It’s time – you need to sell the team.
I know the truth often smarts, but that doesn’t make it any less accurate.
I understand New York Mets baseball has been a part of your life since you purchased that one-percent share back in 1980, half of the shares in 1986 and finally everything in 2002.
And for many of those years, you put the team in a position to win. The early 1990s were awful, but you and Mr. Doubleday assembled a crack infield of John Olerud, Rey Ordonez, Edgardo Alfonzo and Robin Ventura as the new millennium arrived. Mike Piazza gave the team some star power, at least until Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran arrived years later. Jose Reyes and David Wright became proof the times were changing. And the 2006 team probably deserved to win it all, save for an upstart St. Louis team that peaked at just the right time.
But that was then and this is now.
The Mets did not win the 2006 World Series, and each subsequent year has been a growing disappointment. The team lost 12 of their last 17 in 2007 to turn a seven-game lead into a Philadelphia title, while injuries and disappointing performances have been a consistent mantra in the subsequent years.
At the same time, the world learned about Bernie Madoff’s scams and how you were one of many he swindled. Published reports have claimed you lost anywhere from $500 million on up when Madoff was taken into custody back in December 2008.
In the meantime, Irving Picard has aligned you in his crosshairs after being appointed by the court to recover funds for Madoff’s victims. Initially he sought a whopping $1 billion, a figure U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff dropped to $386 million. We’ve all heard the trial is slated to start March 19, although it certainly sounds like the case may last long beyond this year.
And that’s where the problem begins.
As if the Madoff dilemma wasn’t enough, additional financial crises arose. Citi Field opened for the 2009 season. It cost $900 million, $697 million of which came in the form of tax-free bonds. But as per comments by your current general manager, the franchise lost $70 million in 2011.
According to Forbes, the team was worth $747 million last year. The overall franchise value actually dropped by 13 percent from 2010, a byproduct of lower ticket sales in the new park and the Madoff situation.
We’ve all heard how you tried to stem the tide by inviting hedge fund manager David Einhorn to purchase a minority share of the team for $200 million last May. Details also leaked about the option Einhorn could have exercised to purchase a majority stake for $1 if you couldn’t return his initial investment after three years.
Of course that deal fell through in September, but new reports of other minority shareholders are coming to light. Word has it you are close to several infusions of $20 million apiece, with hopes of having 10 new minority owners by the end of this month.
The public has also learned how Mets ownership borrowed $40 million to keep the team afloat until those minority investors are on board, along with the $25 million lent by MLB and your pal Bud Selig.
If fans weren’t already alarmed about the team’s finances just from reading those numbers, it became blatantly obvious when homegrown superstar Jose Reyes left town for a division rival with nary a peep from your staff. Miami’s six-year, $106 million contract may have been a little long for a player so reliant on his legs, but at least it was a formal offer. Everything I’ve read sounds likes the team gave up on trying to bring him back, failing to even make a formal offer. Alone, Reyes was someone who put butts in seats. As part of a team, he made everyone else better and definitely could have been part of something special with the young crop of pitchers coming.
It’s not exactly like fans have anyone new and exciting to look forward to either. Ruben Tejada, the 22-year-old hitting .256 through 174 games in two seasons, will be called on to fill the Reyes-sized crater at shortstop, even if team officials say they aren’t asking him to replace his predecessor’s numbers.
The team signed average closer Frank Francisco on a two-year/$12 million deal, rehabbing setup man Jon Rauch on a one year/$3.5 million deal and backup shortstop Ronny Cedeno on a one year/$1.1 million deal, while trading starting center fielder Angel Pagan for an older clone in Andres Torres and solid bullpen arm Ramon Ramirez.
With these new players on the books combined with whatever talent remains from 2011, the Mets payroll is expected to come in at $90.7 million, an historic $52.1 million drop. How is a team from New York City, the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps, supposed to root for a team that’s patched together like a quilt?
Up in the team’s offices, numerous published reports describe your son has being a major detriment to the ball club. Various anonymous baseball officials said he has one of the single worst reputations in league. Even your former co-owner, Nelson Doubleday, hated Jeff. I know blood is thicker than water, family sticks together and every other family euphemism out there, but at some point the truth has to bubble to the surface, which brings me to my original point.
It’s been an interesting ride, with plenty of great moments, but the Wilpon/Mets carousel must come to a stop. There are major questions about your business’ finances, just how much capital is available and who will take ownership reins from you.
I’ve been an ardent support of the ownership and team for most of the two decades as a member of the Flushing Faithful. I defended you in years past when others claimed ownership wasn’t spending money or offered way too much for guys like Pedro.
Again, that ship has sailed.
Please do the players, the staff, their families and the fans a huge favor – find someone younger with deep pockets who cares as much as you have over the years and sell them the franchise. It’s time to pump fresh blood into the team, especially when impact prospects are nearing. Don’t the residents of New York City – one of the biggest cities in the world – deserve a baseball team with resources to be competitive?