Mets lived beyond their means

As I continue to read more and more into this Wilpon-Madoff lawsuit, one thing seems to jump out at me: how reliant the Wilpons were on Madoff for day-to-day operations of their empire. What rings alarms to me is how they used Madoff as their own personal bank. Not just for business ventures or large investments, no they relied on Madoff to meet payroll, pay for stadium operations, and for players deferred money payments. Madoff was woven into the day-to-day operations of the Mets. The reason they did this is even more alarming. They took the “investments” from Madoff when needed in lieu of “loans” from a traditional bank or even a private fund, because if they took “loans” they would have to disclose that. By taking private “investments” they could keep that secret. Sure seems dishonest to me, at the very least a little shady.
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NYT: Madoff involvement in Mets finances “pervasive”

As people continue to dig this thing just keeps getting uglier. One thing we know for absolute certainty is that the Wilpons can not be believed at all, having already been caught in several non-truths. As the New York Times reports today, Bernie Madoffs involvement with the Mets finances was “pervasive.” This isn’t some snarky blogger ranting away, it’s the New York Times, and their prognosis does not paint a happy picture.

When the Mets negotiated their larger contracts with star players — complex deals with signing bonuses and performance incentives — they sometimes adopted the strategy of placing deferred money owed the players with Mr. Madoff’s investment firm. They would have to pay the player, but the owners of the club would be able to make money for themselves in the meantime. There never seemed to be much doubt about that,

Wow. It seems that Madoff was part of the Mets business plan. They basically said “Ok we have to play PlayerX 50 million over the next 10 years, lets give that cash to Ole’Bernie and let him do his ‘magic’ and he’ll return us $75 million and we will make money on that players salary, LOL, ROFLMAO, this high finance is easy peasy!”

If one name doesn’t jump out at you right now I am shocked. Does Bobby Bonilla ring any bells? A year ago we were all laughing about how Bobby Bo was back on the Mets salary books. Having deferred a large part of his salary, choosing to instead be paid $1.1 million yearly installments over the next 25 years. People had good fun with this, until people poppedu p with some dazzling numbers and showed that it wasn’t a bad move by the Wilpons and it actually made them money. I am starting to wonder if that is still true. Seems to me this is the exact type of thing that they apparently used Madoff Magic for. Taking that $30 million they would owe Bonilla and giving it to Madoff. Since they were basically guaranteed 15% returns, at the end of the 25 years the Mets would have virtually at least tripled that initial principle, in essence using a “loan” from Bonilla to make profits.
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Wilpons: Ponzi scheme escape artists

Like always when you start to dig around the Mets, things start to stink. An interesting article in the New York Times today outlines that the Madoff Ponzi Scheme may not have been the first illegal investing scheme that the Wilpons escaped with a profit.

Their survival of the previous scheme was so concerning that they settled out of court with the victims of the Samuel Israel III Bayou ponzi scheme.

But for the owners, Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, it is not the first time they have had their names and personal fortunes roughed up in a Ponzi scheme. An investment firm started by the two men had to pay back nearly $13 million two years ago when a hedge fund run by the scion of a wealthy New Orleans family collapsed in what was then regarded as one of Wall Street’s more brazen frauds.

It seems the common thread in the two scandals is the fact that it’s felt the Wilpons at the least should have known something wasn’t right. It sure seems that they did considering they were able to withdraw their money just in time before the funds collapsed.

According to two lawyers involved in the case against the Mets, the trustee, Irving H. Picard, argued in a lawsuit filed in December that the history of Wilpon and Katz’s dealings with Madoff meant they knew or should have known it might be a scheme, and that, as a result, other victims were entitled to hundreds of millions of dollars above and beyond what Sterling Stamos might have made as profits. “Some of the legal principles adopted in Bayou are the same ones that the trustee is applying,” said Richard Kirby, the lead lawyer for the creditors committee in the Bayou case.

At the very least this is NOT looking good for the Wilpon family. Even if they are not criminally liable for any of their actions, it sure seems as though this trustee is after large sums of money from them. All the money aside this has already been a huge embarrassment for the family name and from the looks of it continue to get worse.

