FLUSHING, NY -- The Mets said Thursday that despite the prominence of the principal owner, Fred Wilpon and his businesses, on a list of the victims of Bernard L. Madoff's suspected $50 billion Ponzi scheme, the team remains financially sound. While the Mets have not been acting like a team in financial crisis with several high-priced off-season signings, there are reports that the Wilpons, Fred and his son Jeff, have been "putting the arm" on several big ticket players for short term loans to cover their (undisclosed) losses and pay their free agents.
"I was at the mall with my family when I got a panicked call on my cell from Jeff (Wilpon)," said one of the players the Wilpons allegedly hit on. "I knew the Wilpons lost money in the Madoff scheme, but we all thought everything's ok, they've got diverse holdings. At first I wasn't sure I heard him correctly. I go 'Jeff, are you asking me for money?' He said it's just a short-term thing, they're having liquidity issues. I told him, hey, if you're having cash flow problems, why the hell did you just sign (Oliver) Perez to a three year $36 million deal? The line when silent for about five seconds and then it hits me - 'shit, what happens if come June they can't meet payroll?' As soon as I hung up I called my agent - I gotta get out of here."
Several former Mets received similar calls from either Jeff Wilpon or a member of the Mets organization.
"A couple of days ago I'm leaving a function marking the 40th anniversary of the '69 Mets and I got a call," said former Mets slugger Art Shamsky. "I was surprised, to say the least. Why me and not, oh, I don't know, someone like J.J. Putz, who's pulling in $5.3 per. I don't have that kind of money." Shamsky's deranged ex, who recently hounded Shamksy on the streets of Manhattan loudly accusing him of cheating on her with both men and women, chalked it up to an honest mistake. "A putz is a putz is a putz. I can see how the Wilpons got confused. But let's be clear: Arthur Shamsky is and will always be a putz. That's p-u-t-z. Putz."
When asked about these reports, Jeff Wilpon dismissed them, insisting the organization is on sound financial footing. "Just because you guys don't know how much money we have, doesn't mean we don't have money. We have other money from outside of this, tons of money. Loads. Piles. If you stacked up all the money we have in one dollar bills, it would reach two miles into space." Wilpon paused to let the visual sink in. "Unfortunately most of that money is tied up in investments. Our current cash reserves, if laid out end to end, would probably only reach the 48th floor of the Chrysler Building. But that's dollar bills; if they were gold bars - or chocolate bars in gold wrappers -- it would reach much, much higher."
When asked for his thoughts and insights into the Mets' financial status, former Met and current market whiz Lenny Dykstra was less than sanguine. "If they were a stock they'd be de-listed," he scoffed. "I haven't seen their balance sheet, but it can't be good - you're looking at a team with the second highest payroll in baseball. I don't know how they make it to the All-Star break without getting some of that TARP money."
A former SEC official thinks he sees a familiar pattern. "Borrowing money from players under contract to pay for free agents -- which sounds like what they're doing -- does appear to have a subtle Ponzi-like element to it. Not that my background with the SEC gives me any special insight into such things. But I could see how one might come to that conclusion."
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