Sports Beat “A strange roll of the dice”

When word leaked out last week that the Mets were hoping to be part of a syndicate to build a casino in Willets Point in a plan presented to Mayor Bloomberg in 2011, my immediate reaction was “What the hell were these guys thinking?”

Two years ago, the Mets were in the midst of the fallout from the Bernie Madoff scandal. Madoff Securities victims’ trustee Irving Picard had his sights set on collecting hundreds of millions from Mets ownership as restitution. The team’s cash flow, not to mention its image, were, and in many ways still are, in deep trouble. It was the epitome of chutzpah on the Mets’ part to expect any governmental authority to grant them permission to build a casino.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig must have felt betrayed when he heard the news that Mets CEO Fred Wilpon had desires of becoming the Steve Wynn of Flushing. Selig has long been one of Wilpon’s strongest allies even during the darkest days of the Madoff scandal. He gave the Mets the 2013 All-Star Game as a token of that friendship.

Selig, like all of his predecessors, has viewed the gaming industry as an anathema. His refusal to consider reinstating Pete Rose for betting on baseball is a clear example.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has long been a proponent for allowing bettors to place wagers on sporting events and has vowed to use the court system make that happen. If Christie were to prevail, then all casinos would be able to have sports books. Currently, you can only make a wager on college and professional sports in Nevada. It would be obviously embarrassing for Bud if an MLB team owner was connected to a casino where patrons could bet on America’s pastime.

What might make sense for a racetrack doesn’t for baseball. Having a casino a stone’s throw away from a baseball stadium is clearly at odds with the sport’s wholesome family image that Major League Baseball has cultivated for well over a century.

Mets first baseman Ike Davis, Yankees ace CC Sabathia, and Yankees relief pitcher David Phelps were among the honorees at the 33rd annual Thurman Munson Dinner which benefits AHRC, a non-profit organization that helps the lives of the mentally disabled of all ages.

Davis laughingly apologized to the press for the miserable first two months of the 2012 season where he batted .150. He had missed a good chunk of the 2011 season with an ankle injury and his bad luck continued in 2012 when the Arizona resident contracted Valley Fever. He said that he did not take any special precautions during this off-season and claimed that his body would not now have immunity against the disease in the future.

Former Knicks point guard and current CBS/Turner/YES basketball analyst Greg Anthony was also an award recipient at the dinner named in honor of the former Yankees captain who was killed in the prime of life in a private plane crash in 1979.

Greg has always been vocal about being an African-American Republican and lamented about the state that the party is in. “I am a centrist and we need to move to the center. The party has been taken over by TV and radio talk show hosts who are entertainers and should not be setting policy.”

He is not giving up on the GOP regaining its footing however. “It’s like in sports. If you keep losing then you are going to fire those who are in charge,” Anthony added.

Giants defensive end Justin Tuck was of the NFL stars chosen by the USA Network for its “Characters Unite” documentary and public service ads. Tuck discusses how he was bullied while trying to succeed in school as a youngster.

Former USA Network president and Hollis native Bonnie Hammer just received a big promotion as she was named president of Comcast’s entire cable television portfolio. Among those who will be reporting to her are Oxygen Network chief Jason Klarman who grew up in Rego Park.

Actor Peter Facinelli, who grew up in Howard Beach and graduated from St. Francis Prep in Fresh Meadows, was among those who caught the Nautica Fall 2013 Fashion preview at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Nautica is celebrating its 30th anniversary and is one of the few male clothing brands to have a runway show at Lincoln Center.

Joe Flacco, the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl-winning quarterback was on hand for the Tommy Hilfiger presentation at Fashion Week. It wasn’t that long ago that professional male athletes would never be seen at a Fashion Week event but that has dramatically changed over the years. Two years ago American Express brought in Rangers rookie Brian Boyle and his then Knicks counterpart, Landry Fields, to their Fashion Week skybox to mingle with clients and media. Amar’e Stoudemire, urbane Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, and former Rangers enforcer Sean Avery have made numerous appearances on the famed front row over the years.

This is the time of the year when many travel officials from foreign countries meet with journalists to help promote their summer tourism. Last week  French tourism officials were promoting the centennial of the Tour de France and they admitted that it’s an awkward sell to the American public given the performance enhancement drug culture of the sport in the 21st century as exemplified by former Tour champs Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis. They wisely however played up their beautiful countryside and famous cuisine and wines .

