We’ve been blogging for almost a year and the money is crazy good. Now we’re both cruising in tricked-up Bentleys. I can look back on many posts and think, “Okay, that was good.” But skimming the archives, I regret that we’ve haven’t re-examined the ultimate target in the debacle that is the New York Mets franchise.
We’ve talked about the hitting coach and the pitching coach, the manager and the general manager (now concluding his 8th straight losing season), the owner and the owner’s son.
Yet it could be argued that all of this squalidness rests at the feet of Bud Selig, the enabler. Patient Zero.
Well, I won’t start with him, but he is on the list. If the team was properly capitalized, if the owners hadn’t thrown all in with Bernie Madoff, then nothing with Selig comes into play. So it always starts with Fred, Saul, and Jeff. It’s not like Selig has had to get involved with every current owner.
But, yes, he is high on the list of people who do not have the best interests of New York City and it’s baseball fans in their interests.
In Los Angeles, when ownership was proven to be less than solvent, Bud Selig had no problem stepping in for the betterment of baseball. That’s a situation that turned on a dime. Credible ownership. However, the McCourts were not close with Bud. Not like our Fred. So the question is, has Bud Selig’s personal friendship with Wilpon & Katz clouded his judgment? Has he, in fact, allowed that relationship to not only damage the popularity of baseball in NYC, but harm all of baseball — the entire revenue-sharing sport?
Again, to restate it clearly: Has Bud Selig’s personal friendship with Fred Wilpon — and his failure to address the owner’s insolvency in a professional, business-like manner — caused serious damage to the sport?
That saying, “It’s not personal, it’s business.” Well, this is personal, and bad business. I cannot for the life of me understand why the other owners never went nuts. If I owned another team I would be going nuts. Only 5,000 people showing up at Citi Field every night in New York is hurting the entire enterprise.
It’s been almost five years since Madoff was linked to the Wilpons.
Five years, 12/7/08, since Jeff Wilpon was quoted in the NY Daily News:
Jeff Wilpon admits he and his father, Mets owner Fred Wilpon, were “completely blindsided” in losing hundreds of millions of dollars in the $50 billion securities fraud scandal allegedly perpetrated by longtime family friend and business associate Bernard Madoff.
But Jeff Wilpon insisted Wednesday that those substantial losses will “not at all” affect the Mets or any of their related businesses as they move into their new stadium in 2009. “It’s not what we believe, it’s that we know what our financial position is,” Wilpon said after new closer Francisco Rodriguez was introduced at a press conference at the Citi Building in Long Island City. “The individual partners lost some money at Madoff. But it doesn’t affect the Mets. It doesn’t affect the Citi Field project. It doesn’t affect (team-owned television network) SNY or any of our operating businesses.
If you’re a New York Mets fan, you might be wondering if Commissioner Bud Selig will invoke his “best interests of the game” powers and act to help the embattled franchise.
The short-term answer, for a variety of reasons, is no. The long-term answer, as long as the Mets continue to meet their financial obligations, probably will be no, too.
Commented an unnamed executive on Selig’s relationship with Fred:
In the Rosenthal article, several executives pointed to the Mets high payroll (at the time). “‘They still have a payroll of about $140 million,’ said one official of an American League club. ‘It’s not as if all of a sudden they’re the Pittsburgh Pirates.’”
Here’s another similar comment from the same piece:
“Their payroll, for better or worse, remains among the highest in the game, while the Dodgers last season were outspent by the Minnesota Twins.”
Don’t look back, Mets fans, but the situation has only gotten worse. The Minnesota Twins (a team with a much stronger farm system, btw) are gaining on the Wilpon’s incredible shrinking franchise. For easy reference, 2013 team payrolls:
- New York Yankees $228,995,945
- Los Angeles Dodgers $216,302,909
- Philadelphia $159,578,214
- Boston $158,967,286
- Detroit $149,046,844
- San Francisco $142,180,333
- Los Angeles Angels $142,165,250
- Texas $127,197,575
- Chicago White Sox $124,065,277
- Toronto $118,244,039
- St. Louis $116,702,085
- Washington $112,431,770
- Cincinnati $110,565,728
- Chicago Cubs $104,150,726
- Baltimore $91,793,333
- Milwaukee $91,003,366
- Arizona $90,158,500
- Atlanta $89,288,193
- New York Mets $88,877,033
- Seattle $84,295,952
- Cleveland $82,517,300
- Kansas City $80,491,725
- Minnesota $75,562,500
- Colorado $75,449,071
- San Diego $71,689,900
- Oakland $68,577,000
- Pittsburgh $66,289,524
- Tampa Bay $57,030,272
- Miami $39,621,900
- Houston $24,328,538
Something changed in Los Angeles, but I can’t put my finger on it. What could it be, what could it be . . . ?
In a related piece, Mike, I dug up an article with this incredible (and devastating) tidbit:
Despite currently having the worst record in baseball, the lowest payroll this century and the third-worst attendance rate in Major League Baseball, the 2013 Houston Astros are set to become the most profitable team in league history.
According to a Forbes report, the Astros are set to pull in an estimated $99 million in operating income this season, which is nearly as much as the estimated operating income of the last six World Series championship teams combined.
According to the Houston Chronicle, the Astros began the season with a league-low $26 million active payroll and have since reduced that to under $13 million.
It actually pays to suck. What a business! What a scam! Conclusion: The system is broken. It’s getting dark here in NY, once a great center of baseball commerce, and it’s not like the baseball fans in Houston are enjoying the sunshine either. Sure, somebody’s getting rich, but it’s not the fans. And strangely, this can’t be in the best interest of most owners either.
Unlike other major sports, baseball does not have a floor on spending. With very large luxury taxes, there is, in effect, a cap. I have been surprised for some time now that the Players Association has not made this a major negotiation point.
Agreed. There absolutely should be a floor. The big winner here is the biggest loser on the field. Something’s rotten in the ballpark.
Ian O’Conner said it back in May, 2011:
Bud Selig needs someone new to run the New York Mets, and deep down he knows it. Before Fred Wilpon brings any more embarrassment to his team and his sport, Selig has to take the ball out of his friend’s hand and give him a pat on the back as a parting gift.
Selig executed a hostile takeover of Frank McCourt’s Dodgers, appointing a former Texas Rangers executive to say yes or no to every financial decision that McCourt’s dysfunctional franchise is pressed to make.
The Mets need the same kind of sentinel until Wilpon cashes out for good. If Selig doesn’t take control of the Mets the way he took control of the Dodgers, there will remain only one plausible explanation:
Wilpon is a buddy of his, and McCourt is not.
Instead of smarmy votes of confidence, and pledges of allegiance, Bud Selig needs to stop enabling his old BBF. For the good of the Mets, the city, and the sport, Bud Selig needs to push aside his personal friendship and start acting like . . . the Commissioner of Baseball.
For the best interests of the game, Fred must sell.