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.

Feb 24

Don’t appearances count for something?

I admit, it’s not my money so the Mets can do whatever they want with theirs. Even so, to pay upwards of $3,000 an hour to charter a helicopter to watch the Knicks last night was in poor form.

This is a team in financial distress and they splurge like that? The statement was the funds didn’t come from the team, so Wilpon must have foot the bill. I don’t see Terry Collins or Sandy Alderson paying for it.

Either way, it just looks bad considering their position.

If you want to take a helicopter, fine. But, don’t land it on the field and be so blatant. They could have taken off from a different location. It just looks cheesy when your team is in such a financial mess and did little in the offseason to get better.

Like going to the unemployment office in a Mercedes.

By the way, the judge’s ruling about making a trial decision regarding the Ponzi scandal means little in the grand scheme of things. Whatever happens, there will be further filings and appeals. This won’t end in March with a full resolution. This will drag on and the Mets will have to get by on what they already have beyond this year.

Or get by on that plus Scott Kazmir. Their former prospect will throw for them today in camp. The Mets are one of six teams interested. If not him, then somebody else because there’s no guarantees on Johan Santana despite his slow progress.

Feb 20

Welcome back

I always loved this day, when pitchers and catchers report. Actually, the first day of spring training has become blurred with players reporting earlier each spring. It seems the week after the Super Bowl is when  players begin to trickle in. David Wright has been working out in PSL for over a week now.

This is the day when enthusiasm and optimism run high for the summer ahead. This spring that has been tempered for the Mets with the Wilpon’s financial crisis and the passing of Gary Carter. Incidentally, of all the tributes to Carter, the one by the Montreal Canadiens was my favorite. Their players wearing No. 8 and Carter’s image on the ice were truly memorable.

I digress for a moment, but it reminds me how much I miss Montreal as a stop on the tour. I always used to like visiting that city. Historical town, great places to eat and the obvious European flavor.

I always thought Montreal got a raw deal from MLB. Yes, attendance was dwindling, but how could that have been avoided with MLB threatening to leave for years until the city built a new stadium. Just shabby.

The Mets, you’ll recall ponied up most of the money for Citi Field, and despite getting $20 million a year in naming rights, the new stadium hasn’t provided either the payday or the home field advantage the team sought.

Attendance was just over 2 million last season, and that is the first of my top issues facing the Mets as their 50th year in existence begins:

Q1. Will the Mets draw over 2 million?

A. The debate isn’t whether the Mets have enough to contend with the Phillies and Braves, but if they have the talent to keep pace with the Nationals and Marlins? They don’t on paper or the field and are projected to finish fifth in the NL East. With a brutal April schedule, they could be trailing by double digits before the weather warms. If the Mets aren’t competitive, there’s no reason to head out to Citi Field and the attendance will drop, and with it will come a further drain on their finances. Never mind winning, but the Mets need a competitive, exciting team for the turnstiles to keep clicking.

Q2. Will the Mets win their court case?

A. Seventeen days prior to Opening Day we should get an idea how much the Mets could be on the hook for because of the Ponzi scandal. Win or lose, there will be an appeal, but should they win there’s a sliver of hope the Mets might be able to add talent at the trade deadline if they are competitive.

Q3. Will David Wright be traded?

A. I don’t believe GM Sandy Alderson for a second when he says how good the team the Mets are will have no bearing on whether Wright is dealt. If they are playing beyond expectations and people are coming out, the Mets can’t afford to trade Wright and expect fans to keep showing up. If they are stinking, who can’t envision Wright not being traded?

Q4. What’s to become of Johan Santana?

A. He’s throwing in PSL, but there’s still no timetable for his return. If he comes back or not, he’ll still cost the Mets close to $25 million. It’s a pipe dream to hope for Santana being able to pitch and be healthy enough for the Mets to trade him. The odds don’t favor a complete recovery from his type of shoulder surgery. It’s a long shot, but the Mets are hoping he’s good enough physically to give them enough starts to create interest.

Q5. Will they get anything out of Jason Bay?

A. With the fences moved in 15 feet, perhaps Bay can’t help but hit for some more power. Bay has done nothing to warrant his contract and outside the fences, there’s no reason to believe anything has changed this season.