The Wilpons and Madoff had business dealings going back and forth for a long time. Madoffs wife was invested in several ventures by Wilpon owned companies. This tangle of investments will make it very hard to settle and is the reason many think the Madoff trustee could be targeting up to a billion dollars in a lawsuit directed at the Wilpons.

Let’s just hope that in this case the old saying of “where there is smoke there is fire” proves to be false.

Reaction: Wilpons selling share of Mets

The Mets just released a Press Release stating that they are exploring the idea of taking on a “strategic partner.”

Of course people are going nuts over this either elated thinking the Wilpons will soon be gone, or crushed thinking the sky is falling and the Mets will start cutting payroll.

My initial reaction to this is that this can’t be good. An ownership group that has many times stated that the Mets are the status icon for the Wilpons family can not be happy about selling any piece of it.

It tells me two things for certain:
- The Wilpons are hurting. They took a bigger hit through the Maddoff fiasco and are now bracing for more in the suite by the trustee of the Maddoff victims.
- The Mets aren’t making enough money. No surprise when you consider the new stadium and all it’s financing plus the horrible stink around the Mets on the field and in the empty seats.

This could end up being good for the Mets franchise. It could bring in some deep pockets, but not only that, it will give the Wilpons someone to answer to. No longer could it be run as a family toy.
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Mets: Is losing acceptable?

It’s a very simple question.  Yet it’s one I would like to see answered by the Wilpons in the very near future.  It’s an answer that will tell me, as a die-hard Mets fan, so many things.

To most people when they read this they will scoff at such a stupid question.  But to anyone that has lived and breathed with these Mets the last few years you are really left to wonder.  At every turn losing has been condoned by the Wilpons and the Mets brass at large.  It’s time for a culture change and the first message that needs to be sent is that losing will not be accepted.

Your fans don’t accept it.  Don’t believe me?  Check your gate receipts.  Why am I going to spend my hard earned money attending your games when I have very little confidence it will go towards putting a winning product on the field.

First act in this reversal will be to fire the clown at the wheel.  I am so sick and tired of Jerry Manuel and his excuses.  I am so sick of how after every loss he gets in front of the press and makes excuse after excuse and downplays every situation.  Hey Jerry, your team is in dire straights and it’s about damn time you act like it.  Get mad.  Throw something.  Show some emotion.  Your career is on the line here and yet you barely have a pulse.  When your done with that I’d like you to explain to me how a guy that was in AAA up until a week ago in lieu of Frank Catalanato is now batting cleanup for you?

Too many players get passes around here.  Too many players just don’t give a shit.  Five minutes after Oliver Perez refused his demotion to the minors they should have released him.  I am so tired of closing my eyes, ignoring everything we have seen for 4 years, and praying that this guy is going to suddenly get it.  The guy is a bum and the sooner we are rid of him the better.  Now not only is he not worthy of pitching in the majors, but he’s going to eat up a roster spot on a team who’s bullpen’s arms are falling off.  Fantastic.  If he insists on staying with the club, hand him a broom and tell him to get to work around the clubhouse.  I don’t ever want to see this guy on the field for the Mets again, and I’d be willing to wager those same sentiments are shared by more then a few of his teamates.

It’s time for the Wilpons and the Mets at large to show it’s fanbase that they have a plan.  That it’s about winning first, not making money.  Show me your as serious about this team as I am.  Then maybe I will start to come back.  Right now my confidence is at an all-time low and my faith in you as an organization is crumbling.  Please prove me wrong.

Mets draft philosophy hurting the future

The Mets are one of the elite clubs in Major League Baseball. Don’t scoff at me, I am talking about in revenues. They just opened a brand spanking new ballpark that they routinely said would increase revenues for the club. They have TV rights that are the envy of the league (second to only the Yanks) and they have a rabid fan base that despite years and years of heartbreak come out in droves to support this team.

