The dust is just starting to lift on the Mets’ financial situation and I’m not entirely sure if I should be happy about it. The Wilpons and Irving Picard – the trustee representing the victims of Bernie Madoff’s elaborate Ponzi scheme – settled on a payment of $162 million. Think about that for a second. That’s $1 million per game of an entire baseball regular season as a payout. And Fred and son Jeff Wilpon got a bargain.
The original figure demanded by Picard was $1 billion. I think even Picard knew that was never going to happen, but if you’re going to aim, you may as well aim high. This figure was reduced to $382 million, based on a Judge’s ruling that financial records for only the last two years could be studied. With a mountain of debt on the SNY television network, Citi Field itself and loans from MLB and Bank of America, having to pay the entire amount of the suit would have been a fatal blow to the hopes that the Mets would be in the hands of “Jeff ’s grandchildren,” to quote Fred from a couple of years ago. Add in the fact that the $162 million will be paid out over four years, and be mitigated by restitution to the Wilpons for their own losses with Madoff and they get to hang onto the team. Word has also come out that the sales of the final two shares of the team have been sold and the loans to MLB and Bank of America have been paid off. While all this doesn’t exactly paint a robust financial picture, it at least eliminates some of the doubts surrounding the solvency of the Mets.
So Wilpons can sigh in relief. Can we fans?
At first flush, it doesn’t appear so. My first reaction was that we’ll have to endure another four years of belt-tightening and austerity. That David Wright will walk the same path as Jose Reyes. That the team will endure a four-season water torture of slashed payroll and green regulars. I’ve already heard some predictions as to what should be done when Wright, Jason Bay and Johan Santana come off the books after 2013. It would be 1979 all over again, with no Strawberry on the horizon. Hell, they can’t even win when it doesn’t count: they’re currently sporting a 3-11-1 record in Spring Training exhibitions.
The other side of this, of course, is that with some stability in the financial area, Sandy Alderson will now be able to work his patented brand of magic and foment a massive turnaround on the field. In a game of predictions, it’s near impossible to forecast which way the team will head. Will Freddy & Jeffy take their lumps and retreat, filling their pockets with the money they’ve saved? Or will they pump it back into the organization on which they have a stranglehold and claim to love?
As Tom Petty so eloquently told us, “the waiting is the hardest part.”