(Long Island, N.Y.)It seems like yesterday that the Mets were throwing around as much money as their cross-town rivals. When Johan Santana was acquired via trade and came to Flushing, it was the Yankees who appeared to be holding back. Boy, how times have changed.
Fred and Jeff Wilpon have been denying money issues connected to the Bernie Madoff scandal since it hit and all of the denials and excuses have finally been exhausted. They have finally admitted that an “air of uncertainty” has caused them to explore the possibility of selling 20 to 25 percent of the team.
First, they took a big step back in the free agent market and have been cutting payroll, trying to rid themselves of expensive contracts. Then as last season wore on, they made an effort to go with a younger bunch and will let whoever they can’t peddle on someone else to walk after their current contracts expire.
They cleaned house in the offseason, bringing in Sandy Alderson as the general manager and Terry Collins as manager, but had to fill holes with reclamation projects such as Chris Capuano and Chris Young. Now they have put a minority stake of the team up for grabs.
With a date in court awaiting him regarding the monies earned from the Madoff accounts, Fred Wilpon is still trying to convince the fans that nothing has changed. “I don’t think the suit has had any impact on the cash flow or the liquidity of the Mets in any major way at all,” he told reporters.
And if you believe that, there’s a bridge with a price tag waiting for you.
The franchise has been valued at $858 million by Forbes last April and there are only two teams higher. That bodes well for a number of reasons, but do not expect the money brought in from the sale to be put back into the team. If the Wilpons lose the case, they will have to shell out somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 million. Even with so much going on, the Wilpons are intent on staying in charge.
“Regardless of the outcome of this exploration, Sterling (Equities, the parent company of the Mets) will remain the principal ownership group of the Mets and continue to control and manage the team’s operations,” they said in a statement. “The Mets have been a major part of our families for more than 30 years, and that is not going to change.”
Considering that the National League East is going to be an extremely competitive division, the Mets will have a tough time ahead of them for the foreseeable future. The Philadelphia Phillies appear to be the best team in the league, the Atlanta Braves are coming off a playoff season, the Florida Marlins are always pesky and the Washington Nationals have apparently turned the corner in their rebuilding mode.
A last place finish is certainly not out of the question for the Mets in 2011. Citi Field will have many empty seats this summer and the days of the $100 million contacts in Flushing look like a thing of the past.