The blog for Mets fans
who like to read

ABOUT US

Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

Got something to say? Leave a comment, or email us at faithandfear@gmail.com.

Need our RSS feed? It's here.

Visit our Facebook page, or drop by the personal pages for Greg and Jason.

Or follow us on Twitter: Here's Greg, and here's Jason.

Double Vision

A few weeks ago today was a new entry on my Google Calendar: 2/26 Mets WPIX 1p. A couple of days ago I saw it waiting there, suddenly not so far away. Thursday night, as plans unfolded for the weekend, I raised it as an item in the mix.

And then today, there I was coming back from brunch navigating the uncertainties of the F and A and E and C, scrambled as usual for the weekend. Through some uncharacteristic subway luck — which I took as a sign of personal virtue, as New Yorkers are wont to do — I was able to walk into my apartment, plop down on the couch and get the volume up just in time to see Jenrry Mejia throw the first pitch of 2011 — with Gary, Keith and Ron noting it as such. I was glad to see all concerned, and felt a huge smile spreading across my face.

As always with the first spring-training games, I was tremendously excited for about 20 minutes and then found my attention drifting — hence this blog post. But that’s OK — it’s as much a part of the process as dead-arm periods, waiting for the last-minute cat-for-dog trade that scrambles the roster, and, frankly, getting good and sick of spring training. (This seems to happen earlier and earlier each year.)

Where my blog partner has (blue-)blurred vision, I have double vision. I think the Mets are being constructed and run much better than they have been in years. Their offseason moves have been mostly low-risk, high-reward moves, taken amid discussions of actual statistics instead of sunnily vacuous Omarisms about Veteran Leadership and Having Been Here Before. Sandy Alderson seems disinclined to bid against himself for players or hand out ruinous options. And Alderson’s very presence seems to suggest that owners with a reputation for meddling have been convinced — at least temporarily — to change their ways.

But it’s with ownership that the double vision comes in, and I start getting a headache. I find myself in an unhappily familiar position: When it comes to the team’s finances, I don’t believe anything the Mets say.

From the minute the name “Madoff” became attached to the New York Mets, I’ve felt terrible for Fred and Jeff Wilpon. The pain of personal betrayal and the sense of violation must have been and still be agonizing. I have trouble believing the Wilpons were crooked — it seems to me like they were too trusting, and fell prey to the all-too-human impulse to let good news speak for itself rather than digging into it. (This is, granted, based on very little beyond a gut feeling at a distance.) And it must be awful to have all that get dragged into the public eye again and again.

Yet for all that, the Wilpons’ business is unavoidably my business. At my most detached I probably spend an hour a day worrying about the Mets; at full throttle, the Mets are top of mind to a worrisome degree. Not to mention the games I go to, the stuff I buy that’s slathered with Mets logos, and everything else. For obvious reasons, I’ve wanted to believe the Wilpons’ attempts to be variously reassuring, insistent and defiant in proclaiming that the Madoff mess wouldn’t impact the Mets’ operations. But believing that has gone from difficult to impossible. The team borrowed $25 million through MLB in November, a back-channel loan that club officials attempted to explain away with a curt acknowledgment and a haughty warning that “beyond that, we will not discuss the matter any further.”

I don’t believe that’s the extent of it, or that the issue won’t come back. The Mets have trained me not to.

I think the Wilpons will ultimately be forced to surrender majority ownership of the Mets — I’d call that a when, not an if. And given word of that loan, I think that “when” may be approaching more quickly than we’d thought: The Rangers were pushed onto the block pretty quickly as their own financial problems mounted, and Bud Selig’s friendship with Fred Wilpon can only go so far in comparison with his duty to have one of the National League’s highest-profile franchises on stable financial ground.

However critical I’ve been of the Wilpons over the years, I don’t welcome this: It’s cruel that the Wilpons may see Citi Field and everything else taken away without a season of glory. And those of us who want the Wilpons out should remember that there are individuals they’d probably like a lot less as owners — to say nothing of having your baseball team become a line item in a corporate earnings report.

Still, this will take a while. And that brings me back to double vision.

The Mets are retrenching this year, getting out from under a few contractual Omar Specials. It’s quite possible they’ll be doing the same next year. (I’m going to avoid talking about K-Rod’s option in an effort to not descend into sputtering rage.) And if the Mets continuing making smart deals and rebuild the farm system, this could all be fine. I’m willing to wait while the team is rebuilt according to a smart plan.

This rebuilding might even coincide with a resolution of the Madoff mess and the uncertainties around the team’s finances and ownership. In which case the Mets could be just fine, emerging from financial shadows in much better shape than when they went into them. But it feels like everything would have to break right for the timing to work out. And it’s been years since the Mets have had that kind of luck.

It’s a sunny day in Florida. The Mets have just tied the score. Everything on the field looks fine. But then it usually does. That’s the beauty of baseball. But it’s also what can blind you to the rest.

