Some good financial news for Fred and Jeff Wilpon came down the line today. Irving Picard – trustee overseeing the restitution to victims of Bernie Madoffs’ Ponzi scheme – announced he’s ready to disburse roughly $1.5 billion to those victims. According to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork, the Wilpons will see a benefit from this, even though Picard isn’t cutting them a check.
An initial reaction to this was along the lines of “We’re going to be stuck with these guys forever, aren’t we?” It certainly looks like it as Fred and Jeff’s personal fiduciary outlook gets rosier and rosier, while the team they own — but don’t love — stagnates. Three weeks ago, the Mets were headed into the All-Star break a robust 46-39. They looked like a team on a meteoric rise, poised to take advantage of an upside down NL East. A trade for some much needed bullpen help and an offensive-minded, righty-hitting catcher seemed inevitable: Sandy Alderson would bring all the big-market resources he could muster to bring in the reinforcements necessary to grant all our orange-and-blue dreams of post-season glory.
Whatever acquisitions were rumored – Ramon Hernandez, Huston Street, Grant Balfour were the most prominent – they have yet to arrive. According to all the pundits in the MSM, the new rules governing players with expiring contracts, most deals would be cash transactions, with little in the way of actual prospect bodies sent traveling for veterans. If a club is willing to take on the lion’s share of a large contract, the other team would be more than willing to accept a token, low-level prospect in return. As of this writing, the Mets have not been willing to make such a deal. The reason is probably one of — or possibly a combination — of two things:
1. The Rockies, Padres and A’s asked for higher-level prospects than Sandy was willing to surrender; or
2. The Mets did not have the cash to take on those players’ salaries.
It would be very easy to give Alderson the benefit of the doubt and say the market just never came to him. It would be just as easy to assume the Wilpons simply don’t have the money anymore to run this team the right way. The cynic in your intrepid columnist can’t help but embrace the latter theory. Rival GMs know who the Mets’ top prospects are and no secret has been made of the fact that Alderson has no interest in parting with any of them: unless they would overwhelm Sandy, they weren’t going to pry away a Matt Harvey (good luck tonight!), a Jeurys Familia, a Matt Den Dekker. It’s not really a stretch to assume the Mets have been balking at taking on any sort of additional contractual obligation. Yes, we know the Madoff settlement turned out well for them and at least stabilized the club’s finances. Unfortunately, a low balance with no activity is considered “stable.” Yes, we know they were successful in selling shares of the team. Unfortunately, less than half of the shares were sold to individuals or entities outside the Wilpon family or sphere of influence and the team still faces mountainous debts on Citi Field and the SNY television network. This looms as a thicket which won’t be untangled until or unless the team is sold.
In any case, the team on the field sits at 47-51, all the smoke and mirrors from the first half having evaporated. On July 5, the Mets staged a stirring comeback against the Phillies which saw them erase a 5-4 deficit in the 9th inning, on nothing more grandiose than a pack of singles, bunts and walks. They came painfully close to repeating it the next night, but on a bigger scale, trying to fill in a 7-2 hole. Lucas Duda’s bid for a game-winning base hit was snared in Carlos Marmol’s glove.
With it, he snared all the Mets 2012 magic, it seems: they’ve gone 2-12 since.
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