What Fred Wilpon told The New Yorker doesn't matter. It matters like a team that is 20 games out needs to set a postseason rotation. It matters like a guy on The Titanic needed to figure out how to survive The Great Depression. It mattered like calling the right play for the Washington Generals matters.
This will be a relic of Fred Wilpon's very late career as owner of the New York Mets. There's no realistic financial path forward for him.
Let's stipulate the following: no one can predict the future. But when the Mets were in fourth place on September 1 of last year, 13 games out, no one treated it like a coin flip whether they'd make the playoffs or not. It wasn't going to happen, in all likelihood. And it didn't.
Anyone who tries to tell you the Wilpons don't face the same kind of odds to hold onto this team, be it Fred Wilpon or anyone else, shouldn't be taken seriously. Let's be clear: if the long-discussed minority owner is found to give the Wilpons (or more accurately, Sterling Equities), that is reported to be, best-case, $200 million. With losses expected to be $70 million this year, a $22 million debt balloon payment due on Citi Field in June, and $25 million due back to Major League Baseball by the end of the season, that leaves around $85 million over, assuming no other expenses, planning for 2012 losses, or the next debt balloon payment on Citi Field.
But let's say the Wilpons hold onto that entire $85 million, and apply it toward the lawsuit they face from the Trustee for the Bernie Madoff victims, Irving Picard.
Picard wants $1 billion. That's a lot more than $85 million.
And let's paint the rosiest scenario- somehow, though Picard has been settling with people for 99 cents on the dollar, the Wilpons convince the bankruptcy judge to see things their way regarding Picard's allegations that they should have known Madoff was a fraud. (Remember, every time you hear the Wilpons or allies declare publicly that they didn't know, it doesn't matter. That's not the standard here.)
Even then, the Wilpons owe $300 million in the cash in minus cash out formulation Picard has created for net winners. That's been litigated by Picard, regarding Madoff, before this bankruptcy judge.
So where are they getting that money in an absolute best-case scenario? And remember: they can't sell 49 percent of the team twice and still hold ownership.
I suppose the absolute best-case scenario calls for all that, plus the judge ruling against himself, or Irving Picard having a change of heart, or the Sterling partners winning Powerball. And then again. And then again.
But every time you read a story about the financials of the New York Mets, if the Wilpons don't look like they are in fourth place, 13 games out, with a month to go, that reporter isn't paying attention, either.
So take Fred Wilpon's comments accordingly. They are shockingly stupid in terms of the effect on team morale and attendance. But financially, it is impossible to see how the Mets can afford Jose Reyes either way, and around the league, other teams already knew this. Carlos Beltran was a goner anyway. And David Wright, one hopes, will be more accurately evaluated by the new owner.
Who is coming. And soon.