December 05, 2011
Things have been so bad for the New York Mets since their last contention collapse in 2008 that it sometimes seems like things can't go any lower.
But after reading Bob Klapisch's excellent garroting of the Wilpon regime on Monday morning, I'm reminded that there are a few more cliffs for the team to hurl itself over. And the freefall may be accelerated after the team barely faked an interest in retaining the services of Jose Reyes(notes), who signed a six-year, $106 million deal with Miami on Sunday.
Though the injury-prone shortstop may prove to be too risky an investment at that price, the Mets' inability to shoulder that risk underscores that they're no longer a big-market team when it comes to the books. And while they might simply be too broke to pay Reyes, the loss of a star player could compound the Mets' financial problems as their attendance can't afford to take another big hit. As Klapisch points out, owner Fred Wilpon and family are in no position to see their cash flow dwindle as they've got some big bills coming due.
The Wilpons owe $430 million in principal on a loan against the team, due in 2014. They owe $450 million in principal on a loan against SNY, due in 2015. They owe an estimated $600 million, due in $25 million increments every six months, on the ballpark.
And none of these debts factor in the settlement of the Madoff scandal. At best, the Wilpons are on the hook for $83 million. At worst, if Judge Jed S. Rakoff's recent, mostly favorable ruling is reversed on appeal, that sum could climb into the hundreds of millions.
Translation: It is not a good time to be named Wilpon.
But this actually might be great news for the diehard Mets fans, who want to see a change in ownership. Keeping Reyes wouldn't have propelled the team to the top of the NL East standings, so perhaps this neutering of the team's talent will convince others to stay away from Citi Field. That could finally move Bud Selig to turn the screws on his good buddy Fred and then perhaps the team could finally be sold to a financially solvent ownership group that would have the resources to operate the organization in a fashion that Mets fans deserve.
All of this would require more years of suffering from Mets fans, of course.
But at this point, what other choice is there? The Wilpons have spoken with their pocketbook (or lack of one). Now it's up to the fans to keep talking with theirs.