Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Archive for the ‘The Wilpons’ Category

Triples!

Posted by JD on May 30, 2011

After attending today’s sweep averting Mets’ win and witnessing Jose Reyes at his very best, I decided to head over to Baseball-Reference.com and see how many players have had three games in a season in which they hit two or more triples. It’s a short list: only 13 other players have ever done it. Dig a little deeper and you’ll see that only two players have done it since the first wave of expansion: Kenny Lofton in 1995 (in a strike-shortened season: wow) and Carl “The Perfect Storm” Crawford in 2004. Crawford actually had four games with two or more triples, which ties him for the record with Bill Terry and Barney McCosky.

Fitting, no? In the same week in which Fred Wilpon dinged Reyes for wanting “Carl Crawford money”, Reyes goes out and becomes the first player since The Perfect Storm to have three multiple-triple games in the same season. It was a silly comment when he made it and Reyes has only made it look sillier.  I truly hope it was an off-the-cuff thing by Wilpon and that when he left his message for Reyes he apologized for what he said (as opposed to apologizing for saying it to a reporter for a national magazine). Why does that distinction matter to me? Because I’d hate to think that Wilpon has never looked at their stats.

Even thought they both debuted in the majors at the age of 20, Crawford is almost two years older (he’s currently in his age 29 season while Reyes is in his age 28 season). Here are their slash numbers through their age 27 seasons (2009 for Crawford, 2010 for Reyes): .295/.335/.437/.772 for Crawford, .286/.335/.434/.769. Crawford’s advantage boils down to .009 in batting average and .003 in slugging average. That’s a wash, and it doesn’t even consider the fact that Reyes is a shortstop. Reyes also finished eighth in Rookie of the Year voting, went to two All-Star games, won the Silver Slugger once, and received MVP votes in four consecutive seasons. Crawford didn’t get a single Rookie of the Year vote, went to three All-Star games, and received MVP votes in one season. Through their age 27 seasons, I could argue that Reyes deserved more money than Crawford and not get laughed out of the conversation.

Crawford’s age 28 season was excellent (he was an All Star, won the Silver Slugger, and got MVP votes), so there’s that. But their career lines are still very similar: .295/.335/.442/.777 for Crawford and .288/.337/.435/.772. So, since I’m trying to be generous, I’ll just attribute Wilpon’s comments to his frustration at the time. Because it’s pretty clear to me that Reyes has every right to ask for “Carl Crawford money”.

I apologize if this is the 437th post you’ve read about Wilpon’s comments in the New Yorker. Jose Reyes is my favorite player and a big, big reason why I keep renewing my season tickets. I just love watching the guy play and it pained me to read that the owner of my favorite team casually dismissed his salary demands (and, by extension, his future with the Mets). It cut close to the bone and I’m still trying to process it. For all I know, Wilpon intends to spend a lot of money on Reyes and this is something we’ll all look back and laugh at in a few years. I sure hope so. But just to be safe, I’ll be attending every game I can while he’s still here. I’m going to enjoy watching Jose Reyes play while I still can.

Posted in Jose Reyes, Mets, The Wilpons | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Quick Hit: Rescued From The Spam Filter

Posted by JD on March 2, 2011

A month ago I ran a post covering how the Wilpons failed to observe some of the most basic tenants of investing in their involvement with Bernie Madoff, things that they teach you in Finance 101. Nothing earth-shattering mind you, just an outsider’s take on some of the red flags they missed over the years.

The post has been floating out on the internets for awhile, and yesterday my spam filter snagged a couple of spammy comments that tried to tag on to it. Usually the comments run along the lines of “that was a very interesting post” or “thank you for enlightening me,” but these two stood out, particularly when you consider the post’s source material.

“Dagny Hilla” commented: “I’m pretty sure this topic was presented on Nightline.” I guess. I mean, basic investing is a pretty ubiquitous topic, so I’m sure that’s come up in the 30-plus years the show has been on the air. And I bet the Madoff scandal hit their radar at some point, too. Did they discuss this particular blog post (or even it’s general theme)? Highly doubtful.