The Mets have as many resources as any team out there. The only reason the Yankees can spend more money, is because they have had more success then the Mets, not because they have some money faucet down in Tampa. There is no reason the Mets couldn’t tap into the same streams, they just have to be successful. The Mets failure have been organizational and have been failures of baseball, not business. They often do not have the best people performing the most important jobs. On top of this, despite their revenues, the Mets often operate like a small market team. It’s like because they play in the recent shadow of the Yankees, and have been second fiddle to them in New York, they take on the persona of small market team. It’s a crisis of confidence. The Mets should be the Yankees of the NL, instead they tend to operate more like the Royals and Pirates.

I, as a fan, have a real problem with this. By and large I pay as much as Yankee fans do. I pay a lot to go to games, I pay a lot to watch my games on TV. I feel that money should be put back into the baseball team. It should not be siphoned off to people like Bernie Madoff or to expand the Wilpons real estate empire.

One area that really bothers me is the Mets farm system. The two major ways to make sure this talent pipeline are stocked is through the amateur draft and the signing of unrestricted amateur players.

Baseball operates differently then a lot of other sports with respect to the draft. With sports like the NFL and the NBA the contracts draftees get are pretty much structured upon where they were selected. In baseball it can vary widely, usually based on the players agent and depending on if the player is out of high school or college. Additionally with the disparity in revenues if a kid knows he can get big bucks from a flush big market team, he will put it out there that he demands big market money, often discouraging small market teams from drafting them even if he’s available.

This is one area I would really like to see the Mets take advantage of. By leveraging their advantage as a major market team in this area they can make a big difference with their farm system. Unfortunately as Joe Spector over at reports the Mets often spend far less then they should. In fact in 2009 they spent the absolute least of all MLB teams. How does this happen? Well we do need to take into consideration that they didn’t have a 1st round pick so it would tend to be less then the year before. I fail to understand how they can spend less then teams like the Marlins, the Royals, the Pirates, and the Nats. It just doesn’t make sense. The fact that they selected a reliever with their first pick certainly didn’t help things either.

According to this article in the NY Times the Mets are really doing themselves a dis-service and are operating like they have no idea what their doing:

The Mets divvied $3,134,300 among their 35 signed picks, more than 50 percent less than their 2008 outlay, when they had two first-round selections and a first-round supplemental pick. By contrast, the average for all 30 teams was a shade more than $6 million. Without a pick until the second round, No. 72 over all, the Mets’ spending was destined to decrease. But their 2009 strategy resembled that of a small-market club that sometimes bypasses talented players in earlier rounds because it does not want to spend more on them than players available deeper in the draft.

It gets worse when you consider this:

“With a brand-new ballpark and a television network, the Mets’ revenues are probably among the top five clubs in baseball,” said Jim Callis, the executive editor of Baseball America and an expert on player development. ”After spending about $6.5 million when they had extra picks last year, do I think they could have found the money this year? Yeah, I think they could have. It just comes down to the willingness to spend.”

This annoys me to no end. Do we see a reduction in costs on our end when the Mets have a bad season? We most certainly do not, so why do they get away with not spending money to put a winning product on the field? Examples like these to me are the Wilpons blatantly not caring about winning. Talk is cheap, it’s your willingness to make moves that make me believe your serious owners, or just a spoiled kid playing in his Queens sandbox.

The Mets seem to be more concerned with being good “baseball citizens” and not as much about stockpiling the best possible talent. The Yankees, across town, get it. They understand they have a competitive advantage and leverage it at every chance they get. As much as people bitch and moan about the Yanks, when you sit down and analyze it you really have to admire them as an organization. I would trade the Wilpons for the Steinbrenners any day of the week, even if it means I have to take Hank in the deal.

The Yankees lavished $423.5 million on C. C. Sabathia, A. J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira last off-season, but they have also devoted more resources to the draft and the minor leagues. Now they routinely press their financial advantage in the draft, spreading $7,564,500 (ninth most) among their 27 signed picks in 2009, including about $2.2 million on their first-round pick and about $1.25 million on their second-round pick. Even after paying those above-slot bonuses, the Yankees still spent almost $1 million more on the rest of their 25 selections than the Mets did with all 35 of theirs, despite the teams having comparable picks.

