The 2012 Mets: Trusting Sandy Alderson

The two League Championship Series have just concluded and we’ll see a never-before matchup in the World Series. Texas-St. Louis offers a couple of fresh – and one most unlikely – faces on the national stage. This will be the first Series in recent memory in which both teams got there on the backs of their offense. “Pitching wins championships,” the hoary bromide goes, but neither team has shown that dominant, lock-down starting pitching which has been a hallmark of World Series winners past, save for Chris Carpenter’s performance against the Phillies – he said, hiding a giggle.

What does this have to do with the Mets and Sandy Alderson’s 2012 off-season plans? In a broad sense, this latest chink in the armor of “conventional wisdom” might bode well for whichever moves Alderson might make. If nothing else, it should take some of the pressure off. The recent Series and the popularity of the Moneyball film/book will allow for a lot of out-of-the-box thinking on several fronts, with a minimum of ridicule from all but the most entrenched troglodytes of the MSM. The Jose Reyes situation could go either way: in a decidedly un-scientific observation, there are equal numbers of Met fans who would keep him at all costs as would let him walk. That will be Alderson’s biggest decision of the off-season and after that, there are almost no bad moves Alderson can make, short of bringing back Jeff Francoeur, signing Mike Pelfrey to a 15-year extension or some other such ridicularity. He can cast a wide net and when something doesn’t work, he can cut bait quickly – as he showed a willingness to do this past season, with mulligans on Brad Emaus and Blaine Boyer. Beyond paying lip service to building up the system, the Alderson regime has actually taken steps to doing just that. It’s not the sexy way to build a team – we leave that to the guys across town, who, for all their regular season success this year, played a grand total of five more games than the Mets – but it is the most sustainable and cost-efficient. There are hardly any two more important words bandied about nowadays.

The question is this: will New York fans be patient with this? With this team, that’s the key ingredient. Ownership – such as it is – has shown themselves to have rabbit-ears when it comes to “the will of the fans.” If public perception turns against the admittedly slow-going process, there is a chance that the Wilpons may cashier Alderson and bring on a more malleable personality to steer the ship, even if they’re being pushed out the door. This, of course, would be the ultimate spiteful act and final proof that Jeff Wilpon is no more than a spoiled brat who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.

So it’s up to us fans to trust the process. If mid-season 2011 is any indication, the attitude shift and the clubhouse fumigation begun with Terry Collins’ hiring and continuing with the installation of Bob Geren as bench coach, the process is well under way and should bear fruit sooner, rather than later.

I, personally, have no other choice.

Judge’s ruling a hit with Wilpons

Just in case you haven’t heard, a federal judge took a significant bite out of the lawsuit against the Mets ownership.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff ruled recently that Sterling Equities is only on the hook for $386 million, not the full $1 billion sought by court-appointed trustee Irving Picard.

Picard sued the Wilpons, Saul Katz and other team owners for $700 million in principal and $300 million in profits last December in connection their investments with Bernie Madoff.

But on Tuesday, Rakoff dismissed nine of 11 counts of fraud against Sterling Equities. Picard, he said, can only seek $300 million in principle and $83.3 in alleged false profits. The judge also declared that the trustee can only claim the principle if he can prove the owners were aware of the fraud.

So what does that mean to the team? It’s far too early to get into specifics, especially with the case still in court and rumors of a settlement abound, but this is very good news for Fred and Jeff Wilpon. If they keep the team, there’s more capital to work with it. And if they sell the team, they have more money in the bank for their real estate investments.

The situation is a lot less lucid for fans. To some, it’s great news as the owners suddenly have more money to play with as GM Sandy Alderson talks about $110-120 million payroll in 2012. On the other hand, there’s a sizeable contingent of fans who abhor the Wilpons’ and were looking forward to seeing them replaced as soon as possible.

The divide among fans is present even among your trusty blog writers. Take a gander through some of the most recent pieces and it’s crystal clear that some of my colleagues would rather never see the Wilpons’ again. I am the Serbia to their Austria-Hungary in that I don’t mind having them writing blue and orange checks.