Thailand has seen a remarkable growth in tourism thanks to an unlikely source, the film “The Hangover Two” that was shot there. A Thailand tourism official rightfully pointed out that Thai boxing, with its mixture of fisticuffs and thrusting leg kicks, is what mixed martial arts leagues such as Ultimate Fighting Championship have based their incredibly popular sport.

Last week’s “Saturday Night Live” hosted by Justin Bieber was a nice return to form. The show opened with a brilliant spoof of the NFL on CBS team and the difficult time that they had ad-libbing during the third quarter power outage at the Super Bowl. Kenan Thompson, Jay Pharaoh, Tim Robinson, and Jason Sudeikis truly nailed James Brown, Shannon Sharpe, Bill Cowher, and Dan Marino respectively.

The Super Bowl of track & field, the Millrose Games, will take place at the Armory in Washington Heights. The highlight, as per tradition, will be the Wanamaker Mile.

In this high tech age board games are surprisingly not considered passe judging by what I saw at Toy Fair held at the Javits Center on Sunday. Techno-Source’s NFL Rush and Fremont Die’s NFL Game Day use dice and cards as a way of simulating a pro football game. Logos from all 32 NFL teams are included in both games. Fremont Die also showcased its oversized metal wastebaskets from every pro league except the NBA.

Franklin Sports will be entering the costume market with its helmet & jersey collection which will make you look like a player for your favorite NFL team. The helmet though is a plastic replica with a warning label on the helmet that it is not meant for actual game use. The company is expecting it to be a big Halloween sales mover for them.

Coconut water has certainly become the hot sports drink. For the past few years O.N.E, Zico and Vita Coco have dominated the market. Last year Knicks star Carmelo Anthony became a major investor in a company called Power Coco. A Chicago Blackhawks trainer has now come up with Coco 5 named after the five types of electrolytes his drink replenishes. In terms of taste, Coco 5 is by far the best of the bunch.

Way before there were sports bars, New York steakhouses were the gathering places to watch a game or a fight with the guys while enjoying an upscale meal. Toots Shor’s is long gone; Ben Benson’s closed their doors last year, and there are reports that Gallagher’s is hanging by a thread. It was therefore reassuring that the Old Homestead in Chelsea is still going strong. Last week they celebrated the 60th anniversary of their bovine statue mascot, Annabelle, being located above its entrance with a block party. Free hamburgers, birthday cake, and Yoo Hoo were dispensed to all who celebrated with Annabelle.

Posted under Baseball Stadium, Bettors, Chutzpah, Commissioner Bud Selig, Darkest Days, Deep Trouble, First Baseman, Fred Wilpon, Governmental Authority, Jersey Governor, Lloyd Carroll, Major League Baseball, Mayor Bloomberg, Might Make Sense, New York Mets, Roll Of The Dice, Steve Wynn, Top Story, Wholesome Family

Sports Beat “The Wright Decision”

David Wright’s productive 2012 season was a rare bright spot for Mets fans. With one year remaining his current pact with the Mets, David picked a good time to finally feel at home at Citi Field, a place where he had struggled for the first three years of its existence.

Mets owner Fred Wilpon was quoted in New York Magazine as saying that David Wright, while a good player, was not a superstar. Wilpon may have been right in his assessment but the reality is that his woebegone organization had no choice but to re-sign him to the most lucrative contract in Mets history. Had the Mets traded David Wright, Citi Field would have resembled the ghost town that Shea Stadium was in the late 1970s following Tom Seaver’s departure.

For better or worse, David Wright is more than just a fan favorite; he is the face of the organization. No one sells more Mets jerseys and t-shirts than him. It is obligatory for Wright to hold a lengthy press conference on the state of the Mets after every single game. No matter how awful things are going for our Flushing heroes, David always says something reassuring to the faithful about how things will get better.

I am not sure if it was a coincidence but the Mets inked a deal with Wright just a few hours after the lowly, small market Pittsburgh Pirates spent $17 million to pry catcher Russell Martin away from the Yankees. It would have been both humiliating and insulting for the parsimonious Pirates to spend big bucks on new talent while the Mets count their pennies watching their name players go elsewhere.

