The pundits think they know what's going on. "They're being sued for $300 million!" "No, it's at least $500 million!" "Who are you kidding, they're being sued for $1 billion!" These are the rumors Mets fans have heard since the lawsuit against Sterling Equities and the Wilpons was brought by Irving Picard, trustee for the liquidation of Bernie Madoff's assets. As Mets fans, why should we care so much about the Wilpons' personal financial situation?
I don't think Fred Wilpon would care much if I was being sued or filing for bankruptcy. If the Mets owners are able to sell a 25 percent share in the team then it's business as usual, right? I don't know. We don't know. It's foolish to speculate what the Wilpons' financial situation means to the Mets going forward. We have no idea how intertwined the Wilpons' finances are with the Mets finances. I believe there are only a handful of people, i.e. lawyers, judges, and principals, who may have a clear idea of the details of this case. All we can really do is look at management's actions.
The Mets kept a very low profile this off-season. Several other NL East teams, namely the Phillies (Cliff Lee), Nationals (Jayson Werth), and Braves (Dan Uggla) all acquired substantial talent. The Mets have given their fans Chris Capuano, Chris Young, D. J. Carrasco, Taylor Tankersley, Chin-lung Hu, and a slew of other players the average fan has never heard of. While admittedly, I was not a fan of many of the big ticket free agent options, it's hard to believe that these players were the best available to fit the Mets needs. Certainly Young and Capuano have the potential to make meaningful contributions if they can return to their pre-surgery form.
As for the others, who knows. We were informed that under the Alderson regime the Mets would take a step back from this year's free agent market. They would wait until next off-season to re-engage, when there would be substantial salaries coming off the books. Was that a change in management philosophy or an economy measure? Too early to tell. In the meantime, Jeff Wilpon insisted on several occasions that the Madoff case would not affect the product on the field
Now however, as we head into the 2011 season, the Mets owners are looking for a $250 million capital infusion. By the way, in case you have $250 million under your mattress and are interested, the Wilpons have made it clear you will have no say in day-to-day operations. My money would be better spent on Las Vegas real estate at this point. At least there I get sun, a roll of the dice and a chance to double my money when the economy recovers. Not so sure that buying a share of the Mets at this point has a whole lot of upside.
What we can't deny about this team if healthy, is that the lineup has a ton of firepower. Jose Reyes, Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran, and David Wright have the potential to generate many a big inning. Can the offense carry the Mets into contention come late summer? Possibly. However, if the Mets are out of it come July, does Alderson look to deal Reyes, especially if he's having an all-star caliber season and can command a steep price? If Carlos Beltran reverts to 2006 form will Sandy look for potential suitors before Beltran's contract expires? If Johan Santana comes back in June and by the end of July looks like the Santana of yore, will Sandy look to unload him? My feeling is that despite what ownership says, we'll know much more about their financial condition by their actions. If the Mets engage in a talent dump come the summer, that will foretell the direction of the franchise. Will they then embrace a movement to build from within, a costly alternative, or will the Wilpons limp along until they are forced to sell the team? We're still on chapter 1 of this book. Will we get to chapter 7 or even chapter 11? Stay tuned.
*Pete is a Montauk resident, producer at ESPN Radio 1230AM, and host of "The Pete Mundo Sports Talk Show", live on your airwaves, 88.7FM WEER Hamptons Community Radio Tuesday and Thursday nights from 7-8PM. Pete can be reached via e-mail at Peterfmundo@gmail.com.