From what I can tell through casual research online, Mets’ fans are livid with Fred and Jeff for a variety of reasons. Apparently there’s some concern about meddling in baseball decisions, not firing more personnel after the 2007 debacle, signing Karim Garcia and Shane Spencer over Vladimir Guerrero in 2004 and letting former GM Omar Minaya run the team into the ground.

In my eyes, the Wilpons agreed to back off once they signed Alderson, Paul DePodesta and JP Ricciardi as the team’s new front office leadership. At the same time, they’ve nothing short of dump money into the team, even if it wasn’t always spent as efficiently or intelligently as possible. According to Cot’s, payroll has been over $100 million seven times from 2001-2011, and has never dipped below $90 million.

I’d rather have owners that care about the team and are willing to spend money (albeit not carelessly) than owners who pocket their proceeds and build a shell of a team. But what do you think?

Mets’ Ownership Situation Makes Forecasting That Much More Difficult

Over my last couple of pieces, I’ve tried to get a pulse on what the Mets’ 2012 season might look like. It’d be easier to predict tomorrow night’s lottery numbers.

It’s always a tricky thing to try and guess what will happen down the line. The best anyone can do to predict the future is a best hypothesis, based on what’s happened in the past. Track record, you might call it. It isn’t the most reliable way plan out the next few months/years/decades, yet, we all try to gauge the time ahead. This is especially true if you follow – or work inside of, or write about – major league baseball.

This exercise in trying to get a handle on what’s gonna happen next is almost baseball’s stock-in-trade. It permeates just about every facet of the game, from the action on the field to the entire raison d’etre of scouts and GMs and it’s what’s mainly responsible for the rise of advanced statistics – sabermetrics, if you will. It’s what every off-season is built upon – and what makes it fun most of the time. The seasoned baseball watcher often finds himself or herself navigating a thicket of “if/then” statements: “IF the pitcher throws a curveball here, THEN the hitter will swing and miss more times than not.” “IF this kid fills out a little more physically, THEN he might have a decent career.” “IF we hand out this mega-contract, THEN we may be hamstrung financially.”

When it comes to the Mets, that last one is the rub.

While watching the team’s ownership fall all over itself — “The Wilpon Follies” – from this vantage point since January, your intrepid columnist sees only a spaghetti tangle of “if/thens” between now – elimination day, yet again – and next April. I can only look ahead with a pair of foggy spectacles to try and piece together a game plan for the off-season. The reason for this is quite possibly the biggest “if/then” of all: IF the Wilpons are out of money, THEN they’ll have to sell the team. The “if” half of the statement is something we’ll never know for sure until the situation reaches its denoument, and until that happens, we won’t know if Sandy Alderson has the wherewithal to retain the services of Jose Reyes, hand out mega-dollars to Prince Fielder, acquire Matt Kemp or bring in a stud starting pitcher. When trying to make any kind of prediction, one must start with a rundown of the facts at hand: resources, liabilities, etc. When it comes to the Wilpons, we on the outside may never get even to that point. We’ve been overwhelmed by a torrent of double-talk – and not the charming, Casey Stengel kind, either – public blundering and obfuscation. They have succeeded in throwing fans and pundits alike off their scent.

That seems to be the only thing they’ve been successful at lately.

The Wilpons Just Don’t Get it: “HatGate” Is The Last Straw

If there’s such a thing as a four-ring circus, the Mets are it. It seems there is always something there to tarnish even their most shiny moments. An extremely moving, nicely planned and executed, nationally-televised ceremony of remembrance turned into a farce in short order. A nice gesture – one that has become somewhat of a tradition over the last ten years – has become the latest mini-storm to blow through Met Land.

Are we really surprised to find the grinning skulls of Fred and Jeff Wilpon behind this mess?

By now, if you’re reading this, you know the story. Two weeks ago, the Mets announced they’d wear the hats of the NYPD, FDNY, EMS and Port Authority Police on the tenth anniversary of the September 11th Attacks – as they’ve done every September 11th. This would dovetail nicely with the planned commemoration of that horrid event and a fine tribute to those first-responders who lost their lives that hideous day. One would think these plans would bear the label “Not To Be Messed With.” One would be wrong.

