“First of all I want to emphasize that the plan that we have pursued over the last couple of months was limited by only one fact -- and that is the level of the existing payroll. Our payroll going into the season will be somewhere between 140 and 150 million. I think that’s significantly higher than we’d like it to be on an annual basis, but a product of adding some additional players that we felt the roster needed as well as some existing commitment. So the plan and the approach that I have taken over the last two months has not been affected at all by any other outside factors.
“From my standpoint, when I took this position – when I interviewed and took this position, - I of crourse was aware of the pre-existing involvement of the Wilpons and the Mets with Bernie Madoff. I wasn’t privy to all the detail -- nor am I or most of us at this point, privy to all that detail -- and I wouldn’t expect to be. At the same time, none of that has affected what I have done over the last two months, and I don’t expect it will have any impact on what I do over the next several months including into the 2012 offseason.”
Did the Wilpons put any parameters on where the payroll should be because of their financial problems?
“When I came in, I looked at where the payroll had been, what we had committed for 2011, and then I took a look at the roster, with others involved in management here, and determined where we thought we needed to add players, add depth, starting pitching, what have you, and we proceeded accordingly. There hasn’t been any discussion about limitation other than the overall magnitude of the payroll. Its’ going to be in the top four five or six, so none of what I’ve done has been predicated on any issues related to Bernie madoff or the overall financial strength of the Mets. We’re going to have a very high payroll, and probably higher than anyone would have liked, including myself, but that’s where we are. There really have not been any limitations as a result of any of these outside factors.
Are you concerned about the recent events surrounding the Mets?
“No. I mean obviously there’s a certain level of ambiguity surrounding this news. But from my standpoint, the facts are as they currently exist. To some extent the decision to find a minority partner or some other source of re-capitalizing the franchise is positive news from my standpoint. If there was a financial problem before, and it’s being addressed, that can only be positive from my standpoint.”
Is there added pressure to win now because of the negative publicity?
“I don’t really feel added pressure, but I do believe that the best tonic for all of this is a winning team, and so form that standpoint, it would be terrific for us have a good spring and start the season well and perform beyond the public’s expectations.”
Are you concerned about it having a negative effect on the clubhouse?
“I think that whatever potential distraction it might be we can manage. I think it was important that if a development of this sort were going to arise that it come now. Whatever dark cloud some have described hopefully will be dissipated at least in part between now and the beginning of spring training so we can focus on baseball.”
Is it possible to negotiate a long-term contract with Jose Reyes in the wake of this news?
“Again, perhaps naively, I don’t expect that this situation will be a hindrance in that regard. I fully expect that that decision will be made as it would have been, in the best interest of the team on the field and in the best interest of the overall financial health as well as baseball future of the Mets, as it would be with every other team. I go back to the notion that if a potential financial issue exists, ownership is proactively addressing it and at this point I don’t expect that any financial situation will inhibit negotiations with Jose.”
Were you ever made aware that the financial cloud over the Mets could get this bad?
“The short answer is it wasn’t really discussed. I didn’t raise it, and again, from my standpoint, I’m not surprised by this development just because the Madoff situation was a backdrop to the Mets and a well-known backdrop. My enthusiasm and energy for this position and my confidence in the future of the Mets is undiminished.”
Do you know what the payroll will be in the future?
“At this point, is there a specific number? No. My sense is that -- you may know recent Met history better than I -- I don’t know that we’ve gotten this high in the past, and one never wants to rest at one extreme or the other. But my sense is that our payroll is a little higher this year than I would have liked it to have been. But we are where we are, whether that means we drop back in future years to some extent, I don’t know. But we will continue to expend money at very high levels and I think be among the highest payrolls in baseball.”
This lawsuit wasn’t filed until December, so would you have taken this job if you knew this was going to happen?
“You’re right to say that some circumstances have changed. Would it have changed my position? I don’t think so.”
Will you ever have a payroll similar to the Yankees?
“The only way that I can explain it is that No. 1, we have consistently had one of the highest payrolls in baseball. We’ve never felt – before or after my arrival, as far as I know – that our goal was to achieve payroll parity with the Yankees. We certainly don’t have that goal now. I don’t know that I have to justify the differential. But I will say this, to the extent eventually that our product can outperform expectations and our attendance goes back to more traditional levels, or higher levels, that gives us that much more flexibility.”