Keidel: Meet The Mets, Greet The Debts

By Jason Keidel
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Every time the men who run the Mets pout before a forest of microphones, it is we who become angry. Very few powerful people know when to quit, and with each hollow assertion and rampant denial, Fred Wilpon is being selfish, defiant, and destructive.

Wilpon reminds you of that medieval soldier in the comedy classic, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” who keeps charging after losing a limb. “It’s just a flesh wound!” he bellows after another appendage is hacked off. Eventually, legless and armless, he shouts alone, as his enemy just walks away.

Furious Mets fans are using some of this story as a pretext to bash a team that has given the city just one World Series title in four decades. Others are convinced that Fred Wilpon was a wingman in Bernie Madoff’s criminal empire. Some say Wilpon saw nothing wrong, said nothing wrong, did nothing wrong. Those folks are in the minority.

My guess is that, vis-à-vis Madoff, Wilpon is more of a fool than a felon. A lot of legal terms are being tossed around a largely ignorant media (of which I am a member). But if “willful ignorance” is the disease Irving Picard says it is, then Mr. Wilpon is deeply infected.

At some point, the two symbolic advisors appeared on Fred’s shoulders – one good, one bad. We know which one got to Fred’s ear first. If someone tells you that you can double your money and all you must do is be quiet, what would you do?

(Thankfully, I’m not in that position. The lone beauty of being broke is that I don’t have to worry about my portfolio.)

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This isn’t about the man’s right to his day in court. With each day he defies the wishes of his waning clientele, he hemorrhages money, talent, and trust. Even if Wilpon yanks the rabbit out of his hat, Madoff will still loom like a ghost over the family and the franchise.

Since I’m not a lawyer, I can’t tell you how profound Bud Selig’s powers are, or if he could somehow wrench the Mets from their owner. But an intervention of some sort is in order.

Speaking of interventions, Dwight Gooden

There are no life-affirming updates for the Mets anymore, as though they’ve plunged into the vortex of an apocalyptic news cycle Every time Ed Coleman tells you about the pitching staff, he’s drowned out by Ponzi schemes.

Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo are still on the team. Johan Santana doesn’t plan to pitch until July. Doc Gooden is teaming with Doc Drew for a theatrical round of rehab. Even when the Mets are talented, they’re tormented. Gooden, the solemn face of two dynasties, pulled off the impossible exacta of being cherished by each fan base. Unless you revel in another man’s pain, it’s impossible not to root for him.

Fred Wilpon is another matter. A billionaire lamenting his demotion to millionaire is not a sympathetic stance, particularly in front of a jury. No matter the verdict, he will still have a limo waiting for him outside the courthouse, and a Learjet squatting on the tarmac. That’s why he must settle out of court and sell the New York Metropolitans.

For those of us who have never been stupid rich, we understand in some abstract way that some people are, that they sliver into some opulent pocket of the world once they leave the stage. But in this case, we’re having it thrown in our face. We’re being asked to feel sorry for wealthy men who are being forced to remove a zero from their checkbook.

If I sound like a socialist, I apologize. I’m a robust capitalist. In America, the scoreboard has the final word. And the Wilpons lost.

Feel free to email me:

Do you agree that Wilpon is being “selfish, defiant, and destructive”? Let us know in the comments below…

pixy Keidel: Meet The Mets, Greet The Debts
  • JK

    Perhaps “Metropolitans” actually works for the Metropolitans. There’s no other explanation for his jaded view of the team. And yes, they are perennial losers. A quarter-century removed from their last title – and just two in 50 years – clearly qualifies. And despite their titanic payroll, they’re projected to win a mere 77 games this year.

    Their ace doesn’t plan to pitch until July, their closer assaults old men in the Family Room, their manager has a .500 lifetime record, and their general manager hasn’t won anything since the 1980s. Ticket sales are so bad that they must give away seats, and Fred Wilpon might not make payroll after Memorial Day. Yep, things are fine.

    And your “minority stake” sales pitch is bizarre, at best. No sane man wants a mere fraction of an imploding franchise. Mark Cuban, Donald Trump, etc. would want at least 51 percent of everything. Why would they want to report to the very hierarchy that got the team in this financial cauldron in the first place?

    I realize this debate is fruitless, as nothing they do would worry you. God bless your optimism, sir, though you are completely detached from reality.

    Good luck, I guess.

  • Kurt Spitzner

    Saying that this is not a distraction the players and fans is ridiculous when every time anyone turns to the news,online sites,television and anywhere else all we hear and see are stories of ownership and pictures of the same all pertaining to madoff,ownerships involvement and the potential future/demise of this team!As far as the players being paid that is equally ridiculous considering how much they make.If they cannot go without a paycheck for a season the average mlb salary should be enough to carry anyone over and if not then maybe they are living way beyond their means.

    • JK

      Exactly, Kurt.

      Look, I understand having an optimistic view of the team as part of a sunny view of life, but this is absurd. To say the Mets are just fine is so detached that it feels almost psychotic. You can’t fix a problem unless you admit you have one.

  • mike

    The Mets will carry on with out without current ownership.

    • Big John

      and to where, where will they carry on? What makes it funny is the Mets fans can’t seem to understand what really is going on here. They think if they close their eyes all this will be a dream. Ownership & the team go hand in hand. This is a bad team.

      They have no pitching. last year Santana started 29 games, he may not be back until July, that’s half the season & he won just 11 for them last year, while the Mets go & loose 83.

