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The Wilpons' big Mets announcement

Howdy, everyone. How has life treated you since January 9? 

Working today thanks to, yes, the Wilpons' announcement that they'll be selling a share of the Mets. It's not terribly surprising, obviously, in light of Irving Picard's lawsuit that was filed last month.

On the other hand, however, it is mildly surprising just because of how defiant the Wilpons has been about the Bernie Madoff mess not impacting the operations of the Mets _ who, let's face it, declined to expand their payroll since the Madoff mess occurred even when a) the Mets had obvious baseball needs and b) those needs were available at reasonable prices.

They acted offended when you asked whether their role in Madoff was impacting this apparent thriftiness, even though it was a common-sense question to ask.

Now, they're saying that everything changed with the filing of the lawsuit in December. But that doesn't come off as very believable. After all, lawsuits have been filed since the moment the Madoff news hit. You mean to tell me that the Mets were behaving in a care-free manner prior to the suit? That they haven't been preparing for this juncture?

I asked these questions in a conference call, and Jeff Wilpon said that no, they weren't surprised by the lawsuit, but "We didn't know exactly was going to be filed." A follow-up question about the team's anticipation of this event sparked this answer from Jeff Wilpon: "We were preparing for anything and everything that was out there."

And how do you prepare for such adversity? You tighten the reins, don't you?

To be fair, it's not like the Mets curled into the fetal position since the Madoff news broke. Oliver Perez cashed in, as did Jason Bay, and the Mets will pay Paul DePodesta almost as much as they will pay Omar Minaya in 2011, with current general manager Sandy Alderson probably making more than those two guys combined. 

But if you're a passionate Mets fan, you know that, after the Madoff news, the Mets declined to add an outfield bat for 2009 even when there were such bats available for bargain prices (remember Bobby Abreu?), and that they did virtually nothing after signing Bay a year ago

To think that the Mets were not acting with Madoff in mind these past two years is to take the Wilpons for dopes. And while they may not be baseball geniuses (cough!), neither are they business morons.

How tough will it be for the Mets to find someone to buy 20-25 percent of the team? I don't buy into the "Who's gonna want to sink in that sort of money without control?" line of thinking. There are plenty of extremely rich people who actually enjoy living private lives, and who would be content with the luxury suite and one-on-one time with David Wright.

I think the better question to ask is, "Are the Mets a good investment right now?" Eh. If you believe in Sandy Alderson enough, then maybe, but there are clearly larger forces at work here than simply Alderson's competence. What sort of ownership stability are you getting?

(For what it's worth, I spoke with a friend of Alderson's who believes that the new GM was not taken aback by today's news. That Alderson entered this gig with his eyes wide open.)

Commissioner Bud Selig is of course monitoring this closely, and it's fair to wonder whether greater troubles loom around the corner. It's fair to wonder anything now, because we know that the Wilpons have not been forthright with us since the very beginning of Madoff.

We're all grown-ups. We know that we can't expect flat-out honesty and sincerity all the time, or even some of the time. But it's one thing to claim that everything is fine, and it's another to express exasperation with the question. To try to make the questioner feel bad for raising the issue in the first place.

I'm not sure if this would technically qualify as the "moral high ground" the Wilpons were trying to claim. Maybe it's more "intellectual high ground." Either way, today, the Wilpons officially ran out of high ground.

--As for me, I'll make another cameo appearance next Thursday, Feb. 3 - we'll catch up on everything that has transpired in the baseball world these last few weeks - and will resume daily blogging on Monday, Feb. 7, as we pound the drums for spring training. Look for giveaway contests aplenty the week of the 7th.

 

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