The death of Marvin Miller, the former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, last week at age 95 did not receive the attention that it should have. Marvin is the man who was singlehandedly responsible for the economic freedoms and high compensation that big leaguers enjoy today and which were but a pipedream for them 40 years ago.

Ironically, the high salaries and free agency led to more public interest in the sport and thus higher ticket prices, licensing fees, and billion-dollar television contracts for the owners. Of course, the owners and old guard members of the Baseball Writers Association of America refused to accept that notion and that’s why Marvin Miller was never inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Washington Wizards general manager, and former Forest Hills High basketball star, Ernie Grunfeld normally never misses an opportunity to return home. His awful team had a 1-12 record when they came into town last Friday night to play the Knicks and that had to have influenced his decision to skip the game. “He made the right call!” laughed Knicks rookie forward Chris Copeland who played well in his team’s easy win.

“Seven is better than six!” beamed Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill following his team’s 7-6 win over the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Hill was basically admitting that the game was an absolute stinker with the only saving grace being that Gang Green came out on top.

QB Mark Sanchez was pulled from a game for poor play for the first time in his four-year career as a Jet by head coach Rex Ryan. Following the game, Ryan admirably refused to throw Sanchez under the proverbial bus by simply stating that he thought that his understudy, Greg McElroy, could provide a spark in the second half. McElroy did look sharp leading the Jets to the go-ahead touchdown and driving them down the field again when the clock ran out in the fourth quarter.

Ryan claimed that he wasn’t concerned that Mark Sanchez was still an awful passer in spite of a good job by both his offensive line and running backs, and preferred to give credit to the opposition. “The Cardinals make a lot of quarterbacks look bad,” he said. I think that Rex was being a bit too charitable towards him.

The Travel Channel debuted a new series Tuesday, “NFL Road Tested: The Cleveland Browns.” The show is similar to the cinema verite premium cable documentary series as HBO’s “Hard Knocks” and Showtime’s “The Franchise.” What makes this show different is that it peels back the curtain for sports fans to see the countless things that are required to get the Cleveland Browns from city to city. Team travel secretaries are among the many unsung heroes in the world of professional sports and it’s fascinating to watch all that they have to do to make sure that things go off without a hitch.

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin is enjoying a terrific rookie season and is one of the most exciting NFL players to watch. Bayside High School alumnus Dorson Boyce is hoping to be taking hand-offs from him next year. Boyce was signed by the Redskins this past summer but has spent the year on the injured reserve list.

Three cheers for both Showtime and Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions for helping to revive boxing in New York. Madison Square Garden was for years the Mecca of boxing but over the last thirty years, Las Vegas, and to a lesser extent, Atlantic City have played host to the big fights. Last Saturday’s twelve-round WBA super welterweight championship bout between fan favorite Miguel Cotto and Austin “No Doubt” Trout was the biggest pugilistic battle Madison Square Garden has hosted in years. The fight was a good one as the slugfest went the distance with Trout winning a unanimous decision over Cotto.

It seems as if every boxing card that involves fighters that have even the vaguest name recognition wind up on pay-per-view cable. That means just a cadre of hardcore boxing fans watch and the sport fails to grow. Showtime had the Cotto-Trout bout as part of its regular Saturday night programming last week, and it plans to do the same with its next marquee fight from New York, a twelve-round super lightweight championship fight between up-and-coming Danny Garcia and veteran Zab Judah that will take place at the Barclays Center on February 9.

New York Rangers center Brad Richards has managed to keep very busy in spite of the lockout that has been imposed on players by the team owners of the National Hockey League owners. He organized Operation Hat Trick, the charity game that took place in Atlantic City over Thanksgiving weekend, and is trying to do the same here in the New York area to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Richards, like his teammate Henryk Lundqvist, enjoys men’s fashion and has just inked a deal to be a model and spokesman for UNTUCKit, a dress shirt company that encourages guys to wear their button-downs over their belts instead of tucking them inside, hence the brand name.

Liquor companies routinely hire athletes to serve as endorsers. Ty Ku, Japan’s best known sake manufacturer, has gone a slightly different route by hiring Bravo’s no-nonsense “Millionaire Matchmaker,” Patti Stanger. Then again, dating can frequently be a contact sport!

At a press event to promote both Ty Ku and her new book, “Become Your Own Matchmaker” (Atria), Stanger spoke about how she spent her formative years in Beechurst and her fond memories of PS 193.

