Wilpons' believability takes a big hit
In a vacuum, Friday's announcement by the Wilpons could be accepted as logical and rational. Who among us hasn't yearned for a cash infusion every now and then?
Alas, we drove past the intersection of "Mets" and "logic" long ago. No, the Wilpons don't operate in a vacuum. It feels more like a black hole.
Amid a winter in which the Mets seemed to be heading in the right direction, mark this down as a very bad day for the club and its fans. The Mets' future grew far murkier, and the Wilpons' credibility suffered an immense hit.
Since the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme became public knowledge in December 2008, the Wilpons have insisted - adamantly, defiantly, consistently - that their finances were secure despite their involvement. That their baseball operations wouldn't be impacted. That their status as one of the game's top franchises wouldn't be compromised.
That the obvious skimping on baseball costs, post-Madoff, had everything to do with sound decision-making and nothing to do with cash flow.
Then they tried to sell us Friday on the notion that everything changed with last month's Irving Picard lawsuit, which the Wilpons are trying to settle. Until that news hit, the Mets' owners said, everything was peachy.
If you believe that spin, however, then you're subscribing to the notion that the Wilpons never saw the Picard suit coming. They might not be baseball geniuses - just ask Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez - but they certainly aren't business morons.
Indeed, Jeff Wilpon said on Friday's media conference call, "We were preparing for anything and everything that was out there.''
To be fair, the Mets haven't locked their wallet shut the past two years. Perez cashed in with his three-year, $36-million deal, and Jason Bay got four years and $66 million, and the high-priced Sandy Alderson is aboard with his well-compensated lieutenants, Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi, with Omar Minaya taking in another seven figures to do nothing.
As the Wilpons noted Friday, they'll once again field one of the game's highest payrolls in 2011.
Yet if you've followed the club these last two years, you've seen the obvious reluctance to aid rosters that were clearly in need. How they neglected to capitalize on buyer-friendly markets for hitters and pitchers, respectively, in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 offseasons. And how Alderson and friends did the best they could with an extremely limited budget to make this year's club competitive.
I don't buy the notion that people wouldn't invest huge dollars in a sports team without controlling operations. I think the better question is whether any such extremely wealthy person would regard the Mets as a good investment, given the questions surrounding the Wilpons and the Mets' on-field product.
Commissioner Bud Selig has been seriously concerned about the Mets since the Madoff news broke; it's why Selig pushed so hard for the Alderson hiring. Know that Selig will be monitoring the Mets even more carefully these next few months.
The Wilpons desperately want to run the Mets for generations to come. They strive to keep up with the Steinbrenners and to honor the legacies of their New York National League predecessors, the Dodgers and Giants.
That future, that legacy, is very much in doubt now. Moving forward, the Wilpons will be judged solely by their actions. Their words are no more valuable than Madoff stock.