Hours before the game, it was announced that MLB had forbidden the Mets to wear the First-Responder millinery, and had to wear the MLB-issue “regular” home caps, emblazoned with an American flag on the side. There was an immediate hue and cry on Twitter and throughout the blogosphere that Ebenezer Selig – through an unlikely toady, Joe Torre – had squashed the Mets’ hope of honoring the heroes of the WTC with a crass commercial gambit: replicas of the Mets’ 9/11/11 caps are available from MLB.com for a mere $36.99. I was being as eloquent as I possibly could when I Tweeted: “That is complete crap.”

But there was an opportunity to be had here. This was a chance for the Mets organization to exemplify the scrappy, working-class-hero ethos so beloved in the mid-60’s. This was a chance for the players, the ownership and the fans to yell “SCREW da MAN!” in unison. It would have been so sweet to see the players and the Wilpons risk a heavy fine and defy the MLB edict.

Instead, they folded like a $36.99 suit.

The team met before the game and decided they didn’t want to incur the wrath of Seligula. They didn’t want to ruffle any of the feathers of the entity to which they are –quite literally – indebted. In these subsequent days, the whole situation has devolved into a “He Said/He Said” argument, with MLB claiming they delivered no threat of a fine. It just might be possible that this flap might just accomplish that which the Wilpons were trying to avoid: angering Bud Selig.

In any case, on the heels of their abandoned efforts to bring in a heavy-hitting investor , this is one more pock-mark on an already irreparably damaged reputation. Please sell this team.

And oh yeah: the bullpen stinks, too.

The New York Mets: It’s Gotta Get Better, Right?

There’s a lot going on in Met-land lately, but I’m finding myself hard pressed to pay attention.

There’s talk of new uniforms next year…again! If it’s to be a ditching of the tired, oh-so-90’s “Mets In Black” look, I say “Hear! Hear!” I could go through the rest of my life with only the home cream-and-pinstripes and the grey roadies. I could even deal with the royal blue tops — sported by Los Mets a couple of weeks ago – sprinkled in here and there. Maybe the alternate jerseys from a couple of years ago with the ginormous “NY” on the breasts could make an appearance as well.

There are murmurs that the outfield walls might have kinder, gentler dimensions commencing in 2012 as well. There’s only so much that can be done, here: there’s an awful lot of concrete to be dealt with. I’d be in favor of lowering Great Wall of Flushing (thank you, Howie Rose!) from sixteen feet high to a more humane eight. I’d also welcome abolition of the cursed “Mo Zone,” where homers go to die. It’s interesting that the park was seemingly built with Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes in mind, neither of whom – possibly – would enjoy its fruits past 2011.

This is all well and good. Those deck chairs on this Titanic will be in perfect position. This is the definition of window dressing, designed to take our minds off a most depressing present. Yes, I have faith in Sandy Alderson. He’s saying all the right things and it looks like he and his squad are making all the right moves. We out here in the fan base are drooling over the prospect of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler becoming the new Seaver/Koosman and Brandon Nimmo launching balls over the erstwhile Mo Zone. And yes, I like what Terry Collins is doing in that room. I know the win tally is worse than Jerry Manuel’s final, fitful kicks last season, but Collins is doing what he was brought in here to do: fumigate the clubhouse. When he was hired back in November, I mentioned that this was most likely a tenting operation, designed to exterminate the funk emanating from Roosevelt Avenue. He seems to have done that. There are signs on the field – despite the stagnant win total – that this franchise is closer than we think to ascending to contention. The only game in this losing skein that was truly putrid was last night’s (8/22). They’ve been in almost every game they’ve played this year, and I think that says a lot about character, something that to the naked eye was absent from June 2007 through last year.

No. My concern is that all this window dressing we’re seeing right now is meant to distract us from the fact the old, fetid ownership is still in place and will remain so through the end of the 2011 season – and most likely beyond. I know there’s an Einhorn waiting in the wings, but the process is maddeningly slow and we have to watch the Wilponian dog-and-pony parade before anything of substance will shift. I have a fear that the longer Fred and Jeff Wilpon hang around, the greater the chance that all the good work of Alderson and co. will be undone by desperation and stupidity up in the tower.