Sake, incidentally, is a rice-based, wine-like spirit, that contrary to popular belief, should be served cold rather than heated according to Ty Ku officials.

The holiday season is a favorite time for a lot of us to get away. If you want warmth but don’t want to pay exorbitant Florida and the Caribbean hotel rates, two cities served by JetBlue, Long Beach, California and Las Vegas, Nevada offer very pleasant albeit not tropical weather, and it’s considered off-season for both places so they won’t break your budget.

Long Beach is connected to Los Angeles via mass transit through the Blue Line as well by freeway and it’s only a 15-minute drive to Disneyland. Most of Long Beach’s hotels cater to business travelers and since the holiday season is notoriously a slow time in that area, leisure travelers can snap up bargain deals from the big name chain hotels such as the Hyatt and the Renaissance.

Las Vegas, which is generally unbearable from June through September, is an easy place to enjoy during the holiday season. The Venetian and the Palazzo Hotels are promoting  “Winter in Venice” that will run through January 6.  The hotels will have light shows, waterfalls, outdoor skating rinks, and top-tier dining at their over 30 restaurants. Package deals begin at $149 per night. A Las Vegas competitor, the Cosmopolitan, which is famous for its intriguing commercials that run during NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” is offering a $150 credit on hotel amenities if you book a three-night stay.

JetBlue has just begun service from JFK to Albuquerque, New Mexico, a town that has been shamefully under-served by the airline industry. Albuquerque is a charming southwest town and it’s only an hour drive to Santa Fe, a city renown for its arts. Albuquerque is also a short drive to New Mexico’s Rocky Mountain ski resorts. If you want to enjoy a balmy winter sun, drive two hours south to the college town of Las Cruces. You can also play golf anytime of the year without having to make reservations days in advance in Las Cruces.

Posted under Baseball Players Association, David Wright, Economic Freedoms, Fred Wilpon, Ghost Town, Lloyd Carroll, Lucrative Contract, Major League Baseball, Major League Baseball Players Association, Marvin Miller, Mets Fans, New York Mets, Pipedream, Pittsburgh Pirates, Shea Stadium, Tom Seaver, Top Story

The Song Remains the Same in Queens

The faces have changed but the story is still the same.

It’s no longer the Omar and Jerry Show, but the Sandy and Terry Hour, yet it plays out with the same results and the jokes are falling just as flat.

Not to mention the punch line that’s still shines right on the fans.

Yes, hope and change has turned into more of the same at Citi Field with the continual news of Ike Davis’s incredibly hurting ankle. After being examined today, it’s just not getting better, and now he may have to miss the season if the next three weeks show no improvement.

“We’re hopeful that over the next three weeks he will progress to running,” general manager Sandy Alderson said. “If that is not successful, then there may be some consideration about doing some surgery on the ankle. Right now I don’t see him coming back anytime soon. … Basically over the next three weeks he’ll progress to hopefully running. And if he can’t tolerate the running, then we go to Plan B.”

No one wants to see Plan B, as it means the Mets will lose their best power threat in the lineup until 2012, ultimately crippling any hope of a Met Wild Card this year.

All of this comes on the heels of Jose Reyes not wanted to negotiate a new contract until the season is over, almost assuredly allowing him to test the free agent market.

It’s just another day at the ballpark for these New York Mets who now should expect the worst and be surprised when something better happens. It makes you wonder if Fred Wilpon made some sort of Faustian deal with the devil for the 1986 World Series and now the franchise if paying the price.

Think about it. Almost exactly 20 years after the ball went through Buckner’s legs, Carlos Beltran looked at strike three and it went all downhill from there.

Two collapses, botched firings, mishandled injuries, K-Rod punching out an old man and let’s not forget a man named Bernie Madoff. It’s just been a litany of bad news. Heck, Billy Joel can write an updated version of “We Didn’t Start The Fire” with everything that happened in Queens.

Just when it seemed like the Mets turned the corner with the hiring of Alderson and Terry Collins, it just continues on and on. It doesn’t matter if Alderson is uber-capable, on days like today, he sounds like Omar Minaya, albeit in a fluent, lower key tone and Collins can be as fiery as Earl Weaver. With his best players on the shelf, he’s going to have as much success as Jerry Manuel.

