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Is Wilpon the Next Owner Out?

Mike SteffanosFriday, April 22, 2011
By Mike Steffanos

The decision by Major League Baseball to take control of the Dodgers from Frank McCourt has led to much speculation on the implications of this move for Mets ownership.

One of the more serious problems that McCourt had in the eyes of baseball was the way he used the Dodgers' cash to finance his lavish personal lifestyle. Bud Selig acted using the old ambiguous "best interests of baseball" authority he is given. Selig is on record as saying he doesn't see a parallel between what's happening in LA and the Wilpons' financial nightmare.

However, in a Rumblings and Grumblings column on ESPN.com, Jayson Stark pokes some holes in this:

Selig will argue there's no evidence that Fred Wilpon wasn't putting the Mets' revenues back into the team, and that Wilpon always ran his franchise with the betterment of the Mets and the sport in mind. And in most ways, there's great truth in that.

But there's one not-so-minor issue: In the Irving Picard suit on behalf of the Bernie Madoff creditors, Wilpon is accused of "using the Mets as his personal piggy bank," in the words of businessinsider.com.

So if the Mets wind up losing that suit -- assuming it ever makes it that far -- they would, in essence, be guilty of doing pretty much what McCourt is accused of: using club funds for their personal benefit, just in a more roundabout way.

The difference for the moment, said the second attorney, is that MLB has concrete proof, thanks to the McCourt divorce trial, of where the Dodgers' money went. The Mets' situation, however, is "not as clear-cut," because the case is in its early stages.

But either way, people all over baseball portray the Mets as being "in dire financial straits." So eventually, they predict, Selig will have to act.

As fed up as I am with the Wilpons, I am somewhat ambiguous regarding their replacement as owners of the Mets. If you could guarantee me an owner with deep pockets and an affinity for putting smart baseball people in charge and leaving them along to do their jobs, I'd actually be willing to show up with a U-Haul and help Fred and Jeff move their stuff out.

My biggest nightmare, however, is watching the press contract where James Dolan is introduced as owner of the Mets. After what he's managed to "accomplish" with both the Rangers and the Knicks, I have no desire to see him work his magic touch in Flushing. I wouldn't want to look back years from now on the Wilpons bumbling and ineffective three decades running this franchise as the "glory years".

Stark ends the Mets section of his column with speculation from those ubiquitous unnamed baseball sources that Selig knows that the Wilpons will eventually have to sell the Mets, and is working to allow them a "soft landing". This would seem to play out as a graceful exit taking place over the next few years.

I guess I could see why Selig would want to give Fred Wilpon, who he considers a friend, a face-saving exit from the game. But if this speculation is true, I find it hard to believe that it's in the best interests of the Mets franchise to allow this to drag out into the indefinite future.

Common sense dictates that the best interests of this club going forward would be a stable ownership situation that removes the constant questions about finances from the day-to-day coverage. If they could find someone who didn't need to inject themselves into the minutia of decisions more properly left to the experts, so much the better.

Note 5:30 PM: Joe has an interesting take on this at Mets Today well worth checking out. Joe is tougher on the Wilpons than I am generally, although I seem to be coming closer to his point of view all the time.

Speaking of bad business decisions, check out this piece in the NY Times. It reads as quite an indictment of the Wilpons and the people they chose to put in charge of this franchise.

If you are just finding this blog again and wondering why I was gone for so long and what the plan is going forward, read this.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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