“Jamey Laprade” commented: “Are you serious? Hells yes you are, this should be required reading. with your permission, I will make that happen.” Now we’re cooking with gas! Hells yes, indeed! Jamey Laprade, you have my permission to “make that happen”. I’ll just sit back and wait for the page views to roll in.

Spam is dumb, and so is this post, but I had to memorialize these comments before they disappeared in my trash bin. With that, it’s back to spring training position battles, selfish outfielders, and Oliver Perez’ continued implosion.

Posted in Flushing Frivolities, The Wilpons | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

More Madoff Stuff

Posted by JD on February 4, 2011

Craig Calcaterra provides his commentary on another New York Times article about Bernie Madoff and the Mets’ ownership group. This one is worse than the article I linked to in my previous post, as it highlights the lawsuit filed by the spouse of a former Wilpon employee that contends that the Mets owner was negligent and conflicted in investing employee 401K’s with Madoff. This comes in advance of the unsealing of the trustee’s lawsuit later today. All in all, not a good day to be a Wilpon.

I’ve done a lot thinking on the whole situation since my previous post. I stand by my assertion that, in the very best case scenario, Fred Wilpon, Saul Katz, and other Mets officials involved will be found guilty of a stunning lack of financial acumen. It could (obviously) wind up being much worse, but that’s the baseline we’re working with here. And as such, that’s about as much as I can say on the topic. Out of curiosity, I’m going to look at the lawsuits just to see what’s in them. But I’m not a lawyer, so I doubt I’ll have much of any value to contribute on the topic.

And quite frankly, even if I do, I’m exhausted by the whole affair. It’s February, players are already in Port St. Lucie getting ready for the coming season, and I’m kind of done with the lawsuits and ownership sales. Yes, these topics will impact the franchise in profound ways, some of which are impossible to predict at the moment. But I want to think (and write) about baseball. I reserve the right to come back to the topic, but for now I’m moving on. And in that spirit, I will present you with a mind-numbing post about Scott Erickson shortly. Enjoy.

If you are looking for top-notch commentary on the Madoff/Wilpon situation, you have to read Craig Calcaterra’s posts on the matter over at Hardball Talk. Calcaterra is a former lawyer and a top-notch blogger, and I find his take on this issue indispensable.

UPDATE: The documents have been unsealed. Here’s Craig’s take on it. Short version: not good. But read the details for yourself.

Posted in Mets, The Wilpons | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Finance 101, And How the Wilpons Failed It

Posted by JD on February 2, 2011

The New York Times published an excellently researched piece on Bernie Madoff’s wide role in Mets’ finances. Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk summarized the piece perfectly, and Greg Prince of Faith and Fear in Flushing offers a thoughtful, Bobby Bonilla-laced commentary here. Excellent works all, reading them consecutively left me sad, mostly for Madoff’s victims and Mets fans, but for Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, too.

You can put this post in the category of “kicking a guy when he’s already down”, but I cannot get over the fact that men who were smart enough to build a successful real estate business in one of the most competitive markets in the world could display such staggering incompetence in personal and corporate finance. Yes, complicated investment vehicles often require degrees in mathematics to fully understand. But finance, at it’s heart, is driven by some very basic principals, one of the most basic of which is that returns are never guaranteed (often described by the phrase “past returns are no guarantee of future profits”). The Times article goes to great lengths to convey the impression that Fred Wilpon was very focused on the returns generated by Madoff. I wasn’t there, and I’ve never spoken with Wilpon about Madoff, but the Times certainly suggests that he was blinded by past (albeit fictional) successes.

But what is truly striking to me is how blindly Wilpon, Katz, and others ignored another fundamental axiom: there is safety in diversity. While no one investment is ever truly guaranteed, spreading your money among many different investments minimizes the chance that you’ll lose your entire fortune in one bad investment. According to the Times, Wilpon and Katz did just the opposite:

“According to an analysis of the list of Mr. Madoff’s 15,000 clients, done by Jamie Peppard, a former financial auditor who has studied the Madoff case, more than 500 accounts can be tied to Mr. Wilpon and Mr. Katz. Mr. Wilpon had at least 17 accounts just under his name, according to her analysis.”