That’s why it’s hard to buy into these Mets. No matter how much good will they inject, the other shoe is there ready to drop…

…And drop and drop.

Tomorrow, David Wright’s injured back is scheduled to be checked. Is there anyone out there expecting it to be healed? With the way things are going, you may expect another break to mysteriously show up.

And Alderson will be there delivering the news, with the same disappointment in his voice Minaya had before him.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Posted under Billy Joel, Carlos Beltran, Collapses, Deal With The Devil, Faustian Deal, Fred Wilpon, Free Agent Market, Heck, Joe Mcdonald, Jose Reyes, Litany, New York Mets, Plan B, Sandy Alderson, Top Story, Wild Card, World Series

This post was written by Joe McDonald on June 22, 2011

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Can the Mets Dodge the Potential Effects of Wilpon’s Latest Blunder?

Ever since it was released online, a week in advance of being available via print on May 30th, much has been made of writer Jeffrey Toobin’s New Yorker magazine article detailing the far too honest comments of New York Mets’ owner Fred Wilpon about the stars of his own struggling team.

The article begins with Wilpon, a Brooklyn native and former high school teammate of Sandy Koufax who grew up as a diehard Brooklyn Dodger fan, stubbornly ignoring architects and imparting his own vision for an Ebbets Field-esque rotunda as the main entrance to what is now the Mets’ new home of Citi Field.

A little later in the article, Toobin writes:

“All the Dodger stuff—that was an error of judgment on my part,” Wilpon told me…

In the past two years, the Dodger problem at Citi Field has largely been addressed. The team added a Mets Hall of Fame, just off the rotunda, and plenty of banners and photographs of the Mets’ storied and eccentric existence are now spread around the ballpark

It’s interesting that Toobin chose the words, “The Dodger problem at Citi Field” because although Wilpon corrected the issue Toobin was describing (albeit reactively, only after receiving a lot of criticism, rather than proactively doing things right the first time), that “Dodger problem at Citi Field” can be seen as a very fitting metaphor for Wilpon and his Mets.

Ironically, it’s Wilpon’s former favorite franchise, now in Los Angeles, which began to similarly fall on hard times financially (resulting from Los Angeles Dodgers’ owner Frank McCourt’s divorce) at about the same time Wilpon and the Mets became victims of what many now jokingly call a “Wilpon-zi” scheme.

(That too, is ironic, that a man named Bernie Madoff literally “made off” with Wilpon’s money, as is the future of team run by a man named McCourt possibly being decided in court next month).

If it weren’t all so sad, it would be comical.

But, let’s back up for a moment, to the beginning of the Toobin article again and bring that to the present day.

There was Wilpon, with a chance to make a statement in the post-Shea Stadium era and create whatever he wanted on the grounds of the former Shea Stadium parking lot to thrust the Mets into a new age that would excite the Met fanbase for years, perhaps decades, to come.

Wilpon’s response? Turning off Met fans by completely ignoring their team’s history and unveiling a tribute to his first baseball love, the Brooklyn Dodgers – which other than supplying the blue for the Mets’ team colors, have nothing to do with Wilpon’s current franchise, which he’s been a part of running since 1980 (five years before Wilpon’s first investment with Madoff).

And, later on, there was Wilpon again, with a chance to build upon the Mets’ success of their 2006 National League Championship Series appearance (even though they probably should have beaten the underdog St. Louis Cardinals and were likely good enough to beat the Detroit Tigers in had they reached the World Series that year).

But, each of the next two years, the Mets would go on to make major league baseball history by blowing the largest consecutive September leads, each to hated division rival Philadelphia, while missing the playoffs.

And yet, even after that, Wilpon remained loyal to a fault, keeping failed Mets’ general manager Omar Minaya aboard for too long, despite several poor player personnel moves and ill-fated public relations dealings by Minaya that continued to set the Mets back as a team while damaging their image among fans and the media.

While Wilpon allowed Minaya to keep ruining the Mets’ roster, he also let Minaya embarrass the franchise through such gems as flying former manager Willie Randolph out on a west coast road trip just to unprofessionally fire Randolph at 3:12 am ET, and acting too slowly to fire ex-Vice President of Player Development Tony Bernazard after Bernazard removed his shirt and challenged Met minor league players to a fight in the clubhouse. And then, there was Minaya repeatedly bungling and stammering his way through press conferences, including Minaya’s awkward public accusation of New York Daily News reporter Adam Rubin supposedly angling for a job with the Mets after Rubin reported the incident about Bernazard.