 

On the first day of spring training, you’d like to see the team’s primary questions divorced from the Mets’ financial problems, but that’s being naive. What happens on the field is directly linked to the Wilpon’s bank accounts. That’s just the way it is.

I’ll be back later with more baseball specific questions surrounding the team.

 

Dec 30

Top Ten Mets’ Stories of 2011

Good afternoon all. Just got back from Ohio and visiting with my family over Christmas. There was time to reflect on the year, which, of course, includes the Mets’ third straight losing season.

The year was the first under the Sandy Alderson-Terry Collins regime, which was supposed to represent a change in the franchise’s culture and downward spiral.

It did not.

There were seemingly countless storylines that swirled around the Mets this summer, most underscored their dire frustration. The following are the top ten:

REYES: Mets' mess uglier than Marlins' uniforms.

1) THE MADOFF PONZI SCANDAL: Most everything the Mets did this season, and will likely do in the next few years has roots in the Wilpon’s financial mess caused by the Ponzi Scandal. The Mets have a mounting debt approaching $1 billion due in the next three years and which does not include what the courts might put them on the hook for in a Ponzi ruling. Standard & Poor’s downgraded the Mets’ financial status and there are no immediate signs of improvement.

2) JOSE REYES SIGNS WITH MIAMI: Reyes’ departure to the division rival Marlins personifies the Mets’ current financial plight. It was a no-brainer to let him go considering his salary demands and injury history, but not making an offer revealed how the Mets aren’t in position to compete. Most believed 2011 would be his last season with the Mets, and he departed in style with two trips to the disabled list and pulling himself out of the last game of the season to preserve his batting title.

3) METS RELEASE PEREZ AND CASTILLO: Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo represented the Omar Minaya Era in giving obscene contracts for little production. Their presence cast a pall over the 2010 Mets and the new regime finally cast them away. Sad getting rid of two malcontent underachievers represented one of the highlights of the season.

4) BELTRAN, RODRIGUEZ TRADED: The Mets overachieved much of the first half, but any hope of a competitive season ended when Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez were dealt to San Francisco and Milwaukee, respectively, in the official surrender of 2011. Few thought Alderson could unload their contracts, but doing so lightened the Mets’ financial burden – a little. Beltran and Rodriguez were to be the missing pieces to a championship, but instead personified the window slamming shut.

DAVIS: Another freak injury hits Mets.

5) IKE DAVIS INJURED: What looked to be a harmless ankle injury ended up a season-ender for Ike Davis and renewed criticism of the Mets’ medical staff. Reportedly, Davis will be ready for spring training, but we’ve heard that song before. Davis’ injury opened the door for Lucas Duda’s promotion to the major leagues, one of the season’s few bright spots.

6) DAVID WRIGHT’S FALL CONTINUES: Wright missed over two months with a back injury and his power numbers dropped to 14 homers and 61 RBI. Wright’s recent injury history and declining production, coupled with the Mets in a rebuilding mode, increases speculation he could be traded. But, those factors also mean what the Mets get in return isn’t what it would have been two years ago.

7) THE DAVID EINHORN MESS: The Mets financial problems appeared to ease at the tune of $200 million when David Einhorn was brought in as a minority owner, but that fell through. The Wilpons’ fallback plan is to sell $20-milion shares. So far, no takers.

8) JOHAN SANTANA A MEMORY: Despite the Mets’ projections he might be ready at any number of occasions, it never happened and his rehab included several setbacks. The Mets will go to spring training knowing only one thing about Santana – they’ll pay him $24 million next year.

9) BAY SIGNING A BUST: It has been two years and Bay has hit a combined 18 homers with 104 RBI. He did better than that in 2009 with Boston. There were dozens of reasons why the Mets shouldn’t have signed Bay two years and one day ago. I’m thinking there are close to 66 million now.

10) PELFREY REGRESSES: After winning 15 games in 2010, Mike Pelfrey won seven games last year and there are thoughts he might never become the pitcher expected of him. With Santana injured, Pelfrey went into the season the de facto ace but posted numbers not worthy of a No. 5 starter.