Whenever a mediator – in this case New York Gov. Mario Cuomo – brokers a settlement between two warring parties, despite the agreement and presumption of peace, there is a winner.
Cuomo said, “nobody gets everything they want in a settlement,’’ but the Wilpons got what they needed in Irving Picard’s “Battle for the Mets.’’
Sure, Fred Wilpon wanted to come away unscathed, but in the end the settlement was kind to him and the Mets. Wilpon gets to keep his team and could be on the hook for just $162 million, far more palatable than the initial $1 billion lawsuit, and later the $380 million ceiling ruled by Judge Jed S. Rakoff.
Picard saw earlier decisions going toward Wilpon; the Mets saw a long and costly trial.
“The closer you get to trial the closer you get to the reality of trial,’’ Cuomo said.
The reality of it is Wilpon could owe less than $162 because the settlement allows him to go after the $178 million they claim to have lost in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scandal.
Of the $178 million, Picard has already recovered $10 million. So, in essence Wilpon and Picard have formed an odd partnership.
On top of a shrinking settlement, the Mets don’t have to pay anything for three years. While this settlement eases the financial burden on the Mets and possibly offers more a sense of economic clarity, it doesn’t assure the Mets a climate of “normalcy,’’ as suggested by Cuomo.
Since Carlos Beltran took that curveball from Adam Wainwright to end the 2006 NLCS, normalcy for the Mets has been blown division leads in 2007 and 2008, a shoddy bullpen, a string of injuries, a line of incomprehensible and suffocating contracts, two managerial changes, a front office overhaul and a slashed payroll of $50 million.
The Mets’ austerity forced the trading of Beltran and closer Francisco Rodriguez, and free-agent departure of Jose Reyes. It could also lead to trading David Wright.
What happened Monday was a victory for Wilpon, but it doesn’t immediately change the state of his team of the field. The Mets are projected to finish last in the National League East in their fourth straight losing season.
That is what normalcy has been recently for the Mets and that isn’t about to change. The three-year relief from making payments is likely to be the same window before the team becomes baseball relevant again.
This was a stressful and expensive ordeal for Wilpon, who saw the very real possibility of losing his team. This settlement gives him a second chance. Hopefully, he’ll make the most of it.