It was all enough for many Met fans to wish for new team ownership back then.

That growing sentiment was fueled with reports of the Mets moving toward becoming a small market fish in the big pond of New York, as the team with the new stadium by Flushing Bay apparently saw its owner flush hundreds of millions of dollars away in Madoff’s madness.

And now, the sort of stuff you just can’t make up, not even if you were Minaya talking about Rubin.

Now, in all fairness, the context in which Wilpon disparaged the values or abilities of Mets like Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and David Wright should be noted. It’s not as if Wilpon offered those opinions to Toobin out of the blue (whether Dodger blue or otherwise).

Wilpon expressed such thoughts to Toobin while the two took in a Met game against the Houston Astros at Citi Field earlier this season.

In that setting, simply watching and talking baseball, even if discussing his own team, Wilpon can be somewhat exonerated than if it were in say, in a room somewhere, in a typical interview environment.

Yet, for a guy who built a fortune in real estate – enough to own a major league baseball team in New York – it would figure that Wilpon would know better.

When talking to a high profile reporter like Toobin for a feature piece in a magazine like the New Yorker, rule one in protecting your best assets is not to devalue them in any way.

Even Robert Nutting, the principal owner of the small market, perennially losing Pittsburgh Pirates knows that much.

Yet, while speaking with Toobin, Wilpon demonstrated once again that he just doesn’t get it when running the Mets.

Time will tell whether a current lawsuit in the Madoff case might ultimately force Wilpon to sell the Mets, or if the current financial state of the Mets (which Wilpon described to Sports Illustrated this week as a team that’s “bleeding cash” and “could lose $70 million this season) might eventually lead to new ownership in Queens. Or, Perhaps Wilpon, now 74, will get past all of this and continue to own a team that can again become financially stable and win.

For now though, how could such a successful businessman (outside of baseball) show all of his cards so openly?

Few would argue with Wilpon (as he told Toobin) that shortstop Jose Reyes might deserve a $140 million contract or that third baseman David Wright falls short of being a superstar. And, more would probably agree with Wilpon than disagree that in retrospect, Wilpon was misguided in overpaying for outfielder Carlos Beltran based on one historic postseason for Houston.

However, Wilpon is not exactly new to the art of negotiation and he’s certainly aware that he may be forced to trade any or even all of those players, and more. If that’s the case, why not build them up as much as you can?

Whether you’re selling real estate, cars, trinkets, or trying to get the most you possibly can for baseball players who you might not be able to afford to keep, you should always try to talk them up and overvalue them. Wilpon clearly knows that or he wouldn’t have ever been in a position to buy a professional baseball team in the first place.

And still, he just couldn’t help himself. Just like the Ebbets Field-styled rotunda replete with the focus on tributes to Jackie Robinson – very worthwhile, but for the Dodgers, not the Mets.

Ironically, both franchises – Wilpon’s initial favorite and the one he’s trying to save now – need to dig out of financial messes.

McCourt is desperately trying to keep the Dodgers as he struggles to make the team’s player payroll for the end of May while embroiled in a court fight with his ex-wife.

As a result, Major League Baseball has stepped in to help out one of its flagship franchises, something that some Met fans have expressed interest in seeing with their own team and which the New York media has already suggested should happen with the Mets.

A June 22nd hearing will have a superior court judge hear arguments on why a sale of the team should be ordered.

If it comes to that for McCourt and the Dodgers, many Met fans might say something like, “Go ahead and sell too, Fred. This is one time we don’t mind if you forget about the Mets and pay homage to your Dodgers.”

Posted under Blunder, Brooklyn Dodger, Dodger Fan, Ebbets Field, Fitting Metaphor, Frank Mccourt, Fred Wilpon, Hall Of Fame, Honest Comments, Los Angeles Dodgers, Magazine Article, Main Entrance, New York Mets, Rotunda, School Teammate, Top Story

This post was written by Jon Wagner on May 28, 2011

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Now Bud Must Step In

Last month Commissioner Bud Selig took an unprecedented step in taking over the Los Angeles Dodgers, because of the actions of owner Fran McCourt and released this statement:

“Pursuant to my authority as Commissioner, I informed Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt today that I will appoint a representative to oversee all aspects of the business and the day-to-day operations of the Club.  I have taken this action because of my deep concerns regarding the finances and operations of the Dodgers and to protect the best interests of the Club, its great fans and all of Major League Baseball.”

