Saturday, February 16, 2013

N.Y. Mets: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

From the desk of:   HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

Welcome to Met Year Eleven A.D. - After Doubleday.

We pick up the Saul B. Katz Dilemma
on Day 3656 in the Age of WILPONianism...
For those of you not familiar with the Saul B. Katz Dilemma, it is a continuing docudrama.  In proper form, I use it as a metaphor to describe the state of utter chaos which has existed ever since Fred Wilpon bought out his former partner, Nelson Doubleday. The Saul B. Katz Dilemma is to watch the prophecy unfold - the one where Nelson Doubleday predicted the Wilpons would drive the Mets into the ground. Saul Katz then, is to Igor as Mr.Wilpon is to Dr. Frankenstein. Poor loyal Saul Katz is subservient and helpless to stop him from creating the monster... Hence, his dilemma.

Today's Episode:
NEW YORK METS - Wilpon E. Coyote; Super Genius.

Let the 2013 charade season begin.  The owner blew smoke spoke.  And it was more foolery.

Over the last two years, much of what we've heard from ownership, and to a lesser extent from Sandy Alderson (when he engages in ownership protectionism), has been fluff, spin doctoring, dis-information, crowd control, and appeasing ACME propaganda.  What we've never gotten from Mr. Wilpon in particular is an apology, and whole truths, or price breaks.  Or, maybe I am just caught up in a battle of semantics and voodoo math versus a super genius.

The embattled Mets owner offered his State of the Wilpon Family address on Friday.  In it, he declared La Famiglia and their greater empire free of debt, and that by next off-season, the club will be ready to spend, however smartly, once more.  Doesn't that conflict with a certain arrangement they made in January?  Didn't the Wilpons just secure $700 million dollars in new financing?  What is new financing considered then?  Is that not still debt by another name?  And out of that amount, wasn't roughly $160 million to be spent operating the club?

Being the new financing came from their stake in SNY-TV and against personal investments, this means the owner is bleeding the books and co-mingling his money.  The owner said baseball, and owning the Mets, is a break even business for him.  He is not in it for the money.  As long as the club breaks even, he's satisfied as long as he can provide a competitive team and ticket holders keep things moving along.  How noble of Mr.Wilpon - the one whose goal is to play meaningful games in September.

I would have preferred the owner say nothing.  We have heard too much, and at the same time, nothing at all.  Instead, show me.  Or as the commercial goes - Just Do It.  For some time now, we have listened to the owner minimize over and over again how the Madoff matter did little to harm operations.  Mr. Wilpon now explained they needed to ensure the banks got paid first.  That's all....  That's bending the truth, and re-interpreting reality.  In plain truth, he owed banks and creditors lots of money, his assets were embroiled and frozen in a scandal, and his ball park revenue was down.  It's all related, boss man.  But there-in lies the liberation of Fred and Jeff Wilpon, and Saul B. Katz.  They no longer owe banks.  Now they owe money to their assets.  To you and me, it's like taking a 401k loan.  In the drug world, it's called smoking your profits.  And if Mr. Wilpon thinks I'm going to believe his latest declaration of financial reincarnation, he must be high.  What then, of all the secretaries and other staff employees the Mets laid-off?  I'm sure they have mounting debts too.  Will they be financially liberated as well?  But the problem wasn't the Madoff matter, right?  It was the evil bankers all along who got those employees laid-off...

Based on the promise of four million fans per season, ownership is just as desperate for 3.5 million fans or better, to show up, as they were since the day they pitched the banks to help build Citi Field.  Without those kinds of attendance numbers, ownership remains in as precarious a situation as ever.  They may have weened themselves off the banks.  But for two straight seasons, ownership has been dipping into their own holdings to salvage the ship.  Last season, Fred, Jeff , and Saul Katz all reached into their own pockets to purchase several shares of the team's $20 million dollar stakes.  Now they are hedging against SNY and investment vehicles.  The $700 refinancing package can theoretically pay for itself.  But that doesn't detract from the fact all other creditors fled ownership like roaches in the kitchen light.  The Wilpons seem down to their very last wiley plan before they start losing real ownership of ACME this team.  But that's just the way I see things.


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