By Mike Steffanos
It's been months since I've been able to post regularly to this blog for reasons I talked about in yesterday's post. Back in the spring and early summer of 2011 the big story that dominated all Mets conversation was the financial situation of Mets ownership.
Fast forward almost a year later and the sad truth is that the Wilpon's finances still overshadow all of the baseball story lines, maybe even more than last year. Mets fans had to watch a great home-grown talent like Jose Reyes sign with a division rival for a contract that should have been quite reasonable for a large market team even as the club slashed payroll by an incredible 50 million dollars.
There's no doubt that the Mets have been an incredibly inefficient operation for most of the last couple of decades to their own detriment and the detriment of Mets fans. It appears to me that ownership was so willing to blindly get hooked on the Madoff crack because that was the only way they were able to sustain such a bungling and unproductive business model for so long.
From what I've been reading it seems as if there is certainly reason to believe the ultimate cost of the Madoff case will be small enough for the Wilpon family to survive and continue to own the club. I certainly can't blame them for wanting to hold on -- if I was in their shoes I'm sure that I would feel the same. For all of their faults I have no doubts that they love this team.
On the other hand, there's no doubt that the Wilpons have done a tremendous amount of damage to the credibility and reputation of this franchise and their ability to lead it going forward. I like and respect what Sandy Alderson is doing in trying to reverse years of questionable management, but you can only get so far shopping for players in the bargain aisle.
I have no personal enmity towards the Wilpons, but it's gotten to the point where the news that they were selling the club would come as a great relief. At the very least they need to show fans that they are going to be willing and able to spend a reasonable amount of money to build a winner again. It won't happen this year and is unlikely to happen next, but we shouldn't be talking a five-year plan for a team that has such potential resources.
Scott Boras, of all people, called the Wilpons on the extreme cost-cutting of the past off-season. Although he obviously has his own agenda here his words ring true nonetheless. I agree with everything he said, particularly his conclusion:
"...there has to be an equation where there are requirements for ownership to perform at certain levels, and if they don't, they would lose their right to own a club and be replaced. I believe if we do that, we're going to have a better game. ... When you're seeing franchises in major markets not pursuing to the levels that the revenues and the fan base and the market provide, then I think you have an ethical violation of the game."
Again, while there is no doubt that there needed to be a more balanced and logical approach to the way money is spent by this franchise, there has to be a belief that ownership is willing and able to commit the resources to build a winner here. If the year ahead features a new fire sale followed by another off-season of penury then I believe the Wilpons will completely lose any remaining support among the fans.
As a Mets fan I sincerely long for a time -- hopefully not too far in the future -- when the financial situation of ownership takes a back seat to discussions about hot prospects and coveted free agents. Major League Baseball cannot sit back if the financial foibles of the Wilpon family continues to be the lead story of this franchise.