At age 7, Otto Velting of Bellmore can't tell you the legal definition of "clawback" or "willfully blind."

But he knows the Mets couldn't keep star shortstop Jose Reyes this winter because of the legal and financial struggles of club owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz.

"Really sad," Otto said, when asked how he felt about Reyes signing a free-agent contract with the rival Miami Marlins in December. "Because he was my favorite player."

For many fans, the $162-million settlement announced Monday between the Mets owners and a trustee representing victims of Bernard Madoff may have come too late.

The team's struggles on and off the field have shaken their faith in the club and its owners, some fans said Monday. They reacted to news of the settlement with a mixture of relief and -- in true Mets fan tradition -- chronic disgruntlement.

Todd Rock, 45, of Freeport, after shopping at the Sports Authority in Carle Place, said he was a longtime fan but hasn't gone to a game in years because of the Mets' foibles.

"The Mets have been leaving a bad taste in my mouth," Rock said. "The bad players. The scandals. They don't seem to care about the fans anymore."

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Otto's father, Drew Velting, 50, also outside the Sports Authority, said the Mets' personnel decisions appeared to mirror their off-the-field troubles.

"The Mets seem to have a history of trading away . . . " Drew Velting said.

"Their good players," Otto said, finishing his father's thought.

But Drew Velting said he hoped the end of trustee Irving Picard's lawsuit against the Mets owners "results in less disruptions to the team and the players and the fans."

Bernie Kugler, 64, of Bellmore, was more forgiving of his favorite team. He said he never agreed with Picard's assertion that Wilpon and Katz had ignored red flags about Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

"I don't know how you can get in a person's mind and say, 'You should have known this,' " Kugler said after a round of golf at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow. "I think Picard was grabbing at straws."