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Wilpons to Blame for More than Just Maddoff Mess

April 29, 2011
By Tony Grater

The New York Mets are a financial mess these days, that’s no secret to anybody. The Bernie Maddoff scandal has made this once proud franchise into a laughing stock for more than just their play on the field. But the truth of the matter is the Mets financial troubles extend far beyond Maddoff. Their mishandling of contracts in years past have come back to haunt them in ways no one ever thought possible, and they really have no one else to blame but themselves.

In addition to the $430 million of bank debt the team currently finds itself in, according to an article on CBS, the team finds itself more close to $625 million in debt thanks in part to $100 million of "contingent liabilities". This includes deferred payments to players that have not been on the team for at least 11 years, and in one case even longer than that.

According to the source, Bobby Bonilla, everyone’s favorite whipping boy, is still owed $1.2 million ANNUALLY for the next 25 years, after a ridiculous buy out initiated by the team back in the 2000 season. I remember the time well as by that point Bobby Bo, in his second stint with the team, was overweight, over the hill, and coming off an abysmal 1999 season. A season memorable for him only by the fact that he was discovered playing cards in the clubhouse with Rickey Henderson during Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS against the Braves, a game the Mets would go on to lose. And then, entering the final year of his contract in 2000, and owed $5.9 million, he actually had the balls to threaten to cause problems in the clubhouse if he was not played regularly. Therefore instead of just releasing him and eating the money, the Mets decided it would be smarter to defer the money, with interest, and worked out an agreement with Bonilla that will end up paying him about $835,000 more than when he first signed with them back in December of 1991, when he became the game's richest player at the time.

But it doesn’t stop there as the Mets will also still be paying another member of the boys from the “Worst Team Money Could Buy” era, Mr. Spray Bleach on the Reporters, Bret Saberhagen. Now, I knew about Bonilla’s situation for a long time, but I never had knowledge about this one as Sabes apparently was also bought out by the Mets years ago to the tune of $250,000 every year until 2029. So, that’s almost $40 million over the next almost 30 years for 2 players who contributed little when they were here, and will probably be in adult diapers by the time that last check is written. Gee, I guess Bonilla was right when he told reporters that they wouldn’t be able to wipe that smile off his face. He’s smiling alright...all the way to the bank!

Now, I may not be a financial wiz here, but this has to be one of the stupidest things I have ever heard of. Why not just release these players, pay them their remaining money, and be done with them? Why would you put yourself in the hole for that much money, years down the road, when you have no clue what the state of the franchise will be? Anything could happen, and guess what Wilpons…it did!

None of this is surprising though for the Mets, as they have long demonstrated a lack of intelligence when it comes to making decisions of any kind for the betterment of the team. How Fred Wilpon ever became a successful business man is beyond me. I have yelled and screamed for years that the Mets spend money foolishly, and it's true. I would say they were cheap, and people would say to me, "How can you call them cheap when they have all this money spend on all these players?". It's very simple, the Mets spend money when they shouldn't, but don't spend it when they should. They prefer the reclamation project over the proven stud. They sign the big ticket free agent that 9 times out of 10 is never worth the money they invest in him. And when that player blows up in their face, they always try and see if there is ANYTHING left they can salvage out of him. They can never just release a player who has nothing left. And in some cases, like Bonilla and Saberhagen, they work out some sort of ridiculous deal that puts them in financial debt. No wonder why Oliver Perez refused to go the minors. He probably figured if he held out long enough, HE could probably sucker the Wilpons into a buyout for the final year of his contract. But alas, poor Ollie will just have to deal with the $11 million he is owed this season, he along with Luis Castillo. Sorry boys, you can thank Bernie Madoff for that one.

The bottom line here is the Wilpons are absolute buffoons as owners and have no one to blame but themselves on this matter. They have never cared anything about this team, about winning, and obviously didn’t take the financial future of this team into account, and these 2 discoveries about Bonilla and Saberhagen, coupled with the Maddoff fiasco just prove my point further. And ever since they bought out Nelson Doubleday a few years back, it has been straight down the tubes for this franchise. And the best part of all of this is, like usual, they continue to put up the façade that everything is fine. They maintain they are not going to need to sell the team, and that they just need a minority partner to help them out. Of course this minority partner would have NO SAY over any decisions the club makes, personnel or financial wise, and why should they? They’ve done such a bang up job, and have such a great track record, why would they want any input from an outside party? Just give them your money and shut up.

By the way, it was also reported by the CBS article that the team could lose as much as $70 million this season due in part to the team's dismal showing at the turnstiles so far this year. So whoever you are out there Mr. Minority Owner, buyer beware.

The Wilpons need to sell this team. This mess they are in is all their doing and I don't feel the least bit sorry for them. I feel awful for myself, for my wife, and for all the other Mets fans who have to endure this embarrassment that has been reaped upon us. We didn’t ask for it and we certainly don’t deserve it. The best the current ownership can do for us, and themselves, at this point is to stop pretending everything is ok, and to stop insulting our intelligence, cause we’re not stupid.

We know the team is in dire straits Fred. So stop torturing us, do us all a favor, and sell the freaking team.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed. To whatever extent the financial problem is impacting the team. The fans deserve better than this. Sell the team and let's stop the bleeding.