New York Mets: 10 Keys to Ousting the Wilpons from Team Ownership
As many fans are already aware, the Mets' principal owner Fred Wilpon has been in hot water over the past three years due to his previous dealings with the infamous Bernie Madoff. The Mets have had financial limitations ever since then, and it has not translated well onto the playing field at all.
Beyond the Madoff scandal, the Mets have not won a World Series championship since 1986, and many fans are quick to blame Wilpon for most of the bad signings that have occurred in the last 20 years. Some Mets teams in the past 20 years have underachieved, while others have done well but fallen short of a championship.
The Mets are currently projected to finish in last place in the NL East for the 2012 season. They have not made it to the postseason since 2006 and the current offseason has been rather uneventful. As time goes on, more and more fans are beginning to point their finger at ownership, who they feel is to blame for the recent lack of success.
Fred Wilpon and his family are very committed to maintaining ownership of the Mets for many years to come, but if some situations arise, he may be forced to sell the team. Here are ten possible scenarios that could lead to the Mets having a new owner.
10. The Wilpons Finally Give in and Sell the Team
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This scenario is something to keep in mind, but almost certainly will not happen. Again, Fred Wilpon has stated that the Mets are a family business and that he has no desire to sell his principal ownership.
Back in May 2011, the Mets had reached an agreement to sell 49 percent of the Mets' ownership to hedge fund manager David Einhorn, but in September, Wilpon and Mets' team president Saul Katz both notified him that the deal was off. Nonetheless, a potential deal to sell a minority portion of the team could happen for the Mets in the near future.
Just don't expect Wilpon to completely give in.
9. A Potential Buyer Blows the Wilpons Away with an Offer
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This possibility is slightly more likely to occur than the previous one, but again, don't bank on it. Money apparently is not the biggest thing in the world for the Wilpons, although with their recent financial troubles, it should be very important to them now.
Some people, including Martin Luther King III, have been reportedly interested in the past of buying the Mets, but no formal offers for complete ownership have been made to the Wilpons as of right now.
8. The Bobby Bonilla Contract
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After the Mets brought back Bobby Bonilla prior to the 1999 season, the team expected Bonilla to be a productive right fielder. In the end, Bonilla spent most of the season sitting on the bench and did not get along well with manager Bobby Valentine at all. Furthermore, he was caught playing cards in the clubhouse with Rickey Henderson in the Mets' clubhouse during the end of the decisive Game Six of the 1999 NLCS, which the Mets lost to the Braves.
After the 1999 season ended, the Mets chose to not just release Bonilla, but also defer the $5.9 million he was owed so that the Mets could use more money to sign players the following season. This money got used to trade for Mike Hampton and Derek Bell, who were both members of the 2000 Mets team that won the NL pennant.
In the end, the Mets agreed to pay Bonilla almost $30 million combined and $1,193,248.20 each year from 2011-2035. This deal for Bonilla has become a complete joke, but regardless, this should not significantly affect the Mets' finances.
7. More Bad and Expensive Free Agent Signings
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This also shouldn't significantly affect the Wilpons' ownership situation, but over the years, the Mets have been known for signing veteran stars that are past their prime and do not end up being particularly productive for the Mets. Most recently, Jason Bay would fit this description.
One player's contract will not be the difference between a team has enough money to sign someone else or not, but if the bad contract trend continues, the Mets' financial woes could get worse.
6. Fred Wilpon Potentially Losing His Health
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At 75 years old, Fred Wilpon is one of the more senior owners in baseball. However, Wilpon is also at the point in which a health issue could be fatal for him. He has had a very good track record in regards to his health over the years, but it's only a matter of time before the reigns will officially get handed to his son, Jeff Wilpon, who is currently the Chief Operating Officer for the Mets.
Team President Saul Katz is also on the older side, and he is in the same boat regarding this topic along with Wilpon.
If Wilpon happens to decline in the near future, Jeff Wilpon will naturally inherit the team as his own. The philosophies between the father and son are very similar and the younger Wilpon will most likely run the Mets in the same way his father has done.
All in all, neither Fred nor Jeff Wilpon will likely be interested in selling the team, so if Fred declines, Jeff will just pick up where he left off.