      I love the guy who say look at the Rangers, that Rangers team was very good, Mets are no where near close to good. Look at the bullpen, it SUCKS!!! The Mets have an OK line-up, they don’t scare anyone. Just hope they don’t finish in last place.

      • JK

        Perfectly stated, John. Their billionaire owner can’t get bank loans. He will be forced to cough up about half a billion dollars in this lawsuit. He might not make payroll all season. The team is projected to win 77 games despite its titanic payroll. But, somehow, everything is fine. The Kook-Aid is strong these days.

    • Metropolitans

      Agreed Mike. Even if the worst case scenario happens and a big fat judgment against the Mets owners comes down, they will simply sell the entire team. There is already so much interest in buying a minority share, that if they put the rest of the team up for sale, interest would be even more intense.

      But I bet the Mets owners retain their majority share. They will sell a minority share and the cash from that will be in the hundreds of millions and will be enough to pay off current debt and meet any gaps in operating income for the next few years. By that time, they should have a better handle on debt loads and on operating the club more efficiently — without having to drop payroll to significant degrees.

      But either way, with or without the Wilpons, the Mets will be fine.

      • Metropolitans

        Who said all is fine with the Mets? You need to read more carefully because I said no such thing.

        My point is that contrary to your opinion, the sky isn’t falling. For example, bankruptcy is nothing to worry about in terms of how it would impact the Mets. Hicks declared bankruptcy and the Rangers turned out just fine. In fact it was better to get Hicks out of there.

        The Mets are not perennial losers, and their current team is better than most are giving them credit for. Sure, they have financial issues now, but it’s nothing that a sale of a minority interest wouldn’t cure.

      • JK

        As long as you realize you’re about the only human who thinks all is fine with the Mets. It seems nothing they do would worry you – even bankruptcy. Good bless you, sir.

        The Mets are perennial losers and in financially crippled. But they look great!

  • Metropolitans

    Kurt, how is ownership and Madoff a distraction for you, as a fan? Are you saying that every time you watch the team this year all you’re going to be thinking of is Fred Wilpon and Madoff? Instead of who’s playing second, who’s starting, and how the bats are doing in the lineup? Really?

    As long as it’s not a distraction to the players on the field, then why should it matter to you? As we saw with the Rangers last year, the players don’t give a #$@% what happens to the owners as long as they get their paychecks. The MLBPA, well aware of the Wilpons financial situation, has already assured the players they will be payed.

  • Kurt Spitzner

    Yes,that is one of the aspects I was referring to,and the other is to thin out the undesirable dead wood on the field which I also said was on it way.As far as the Wilpon’s et al. are concerned lets see where the cards fall,but I will not lose any more sleep for them than they have for me over the years.Only one piece of the puzzle left!

  • Metropolitans

    Huh? Didn’t things change when they hired Alderson? Sure, it took them too long to fire Omar, but it was finally done. Weren’t most fans thrilled when Alderson was hired? If not, who was a better pick?

    Why not wait to see what Alderson can actually do before foaming at the mouth and getting all stressed out? It can take a year or two to turn around a team.

    And the only reason Picard is clawing back well beyond profits is because the Wilpons are so rich. If they weren’t this rich, there wouldn’t be the need to hire such a high-priced defense to begin with.

  • Kurt Spitzner

    I am not stressed nor am I worried,just plain unhappy with the state of affairs on this team for the last 5-10 years.And the only way things will change is if we clean house and do it now. It looks like in all other aspects we are either there or getting there so the only distraction now is the ownership and the madoff issue.By the way ownership should be thankful that they are part of the 3% in this country that can pay for a high powered defense and all that goes with it.If you play you have to pay when you get caught and thats exactly what it looks like.The fact that they have done such a horrendous job when they were still making all the money is unforgivable.Once again not stressed or worried just fed up as a lifelong fan!

  • Metropolitans

    This certainly wasn’t the first time a millionaire owner went to MLB “begging” for millions and it won’t be the last. Sure it indicates financial troubles, but with the sale of a minority interest in the club, II think it’s highly likely those short term financial issues are fixed. If the team does well on the field this year, then revenues should increase as well.

    If some fans want to fret over things that may or may not happen in the future, that’s their choice. But the payroll is third in baseball, the highest in team history, and as a fan, that’s all I can wish for at this point, given the dead weight and excessive contracts Omar left in his wake.

    Why worry about things that aren’t even real at this point?

  • JK

    When a billionaire must beg MLB for a few million, he’s in serious trouble. You seem to be the only one who isn’t concerned.

  • Metropolitans

    Sure Wilpon is a filthy rich man, but he is being unfairly persecuted in the Picard lawsuit. It’s more about getting justice and clearing his name than anything else. Rich or poor, everyone deserves justice in the court system and that’s all Fred Wilpon is asking for.

    As for the Mets, the fans will come if the team wins. Madoff is almost irrelevant here. I think they will have a better year than last and attendance should rise. Concerns only arise if they will have to cut payroll substantially in the near future. There is no evidence so far that that will happen. They will have the highest payroll in team history this year, despite the so-called stinginess this winter.

    I see no reason to get all crazy at this point like some fans are doing. Relax and enjoy baseball as the season opens. If things on the field don’t go right, then complain. But why stress out over things that haven’t happened yet. Chill out for now.

  • Kurt Spitzner

    Now the only question is how long it will take and how many more lost seasons will the mets have to endure until it happens?The time is now!

    • JK

      Evidently, his rent is paid only through Memorial Day. As you say, time is now…

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