NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Spring training is all about optimism, and Mets owner Fred Wilpon delivered a large dose of it Wednesday in Port St. Lucie.
Wilpon said the Mets have solid footing financially, which could mean good things for the team’s payroll.
“I don’t know what the market will be at that point, but the payroll will be commensurate with anything we’ve ever done, because we can do it,” Wilpon told reporters at the team’s spring training complex. “The people have to come to the ballpark. But if you have a competitive team, they will. Everything that was in the past — and you guys saw the pain that we went through — is gone.”
The Mets’ owners agreed last March to a $162 million settlement with trustee Irving Picard, who filed a mega-bucks lawsuit on behalf of the victims of the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme.
“It’s all in the rear-view mirror,” said Wilpon. “The family is in great shape. The family really is in great shape. Sometimes luck is the residue of design.”
The team’s payroll took a historic nosedive — nearly $50-million — from 2011 to 2012, settling at just over $93 million last season.
Wilpon said the Mets “had to stay very tight” because of the Madoff situation and market uncertainty. He also said ownership had to use their revenues to “pay off debt. That’s done.”
“We have many, many many apartment buildings around the country. There is no building, so they are all rented. SNY has done spectacularly. The stock market is up. So we benefited from all those things,” Wilpon said.
WFAN radio listeners got a sneak peek in December of the state of the Wilpon family finances — the Katz family, too — when Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said “the budget has been expanded” for general manager Sandy Alderson.
New York’s payroll could return to more of a big-market number — if the right players are out there.
“We fed it pretty good the last five or six years and I think if the market were such, yes, the payroll could go up,” said Fred Wilpon. “But not just to have the payroll go up so you can write headlines.”
Money aside, Wilpon likes what he sees from the current crop of players.
“This team looks like basically a young team with some veterans, and hungry,” he said. “I’m hopeful and optimistic. The hunger is throughout.”
Mets fans — what sort of payroll would you be happy with? Give us a number in the comments…