ESPN— The New York Mets did not lose $83.3 million last Monday, when U.S. District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff ruled that the trustee recovering money for victims of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme is entitled to the profits Fred Wilpon and family collected in the immediate two years before Madoff’s arrest on Dec. 11, 2008. In fact, of that $83.3 million figure, only about $1.7 million is related to Mets-specific accounts. The remainder of the eventual official judgment will be against individual Wilpon family members, their other businesses and charities. Clearly, though, there is an impact greater than $1.7 million to the cash-strapped baseball club. Big-market baseball owners often infuse money into their teams when they struggle, spending on free agents as a stimulus to break out of a downward cycle. Already, the Mets had slashed their payroll from $143 million to $91 million in one offseason because of existing debt and operating losses. Now, with Rakoff’s decision, there soon should be even less money on hand within the family to try to weather the storm. Fred Wilpon said last week that he and his family “intend to own the franchise for a very long time.”Make no mistake: An $83.3 million obligation likely is not catastrophic to the Wilpons. It should not compel them to sell the team. It probably tightens the austerity the Mets are under, though.
Honestly, the Wilpons are in a pretty tight spot. True, the $83.3 million obligation may not be too burdensome, but don’t forget that the Wilpons have a total of $65 million in loans from Major League Baseball and Bank of America. These loans apparently compound semi-annually, so the Wilpons will likely start to fall underneath a pile of intereest payments.
The Wilpon family has another trial on March 19th where another $303 million will be at stake. The courts must decided whether or not the Wilpons knew Madoff was a fraud. Granted, I’m not a legal expert, but this seems extremely difficult to prove.
At the end of the day, the Mets fans will suffer this season and into the future. Judging from their off-season spending, the Wilpons are trying to pinch pennies which will lead to a less competitive Met team.
I think Met fans know that this team won’t be good until the Wilpons sell this team. For the sake of the fans and for baseball, I hope that day comes sooner rather than later.