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The Elephant in the Room

Mike SteffanosTuesday, March 6, 2012
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.

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.

Comments (4)

Hey Mike. Glad to see you are back in action.

I totally get what Boras is saying but I think he is reaching a little and totally distorting his proposed standard of replacing a owner that does not pump enough money in to the team, with that of replacing a player who does not perform. The player is going to get paid regardless of what they do. Oliver Perez was proof of that. Boras has a short memory. Now I am not defending the Wilpons here but I think Boras is casting blame on the Mets for his under-performance this past off season. If Detroit didn't make such a poor decision w Prince he would have had even worse. If Boras lobbies the players union for contract cancellations where a player will forfeit there salaries if they are not living up to them then I think he can mouth off all he wants about any owner who can not put a team of quality commensurate with the market they play in on the field.

With that being said, I DO think the Wilpons should sell but mostly for the reasons you pointed out later in your post.

Good to have you back Mike.

Mike, welcome back to baseball blogging. Just in time - the spring season is underway and everything is new.

If there is anyone in the world who I do NOT want to hear from about baseball finances, it's Scott Boras, the man who has done more to wreck teams than anyone. Think what the Mets could have been if not for wasting all that money on Oliver Perez - didn't Loria have a book to prove that he's as good as Koufax?

The more I think about it the more I think it was smart for the Mets to pass on Reyes at the price the Marlins were willing to pay. Marlins owner Loria being in the "boom" year of his boom-and-bust cycle on spending doesn't mean anything - in three years he'll be trying to dump everybody on his team who makes more than the minimum, because they'll all be underperforming their front-loaded contracts..

If the Cardinals can be perennial contenders at a salary range in the neighborhood of $100 million, the Mets can, too. It does require developing talent through the minor leagues. And I think the Wilpons have proved that throwing money at the problem by believing Boras and his ilk is a bad mistake.

I think the Mets are going to be more competitive this year than projected, and I know that a team that plays hard and is competitive starts an upward spiral in the same way that losing has caused a downward spiral.

funny mr. boras should not give his opinion on these matters with the inflated contracts being his legacy mike you should concentrate
on baseball between first base and third base. our field of dreams peace and prayers to your mom. i have been there with my dad and our relationship was not great but he was a baseball fan. write -write-write dig into the persona of beisbol amigo fred

Guys, thanks for taking the time to post and for your good wishes. I know Boras' primary interest here is in getting clubs to spend more on his clients, but I still think his words had some validity. I think I feel a follow-up post coming on.

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