So even after spending half-a-billion on the top free agents out there, the Yanks were still willing to invest more into their future then the Mets. Maybe that is the problem. It’s obvious the Wilpons are horrible when it comes to investing their money, maybe they just don’t understand that the farm system is investing in the franchises future. Now that I think about it, I wonder if they are using Bernie Madoff to handle that investing too?

Sit down Mets fans, we need to have a talk

Please have a seat.  It’s time we talked man to man about our beloved Mets.  It’s spring training, for the other 29 teams it’s a great time of year.  As a fan your allowed to dream big, you can imagine your team playing important baseball in September, maybe it’s a playoff run your looking to, maybe it’s even getting all the way to the World Series.  It’s all possible in spring training, and that’s why it’s such a cool time of year.

Unless your a Mets fan.

It’s time we took a look at our beloved Mets.  We need to realistically start to come to terms that this season is much more likely to be a train-wreck then it is to end in any semblance of pride.  The news about Beltran first and now Jose Reyes is like going to a five year old on Christmas eve and telling him Santa doesn’t exist.  I feel robbed of my spring dreaming.  I knew it was a long shot trust me, but I allowed myself to have hope.  To imagine everything actually going right like Omar and the Wilpons have cooked up.  It’s time to burst that bubble.

When a guy knows his best-friend’s girlfriend is cheating on him, he doesn’t just sit there and listen to him croon about how in love he is, he sits him down and tells him.  It’s to protect him from great pain in the future.  Consider this your warning folks.  Put down the blue and orange Kool-Aid and listen to me.

Lower your expectations.  A lot.  We haven’t even had one meaningful pitch yet this season and we have lost arguably our 2 most important players for a long period of time.  The Mets are saying Reyes is out for 2-8 weeks.  This is a bit misleading  from my point of view.  The way I read it is he is restricted from physical activities for 2-8 weeks.  What are they going to do just toss him back onto Citi Field the day he is cleared?  No, he’s going to need at the least a mini-spring training to get into shape.  Remember this is a guy coming off leg issues that sidelined him for most of last year, so you absolutely can not rush him.  If Reyes is back before June 1st I think we should consider ourselves lucky.

Run through a scenario with me.  Lets say Reyes is cleared and good to go by opening day, that’s less then 3 weeks away.  He’s now ready to do an extended spring training down in Port St. Lucie to work back into game shape.  Jose is the type of guy that wants to get back as soon as possible and want to prove people wrong.  Not to mention he’s playing for a contract mind you.  Tell me you can’t see the reports now of Jose suffered a setback to his hamstrings because he was working too hard too fast?  Remember that Omar and Jerry don’t have the liberty of patience.  They absolutely need to be off to a good start, anything less and they could be, should be, gone.  There are no excuses this year.

Call me a pessimist but this season is quickly unraveling before our eyes.  We are supposed to believe that things can go completely right and we can compete and make the playoffs.  Unfortuantely wheels are already flying off!  Things are already NOT going right.  Now we are expected to compete with Pagan and Cora playing long stints?   How long till Cora’s thumbs fall off again?  It’s gonna be like domino’s.  And that’s not even considering any setbacks by Beltran.

It’s time for us to open our eyes and take a good raw look at this team, even if the management wont.  Let them continue to count their billion dollar business on “hopes” and “maybes.”  I am starting to feel like we used up all our baseball karma in that Game 6 so many years ago and we have been repaying a deal with the devil ever since.

What happens if the Mets falter out of the gate

Eddie’s poll asking if Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya would last the entire season with the Mets got me thinking. For me the question is not if they will last, but how they will get fired. As much as I try to be positive, I just don’t see how either of these guys keep their jobs past 2010 the way things are already going.

