Jan 03

Wilpons To Refinance; They Aren’t Going Anywhere

As you greet the third day of the new year, Mets fans can digest the reported news (ESPN and The Post for starters) that ownership has refinanced $450 million in loans borrowed from SNY.

How this is structured, I don’t know, but it protects the Wilpons from having to make an overwhelming payment that would prevent them from retaining the team.

Presumably, the money will be used to pay off existing debt – including the structured court-ordered payments from the Ponzi scandal – with little going in the direction of player additions. (Save $25 million owed Johan Santana in his final season with the Mets).

It basically means what you think it means, that things are likely to remain the same in the foreseeable future. Look for nothing substantial in the rest of the free-agent market, and as in previous years for management to sit on their hands at the trade deadline.

GM Sandy Alderson has successfully slashed $50 million from the budget of the team he inherited, which was what he was hired to do.

The Mets were willing to commit up to $20 million to R.A. Dickey before they traded him for prospects, but now without that obligation there’s no word what they will spend that money on. Alderson said the team will have greater flexibility after the 2013 season when Santana is off the books, but he also said not to look for a big splash in the free-agent market.

With FA spending not an option for at least two years, and the Mets refusing to part with their young pitching in trades, and having little else to deal on the major league level, the team’s direction is to wait … and wait … and wait, until their prospects develop. And, of that there are no guarantees.

When you look at the Mets in comparison to the rest of the NL East, Washington has shown a willingness to spend, and Atlanta and Philadelphia proactive adding to a superior core. The Marlins seem in comparably bad shape – if not worse – than the Mets, but at least they are warm down there.

When you look at the rest of the National League, the Dodgers, Giants, Reds and Cardinals are all immediately better, financially more solvent and better run than the Mets. Even Pittsburgh, which hasn’t had a winning season in two decades, is more aggressive.

So, when people ask how long it will be until the Mets are competitive or relevant again, it is difficult to forecast. It might be two, three years before Matt Harvey blossoms and Jon Niese reaches his potential. There’s room for growth with Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada and Bobby Parnell.

But, even if those things happen, we still don’t know who’ll be in the outfield or bullpen. We don’t know who’ll be in the rotation. We don’t know about catcher. We don’t know where David Wright will be in his career.

What we do know is the Mets have a myriad of questions, aggressive teams in their division and no definitive spending timetable.

We do know we have a long wait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan 02

From Wright To Alderson To Davis, Mets’ 2013 Resolutions

With the beginning of the year for making plans for improvement, let’s take a look at some of the resolutions the Mets should be making today.

THE WILPONS: You are the proud owners of a major league baseball team worth close to a billion dollars – that includes Citi Field and SNY – so act like it. With attendance steadily declining along with the yearly win total, the Wilpons should resolve to start spending to upgrade their team of sell it. Enough is enough. Start writing checks to clean up this mess.

WRIGHT: Just ease up when it gets tough. (AP)

SANDY ALDERSON: You were brought in to straighten out the Mets’ financial problems. Now it is time to bring in the talent to make this team competitive. You did it in Oakland and San Diego, now comes your biggest challenge. Reportedly, Alderson has been given a bigger budget, now don’t treat it like it is your money.

TERRY COLLINS: You were brought in change the culture, but that hasn’t been the case. Collins has been a little spotty in the accountability department and that has to change. He must resolve to kick some butt when it comes lapses in concentration, thrown-away at-bats and poor pitch selection from his pitchers. The culture can’t change if Collins doesn’t demand more from his players.

DAVID WRIGHT: OK, you’re getting your long term commitment and enough money to last 100 lifetimes. There have been too many times when Wright takes it upon himself to carry the Mets on his shoulders when the team slides. When things are going to hell for the Mets, Wright needs to resolve to shorten his swing, shrink his strike zone and go the opposite way. Wright must realize he’s little help to the Mets when he’s trying to hit a five-run homer.

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Dec 11

Mets Should Be More Active Hawking Tickets For 2013

First of all, this is not a plug to buy 2013 Mets tickets. It is simply something I am wondering about: Why aren’t the Mets doing more to plug tickets for this season?

You can buy them at Mets.com, and I suppose you might see them advertised on SNY – but that’s more a house ad – but other than that I don’t see much plugging and stumping for next summer.

Why?

Other than the obvious, that advertising costs money, there’s not a good reason, especially this time of season, when tickets should be finding their way under the tree.

In all probability, a baseball fan is a sports fan, but I haven’t seen any commercials during the Giants, Jets, Knicks or Nets. If I missed one, I am sorry, but overall I am surprised at the lack of stumping.

One thing the Mets used to do was a winter caravan, where players made appearances throughout the tri-state area. You don’t see that anymore. It was replaced by one big event in Manhattan prior to Christmas at the library, but you don’t see that, either.

Why?

Enough players live in the area, or could be flown in, to make it work. The Mets should be making us think about baseball now, not just the week prior to spring training.

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Nov 20

Should Mets Emulate Yankees’ Deal And Sell Parts Of SNY?

The Yankees, as usual, are on the cutting edge of things and recent news of them selling off parts of the YES Network to News Corporation (owner of FOX Sports) has me wondering if the Mets should do the same with SNY.

Under the terms of the deal, the Yankees would still own the majority percentage and therefore have control over the programming, which includes the Brooklyn Nets. When the Yankees launched YES in 2001, it was valued at $800 million. Today it is reportedly worth $3 billion and the Yankees would receive $270 million.