But boy, did those Los Mets uniforms look good…

Will David Einhorn Save The Mets?

It would appear the endgame is nigh for Fred and Jeff Wilpon.

The judges are convening – even as we speak – and the fate of the ownership seems a fait accompli: the Wilpons will be forced to sell their chunk of the Mets in order to pay off mammoth debts on Madoff victims, SNY-TV, and Citi Field. For all I know, they may also have a 90-day invoice to the caterers for the post-game clubhouse spread. In short, it would take several massive miracles for Fred, Jeff and Uncle Saul Katz to retain a significant portion of the franchise. With a little help from their friends in the MLB hierarchy, they’ll be able to make their exit as gracefully and with as much dignity as possible, considering the NYC media cauldron and 24-hour news cycle.

Enter David Einhorn, the new, chosen, designated, legal partner in the ownership group. At first flush, he would seem the perfect fit to swoop in and take control. He’s in his early-40’s, he’s a Long Island local, he has been a roaring success in fairly arcane financial ventures – how he makes his money is certainly over my head – and he’s a baseball fan. Sound familiar? This is strikingly similar to the resume Fred Wilpon himself brought to the table 31 years ago, when he and Nelson Doubleday took the reins from a diffident and disinterested Payson family. Fred was young, dynamic and aggressive in terms of building the Mets’ brand, first by hiring Frank Cashen as GM and slowly, prudently discarding the pinchpenny ways of the prior regime. That ownership was just the breath of fresh air this franchise needed.

30 years on, this ownership is once again in desperate need of fumigation. The front-office put in place during these final fitful months of Wilponic hegemony has given David Einhorn the head start Fred never had. Think of it as Fred, Jeff & Saul’s going-away gift to us fans. If Einhorn will stay out of Sandy Alderson and co.’s way, keep his mouth shut and just keep signing the checks, that would be the most satisfactory answer to the question posed in the title. I’d love to see him be a kind of Steinbrenner-with-an-internal-filter: a burning passion to win without being an ass about it. My guess is that that’s how he will start out. I think it will result in at least a few pennants and a World Series title or two. But time, as we know, brings out many changes and shifts in personality and actions. It’s quite possible that Einhorn could eventually become a latter-day Jeff – nosing around the clubhouse, circumventing the plans of the GM and his lieutenants, getting chummy with and seeking policy input from players.

Were that to happen, the longtime, sadly cynical Met fan such as I would only be able to shake his head and look forward to better times. We’re used to that by now.

David Einhorn: International Man of Mystery

Last week, a rush of news from the Ivory Towers of Flushing informed the world that hotshot fancier David Einhorn had sunk $200 million of his hard-earned moolah into a shaky-at-best operation known as the New York Mets. Over here, it was immediately viewed as good news . If I were to listen to the MSM – which is really quite funny, if you’ve read any of my stuff at all – I would come away with a far different impression.

Adam Rubin and David Lennon would have us believe that Mr. Einhorn might actually be a bigger villain than Fred and/or Jeff Wilpon. Einhorn showed up at City Field on Memorial Day and gave the media…well…nothing. He did exactly what any savvy businessman who has entered into a deal which has yet to be finalized would do: said nothing. Could he confirm that the new deal had a clause which would allow him to take full control of the Mets? Can’t answer that. Will he be sinking more money into the team? Deal isn’t final, so I can’t comment. What do you think of the team on the field? Can’t say and I really shouldn’t. This drove the beat guys bonkers and as we see from the two citations above, they went straight to the trusty narrative: if the Mets are involved, it’s gonna be bad…REALLY bad. It’s actually funny to read.

So who is this Einhorn character, anyway? From most accounts, he’s the latest Wall Street wunderkind, the ballsy dude who, among other things, predicted the falls of Allied Capital and Lehman Brothers and made a tidy sum short-selling those two formerly august entities. He currently has his sights on Microsoft, which he feels is being mismanaged by CEO Steve Ballmer.