At the time, I wrote in Mets Inside Pitch Magazine that the Wilpon’s situation is different, as the Dodgers were not a liquid asset because of McCourt’s divorce with his wife Jamie and also the beating of Brian Stow on Opening Day created an unsafe environment at Dodger Stadium, because of McCourt’s negligence in replacing at head of security.

Yet, after the New Yorker article that came out yesterday, it is time for Selig to take the same actions against the Wilpons.

Sure the Wilpons are still looking for a buyer for up to 49 percent of the club and the only beatings at Citi Field come with Met losses, but after reading the 11,000 word piece by Jeffrey Toobin, it is clear that by trying to clear his name in the Madoff lawsuit, Fred Wilpon is damaging  the future of the New York Mets, on the field and in the pocketbook.

Wilpon gave Toobin unprecedented access, because he felt that this would tell his side of the story and Wilpon will look like an everyman to world – an innocent victim, instead of a conniving thief. Instead the opposite happened, as the owner of the Mets ripped his three biggest players saying Jose Reyes wasn’t worth “Carl Crawford” money, David Wright is not a superstar and that he was a “schmuck” for signing Carlos Beltran.

Nevermind the fact that Reyes, Wright and Beltran fall right behind Mike Piazza and Darryl Strawberry as the best position players in Mets history and forget the fact that there was some truth to what Wilpon said as well, because no player is worth Carl Crawford money, Wright has never carried an offense like Piazza did, and yes, he was a schmuck for paying Beltran that type of dough.

The fact is once Wilpon said it as the owner of the club, he immediately devalued the franchise. When Sandy Alderson tries to trade Reyes and Beltran, he may not find as big of returns for the two players and Wright, the face of the franchise, may just want to bolt in two years in Wilpon is still owner of the club.

Further that with Irving Picard, who is treating this case like a war against the Borg, sitting in his captain’s chair and telling his underlings to “Make it so!” every time a new piece of evidence comes across his desk. Last week, we find out Picard alleges the Wilpons look to purchase fraud insurance, there will probably be more coming out in the next few weeks. And each and every time, Wilpon digs in, making it more and more difficult for the Mets.

And as things get more difficult, decisions will be made based on the lawsuit and not baseball relation actions.

It’s that reason why Selig needs to step in, as the situation is spinning out of control. Alderson can easily move up to run the organization, taking the Wilpons totally out of the equation. Until this suit is settled with Picard, the Wilpons need to step away from the club to fight for their reputations and let the baseball professionals run things.

A month ago, Selig did it with the Dodgers, now he has to do it with the Mets.

Posted under Carlos Beltran, Commissioner Bud Selig, Darryl Strawberry, David Wright, Dodger Stadium, Frank Mccourt, Fred Wilpon, Innocent Victim, Joe Mcdonald, Jose Reyes, Liquid Asset, Los Angeles Dodgers, Major League Baseball, Mike Piazza, New York Mets, Positio, Top Story, Unprecedented Step, Word Piece, Yorker Article

This post was written by Joe McDonald on May 24, 2011

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This Could Be The Beginning of the End For The Wilpons

This one comes as no shock to anyone.

Yesterday’s announcement that Wilpon Family is looking to sell 20 to 25 percent of the team is only surprising in the timing of the announcement, not the fact that they are looking for a few extra dollars.

Since the Madoff Scandal hit at the end of 2008, whispers of the Wilpons financial woes came across the baseball world and there was talk that Fred Wilpon was looking for friends to invest in the Mets.

None of that happened of course, so now they are opening it up to anyone who has about $170 million to own a piece of the Mets action.

And why this announcement today, after swearing on stacks of bibles for the past two years, the Mets were financially sound.

Well according to multiple sources, the law suit filed by Madoff Trustee Irving Picard, not only is trying to seize any profits the Mets received, but also is going for punitive damages since the Wilpons referred clients to the Ponzi swindler. That number has been reported to be $1 billion, so you can see why Mets ownership is scrambling.

The Wilpons are looking for a settlement with the court, so they probably won’t have to pay the billion, but will still have come up with a large chunk of change.