Say hello to Josh Hamilton?

The Yankees would also have buy-back options and opportunities to make more money later. As long as they maintain the greater shares – with the provision the minority owners can’t merge to form the majority – they will be in great shape. Hell, even if they aren’t the majority owners, who will want to tinker with the Yankees’ programming? It would be beyond dumb.

The Yankees weren’t the first team to have a regional network (the Braves, Red Sox and Cubs did at the time, but their brand was more valuable). Interestingly, the Dodgers attempted such a deal with FOX, but Bud Selig wouldn’t allow it and forced the sale by owner Frank McCourt. The Dodgers were eventually sold to the Magic Johnson group for $2 billion.

Obviously, the Mets can’t cut a similar deal with News Corp., but there is CBS, NBC and COMCAST. There are several dance partners available for a major deal. Another option would be to sell minority shares of SNY to several investors.

A Mets’ deal wouldn’t make as much as the Yankees, but they should net enough to take care of their debts, including the settlement from the Madoff ruling.

It makes me wonder why the Mets would do this. They would still maintain control of SNY’s programming and their team. They just wouldn’t have the whole pie.

Everything the Mets do screams of financial distress. They did receive a favorable ruling in the Madoff case, but don’t have to pay anything for two more years. That ruling could keep the handcuffs on for several more years and possibly preclude them from being aggressive in the free-agent market for another five years, which could have them at the end of an extension with David Wright, assuming they get that done.

I don’t know many Mets fans who are happy these days, and probably none who would accept five or more years of austerity until they are ready to compete.

What the Mets are planning with SNY only they know, but they might do themselves some good if they look at the Bronx.

Oct 27

Happy Birthday Ralph Kiner

Today is the 90th birthday for baseball legend Ralph KIner, once a slugging All-Star first baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates and currently a guest analyst for the Mets on home weekends for SNY.

KINER: One of a kind.

I remember the first time I met Ralph. It was in Houston in the early 1980s when I was interning with the Houston Astros in their marketing/group sales department. I was interested in radio work and was given the opportunity to work with the visiting radio-TV crews feeding the guys notes and stats.

Growing up in Ohio I’d spend parts of my summers watching the pitiful Mets, but enjoyed listening to Ralph, Bob Murphy and Lindsey Nelson. They were a joy to listen. I loved their stories and how they described a game. Far better than the Cleveland Indians broadcasters I watched at home.

Now I had the chance to hear those stories personally, and he was gracious with his time and the stories were so much better because I got to ask questions. Somewhere, I have an autographed ball with Kiner, Murphy and Steve Albert, a fellow Kent State grad like myself.

Kiner has led a grand life, one we’d all be envious of. Once a Navy Pilot during World War II, which is an awesome achievement in itself, Kiner graduated to the major leagues and while playing for the lowly Pirates, lead the National League in homers seven times. He played in baseball’s Golden Age, competing against fellow Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Duke Snider, Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron.

Kiner hit 51 homers in 1947 while striking out less than 100 times. Who can imagine that in today’s game?

The left field porch in old Forbes Field was dubbed “Kiner’s Korner,” the name he used for his postgame show after the Mets’ telecasts.

It was in the both where Kiner gained great acclaim as an analyst working with Nelson and Murphy, spinning yarns about the inner workings of the game and the characters who played it. He provided a combination of humor and insight.

Kiner became known for his malapropisms, which only can be defined as priceless. The following are a list of his best:

* “All of his saves have come in relief appearances” 

* “All of the Mets road wins against the Dodgers this year occurred at Dodger Stadium.”

* “Cadillacs are down at the end of the bat.” 

* “Darryl Strawberry has been voted to the Hall of Fame five years in a row.”

* “Hello, everybody. Welcome to Kiner’s Corner. This is….uh. I’m…uh”

* “He’s (Bruce Sutter) going to be out of action the rest of his career.”

* “If Casey Stengel were alive today, he’d be spinning in his grave.”

* “I think one of the most difficult things for anyone who’s played baseball is to accept the fact that maybe the players today are playing just as well as ever.”

* “It’s (Phil Niekro’s knuckleball) like watching Mario Andretti park a car.”

* “Jose DeLeon on his career has seventy-three wins and one-hundred and five rbi’s.”

* “Kevin McReynolds stops at third and he scores.”

* “Now up to bat for the Mets is Gary Cooper.”

* “On Fathers Day, we again wish you all happy birthday.”

* “Solo homers usually come with no one on base.”

* “(Don) Sutton lost thirteen games in a row without winning a ballgame.”

* “The hall of fame ceremonies are on the thirty-first and thirty-second of July.”

* “The Mets have gotten their leadoff batter on only once this inning.”

* “The reason the Mets have played so well at Shea this year is they have the best home record in baseball.”

* “This one deep to right and it is way back, going, going, it is gone, no off of the top of the wall.”

* “There’s a lot of heredity in that family.”

* “Tony Gwynn was named player of the year for April.”

* “Two-thirds of the earth is covered by water. The other third is covered by Garry Maddox.”

* “You know what they say about Chicago. If you don’t like the weather, wait fifteen minutes.” 

It was good to read these again and laugh. I hope Ralph has a lot of laughs on his birthday today, and every day.