Sound familiar?

It seems he can also play the goofball, if he wants to, sporting the good ol’ backward baseball cap look at the poker table.

In fact, he finished in 18th place in the World Series of Poker in 2006, pulled down over $650,000 and immediately turned it over to his doppelganger, Michael J. Fox for his foundation for Parkinson’s research.

So the Einhornian mad poker skills serve him well in other areas, apparently.

Mets and fans find mercy in the rain

I actually went to bed feeling better about the Mets than I had in a week. A win will get that for you, however it comes about. And when I woke up, it got even better.

The Mets scored a run in the top of the first, then immediately gave four of them back, then scored five of their own in the second, all built around singles and doubles – a rare thing at Wrigley Field’s “friendly confines.” The tacked one on in the fifth and had two on and none out in the seventh when the umpires decided to roll out the tarps – much to the consternation of Cubs’ manager Mike Quade. I checked in the requisite hour-and-a-half later to discover the 7-4 score had gone final, amid a classic Lake Michigan monsoon. I was moved to warble a few bars of the Gordon Lightfoot classic “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” myself. Although, maybe not the best choice for Fleet Week.

And I think it’s apropos that last night’s victory involved a tarp, because apparently, Fred Wilpon received a bit of a bailout of his own. According to The New York Times, no less, the Mets have settled on a buyer The Times didn’t name names, but it’s come out in baseball circle Twitters that the new moneyman is hotshot hedge fund manager David Einhorn, the man who helped take down Allied Capital and Lehman Brothers, when their respective operations took on a slightly shady hue.

Once again, I’m getting a feeling of violent vertigo. On Monday, Fred Wilpon destroys hope. On Tuesday, the Mets look distracted and disinterested in an 11-1 loss. On Wednesday, the cleansing rains arrive in Chicago. On Thursday, Einhorn brings hope, along with a couple o’ bucks.

Ain’t baseball grand?

8 Days in Mets’ May 2011: Did I Miss Anything?

I spend most of a week at a conference, then have computer issues for the rest of it, and look what happens.

I was able to follow the Monday night follies (5/16) against Florida (http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYN/NYN201105160.shtml) and the dancin’ through the rain (5/18) vs. Washington (http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYN/NYN201105180.shtml) from the mostly unfriendly environs of the Tropicana Casino/Hotel in America’s seashore playground, Atlantic City. Waaaaaay too many Phillies hats down there for my liking, but that’s personal preference. I cam home just in time to watch the stellar starting pitching continue – by way of the new & improved MLB Gameday, which I love — with yet another shutout of the Nats on Thursday. (http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYN/NYN201105190.shtml) The formula was straight out of the “traditional” NYM playbook I grew up with: fantastic starting pitching, a lockdown bullpen and JUUUUUUUST enough offense.

Now, against the likes of Washington, that’s all well & good. Against the Yankees? Well, that’s a whole ‘nother matter, entirely. Trekking up to the Bronx just a game below .500 and brimming with unusual confidence, they put that formula to the Yanks and came away one-for-three. (http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA201105200.shtml) It could very well have been TWO-for-three, but for a meltdown inning for the ages in the Sunday seventh. (http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA201105220.shtml) That was pretty tough to take, I thought.

What the heck did I know?

When Monday’s edition of the NEW YORKER magazine hit the stands, the black cloud over Citi Field got a little bit blacker. If you’re reading this, you’ve read most of the incendiary Wilponian quotes in other precincts. So Reyes won’t get “Crawford money” because he’s hurt all the time. David Wright is a “good kid, good player, not a superstar.” Carlos Beltran is only here because “some schmuck in New York” paid him based on a crazy-stupid hot post-season. The Mets are “snakebitten, baby” and a “sh*tty team.”

