By Jason Keidel
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To the jaded and jilted Mets fan, the recent revelations about the Mets, Madoff, and money create a portal through which opulent and competent people will buy the team from the limping Wilpons. If only it were that easy.
Since I’m not Neil Cavuto I can’t tell you the precise monetary implications. And since I’m not a lawyer I can’t paint the legal cauldron Fred Wilpon is in. But any layman can safely assert that the Mets are in trouble.
And since Mr. Wilpon’s pockets just shrunk in the shadow of these troubles, the future of the Mets will pivot on a person not at all involved: Sandy Alderson.
Unless you have a bottomless bankroll like the Yankees, your club’s future is shaped by your farm system. Never was this point more important than in 2011 for the Metropolitans.
If Fred Wilpon keeps the status quo (and about $140 million payroll) the Mets still need young arms and bats from Binghamton and beyond. If Wilpon shaves payroll to cover his financial hide, the team still needs a youth movement.
Even before the public S.O.S. from ownership, Alderson said, in so many words, that 2011 was a lost season No one expects the Mets to finish much above .500. There is too much dead weight on the team, too many players linked to the titanic chokes over the last few years.
Were any of you appeased when you heard Wilpon say he’s wants to sell a small stake of the team? “Strategic partner” is the term he used – a euphemism for, “Dude, I’m broke and I need some cash.”
Martin Silver – perhaps we can call him “Martini” Silver because he made his money from vodka – is a rich man from Long Island who wants to collect the shards from a shattered franchise. But he is not going to save the Mets. Buying 25 percent of a crumbling team is a cosmetic fix, a band-aid on a tumor.
The problem isn’t that Wilpon didn’t spend money; he didn’t spend it properly. The Yankees can afford Kevin Brown, Kei Igawa, Carl Pavano, etc. The Mets were felled by galling commitments to Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez, and Carlos Beltran. (Beltran was once a great player, of course, but he’s now a nearly $20 million anchor around the corporate neck.) Those contracts come off the books in October. Replacing them with solid free agents and pumping young blood into the aging club, the Mets could easily add ten wins in 2012.
Alderson holds the keys to the kingdom. The Mets made a colossal investment in the front office, a managerial “Dream Team.” Every brain cell from the think tank will be needed to revive the moribund Mets.
Silver said the Mets are worth less than they were a few years ago ($850 million), and they are struggling to get fannies in the cushy and pricey seats of Citi Field. Slashing prices, from seats to soda to pretzels, would be a good place to start. What they don’t make in money they can make up in mojo. A full house looks good no matter what they paid to enter, whereas an empty seat is an enemy.
This also fortifies the case for Wally Backman, who, in the absence of any galloping studs from the farm, could have pulled on the heart (and purse) strings of a nostalgic fan base who would have at least one reminder of when the Mets were great. A sterile Terry Collins hardly blasts adrenaline into the franchise. But if he’s the teacher of young talent Alderson says he is, he could serve a long-term purpose.
At the risk of sounding Pollyannaish, this could be the start of a special time for the Mets. You may recall that the Yanks got good once King George was banned from baseball over the Howie Spira scandal. Fine baseball men like Bob Watson and Gene Michael built the Bombers into a power. How? The farm system, from which the fruits grew into the Core Four.
Maybe the Mets have something similar. You gotta believe. Right?
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com
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