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 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.

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Mar 05

Judge rules against Mets …. will be appealed

As the Mets get ready to open their spring training schedule tonight – David Wright is not expected to play because of a strained rib cage muscle – the issue that will be the backdrop to their season moved centerstage this morning.

U.S. District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff ruled Mets owner Fred Wilpon must pay as much as $83 million because of the Ponzi scheme. The ruling also set a March 19 trial date for another $303 million.

This decision will be appealed, so the Wilpon’s aren’t hitting in the bottom of the ninth. At least not yet.

I don’t know how this will finish, but today only deepened the hole and put the Mets under more financial pressure. I’d bet the Mets would jump at the chance to settle for just $83 million, but this will drag on, their legal fees will mount and we can disregard any idea of being able to acquire talent at midseason if it is competitive.

Regardless of how today’s decision would have been, it would have been appealed. But, the negative ruling only reinforced the sentiment this will be a dark season.

On the positive side, Ike Davis is cleared. However, the prospect of him having a lengthy illness and Wright hurting already reinforced the Mets’ lack of depth. On that note, I am pleased Justin Turner will get the opportunity to back up Davis at first rather than disrupt Lucas Duda’s development in right field.

 

 

Feb 22

On the power of positive thinking.

My expectations for the 2012 Mets are admittedly low, but that’s just me, and readers of this blog realize I don’t jump off the deep end when it comes to this team.

However, I will take if they continue the aggressive play they performed last year under Terry Collins. The Mets didn’t win, but there was a crispness to their play at times.

There was a marked difference in the improvement in hustle last year from the Jerry Manuel era. Collins also promised a greater concentration on fundamentals and at times we saw that last summer. The 2011 Mets did have their comeback moments. There were times when we felt good about them.

They did win 70 games despite missing Carlos Beltran for half a season; had Jose Reyes on the DL twice; lost Ike Davis for five months; had David Wright injured; watched Jason Bay give them nothing again; traded closer Francisco Rodriguez, who was having a good year, at the break; didn’t have Johan Santana all year; watched Mike Pelfrey regress and had Jon Niese injured. There was also a bullpen collapse and Daniel Murphy’s injury.

Come to think of it, considering all that, they were lucky to win 70 games. If you were told all that would happen coming out of spring training you would have jumped at 70 wins.

Reyes will be difficult to replace, but a healthy Wright and Davis could offset the loss of Beltran. Anything Bay and Santana gives them has to be considered a bonus. Pelfrey and Niese just have to be better, don’t they?

If the Mets play fundamentally sound and pitch better they could approach .500. The season is six months long, and one or two more wins a month gets us to the breakeven record. No, .500 doesn’t get you into the playoffs, but it is the first step in rebuilding.

I want this team, as Fred Wilpon once said, to play meaningful games in September. If that happens, Citi Field could be a fun place to visit this summer, and that’s what this franchise needs.


 

Sep 02

It’s Reyes’ call if he stays or not.

The Mets will make an offer for Jose Reyes this winter. Bet on it. He’s a core member of this team, which often wins when he’s on his game. However, making an offer and staying aren’t necessarily linked. And, the Einhorn deal falling through will have little bearing on the outcome.

REYES: What's he thinking?

How badly the Mets want to retain Reyes will be reflected in the dollar offer, which this spring was referred to as “Crawford money,” as in $142 million over seven years. At the time, Fred Wilpon said it wouldn’t happen, that something always happens to Reyes. Wilpon took heat for it at the time, but he was right.

Something has happened as in the form of two trips to the disabled list with hamstring injuries, critical for a speed player. The Mets need to be cautious with their offer to Reyes, even if there were no financial black clouds overhead. He’s a player who relies on legs that have been hurt. If it’s not the legs, it’s the oblique. It is always something.

The guy hasn’t stayed on the field for a complete season in three years and you know he’ll ask for at least five. Right now, that would be a risk.

The Mets might load up on the bucks and shorten up on the years. They could come in with $60 million over three years and if he proves healthy go through the process again. Or, maybe $80 million over four years. Even that’s a gamble for a team with as many questions as the Mets will face this winter.

Hometown discount? Probably not, even though the Mets did give him a long term deal early in his career when he desperately needed the money.

Both offers I listed are $20 million a season which is far from chump change. If Reyes likes New York as much as he says he does, he could consider going short and doing it again, and if he stays healthy, get another payday.

Both offers are enough for him and his family for generations, to live comfortable for the rest of their lives. The examples like Jered Weaver who ask “how much is enough?” are few and far between, and I don’t believe Reyes is one of those players.

The Mets will make an offer that would make him the highest-paid position player in franchise history and up there at his position with the likes of Derek Jeter, who has done it for 15 years. Their offer shouldn’t be classified as cheap considering Reyes’ issues, but will likely be rejected.

The contract won’t be what Reyes wants, but it will be more than what he needs. It’s all on him whether he stays.