Friday, December 26, 2014

N.Y. Mets: Putting a bow on Mets Year 12 A.D. (after Doubleday)

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

Near future threatens more of the same.

NEW YORK METS: Welcome back initiates, it's almost time for the Saul B. Katz Dilemma to usher in Year 13 A.D. (after Doubleday).

For the unlearned, welcome to Head-Butting Mr. Met.  Here's your definition of terms:
  • Twelve years ago, roughly around this time, the partnership between Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon was officially dissolved.  Mr. Wilpon purchased the outgoing Nelson Doubleday's half-share of the team,  On his way out of the building, Nelson Doubleday derisively prophesied Fred and Jeff Wilpon would run the organization into the ground.
  • Thus began what this blog has long dubbed the Age of WILPONianism.  Today is Day 4.384 on the Wilponic Calendar, in the Year 12 A.D. (after Doubleday).  
  • A brother-in-law, their outside businesses, Madoff, their Mets partnership, losing money, losing more money, and his nephew Jeff, all conspired together to create the...The Saul B. Katz Dilemma.  In other words, poor Saul is in a real bind.  He probably really does want to sell his share, but doesn't have the heart to follow through.

Be Afraid; Be Very Afraid

My (short) version of the truth goes something like this: 

Doubleday and Wilpon argued over Shea Stadium.   Doubleday wanted to renovate the old park while Wilpon wanted to build a new one.  Doubleday's point of contention was they couldn't afford it. The partnership ultimately failed in large part (because Doubleday grew to hate his partner's guts) due to too much organizational infighting.

For Doubleday's 50% share of the team, Wilpon had to cough up $100 million up front, and pay him the remaining $35 million over a few years.  At the same time, Steve Phillips got fired, and left behind a last place team with the highest payroll in the N.L.

This is the true launching point of the Mets financial woes because Fred clearly bit off more than he could chew.  I'm mean really now, Bobby Bonilla is still on the payroll!

In no great surprise to anyone, the next GM, Jim Duquette, was ordered to cease spending.

Enter Omar Minaya, who convinced ownership to reopen the wallet.  It made $ense.  At the same time ownership was seeking financing for a new stadium and was promising the banks yearly attendance of 3.5 million per season.

Citi Field was eventually built, and opened in 2009.  Then, the Bernie Madoff bomb landed on Flushing.  Beyond the financial disaster, Mets fans found out how their team was really being operated.

Needless to say, the team tanked, and attendance dropped for five straight years before experiencing a slight uptick last season.

Along the way, they amassed upwards of $1 billion dollars of debt.

...all common knowledge.

Now for something very disturbing I read back in September.  It paints a very duplicitous picture of the Mets present condition; a very worrisome perspective to say the least (for us fans that is).

Just read it.

Prior to the season, ownership once again managed to refinance (defray) $250 million that was due in 2014, for another seven years.  In June of 2015, they have another (little spoken of) $600 million due to SNY.

Can yet another refinancing be in the works?  Last year's slight uptick in attendance just might call off the dogs.  And why not?  They've been extremely friendly to ownership this far.  If the Mets can turn a profit, they can repay lenders, right?  The other side of that is, if the Mets fail to start turning a profit, banks might start worrying about the Mets ability to pay up, and start demanding their salad.

The question remains - who really controls spending - the banks, SNY, or the Wilpons (and poor Saul Katz)?

Even after salary arbitration settlements are made, the Mets 2015 payroll should still wind up within the 90s (million) range.  But in two more years, the Mets arbitration figures will begin to multiply.  It will be interesting to see how they budget that scenario.

For now, ownership's spending is marginally above their previously stripped down levels.  While a few players have come and gone, the club is still generally redistributing the same money.

Organizationally, and operationally, it seems to me the next few years are already being leveraged, so I expect much of the same.

Speaking of more of the same, that's exactly what we got in 2014.

In the twelve completed seasons of the WILPONian era, the Mets now sport a 947-996 record (.487%), which averages out to a 79-83 record - exactly their record in 2014.

For the 8th time in twelve seasons, and for the 6th season in a row, the Mets finished below the .500 mark.  That leaves a balance of four winning seasons, and just one playoff appearance during Wilpon Family ownership.

Bring your kiddies; bring your wife.......


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