NEW YORK (WFAN) — Embattled Mets owner Fred Wilpon says he’s ready to hunker down in Flushing.
Wilpon fielded questions Monday for over 20 minutes from the Mets’ complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla. He touched on everything from the departure of Jose Reyes to the finances of his cash-strapped franchise.
“As long as I can, I plan to be the owner here,” Wilpon told reporters.
The Mets have have money in escrow for seven minority shares at $20 million apiece, Wilpon confirmed. He said there are two more “almost” ready for Major League Baseball to finalize and “a couple others that are in the process.”
“If nothing falls out right now, we have more than 10,” said Wilpon. “But you never know. We probably would consider selling 12, because we bought the first two.”
According to Wilpon, Mets fans “shouldn’t be concerned” about majority control “because we intend to own the franchise for a very long time.”
“Whether they’re happy about that right now or not, I don’t know,” he said.
Wilpon, his son Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz could face a potentially damaging lawsuit this month brought by the trustee looking to recover money from the victims of Bernard Madoff.
“I’m OK. I’ve got fives,” Wilpon said as pulled a roll of money from his pocket. ” No, we’re OK. I can’t talk about anything like that in detail. I can’t talk about the lawsuit.”
In December, the Mets let Reyes, their All-Star shortstop, walk for $106 million over six seasons with the Miami Marlins. That — along with Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez off the books — contributed to the millions general manager Sandy Alderson was able to cut in payroll this offseason.
“I was tired of throwing money at something and not getting success,” Wilpon said.
Reyes never received a formal offer from the Mets, who were scared to give a long-term contract to the fragile leadoff man.
“It was clearly a baseball decision,” said Wilpon. “Are we a little leery of six-year, seven-year, eight-year contracts? Yes. Is Sandy leery of it? You bet. I’m big-time leery of it. So, listen, others have done it. I don’t want to criticize anybody else whose done something different. We did different also, and we were burned. That doesn’t mean there won’t be some player in the future that we think we would do something with longer term, but the history has not been very good.”
The focus this year will be on the future of Wright. Will the face of the franchise receive a big-money extension to stay in New York — or will he be traded for prospects?
“My intention is always to follow … the baseball people,” Wilpon said. “If it works out I would be thrilled. I think there’s no finer guy. He’s just a very fine young man. Any of us who are old enough to have him as a son would be proud to have him as a son.”
Manager Terry Collins said last week that he expects the Mets to surprise their critics. Wilpon also feels good about his team’s chances.
He just hopes it’s enough to lure the fans back to Queens.
“We’ve got to win the fans back,” Wilpon said. “Strike that, we’ve got to win the fans and customers back. They love coming to Citi Field. But we have a diminished population coming to Citi Field. We need that revenue. We just can’t do it on air, we need that revenue to support and the only way we’re going to get that revenue is if we have a competitive, interesting team on the field. Otherwise, they’re not going to come just because they love Citi Field.
“And so we’re hoping to do that. And we’re hoping that trend starts the other direction this year.”
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