200 Miles From the Citi

January 30, 2011 8:30 AM

The Mets Are A Financial Mess


Sunday Paper (Year 3, Volume V)

There are probably a zillion articles I'd rather write for this Sunday Paper than one about the financial situation of the New York Mets.

The last thing I want to do is read about finances and lawsuits involving hundreds of millions of dollars when spring training is right around the corner.

But the situation in which the Mets find themselves is one where I have to do all that reading and draw those conclusions.

And the bottom line is this:  The Mets are really screwed.

Here's the long and short of the past couple of years in the Mets' pocketbook: They weren't as bad off in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme as we were originally led to believe (or at the very least, the way I interpreted them to be).  In fact, all told they reportedly made hundreds of millions of dollars through their involvement with Madoff.

Which in and of itself leaves them in a bad way.  The Mets' ownership is facing a lawsuit that seeks to recover that $300 million of what is being called "fictitious profits" as well as possibly hundreds of millions of dollars more before all is said and done.

So those claims that the Mets haven't been hamstrung in their on-field operations in recent years?  Bogus.  They seem to have been holding back knowing there was another shoe falling.  The shoe is down and the Mets are in a really bad spot.

I'm not going to pretend I know everything about what's going on here...but a big part of the lawsuit apparently hinges on the fact that the Wilpons ignored red flags about Madoff's suspect operation. I go two ways on this.  1)  If you're raking in millions of dollars, I guess I could understand a part of you that doesn't question your good fortune and just sits back and watches it roll in...never once would I think that the millions are coming from innocent people being bilked of their money.  But I am more inclined to think 2) that even though I'm no expert, I've learned a thing or two about big business operations over the years, and if you're dealing in the hundreds of millions of dollars, you have investors and advisors whose job it is to look into red flags like this or to identify problems before you get sued for up to a billion dollars.  Someone screwed up big time, and the Mets are an organization caught in between.

On Friday in a release to the media and fans the news came that the Wilpons had no interest in giving up principal ownership of the Mets, but were seeking one or more strategic partners to essentially help keep the franchise financially afloat.  (I'm all for open communication, but when I'm getting e-mails from the Mets that essentially say, 'Just to let you know, this is what's going on...we don't want you to panic, but......' first instinct is panic.)  The Wilpons want to keep the Mets in their family...keeping principal ownership would do that.

The e-mail from the Wilpons ends with this:

As we have said before, we are totally committed to having the Mets again become a World Series winner.  You deserve nothing less.

If the Wilpons really cared about the fans and the Mets becoming World Series winners, they should know that this model won't work.  As long as they're involved, there is a stain on the Mets and their financial operations that isn't going away anytime soon.

I like the idea of a deal involving the Mets.  I'd just rather it was a deal that resulted in the Wilpons selling the entire team, rather than a minority share.

*I bought my baseball preview magazine Friday night.  I'll see if I can re-create the magic of last year's Giants over Rangers World Series pick...perhaps with the Jets losing in the AFC Championship Game a year ago, I was so ready to put that out of my head that I really threw myself into the baseball previewing and that's why I was so successful.  If that's the case....this year should result in a similarly successful pick.

*I bought the magazine at Barnes & Noble with a gift card I had been given at Christmas.  I have since been given another gift card.  You want to put me on an express train to the nuthouse?  Get me a big gift card to a bookstore.  Any time I go to a bookstore without a gift card, I can pick out easily a thousand dollars worth of merchandise I would like.  Give me a gift card?  I struggle to find anything.  I knew I wanted the preview magazine, but I had no idea how to spend the other $15 on the card.  I ended up getting an interesting-looking book featuring the best articles from the World Series over the years: "Glory In The Fall", edited by Peter Golenbock. (I've yet to come across anything Golenbock has done that hasn't been good.)

*Is there a lot of interest in the NHL All Star Game?  I used to be interested, but not in a while.  I am aware it's the NHL All Star break this weekend, but that's about it...couldn't tell you what city the game is in.  Forgive me if I'm repeating myself, but why not combine the two NHL showcase events - the All Star Game and the outdoor Winter Classic?  What a spectacle that would be, no?  I'd watch the All Star Game if it was outside..

*So much for my pick for next year's 'Hard Knocks' team.  I thought the Titans would be an interesting fit if Jeff Fisher was there...I doubt a new head coach getting acclimated to the team would do the show.

*A couple of notes from this week's issue of Sports Illustrated:  One of the most intriguing pieces to me was the Editor's Note/Introduction.  Usually it's self-serving, and I don't like it whenever he puts his two cents in, and this one was self-serving as well.  But I found it fascinating that the Super Bowl is the one event where SI's photographers are all in the same place at the same time, and I thought it was great that they all get together for dinner the night before.  I just thought that was awesome.  Secondly, I loved the 'Point After' about the guys who gamble every weekend with friendly wagers during the football season.  I would love to kick off a tradition like that with some of my friends.  (I may or may not have a minor gambling problem.)  Speaking of my friends, one such friend is Justin at Sports Crackle Pop!  He does an excellent, excellent review of Sports Illustrated each week which you should always read.

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