Year after year it seems the New York Mets face another scandal, demise or any other applicable embarrassment. This latest debacle involving the Madoff scandal is no different. Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon emphatically said Wednesday that his family will maintain majority ownership of the team, despite facing a $1 billion lawsuit from the trustee trying to recover funds for victims of convicted swindler Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. “We’re not selling controlling interest of the team,” Wilpon said inside the team’s spring training facility. “It’s not on the table.” But, should it be? The Mets have the third highest payroll in baseball and are coming off two recent collapses and two miserable injury-marred losing seasons. While they do have $66 million coming off the books at the end of this year, there is not much promise in sight as the 2011 season already seems like a wash.
The Mets did start a reorganization of sorts by changing the culture of the club with instituting the well-respected Sandy Alderson, J.P. Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta. One thing for certain with this new Mets executive staff is that they will most likely not be in the headlines for many scandals. Here’s to hoping that starts a trickle effect within the organization.
However, the looming issue remains as to what the Mets should do in order to stay solvent in light of the lawsuit facing them. Wilpon has asserted that the Mets business will not be affected greatly by the Madoff scandal, despite differing feelings from the players (i.e., David Wright) and the recent announcement of the potential need to sell 20 to 25 percent of the team to raise funds for any potential settlement. While Madoff has also recently declared that the Mets knew nothing of the scandal and were innocent victims, the Mets problems are not going to go away as the lawsuit proceeds.
Nevertheless, the Mets maintain their stance of complete innocence in the Madoff scandal. While the Wilpons have yet to file court papers in response to the allegations against them, they have strictly and broadly denied any wrongdoing or complicity in the scandal. Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo has been appointed a mediator in the dispute, but Wilpon sounded as though the only way of winning this legal battle will be to have a complete vindication of the Wilpon family. When asked what “vindication” meant to the Mets, Wilpon stated he did not know the law well enough to comment. “It’s possible, even if the Wilpons could not reasonably have known that Madoff was a fraud, that they could be liable for $300 million in what are alleged to be “fictitious profits” — money withdrawn over principal from certain accounts — in order for victims who lost principal to be made more whole. Wilpon clarified his comments by stating, “By vindication, I mean, No. 1, that everyone will know that we had nothing to do with it,” Wilpon said. “We didn’t know anything about it. And we were duped. Beyond that, I don’t know how the law comes out. The law seems to be very much in our favor.” Here’s to hoping for the Mets sake and future of the organization that the law actually does.