Wilpon Washout?

As spring draw nears and hope springs eternal in the start of a new baseball season (yes, even the Mets), the biggest news of the offseason had nothing to do with any on-the-field talent, or even the All-Star Executive team the Mets brought in.

Fred Wilpon announced that as much as a quarter of the franchise is up for sale.

The initial reaction to the news at this early stage should not be one of fear, hope, anger, despair, or giddiness. It’s curiosity and cynicism.

Fred and Jeff Wilpon are a bit of an oddity in New York owners. They do care about the team and winning. They have spent on the team, having a top 5 payroll for much of the past decade. Yet, with the possible exception of the Islanders there is no NY fan base that dislikes the owner more than Mets fans. Knicks fans dislike Dolan, but that is primarily because he has too much loyalty to his GMs (Glen Sather & Isiah Thomas).

The Mets fans hate the Wilpons because they do not trust the Wilpons. Probably stemming from reports that Nelson Doubleday pushed for the Mike Piazza trade, but subsequent decisions have helped to widen the divide. Whether it be poor quotes on the vision of the team, like the infamous “meaningful games in September” or coddling to the commissioners draft pick slotting system, to not being quick enough to getting accountability from his constituents.

The biggest issue likely is that there is a perception that the Wilpons do not respect the history of the club. The 1986 team was ignored for much of the early part of the decade, and it was not until more recently that former Mets have had positions within the organization, which now includes former Mets Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling on commentary, and Tim Teufel, Wally Backman, Mookie Wilson, Frank Viola among others in the coaching ranks. The trust in the team evaporated for many fans with the opening of Citifield. While some fans were unhappy with certain hard-to-see spots, most fans applauded the new stadium for being more comfortable, more accessible, and more fun than the well-loved-but-much-maligned Shea Stadium.

However, the opening lacked Mets memories. The banners were moved to one side almost like an afterthought, and the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, while beautiful and worthy symbol of the civil rights legend, became a constant reminder that while the Wilpons owned the Mets, what they wanted was the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Since the news broke I have avoided the Sports Pages and sports talk on the subject, instead choosing to focus on articles from economic sources like the AP, CNBC, and the Wall Street Journal. I would recommend you read Darren Rovell’s piece from Monday on why this is likely the end of the Wilpons run. I recommend you do the same as the sports pages will likely sensationalize the story for all its worth.

I do not have an MBA like KinersKorner member Coop does, but based on the above article and owner I believe they will not find an owner that will meet the terms the Wilpons announced in the press conference. They opened a new stadium. They have a network. There is no new source of incoming revenue. They are asking a new owner to come in and keep the status quo. What return on the investment can a new owner make when they have no decision making power, and no significant changes will be made to the infrastructure? Even if they won championships starting in 2011 it will not be enough.

Until we know more about the Wilpons’ current financial date, and trust me you’lll be hearing the date of February 9th ad nauseum until then, there is no way to know that they MUST get a large inflow of revenue. If they do, then the end is coming. It’s not something to be excited or afraid of, cause we don’t know how long it will be, or whether if someone new came in they’d be any better.

Until then as a fan, I really don’t care as long as the Mets win on the field. Just a few more weeks, then We Gotta Believe Again!

Posted by Robert Z

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