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Mets settle Bernie Madoff suit for $162M, now look forward

New York Mets mascot

New York Mets mascot "Mr. Met." (Getty) Photo Credit: New York Mets mascot "Mr. Met." (Getty)

Mr. Met can finally relax - sort of.

The Mets' owners Monday settled with the trustee seeking money for the victims of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme case. They'll pay out $162 million over the next five years, a far cry from the $1 billion the trustee originally sought from the ownership group led by Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz.

The deal gives the team financial breathing room, with no payments required for at least three years, and resolves a lawsuit that has cast a dark shadow over an already-ailing team since the scandal broke in 2008.

"The biggest thing in this is that it gives them a sense of closure," said Maury Brown, a sports business analyst of BizofBaseball.com. "It gives a sense of certainty."

Brown added that though the suit may be over, Mets fans face a long road to recovery for their team.

"Fans aren't very patient. They wish to see results right now, and I don't think that there are a whole lot of people cheering today for the ownership," he said.

Rob Castellano, a writer for the Mets blog AmazinAvenue.com, agreed.

"I know a lot of fans who frankly didn't mind that the Wilpons were on the hook for this and were kind of hoping this would be the impetus to push them out and force them to sell," he said.

Slow as that process may be, Castellano added, the Wilpons will now be able to focus on building a successful team.

"Winning is just the cure-all for pretty much anything that ails a club," he said. "Pretty much all of that stuff disappears when the club wins ... and they're going to hope that this next wave of talent [maturing around 2013] can change the tides."

Still, the Mets remain under major financial stress. The team lost $121 million during the last two seasons and slashed its payroll by $50 million last year, the largest single-season cut ever, according to The New York Times.

But for some fans, Monday's settlement ends a big part of the nightmare.

"I grew up with the Mets. They're going through a lot, but they'll make it through as they always have," said Andrew Watson, 34, of Brooklyn. "There will always be a market."

Rick Puell, 41, of Woodside, agreed, adding that the Mets were just dealt a bad hand.

"The whole thing screwed us. They didn't know," Puell said of Madoff's scheme. "But I'm still going to be a Mets fan."

Added Puell, "The situation won't deter us. We've survived this much."

(with Amanda Dallas) 

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Questions for Amazin'

Monday's $162 million settlement resolved the Mets owners' debt to the victims of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme, but questions remain for a team with beleaguered fans and players.

Why should Mets fans celebrate the settlement? Mets fans build unrealistic hopes each spring, see them exposed each summer and dashed by autumn, and then spend the winter recovering. Yesterday's news will only enhance that seasonal process. And a "win" two weeks before Opening Day could be one of the few significant victories in what is expected to be a long season at Citi Field.

How will Mets players respond to the ruling? Team leaders have long insisted that the Madoff storm was not affecting baseball operations. Yet with persistent questions from the media and the bankrupt L.A. Dodgers nearly failing to make payroll last season, clubhouse worries about the Mets' finances were especially justified. Now that the team's financial picture is clearer, players can be confident that baseball operations will come first.

What will the Mets do to compete with their big-spending rivals? Not much. Under Fred Wilpon's ownership group, general manager Sandy Alderson, below, has trimmed the Mets' payroll to less than $100 million. Given Alderson's less-is-more philosophy and the owners' need for cash, it's even questionable whether the team will pick up its $16 million option on franchise cornerstone David Wright, left, after this season.


Follow reporter Tim S. Herrera on Twitter: @tim_herrera

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