Into the Woods

By Taryn “The Coop” Cooper

Well, the axe fell.

In some ways bad for Mets fans, in other ways good, in many others great and probably one of the best case scenarios for the Wilpon/Katz ownership consortium.

Bad for the fans who wanted to see the owners go.  In ways good because we can concentrate on just the baseball for now and not have this looming scenario over our head.

Of course, to the victor go the spoils.  Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz can breathe easier, at least for the time being, that they could not only settle for a fraction of what they thought they would have to, they even have a deferring payment plan to work out.  This is no doubt fantastic news for them, as it takes the pressure off the consortium about that pending suit as well as the other debt they have mounting.

(And as of 9 pm EST on Monday night, they’ve paid their MLB loan, came to terms with the 12 shareholders and paid the bridge loan to Bank of America.)

I guess that it was a pretty good day for the consortium, come to think of it.

That doesn’t mean they’re out of the woods yet.  In fact, out of everything we’ve seen these past few years with the Mets, they seem to be just merely getting to Base Camp 1. We could see some status quo for the short-to-medium term, but long term will tell whether they’ll be completely solvent.  (Don’t kid yourselves – they’re not going to be any time soon — just check out the numbers on Mike Silva’s NY Baseball Digest.)

I try not to write about finances here.  I worked in corporate finance for several years and still enjoy reading about it (I know that makes me a geek, leave me alone), but I don’t particularly care about writing it.  I try to keep the Mets’ finances and legal stuff to the experts who have pored over all the public documents, but I saw that this deal today as a short term fix, like most of their deals.  In fact, most of my analysis has been eerily predictive.  I saw that they could be selling minority stakes back in 2008, and that the timing of economic collapse, real estate holdings taking a hit and ultimately interests tanking was a domino effect leading to the Wilpons getting sued.

So they respond with paying off their most current debts, that would have hurt them.  In a way this is very good for them, as they won’t have any liens put against the team or stadium or whatever they took the notes against.  What is going on now in finance are restructurings — for corporations, they’ll have an opportunity, I believe, to restructure their debt in a way that’s favorable for them to pay.

What does this mean?  Well, we’re stuck with the Wilpons for now.

Look.  I don’t hate Fred (Uncle Saul is a moron and Jeff makes my skin crawl).  But the reality is, they are financiers, who have many different facets of their company and we wouldn’t give a damn about them if they didn’t own the baseball team we all love.  What gets me is just how disingenuous they are.  Normally, a team’s fan base doesn’t really care about the owner, unless they are incompetent (or in the Texas Rangers’ case, a former major leaguer, Baseball Hall of Famer and legend, or blow hardesque like the Steinbrenner family).  If they just sign the checks and shut the hell up, no one would say a word.  But as Metstradamus once said, garbage rolls from uphill, and at the hill of everything wrong with the Mets is the ownership.

Fred Wilpon asks us to stick with them.  Well, we don’t really have a choice, do we?  They’ll never sell, and right now that’s the only way we’ll ever have different ownership.  The fans deserve something better, rather than the status quo.  And as owners, if they can’t put MONEY into the organization, untie their GM’s hands and limit his job more and more each day, they should sell.

Because when we look at this team now, it’s got Wilpon written all over it.  By that I mean, every time we see this lineup, every day that we see Ruben Tejada out there, we’ll always wonder why Jose Reyes really isn’t there, if it was truly a baseball decision or financial save-Fred’s-ass decision.  (Despite whether you think the Reyes deal was a bad one, the fact a big market can’t keep this guy is beyond me.)  We’ll wonder if David Wright will be a lifer.  We’ll wonder if Jason Bay’s and Johan Santana’s heart clogging contract will have to be ridden out because of poor decisions made in the past and paying for it in the future by not having wiggle room.  And I’ll always be pissed off that Chris Capuano wasn’t given $12 million for two years because they decided to stick with Mike Pelfrey when they should have cut his ass off the team (yeah, I said it).

Today’s news is just a blip on the radar, a night in Base Camp 1, as I said above.  For now, a lot has changed, but in some ways, nothing has changed.

And that’s the real tragedy, in my opinion.

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