5. More Potential Madoff-Related Lawsuits
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With Irving Picard representing all the victims of the Ponzi scheme that Bernie Madoff was behind, it is very unlikely that any of these victims would file separate lawsuits in the event that the Wilpons get completely off the hook with their current lawsuit. However, some people are crazier than others, and it should not be too surprising if certain victims continue to fight for their rights and justice to extend their battle against the Wilpons and other people that Madoff worked with.
Again, this is not likely to occur, but crazier things have happened. As the saying goes, "expect the unexpected."
4. The Wilpon Real Estate Business Could Suffer
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For decades, Fred Wilpon has been the chairman of Sterling Equities, which is one of the more known real estate companies in the New York area. This is how Wilpon became wealthy and how he was able to originally buy a portion of the Mets back in 1980.
With Sterling Equities being the bread and butter of Wilpon's earnings aside from the Mets, it is critical for him and the team that his real estate business continues to be successful. There has not been any news about anything negative happening to Sterling Equities, and hopefully, for everyone's sake, it continues to be this way.
A significantly bad event involving Sterling Equities is very unlikely to occur, but with everything that happened to the Wilpons in recent years, anything could happen. However, the Wilpons' ownership of the Mets could come into question if something very financially bad occurs with Sterling Equities.
3. The Wilpons Could Lose Their Lawsuit
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Originally, the Wilpons were facing a $1 billion lawsuit, but recently, it has been determined that if Wilpon does not win his lawsuit per se, he would be on the hook for around $160 million at the very most.
The Wilpons have played this off as if their lawsuit will not have any effect on the Mets, but how could one be so sure to trust the Wilpons on this? Could the Wilpons be hiding something from the public? One can only speculate.
There is a greater chance that the Wilpons will win their lawsuit and not have to pay very much at all, if anything. However, if this does not go well for them, the Mets could be in bigger trouble than they could ever imagine.
2. A Lack of Ticket Sales Could Hurt the Wilpons in the Long Run
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The Mets have not been in the postseason since 2006 and have not finished with a winning record since 2008. As a result, Mets' ticket sales in the last two years have plummeted to the point that the Mets are now giving away tickets through various events and fundraisers more than ever before. It's no coincidence that a lack of premier on-field talent has caused the last three years to not be fun for Mets fans.
In 2009, many of the Mets' stars got hurt to the point that by August, the starting lineup was mostly filled with players that started off the season in the minor leagues. 2010 and 2011 were not much better, as the Mets did not prove themselves to be a superior team in the National League.
Now, going into the 2012 season, the Mets are widely predicted to finish in last place in what has become a stacked NL East division. The Mets are very unlikely to make the postseason in 2012, but the Wilpons really need to think of better ways to attract more fans to the ballpark.
A few suggestions could be to have the Mets retire more numbers, plan some events that include fans getting autographs from their favorite all-time Mets, and lowering the prices of the food and drinks within the stadium. If the ticket sales do not improve, this will only hurt the Wilpons' chances of keeping the Mets. This is one of the more likely scenarios that a realistic chance of occurring.
1. The Mets May Not Be Able to Pay Back Their Loans to MLB
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In 2010, the Mets took a $25 million loan from MLB to assist them with payments to Mets' players and staff for the 2011 season. This was done so the Mets could take care of business for the time being while trying to find a minority investor that could help them financially in the long run. However, this loan has yet to be paid back to MLB and if this process continues to get dragged on, Bud Selig may have to intervene and this would not be good at all for the Wilpons.
Selig and Fred Wilpon have worked together in baseball for many years, and Selig approved of this loan in good faith that Wilpon would later repay him. A year has now gone by and the Wilpons have nothing to show for as of right now. It has not been determined how long Selig will let this last, but the longer this drags out, the worse it could definitely get for the Wilpons and their ownership of the Mets.
Thankfully for the Mets, when asked, Selig has not publicly stated that the Mets' financial troubles are a serious concern to him. As many sports fans may know, Selig is also currently dealing with the messy ownership situation for the Dodgers, so he is quite busy as is. If the Dodgers' situation does not get resolved soon, this could potentially buy more time for the Mets to find the minority owner they are seeking and be able to have enough money to pay off the loan once Selig asks them again.
Barring any more lawsuits or other significant payments, the Wilpons will be expected to repay MLB for the loan, but only time will tell whether this will get done in a timely manner. This is by far the most likely situation that could lead to the Wilpons being forced to sell the Mets.