By Rich Coutinho
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They said the Mets would never pull it off.
That they couldn’t get a minority owner without controlling interest in the team and no interest in SNY. Or at least that is what the “financial geniuses” in the media would have us believe. Even when the commissioner’s office chimed in that there was much interest from investors, we heard horror stories that the Mets were scrambling. But what got lost in the shuffle is that the Mets are a New York sports franchise, that despite all the missteps of the fast few years, is still a brand that evokes passion that makes it eminently attractive to own, even at a minority stake level.
This is a good day for Met fans because the financial temperature of the Mets is significantly better than it was 24 hours ago and everything I hear about new minority owner David Einhorn indicates he will provide not only finance, but an infusion of enthusiasm and innovation to the organization. So what does this mean for the heavy personnel decisions the Mets will have to make in the next few months? In the short term, I think for Sandy Alderson, it is business as usual, but long-term I believe that an infusion of capital will only help the Mets keep team payroll at the present level.
There are those in the media who will throw water on this deal. They indicate that every dollar will go towards reducing debt and not towards re-investing in the team and although I am not privy to the team’s budgets or projections, what I can tell you is the $200 million will not be used entirely to clear debt. I think some of these dollars will go towards re-investing into the organization, including the team’s payroll. How much will be earmarked for that purpose is yet to be determined, but clearly this is a good day for Met fans.
The other thing a day like today brings to the forefront is how much Fred Wilpon cares about winning and how much he loves owning the Mets. Think about it: With all of the financial doom and gloom surrounding this team, wouldn’t it have been easier just to sell the team outright? From a financial perspective, I think the answer is yes but that is not the way the Mets owner is programmed. He has been unfairly criticized as an owner who refuses to spend money on players as his team’s payroll still resides in the top-tier of the sport. It is totally fair to be critical of how he spent that money and whom he entrusted to spend it, but his desire to bring in top players here should never be questioned.
This deal will give Wilpon the flexibility to re-invest in the organization and yes of course, to a greater degree, begin to shave off the considerable debt the Mets have accumulated. We wondered earlier this year why Bud Selig gave the Mets more latitude than the Dodgers in helping them through their financial woes. We all attributed that to Fred’s friendship with the Commissioner, but it may have more to do with the fact that the Mets are still a strong brand–even after all that the organization has gone through in the past 12 months.
And so when people try to tell you the Mets are this or the Mets are that–the Mets won’t sign Jose Reyes or the Mets will trade David Wright–or the Mets will have a $80 million payroll next year, take it with a huge grain of salt. This is a business that changes quickly. Certainly read and listen to all of the “experts” in the media, but formulate your own opinion about the state of the Mets. Don’t believe everything you read or hear because most of these people said the Mets would never get a minority owner, said Carlos Beltran would never play well again and said K-Rod would not play for the Mets ever again.
Just remember these are the same people who say Jose Reyes won’t be back in 2012. Like I said, a huge grain of salt.
OK Mets fans, have your say in the comments.