We may never know if the Wilpon family, principal owners of the New York Mets, benefited or lost as a result from dealings with Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff.
However, we will soon know if the Wilpons' involvement with Madoff will cost their beloved Mets on the field.
The recent lawsuit against the Wilpons will cost them millions. It's not relevant if they win or lose in the courtroom.
If they remain majority owners of the Mets—which, despite this mess, appears inevitable—there will be no money to spend next offseason despite a huge chunk of cap space coming off the books. Money that could have been spent acquiring the best baseball player on the planet (and free agent-to-be), Albert Pujols, will instead be spent by the Wilpons on lawyers and legal issues.
Never mind Pujols.
What about re-signing homegrown star Jose Reyes? Fat chance.
Not after Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford cashed in big this year. Not after shortstop became such a razor-thin position that teams will surely be lining up to make offers for Reyes and his services this coming offseason. Not after Madoff.
So, what's a general manager to do? Well, you could trade Reyes, sure. And Carlos Beltran for that matter.
But what team, exactly, is going to give the Mets fair value as the trade deadline looms in July, knowing the Mets have financial troubles abound?
Beltran is a goner, regardless, and who knows what he has left in the tank? It's unlikely the Mets would get much for him, anyway.
But Reyes is still just 27, and only now entering the prime years. Normally, a guy with his talent at his age could net a fortune for the team that was dealing him.
Unfortunately for New York, the 29 other teams are well aware of their financial constraints. New GM Sandy Alderson has no leverage, and he knows it. Alderson may be better off holding onto his shortstop for 2011, and simply letting him depart via free agency after the season, taking the compensatory draft picks that Reyes would fetch.
Heck, the Mets may want to investigate trading any assets they have right now.
Mike Pelfrey, anyone? Unlike Reyes, Pelfrey is not a free agent at the end of the season, and if he pitches well, a contending team could part with some prospects for him, knowing he'd be more than just a summer rental.
If the Mets are going to be handcuffed financially for years, why not stockpile on young, cheap prospects?
They don't have the pieces right now to make the playoffs anyway, let alone win a title. And, should this Madoff mess turns out poorly, Citi Field will be a tomb for a long time.
Alderson used his "Moneyball" approach to achieve modest success in Oakland with limited finances, and maybe he'll have some success in Queens as well, on a possibly even tighter budget. But it's an entirely different ballgame (no pun intended) here.
This is New York.