On a Happier Note: Greg and I teamed up to contribute an essay to the 2011 Amazin’ Avenue Annual about how the Mets can continue turning Citi Field from bland to grand and further embrace all things Metsian. AA is one of the finest Mets blogs in the land, and their folks assembled a Murderers Row of smart writers whose essays will help you see the Mets and baseball differently — and enjoy both even more than you do already. Besides AA’s crack staff, you can read the likes of Ted Berg, Tommy Bennett, Will Leitch and Joe Posnanski, for my money the best sportswriter on the continent right now. We’re enormously pleased to be in such, well, amazin’ company. Check out the book here — and, if you’re somehow not already a regular, Amazin’ Avenue itself.

7 comments to Double Vision

  • dmg

    if anything, this game might prove a high-water mark for the team: a 5-5 tie called after 10.
    concerning the wilpons, i believe, as you do, that the wilpons will be losing control, if not title, to the mets, and sooner rather than later. i share the belief that the wilpons were merely content to let the good times roll their way in the form of fictitious account statements.
    but make no mistake, they have liability: when they made madoff funds an option for their employees’ 401(k) investments, they were required to provide some manner of scrutiny of the funds. they didn’t, and the widow of at least one employee lost everything, and is suing. (provided it’s not joined by others bringing similar actions, the wilpons will probably settle that suit.)

    one other thing to come out about how the wilpons used madoff as their alternative to banks and credit markets: it was madoff money that they used to buy out nelson doubleday in a bit of strong-arming that left a very bad taste at the time. now, sadly, the mets are forever drenched in the stench of madoffism, and that will prove the wilpons’s greatest legacy.

  • oogieball

    I suppose I could feel worse for the Wilpons, but I only have so much empathy for hyper-rich people who screwed their partner out of half of the franchise and fell for a Ponzi scheme *twice*. They’re another human being on the planet, sure, but if I never heard from them again, it wouldn’t change my life one iota.

    If the cleaning house of the offseason makes it all the way to the owners’ office, I can’t say as I’d be all that upset. There *are* worse people to own the team, to be sure, but at some point, a change is better than not a change. The Wilpons had their shot, and by all accounts, made a historic mess of it. Life happens.

    But today, for ten strange innings, I didn’t need to care about it. Baseball is back, and another long winter is officially over.

  • Andee

    And those of us who want the Wilpons out should remember that there are individuals they’d probably like a lot less as owners — to say nothing of having your baseball team become a line item in a corporate earnings report.

    You got that right. See Mariners, Seattle (to pick the example closest to home). Nintendo could give less of a shit if the team wins or not. They could easily have stretched their budget to keep any of their big stars, or sign new ones, but chose not to. And the fans just kind of shrug. They’re used to it.

    And I can only imagine how embarrassing a Donald Trump ownership regime would be. It would take him maybe 6 months to have the kind of meltdown that it took the Wilpons 30 years to get to. Not that it would ever be an issue anyway; if the owners wouldn’t approve Mark Cuban, they’re certainly not going to approve Trump.

    So yeah, if the Wilpons do sell, we probably are looking at the Mets being a corporate spreadsheet item somewhere. Bleh. And this probably is an all-or-nothing kind of deal; I can’t imagine anyone being willing to put up money for a limited partnership and have no say in running the team.

  • gary

    The Wilpons defense is we are not crooked, just stupid.As a fan of this team for many years and watching them shell out 60 million dollars for ollie perez and luis castillo i definitely can buy the stupid excuse.That’s not going to go very far in a court of law.I agree trump wwould be a disaster, but the wilpons have to go.I’ll take my chances with new ownership.

  • Florida Met Fan Rich

    A 5-5 TIE yesterday!…Theres no ties in baseball…unless its an All Star game!

    Bud Selig where are you?

    What a beautiful day in PSL yesterday and a great time at the ballpark!..Willie Harris is my hero for once!

    The “Hu” jokes and cheers were great.

    Bryce Harper (Nats 10 million dollar rookie) debuts tomorrow!!…I will be reporting live tomorrow!

  • Jacabite

    The specter of new ownership is indeed an unknown. However, what is known is that the Wilpons are poor administrators of their assets – particularly the Mets. The cruelty of having Citi Field taken away from the Wilpons is equal to the utter disregard for all things Metsie when they built the place. Sure, amends were made; but the legacy of the Wilpons is littered with the carelessness of their actions – be it in hiring, firing, building, or embracing any goodwill from the teams’ long-suffering supporters.
    So we can hope for the best, as we do every spring. That’s one thing about us Met fans – we’re always willing to wait.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Jason,

    The Wilpons might be victims of a personal betrayal by Madoff but I have no sympathy for them whatsoever because we’ve been victims of a personal betrayal by the Wilpons as well.

    I’m not griping about the poor performance of the team on the field for that would be infantile. Just like player agents do to team owners the Wilpons have done to the fans – taking them for all they can get, catering to those who can put down the cash with little regard to the multitude that can’t. Feel sorry for having the team taken away from them? Not for a moment for they already had already taken the team away from us. What goes around, comes around.

    On a different note, I don’t think anybody believed Sandy Alderson yesterday when he said the Wilpons’ financial problems had placed no restrictions on him in is dealings as Met G.M. I hope he was just touting the company line for if the veteran injury-plagued discards that he acquired were, in his judgement, the best he could do in terms of signings and trades (along that those he didn’t attempt to re-sign),it is a sign of a very poor general manager.

    So, for this one exception, I hope Alderson was telling us a fib.