I’m flummoxed every time I stop and think that these quotes came from the OWNER OF THE TEAM! These weren’t the rantings of some beered-up New Breeder from section 532. These weren’t pithy opinions worthy of no less than Jeff Pearlman. These weren’t the Sunday morning MSM ramblings of Mike Lupica, Bob Klapisch or Ken Davidoff. When you’re the owner of a team – or of any business, really — simple decorum dictates that you don’t alienate the few customers you have left by running down your own product. As I’ve stated elsewhere, the state of the Mets’ ownership has left me bewildered since the New Year dawned. More recently, it has left me feeling as if we fans were Pauline in peril. Maybe I’m missing something, but I fail to see what the point of the whole thing is. Is Fred trying to paint himself as an Alzheimer’s case, so that there’s no POSSIBLE way the Madoff thing can be perceived as anything but an accident? Is he driving his own price/value for the team downward, so he can claim a capital loss when the team is finally – MERCIFULLY — sold? Is he angling for sympathy usually reserved for the Pittsburghs and Kansas Citys of the world? Does he want revenue-sharing money?

In the end, we, as fans, are left with these questions, along with the same questions as other Madoff investors and Irving Picard: are the Wilpons simply clueless, or are they stone evil? The unfortunate conclusion I reach is really the worst one of all: they’re a deadly combination of both.

Citi Field: Whose House Is It Anyway?

As if it weren’t painful enough to watch Tim Lincecum and company dismantle a major league lineup – playing slightly fast & loose with the term – to the tune of sixteen strikeouts…

As if it weren’t ridiculous enough to see a closer with a Mohawk & a trapper’s beard throw seven consecutive strikes in notching his eleventh save in ten opportunities…

As if it weren’t galling enough to handle Buster Posey, but be destroyed by Mike Fontenot, Citi Field looked like the home of anyone BUT the New York Mets on Wednesday night. The garb of the majority of the fans in the stands matched the motif of the outfield walls: of the few who were there on the frigid night, most were sporting the orange and black of the World Champion San Francisco Giants.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have a warm spot on my heart for the 2010 SFG. As one-half of the spiritual progenitors of the current NY (NL) team, they were the team I thought I would have rooted for, had been born a decade or 2 earlier. I expressed this hope elsewhere (http://myentireteam.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/id-like-to-think/). Last year was all very nice and very good and very heartwarming, but it was last year. Now the Giants are just another enemy to be dealt with and for whom I have no residual affinity. Go out & beat ‘em, like I want you to beat everybody who comes into our house.

And therein lies the problem. Wednesday night, our house wasn’t our house. It was given over to a pack of front-running bandwagoners, a mob who maniacally waved their over-sized SF blankets and wore their stupid panda hats, even thought the man known as Kung Fu Panda (Pablo Sandoval) was currently 3,000 miles west, nursing his surgically repaired right hand for at least the next four-to-six weeks. The fans of the World Champion Giants barged in to our quarters and acted every bit as much the smirking overlord as any Yankee or Red Sox fan. They outshouted a pitiful little “let’sgomets” chant with a full-throated “LET’S GO GI-ANTS” (clap, clap, clpaclapclap) straight out of a Meadowlands December. It was all you could hear on the TV.

And it made my skin crawl.

There has been much made of the idea that Citi Field really has very little to do with the Mets and is really an homage to Fred Wilpon’s boyhood ideal, Ebbets Field. In its first fitful months, it bore precious little Met-memorabilia or identity. It looked like Generic Retro Mallpark #20. Over the next two-plus years, it has been morphing into the home of the Mets – a little too slowly for some of us (myself included), I’ll grant you – and the team seems to be finally settling in with its odd dimensions and quirkiness-for-its-own-sake. For the lose season I had a ticket plan, it felt like home, because that’s where my home team played.

Last night, it reverted to genericism and the feeling that we are strangers in our own home. If Mr. Wilpon takes nothing else away from the current doom-and-gloom atmosphere and encircling naysayers, it should open his eyes wide that the Giants – THE GIANTS, his ancient enemy – trod into his home and soiled the carpet. It might even increase the impetus to sell.

From an emotional standpoint, this might be the final straw for the House of Wilpon.

Blow up the Mets?

