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29 January, 2011

The Madoff Mess

Sting sang it, Richard Bach wrote it, most of us have lived it:
If you love someone, set them free.
Fred Wilpon loves the Mets. They are his family business, his
passion and in some ways his life's work. I get that.
I appreciate that. But Fred Wilpon must set the Mets, and
their fans, free.
  He bought into the team in 1980. He bought half of the
team in '86. He bought all of it in 2002.
He brought us a championship, he helped build us a brand new
stadium. He has cultivated this relationship.
He has put his heart into it from day one. His passion for the
team is understood in everything he says about the ball club.
But like many relationships, there comes a time where how you
feel can blind you from seeing the reality of the situation.
  When Mr. Wilpon bought into the team in 1980 the Mets
were 67-95, finished 9th out of 12 teams in attendance and
were mired in a 7-year stretch of not winning 70 or more
games. Those days were so dark that when the Mets
came back after the strike in '81 a fan held up a sign
that said it all, "The Tragic is Back."
  In 2010 the Mets won 79 games, but it felt more like 67.
They finished 8th out of 16 teams in attendance. Not good
in the 2nd year of a new park. Not nearly good enough in
New York City, not at all. It feels like the Mets are headed
toward another run of dark days. Like it or not, the Wilpon's
financial situation is clearly affecting the team now.
A family that prides itself on being sole owners does not
suddenly decide to ask for "strategic partners" if things are good.
It is clear that in an off-season of Chris Young,
Willie Harris and Taylor Tankersley signings, the Wilpon
finances are affecting the Mets finances, despite their public
denials. This certainly can't be what Sandy Alderson and
his new front office signed up for.
  From afar, it seems as if Fred Wilpon is in denial.
He's telling himself everything will be ok. He's telling himself
time will heal this wound if they can just stay together.
  The Mets are a mess. In part because of their finances,
in part because the Wilpons have not made good decisions
with the operations of the club. The Wilpons care so much
about the team they can't keep from meddling in the day-to-day
baseball stuff.  I have had more than one person close to the
situation tell me the GM's and managers are constantly in
meetings with ownership being told what to say and how
to say it. The Mets seem to be more concerned about
winning the PR game than the games themselves.
Perhaps they are too blind to see winning the games usually
helps you with the PR.
Love can blind you like that. It's hard to see how the Wilpons
come out of this better off without selling a majority of the club.
  If they want a reason for optimism, they should look no further
than Sting himself. Set Them Free was on Sting's first solo album.
He loved being part of The Police. At the time it was his
passion, a successful culmination of his life's work.
But he knew for his own good, it was time to move on.
He did and he flourished.
It's time for the Wilpons to move one.
New ownership has a better chance to save the Mets
than the Wilpons do. Someone not facing a multi-million
dollar lawsuit would be nice.
The Wilpon/Mets relationship is not in a good place right now.
Neither is in position to grow and prosper. Not only is that a
shame, as a fan, it's downright depressing.
So, Mr. Wilpon, if you love the Mets, set them free.
Free, free, set them free.

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