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Monday, December 15, 2008

Metbeats, err Deadbeats?

Fred Wilpon, the Mets' owner, invested a lot of his money (how much, though, we do not know) with Bernard Madoff, the Ponzi of his generation, the guy who looks like he scammed investors out of as much as $50 billion. The scheme is so broad that it's rocking banks in Spain, France and Japan, and perhaps bankrupting many residents of a $17 million per townhouse community in West Palm Beach. Read The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal for the gory details. As Eddie Murphy said in Trading Places, the way to really get at rich people is to make them poor people.

The papers over the course of the past two days send a mixed message. What I took from them is that yes, Wilpon and his family trust did invest a bunch of money with Madoff. The real questions are how much, and will this problem hurt the Mets?

Look, everyone is poorer as a result of the cataclysm that hit the Dow in the past three months. The Arena Football League won't play in 2009, NASCAR is hurting (the Big 3 automakers' troubles have wounded this organization), and you have to wonder about the WNBA and even the NBA and NHL. Companies just can't pony up for tickets any more, they're slashing their advertising budgets, and, well, the story just isn't pretty. Major League Baseball will get hit too, in some way. Perhaps the sponsorships won't be there, or at least in the amount of dollars the teams might expect. Ads for local TV and radio will be harder to sell. Expensive merchandise won't sell as readily, and people will give up season ticket packages.

What could be worse for the Mets is how well capitalized they'll continue to be and how much money the Wilpons can continue to throw at free-agent signings. Sure, the Mets are in the best media market and, yes, they generate a bunch of revenue. But the team hasn't been shy about spending on free agents, and you have to wonder if the monies deployed to sign these players come from operating revenues or infusions from the Wilpons. If it's the latter, that could spell trouble for the Mets.

Look, I'm a Phillies fan, but I would take no joy out of a financial demise of a great team. The Mets put out a good product, and their compulsion to win brings out the best in the NL East. The division wouldn't be a strong were the Mets to suffer a serious financial wound, and, by the way, I wouldn't wish anyone to be a victm of a Ponzi scheme, especially this type of betrayal, one that took place over decades. The whole Madoff affair is one big mess.

Reports in the following weeks should tell us how well or poorly the Mets will fare because of the Madoff situation.


Blogger Escort81 said...

It seemed remarkable to me that the Yanks can sign the top free agent pitcher and perhaps the #2 free agent pitcher, inking north of $200 mil. of contracts, without considering what an air pocket the metro NYC area has hit in the last few months (it being the center of the investment banking and financial trading world). Understanding that they were at the end of some expensive deals (including Abreu), The Yanks apparently live in no fear that their revenue streams might soften because people in the area won't be able to afford tickets to the new ball park, or won't buy as many jerseys, or won't watch the games as much on the cable station in which the team has an equity interest.

My nephew loves the Yankees, and he is ecstatic right now, but I think I am secretly hoping they miss the playoffs again.

11:16 PM  
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