? Is that even realistic?

Do we really think they will get off without owning anything to the Madoff victims? Do we really believe there are 7 to 10 minority investors that will loan the Wilpon’s $20 million dollars for an expensive networking tool? Even the most egotistical individual would be better off taking that money and using it for another narcissistic venture. Denying the inevitable end to this ownership group is the equivalent of ignoring a pitcher that continues to win ballgames despite posting an ERA over 6.00. You know the process is bad and it’s a matter of time until the outcome reaches the logical end result.

I actually feel bad for Fred Wilpon. Deep down he wanted to own a New York baseball team and bring glory to the city like his Dodgers did for Brooklyn in 1955. A hometown kid achieving his dream in his own backyard. Life rarely follows that kind of romantic script. Wilpon’s  narrative will probably end up more resembling a Greek tragedy.

To his credit he continues to fight, but it’s on the road with everything stacked against him. You can’t make the numbers work unless an angel falls from the sky with a bundle of money. That didn’t exist in the best of economic times; it sure doesn’t exist after the banking crisis of 2008.

It’s time for the Wilpon’s to face the facts. We don’t believe MLB lawyer Rob Manfred when he says, “the reason the Einhorn deal did not come to fruition is the two parties did not have a meeting of the minds on a key provision in the deal.” We know it’s because Fred Wilpon tried to pull a bait and switch on someone who is too smart for such a trick. We don’t believe the anonymous Mets spokesman, who charges that Megdal is doing a “desperate self-promotional campaign” and says his book is full of “baseless speculation and complete inaccuracies.” Are we supposed to believe the ownership group that has downplayed their financial situation since the beginning, only to backtrack at every juncture, is telling the truth? The same ownership group that has run a team on New York soil with a tighter budget this winter than the Pittsburgh Pirates? Can anyone honestly tell me the process employed is one that is sustainable? If so, I am all ears, because I want to live in this fictitious financial world.

The gig is up. No one believes MLB, Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon, or Saul Katz. Not the fans, media, and I doubt most of the players. Sometimes I wonder what Sandy Alderson is thinking as he speaks on behalf of this stupidity. If you don’t care about the fans and media, then at least care about the people whose paychecks you sign- the players.

Yes, they make millions and live a life that most of us would die to have. David WrightJason Bay, and Johan Santana will all make $15+ million dollars this year. That doesn’t mean its fair they play for a team in a perpetual holding pattern due to the selfishness of the owners and commissioner’s office. Wright specifically will see most of his early prime wasted playing for a team that is connected more to Bernie Madoff than anything they have done on the field. Daniel MurphyIke Davis, Jonathon Niese, and other young players are introduced to their big league careers by working in one of the most toxic media and fan situations you will ever see. These kids are promising players; Murphy specifically yearns to win, going as far to make it the focus of his discussion with reporters during the team’s recent holiday event. Do they deserve to be playing in baseball’s version of a mausoleum? Shouldn’t R.A. Dickey be a feel-good story on a contending team, rather than the ace of a failure? I sometimes think his ascent would be taken more seriously by the national press if he were elsewhere.

These guys deserve better than what you can provide. You can’t and won’t be able to turn this around. Wave the white flag and allow everyone involved with this team a chance to turn the page to a new era.

Sell the team and stop the charade.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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8 Responses to Wilpon’s Folly: Time to End the Charade

  1. Dkresh

    Fantastic article. Love your style of writing as well. Upon reading this, it was as if my mind was being poured out all of your page, but in a completely different style of writing.


  2. Cary Okee

    If justice is served, the Wilpons should not have to pay anything to Madoff victims because they are themselves victims of Madoff to the tune of more than $500 million.

  3. chriw williams

    mets money woes go in one ear and out the other to me. i want a winning season. mets,please do not do business with bay area. remember the izzy and terrance long trade with the a’s for kenny(walk in the winning run to lose the NLCS vs. atlanta) rogers ?

  4. Stu B

    @chriw williams: Keep your facts straight. Izzy was traded to the A’s with Greg McMichael for Billy Taylor – a terrible trade. Long was traded with a minor leaguer for Rogers – a worthwhile gamble at the time. Hindsight is always 20/20, and to say that the Mets shouldn’t deal with the A’s now because of these trades is as ridiculous as saying that they should deal with the Royals because they once traded Amos Otis for Joe Foy, that they shouldn’t deal with the Angels because they once traded Nolan Ryan and others for Jim Fregosi, or that they shouldn’t deal with the Tigers because they once traded Rusty Staub for Mickey Lolich.

  5. Stu B

    Great piece, Mike. It’s sadly ironic that the franchise has come full circle from 1980, when Wilpon and Doubleday rescued it from Lorinda de Roulet et al.

  6. Edgy DC

    An assertion in Megdal’s book doesn’t really “prove” anything.

  7. Mike Silva


    The behavior of Fred Wilpon proves he doesn’t believe he has a good chance of keeping the team. If he did, he would have taken the Einhorn money, which we know he obviously needs. Where is there any confusion?

  8. Pablo

    Spot on Mike. I agree that even Fred has to know in the back of his mind that he won’t be able to pay off all that debt any time soon. If he were any way remotely confident that he could survive, he would’ve accepted the deal with Einhorn rather than trying to worm his way into keeping the team. I find what he is doing incredibly selfish and delusional. If Fred Wilpon manages to keep the team, they will be in debt into the next decade. I have zero confidence in Fred and Jeff Wilpon. Just sell the team already. I feel like we as a fanbase are being held hostage by them.

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