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Fred Wilpon 'optimistic' about Mets, but light on details

Mets owner Fred Wilpon during spring training at

Mets owner Fred Wilpon during spring training at Port St. Lucie, Fla. (Feb. 27, 2012) Credit: Alejandra Villa

PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. - Fred Wilpon spoke at length on Thursday about the legacy of outgoing commissioner Bud Selig.

The Mets? Not so much.

Wilpon has been tight-lipped regarding his own club for years, turning down requests for state-of-the-team sessions that used to be regular events in Port St. Lucie and Flushing.

But with the Mets apparently coming out of a long rebuild under Sandy Alderson, Wilpon did say on Thursday that he is "optimistic" about the 2015 club, more so than he had been about any other Mets team in recent years.

Wilpon also expressed confidence in Alderson and his staff, saying the roster appears to have the "horses" to win.

When pressed further on the issues surrounding the Mets, however, Wilpon said he prefers to have Alderson handle those subjects.

It's a much different approach from what happens with the Yankees. Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner held court Wednesday at the owners' meetings to discuss everything from the team's 2015 payroll to the return of Alex Rodriguez.

Fred and Jeff Wilpon had the opportunity to do the same this week but politely declined. The Mets' ownership is wary of generating headlines these days, and that policy isn't likely to change until the team starts winning again.

But the big question remains: Have the Mets done enough to end their streak of six straight losing seasons?

Digging out from the canyon-sized hole created by the Madoff mess has taken a toll on the franchise, and without the Wilpons shedding any light on the team's financial health, it's impossible to determine their ability to improve the roster on the fly.

The November signing of Michael Cuddyer to a two-year, $21-million deal remains the Mets' only significant investment of the offseason.

The team still has obvious needs, such as a more experienced shortstop. For now, Alderson insists the Mets are prepared to go into Opening Day with Wilmer Flores as the starter despite the lingering concerns about his defensive skills and limited offensive production at the major-league level. Flores, 23, had an on-base percentage of .286 in 78 games in 2014.

In Alderson, the Wilpons have a frugal-minded GM, which certainly fit their initial efforts to cut payroll when he first took over and then scale back spending despite playing in the sport's biggest market. Less than five weeks before the start of spring training, the Mets are expected to have a payroll of $98.7 million (as estimated by

The Wilpons aren't absentee landlords. They remain closely involved with every move the franchise makes, down to the smallest detail, and still are the ones signing off on Alderson's plans.

So far, that hasn't translated to winning, and nothing that either Wilpon says can change that without impactful moves.

Which probably explains their silence. Fred Wilpon still is reminded of the infamous "meaningful games in September" quote that he uttered during spring training in 2004 to express his modest expectations for the season. The team finished 71-91.

Manfred adds Steinbrenner. On the final day of the owners' meetings, commissioner-elect Rob Manfred announced that Hal Steinbrenner will be on his eight-member executive council. Manfred also gave Selig the title of commissioner-emeritus, even though his 23-year tenure won't come to an end until Jan. 25.

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