That’s where these investors come in. The Wilpons hired Steve Greenberg – Hank’s son – to find potential investors, but before Fred and Jeff can breathe a sigh of relief, understand, that doesn’t mean they will get any. Last year, Tom Hicks was looking for silent investors with the Texas Rangers, and when none surfaced he was forced to sell the whole team.

Minority investors work when the team is run soundly. It worked for the Pittsburgh Steelers, because the NFL prints money, and it would work with a team like the Yankees, because there is a built in guarantee that the money invested would get a return.

But the last few seasons saw turmoil for the Wilpons, and why would anyone want to invest in that? This is a team that is leveraged to the hilt and on the hook for the Citi Field bond payments. Last year, they were downgraded to junk status, but unlike a corporate bond, which can easily default, these are municipal obligations, so the City of New York is involved.

Then there’s the large payroll with diminishing attendance, which never seems to work for any club.

Actually the only thing going for the Wilpons these days is SNY, but Jeff Wilpon said, the asset isn’t for sale.

Back in the late 1990s, there was talk about Jame Dolan coming in and buying the Mets. That probably won’t happen now, as the Mets are no long a MSG Network program and there also may be an ownership conflict with Dolan’s uncle owning the Cleveland Indians.

All of this points to a very tough road ahead for the Mets. With a team value – according to Forbes – of $858 million, the Wilpons just might be forced to sell if they are on the hook for that billion dollars. And even if they only will owe a portion of that, they may have to sell controlling interest if no minority buyers come through.

This means is that a once solid ownership team is now full of question marks and everything is resolved one way or another, everything move the Mets do will be clouded by the Madoff actions.

And that’s been no secret either.

Posted under 1 Billion, Baseball World, Beginning Of The End, Bibles, Chunk, Financial Woes, Fred Wilpon, Law Suit, Minority Investors, New York Mets, Pittsburgh Steelers, Ponzi, Punitive Damages, Sigh Of Relief, Stacks, Steve Greenberg, Texas Rangers, Tom Hicks, Top Story, Trustee, Turmoil, Whispers

This post was written by Joe McDonald on January 29, 2011

Report: Alderson To Be Named Next GM

According to a report on SI.com, the Mets have decided to hire Sandy Alderson as their 12th general manager. An announcement could happen as early as Friday, the day off for the World Series.

After three weeks of interviews, it seems like the Mets Office of the Chairman consisting of Mets CEO Fred Wilpon, President Saul Katz, and COO Jeff Wilpon decided on the 62 year-old Alderson, who will bring instant credibility to the club after building the Oakland A’s in the 1990s as general manager, presiding over the San Diego Padres in the mid to late 2000s and having two stints in the Commissioner’s Office, most recently cleaning up the Dominican Republic.

Alderson’s candidacy comes with the blessing of Commissioner Bud Selig, who has had a very close relationship with the Wilpons over the years.

The new GM, though, will have his work cut out for him as he inherits a Mets club that suffered from dysfunction and bad contracts over the Omar Minaya era. Alderson will need to make decisions on center fielder Carlos Beltran, second baseman Luis Castillo, and pitcher Oliver Perez, all of whom have disappointed in 2010 and have expiring contracts next season.

But his first order of business will be the next Met manager. A pioneer of Sabermatrics, Alderson may want to hire a manger in the mold of the Red Sox Terry Francona, who will implement front office policy, rather than manage from the gut. That would seem to eliminate former Met Wally Backman will not be hired, but past reports indicate the Wilpons would prefer a manager with some Met connections.

That remains to be seen as Alderson probably commands full autonomy and the Wilpons stated publicly the new GM will pick the manager for the club.

An Alderson seems to be up to the job. He is a Vietnam veteran, who has a law degree from Harvard. Alderson’s Oakland A’s won the 1989 World Series, while his shoestring San Diego Padres were strong contenders during his years as CEO.

Posted under Carlos Beltran, Center Fielder, Commissioner Bud Selig, Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon, Law Degree, Luis Castillo, Mets Club, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Omar Minaya, Order Of Business, San Diego Padres, Sandy Alderson, Saul Katz, Second Baseman, Shoestring, Stints, Terry Francona, Top Story, Vietnam Veteran, Wally Backman

This post was written by Joe McDonald on October 27, 2010