Selig hopeful Mets' problem is resolved

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig. Photo Credit: AP, 2008

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Bud Selig can lend the Mets $25 million, but he can't offer much to the Wilpons and Saul Katz when it comes to certainty.

The commissioner, publicly addressing the Mets' tenuous ownership situation Saturday for the first time since the Wilpons announced their interest in selling a minority share of the club last month, refused to delve into many specifics. He wouldn't even confirm the loan, which the Mets confirmed Friday.

Most troubling of all, while conceding his close personal ties to Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon, Selig offered only the vaguest of hope that Wilpon's group can weather this storm.

"I do have great affection for Fred Wilpon, make no mistake about that," Selig said at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, where he introduced Joe Torre as baseball's new executive vice president of baseball operations. "I have great affection, and I have great respect.

"But I have faith that somehow - each year, you have a series of problems, and hopefully, next year, I'll have a different set of problems."

The Mets are dealing with a financial crunch as a result of the lawsuit from the trustee for victims of Bernard Madoff that seeks to recover as much as $1 billion.

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Selig has helped out previous franchises in similar fashion, most notably the Texas Rangers last year and the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2000. However, baseball did not approve Dodgers owner Frank McCourt's attempt to borrow $200 million from Fox, fueling the already existent perception that the commissioner would like to see new ownership in Los Angeles.

"Obviously, I am as familiar with all the ramifications of the Dodgers' situation as I am with the Mets," Selig said, refusing to comment directly on his respective decisions.

The Mets and Dodgers are two of baseball's most important franchises, and their troubles serve as a black mark on the industry. Selig waxed philosophic when asked how concerned he is about the two clubs.

"There are a lot of things in the last 18 years as commissioner [where you think], 'Would you rather deal with [this] or not?' " Selig said. "But this is life. Every time I think about that, I think what [former commissioner] Bart Giamatti used to tell me when he had some very tough issues, which you all know what I'm talking about [the lifetime suspension of Pete Rose for gambling on baseball].

"He'd say to me, 'Buddy, I'll always tell you, we're a metaphor for life. And I'm going to have problems, and we're going to have ups, and we're going to have downs. And . . . that's what I think about when I read about this. And I really believe that."

A person with knowledge of the situation said the commissioner's office is very concerned about whether the Wilpons and Katz can survive their current mess.

Torre, who was the Mets' manager when Wilpon took over as team president in 1980, said, "I feel bad for Fred, I really do. I know how much the ballclub means to him."

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