I mean, that’s just astounding. Bernie Madoff sold himself to Wilpon and Katz, and they bought in wholeheartedly. I guess I understand that. Sure, I struggle with it, but I guess I can understand that they were completely taken in by Madoff. But what I absolutely cannot reconcile is how willingly they invested so much of their fortune with him. No salesman, however effective he may be, should be able to convince a successful businessman to abandon diversity altogether.

Which leads me to my final point: greed is not good. If that NY Times article is remotely accurate, the Wilpons’ fascination with the false profits Madoff was showing them blinded them. Yes, they were victims of Madoff’s ponzi scheme. But they were just as much victims of their own failure to follow common sense.

It comes down to an old saying that I learned a long time ago: “If something looks too good to be true, it most certainly is.” It saddens me that Fred Wilpon, Saul Katz, and others in the Mets organization didn’t remember it when it mattered most.

Posted in Mets, The Wilpons | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Money Troubles

Posted by JD on January 28, 2011

The Mets sent out a message to season ticket holders today, informing us that they a). are in discussions to settle the lawsuit filed by Irving Picard, US trustee for Madoff’s victims and b). they are in the process of “looking at a number of potential options”, which might include selling a piece of the team. This was followed up by a conference call during which Fred and Jeff announced that they are looking to sell 20-25% of the team.

Any way you slice it, this is not good news. I’m as critical of the Wilpons as anybody, but ownership changes are most often messy. Recent examples include the McCourt’s messy divorce and the Texas Rangers’ bankruptcy/bidding war. It’s possible that the process could go smoothly for the Wilpons, but it’s more realistic that the search and ownership transfer drag out. The potential for negative press and sensational tabloid headlines exists, to say nothing of the potential implications on the day-to-day operations of the team.

But wait, there’s more. As HardballTalk’s Craig Calcaterra astutely points out, there’s no guarantee that the Wilpons will be able to keep control. This opens the door for James Dolan, one of my least favorite sports figures, to take control of the Mets. I wrote about this back in March, but I think it bears repeating. An excerpt from that post:

I can tell you this: the Dolans haven’t had viable summer content for their MSG network since SNY debuted. They would jump on the chance to purchase the Mets and have more than enough money to do so. SNY would disappear or become MSG2 and 1050 AM would become the flagship radio station. Every negative surrounding the Rangers’ and Knicks’ front offices would be replicated in Flushing before you could blink an eye. Cronyism may or may not be present in the front office today, but you can bet your bottom dollar that it would become institutionalized as soon as the purchase was completed.

Anything can happen: the process of selling part of the team has barely begun. But I’m inclined to focus on the negative, and it doesn’t get much worse than James Dolan (although I suppose Islanders fans may beg to differ). Hopefully I’m making a mountain out of a molehill (it’s been known to happen), because I’d hate to look back on this day in ten years as a negative turning point; the day the Mets’ ownership situation went from bad to worse.

———————–

From the Mets:

As Sterling Equities announced in December, we are engaged in discussions to settle a lawsuit brought against us and other Sterling partners and members of our families by the Trustee in the Madoff bankruptcy. We are not permitted to comment on these confidential negotiations while they are ongoing.

However, to address the air of uncertainty created by this lawsuit, and to provide additional assurance that the New York Mets will continue to have the necessary resources to fully compete and win, we are looking at a number of potential options including the addition of one or more strategic partners. To explore this, we have retained Steve Greenberg, a Managing Director at Allen & Company, as our advisor.

Regardless of the outcome of this exploration, Sterling will remain the principal ownership group of the Mets and continue to control and manage the team’s operations. The Mets have been a major part of our families for more than 30 years and that is not going to change.

As we have said before, we are totally committed to having the Mets again become a World Series winner. You deserve nothing less.

We wanted to share this information with you concurrent with sharing it with all Mets employees and the media. Thank you for your ongoing support.

Sincerely,

Fred Wilpon, Chairman & CEO

Jeff Wilpon, COO

Posted in Mets, The Wilpons | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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