The Mets are a team we should feel good about. They have young, skilled position players, a very talented starting pitching staff and enough ability in the bullpen that it’s not out of the realm of possibility that those pitchers will rebound in 2020. But as always, Fred and Jeff Wilpon can’t help but undermine our excitement and the Steve Cohen news has done just that as we get closer to pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training.
Guess what, the Mets are probably going to play well this year. In fact, the team should be very competitive. The team might win it all. But that won’t change the fact that the primary owners of this franchise will never allow for this team to have an extended time of success.
It’s time for the gloves to come off. With the deal to sell majority ownership of the Mets to Steve Cohen reportedly falling through, we’ve confirmed something about Fred and Jeff Wilpon. They are a terrible majority ownership group and they don’t deserve to own a team that has the chance for success as this team does.
Although it’s hard to blame the Wilpons alone for the fact that this organization has not won a World Series in the last 30 plus years, it’s the right thing to do to say that they are complicit. The Wilpon ownership of the Mets is a long sordid tale of failure with the final proof being this Cohen situation. Such failure does trickle down and that’s what makes this situation so sad.
Leadership is always such a tough thing to categorize. It’s far too easy to blame or praise leaders for what their followers do. But that doesn’t make them unaccountable for their actions. Jeff Wilpon is an absolute disgrace as a leader. This is a man who has insinuated himself into the baseball operations of the Mets and was so unsuccessful that Major League Baseball basically forced Sandy Alderson into the role of general manager. How did Jeff Wilpon respond? By hamstringing Alderson as GM with ridiculous payrolls for much of his time as general manager and forcing him to hire or keep on Wilpon confidants, like Omar Minaya. This is the man who later made decisions like hiring an agent as general manager instead of from a group of baseball lifers who had actually worked in the general manager’s office in various successful organizations, and played a major role in the hiring of Carlos Beltran as manager, knowing that he was on a team being investigated for cheating and never asked Beltran what his participation was in said scandal. This is the man who has often been the final say in how much money is spent or if a player can be traded and when asked directly about it, often responds by saying that it’s up to the general manager to set the payroll, even though everyone knows that’s a lie. This is a man who has made an embarrassment of himself in press conferences and was sued for saying insensitive things to a prominent female employee, just because she had a child out of wedlock. That kind of leadership has an effect. It eventually leaks onto the field and is a major part of the reason this team just can’t be good for all that long.
This is not to say that the ownership failure is strictly at the feet of the son. Fred Wilpon is a businessman who used a clause he had as a minority owner in the Mets to force a lawsuit that ended up gaining him a co-ownership of the club with Nelson Doubleday and then eventually forced Doubleday out at the first opportunity. This businessman was so embroiled in the Madoff scandal that he not only lost money, but also ended up being sued by those who had been a part of that Ponzi scheme. This is the businessman who used New York City tax dollars to help build a new stadium for the Mets that was more of a memorial to his beloved Brooklyn Dodgers than a representation of the team he owns and then took several years to overhaul parts of the stadium to recognize Mets history. This is a businessman who, as the scion of his company, despite owning a television station and a baseball team in New York, ran it so far into the ground that part of the deal he made with Cohen was for Cohen to pay off several hundred million dollars of debt his leadership and business decisions had resulted in. That kind of leadership sets a precedent for his own family and those he is responsible for as employees.
Finally, these are the two men that have now caused the failure of two different agreements they made to sell the team. First, they agreed to sell a minority ownership of the team to David Einhorn, and agreed that after a certain amount of time, Einhorn could purchase majority ownership. After verbally agreeing to this, the Wilpons went behind Einhorn’s back to the other owners in MLB to attempt to lobby them against allowing Einhorn to become a majority owner, even before he had signed the paperwork for the purchase. Einhorn subsequently backed out of the deal and lambasted the Wilpons, deservedly so, in the New York press. Now they agreed to sell the team to Steven Cohen, a lifelong Mets fan who just seemingly wants to own the team he’s loved his entire life and did something to undermine that agreement enough that Cohen appears to be backing out of it.
The Wilpons are a disgrace. They are failures as owners, businessman and men. Major League Baseball very rarely forces out owners, but if there was ever a team that needed that done, it’s the Mets. We as fans should be celebrating a young team that could be good for a long time. But does anyone believe a team run by the Wilpons can ever do that?
The answer appears to be no and that is a terrible shame.