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?

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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 06

About last night and other thoughts

Yes, the Mets lost last night and we’ll see more of that this spring and summer. Even so, there were several things to take out of the game.

Pitching is traditionally ahead of the hitting at this stage, so it’s hard to measure last night’s performance by Dillon Gee and others. Gee looked comfortable in his two innings. What we saw was a lot better than the alternative, which we’ve seen a lot of in the past few springs.

Matt Harvey pitched two scoreless innings, but was all over the place with walks and hitting a batter. Nerves, no doubt.

HARVEY: Threw hard, but wild last night.

Offensively, there wasn’t much to speak about, but two things stood out for me. The first was Andres Torres getting on base. He won’t make things happen on the bases like Jose Reyes, but if he’s on he’ll score.

I also enjoyed watching the Mets run and attempt to push things. As we’ve learned, the power won’t always be there so there is the need to manufacture runs. Theoretically, during the season five steals should translate into more than one run.

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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 27

Fred: “ … we intend to own the franchise for a very long time.”

Whether he was speaking out of defiance or knowledge, Mets owner Fred Wilpon vowed he wasn’t parting with his team. Period.

“Well, (Mets fans) shouldn’t be concerned about us owning the franchise, because we intend to own the franchise for a very long time,’’ Wilpon said this morning in Port St. Luice. “Whether they’re happy about that right now or not, I don’t know. Don’t forget, we cut a lot of payroll that wasn’t producing.’’

JEFF and FRED: Keeping the reins on the Mets.

That much is true, as gone are Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. Also gone are Francisco Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes, but they were productive Mets last season.

Wilpon reiterated the refrain often sung by the Mets in recent seasons in hoping for bounce back seasons from the injured (Johan Santana, Ike Davis and David Wright) and the non-producing (Wright, Jason Bay and Mike Pelfrey). If all those things are realized and GM Sandy Alderson’s patchwork bullpen is productive, the Mets could overachieve.

Perhaps the key personnel issue facing the Mets this year is Wright’s future and Wilpon said he wants him to stay. He did not, however, say he’ll do everything in his power to make sure he stays.

Reyes, Wilpon said, was more a baseball decision than it was an economic choice, although the two are linked. Based on Reyes’ frequent injury history, Wilpon was leery of a long-term deal to Reyes. Wilpon said $100 million was on the table, but was linked to incentives such as games played and at-bats, which Reyes turned down. The rejection spoke more of Reyes than it did Wilpon.

Ideally, the Mets would like to build around a relatively young core and ride out the Santana and Bay contracts. If those two are healthy and productive they could help the Mets overachieve and draw a few more fans, and in the process, not make it necessary to deal Wright. Then Bay and Santana can be cut loose are their contracts expire to give the Mets more flexibility.