Mar 20

Wilpon needs to take Wright stance

Yesterday was a good day for the Mets. Not only did they receive a favorable settlement in the Madoff case, but completed the sale of 12 minority ownership shares at $20 million a shot for a total of $240 million.

WRIGHT: This has been a frustrating time for Wright.

The Mets claim to have lost $70 million last season, and the new money will pay off loans to Major League Baseball ($25 million) and Bank of American ($40 million). They should be able to sustain their operating expenses for this season.

The Mets have a three-year break before they required to pay any of the $162 million from the settlement, so there is some sense of relief in clarity as they attempt to budget until that time.

What then?

Continue reading

Mar 19

Settlement favors Mets. Will it change things?

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.

 

Mar 18

Some things to mull over

The Mets are off tomorrow, which is a good thing, and gives us some time to look at what is going on for the Mets so far this spring.

Most encouraging has been Johan Santana’s progress through three starts. He’s been healthy and his velocity is gradually increasing.

Jon Niese has been solid and showing all signs he’s on the mend. If Santana isn’t ready for spring training, then Niese is the No. 1 as Mike Pelfrey hasn’t shown he’s capable in that role.

Pelfrey is still an enigma and has shown nothing to prove he’ll go into the season on a role. There’s still something missing in the Mets’ biggest question.

Health questions Ike Davis and Daniel Murphy seem as if they sound, but the latter still has his shaky moments at second base.

Andres Torres had a fast start in center field, but there’s not a reliable backup.

David Wright remains a health question, as does lefty reliever Tim Byrdak. With a hole in the bullpen, the Mets have four candidates vying for the role, with Garrett Olson seemingly having the inside track.

Ruben Tejada has a hamstring problem which was a temporary setback, but those types of injuries have a long recovery period.

 

Mar 17

Santana on course

So far the brightest light in spring training has been Johan Santana’s return from shoulder surgery.

His numbers weren’t impressive in his last start, Thursday against Detroit, but that’s not what’s important three starts into spring training.

Santana’s recovery between starts has been pain free and he’s been able to maintain the five-day rotation. Also,  his velocity is gradually getting better. However, he’s still not satisfied with his control, but that will improve with his arm strength.

Santana was mostly at 87-88 mph. in his first start, but was a consistent 89 against the Tigers, and topped out at 91 on his 65th, and final, pitch of this outing.

“I’m feeling good,’’ Santana told reporters. “It’s a process and I’m building up.’’

The Mets are aiming for four innings or 75 pitches in his next start.

The Mets need a lefty hitting outfielder to come off the bench and are more likely to choose between Adam Loewen and Mike Baxter than scan the waiver wire at the end of spring training.

The Mets’ thinking is with so many more pressing needs, why invest in an area with so little potential payoff.

Jenrry Mejia, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, is reportedly on schedule for a May return. I’d bet the over.

 

Mar 15

Don’t understand Judge’s ruling in Madoff case.

I am not a lawyer and don’t play one on TV. However, I thought in this country one was innocent until proven guilty. Isn’t that basic stuff?

Doesn’t that mean the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt the defendant is guilty? At least, that’s what I get from watching Law & Order.

RAKOFF: Don't understand his ruling.

I don’t get Judge Jed S. Rakoff’s reasoning the burden of proof falls on Fred Wilpon to prove his innocense. None of this makes sense. It doesn’t seem logical. And, Rakoff does not offer a legal precedence in explaining his decision.

First off all, the perpetrator in all this is Bernie Madoff, who is already serving time for his part in the Ponzi scandal. Yes, the Wilpons invested with Madoff and made money. But, didn’t they also lose money? Didn’t they have money in accounts with Madoff when this came to light? Doesn’t it make sense they would have pulled all their funds before the roof collapsed?

Since the Wilpons didn’t work actively with Madoff, I don’t understand why they should be held responsible for the losses of others. Why aren’t other investors the target of Irving Picard? On the surface that doesn’t seem right. It seems Picard is going after an easy, and public, target.

Continue reading