So how do they get fired? It’s interesting when you think about a team trying to firing both it’s manager and it’s GM during the season. It’s not common that a team needs to clean house entirely in the season, let alone go about and do it. This is why the Mets should have fired Omar Minaya this past off season. Allowing him at least another season only handcuffs the team, limiting options they may have had otherwise.

The reason for this is under no circumstances should Omar Minaya be able to hire another manager here with the Mets. Willie Randolph was his guy, and that was a poor choice for New York. Even worse was how he went about firing “his guy.” We learned quickly that Willie wasn’t really the problem when Jerry Manuel went out and accomplished the same level of incompetence by collapsing and failing to make the players in his own right. The next manager of the New York must not, I can’t stress this enough, be selected by the Omar Minaya. It’s time for a change now, it’ll be even more so then.

How do the Mets do this though is the real question. I’d be very surprised if they fire their general manager in the middle of a season. It would be a new low mark in a history littered with lows. So if they can’t fire Omar during the season what do they do?

Chances are they will remove Jerry and install Bob Melvin as the interim head coach to limp the Mets home for another of our patented seasons. The reason I say Melvin and not Wally Backman is simple. One because Backman would really make more sense, so you know they wouldn’t do it, and two I think they want to give Backman more time in the minors to prove he is able to walk that straight and narrow line. Personally I’d love to see what would happen if you injected Backman’s style into this team filled with spoiled brats. It would probably end in an unmitigated mess but it would sure be fun to watch.

To many the type of switch at manager that would happen from Jerry to Wally needs some time to adjust. It would need a spring training where Wally could ramp up his personality over the course of the camp. Just dropping him into that clubhouse would be nuclear most likely. These players have been coddled and protected for far too long, actually making them accountable, and calling them on it, would be a major culture shock.

we would more then likely be stuck with Bob Melvin carrying the team home to another lackluster season. Melvin is not a bad coach, he has a good resume, it’s just more of the same with the Mets. But if it means that during the off season Omar Minaya is gone, and we have a total fresh start here for the 2011 season I could be convinced to put up with it for a few months.

The key to the entire scenario obviously, and to the Mets future as a premier franchise, is the willingness of the Wilpons to keep their hands off. Good owners are businessmen. Good owners are smart enough to know what they don’t know. I’ve been told that you know your doing your job well in business when you hire people smarter then you. The Mets need to start operating like a smart business, and not a family toy.

Are the Mets Broke?

The latest buzz making the rounds is once again that the Mets are broke.  Not just the Wilpons, but the Mets.  Ken Rosenthal and John Morosi are reporting for that the Mets are out of money:

The Mets, outbid by the Padres for catcher Yorvit Torrealba, are out of money, major-league sources say — a curious position for a team that spent $66 million on outfielder Jason Bay knowing it had other needs.

Now as much as we all in Mets-land may bitch and moan about how cheap the Wilpons (I personally love the term Coup-ons) have acted, it just doesn’t really add up.  I tend to agree with Matthew Cerrone over at when he says that:

i can’t say whether this is true or not; but, it is peculiar that the team had earmarked $12 million for Joel Pineiro and Bengie Molina, yet, since the two players signed elsewhere, there has been talk of the team being unable to spend on players like Ben Sheets or even Yorvit Torrealba or barajas, who would cost only a million bucks or so…

…that said, i do not think money is reason for not signing John Lackey or pineiro, or molina, all of whom i think they had a set value on, and refused to go beyond… i understand how this could be viewed as being cheap, but i think it’s actually a matter of not overvaluing mediocre talent…

I tend to think that despite the swirling rumors the Mets aren’t actually broke.  At the worst maybe they have a bit of a liquidity problem, but hell who doesn’t right now?  I just think they up in their lofty offices think they have a plan and think are so just so smart and have placed value on players and are trying to play hardball.

They have won with this stance before if you remember K-Rod from last off season.  But the problem is that this team has many more holes then was perceived last year.  For a team with several gaping holes in their roster, it’s starting to look very strange that they spend $66 million on Jason Bay, and that taps out their war-chest to fill other holes?

Truth is I can’t believe this because if true, things are much worse over at CitiField then even I could imagine.