I’m not going to go into detail about this point in this 2011 season. If you’re reading this, it’s already painfully obvious to you what’s transpired. Base running gaffes, lousy pitching, over-eagerness at the plate and a general, overall malaise are the marks of this year. It all seems very Polo Grounds-ish, without charm, or goodwill emanating back to the team from the stands. Let’s face it: it’s a godawful time to be a fan of this team.

In the wake of their second straight loss to Houston this past Wednesday, I seethingly left a message on another blog’s board, advocating the following “plan” for the future:

Extend Jose Reyes’ contract.
Extend David Wright’s.
Extend Ike Davis’s.
Extend Josh Thole’s.
Keep Johan Santana

Run everybody else out of town on a rail & bring up some kids and AAAA guys from Buffalo and Binghamton.

My thinking was, if you’re gonna lose a hundred anyway, you may as well do it cheaply. That might be music to Wilponian ears, though, and I’d much rather see this team get sold. I don’t want Fred & Jeff Wilpon to hang on by their fingernails and we as fans endure a Chinese water-torture kind of existence. I pine for Stuart Sternberg — presently owner of the Tampa Bay Rays – to leave Florida in a huff since he won’t be getting a new ballpark. Oh, and PS: he’s a Met fan/season ticket holder. I think he would “get” us, as the Wilpons don’t. Lately, I’m seeing Fred & Jeff as real villains and we, the fans, are the old ladies they’re tying to the railroad tracks. It makes me chuckle to thing of Jeff Wilpon twirling a Rollie Fingers-style moustache. NYA-HA-HA…

It could be worse: they COULD be the Dodgers. Maybe Fred – with his blatant Dodger-love – has gotten what he wanted all along…

Buy the Mets for $999

New York Mets fans are a passionate bunch. We have no problem griping about how Jerry Manuel couldn’t manage a bullpen, Carlos Beltran struck out to end the 2006 playoff run or sending in Oliver Perez is the equivalent of raising the white flag.

But one fan is leading a charge that just might give others some control over the team.

Long Islander Jim Preissler wants to borrow a play from the Green Bay Packers playbook and sell public ownership rights for $999 apiece.

“The other goal for all of this is to provide transparency of the ownership back to the fans. The fans would have a voice on how the team progresses going forward. That would allow a lot of these outside interests to be minimized and focus on creating the best team,” he said.

Preissler, 39, grew up watching the Mets with his grandfather. Now an investment banker specializing in helping companies go public on stock exchanges like NASDAQ, he roots for New York teams, although he tends to favor the Mets.

He and two friends, including a non-Mets fan living in Dallas, were handling some transactions earlier this year when they learned about Mets owner Fred Wilpon’s financial ties to scam artist Bernie Madoff. Madoff Trustee Irving Picard sued Wilpon over $1 billion in damages, while the team owner said he owes much less or nothing.

“We’ve done some particular transactions, structures that would be applicable here to potentially solving a lot of the Mets problems,” Preissler said.

They believed fans could own at least part of the team. That would provide extra money should the Madoff debacle sap the Wilpon’s accounts, while adding more transparency in ownership and an opportunity for fans to make money.

Their next step was to test the market. BUYTHEMETS.com went live in the middle of February for fans to sign up, but the demand was so high it actually knocked the website offline for a while.

“I guess it wasn’t made to handle so many concurrent registrations at the same time,” he said.

Preissler said the numbers proved the demand existed, although he refused to disclose specific figures. More could have registered, he added, had the site stayed online.

The website remains active, but the trio has since contacted investment bankers with Wilpon’s Sterling Equities with the idea. They had not responded as of Thursday, although Preissler expected to hear back before long.

“I already have top lawyers and auditors in place. The real key here is getting the Wilpons and their bankers to understand the benefit of going down this path,” he said.

No details of their proposal have been released, as the Northport resident said they have several options. Fans could repurchase debt and receive interest, they could buy a stake in the team itself or they could mix and match.

What Preissler did confirm was that he wants to use publicly-traded stock to accomplish whatever their plan ends up being.

“There are some other quicker options, but I think that is the cleanest, most effective path. I have a potential plan B and C but I’d rather use traditional buttoned-up approach,” he said.

Sterling Equities and MLB Commissioner Allan Selig did not return requests for comment.