The Aftermath of Megdal Media Day

An article by posted on February 8, 2012

In case you missed it or had better things to do with your day than worry about one independent blogger getting his Mets media credentials revoked, let me hit you with the stunning news: Howard Megdal - who recently released Wilpon’s Folly - a book detailing the Mets poor financial situation, had his media credentials revoked by the Mets .

Some background for you in terms of media credentials. A Major League Team cannot revoke privileges from members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, of which Megdal is not a member. Megdal in terms of his “rights” to have credentials is no different than say Joe D getting a credential.

When a blogger, unaffiliated with the Baseball Writers Association of America gets access to the team, it’s a privilege and NOT a right. It’s a courtesy that is extended rarely by many teams to independent bloggers such as the aforementioned.

There are many reasons for the Mets to extend such courtesy, for example here at MetsMerizedOnline, the Mets acknowledge that a significant part of their fan base comes here to read, and discuss the team. However, make no mistake about it, the Mets do not NEED MetsMerizedOnline to gain media access, therefore if one day one of our writers wrote something they particularly didn’t care for, they’d have every right to revoke that access.

If you have no problem with independent bloggers gaining access, then you shouldn’t have a problem with the Mets taking access away when they do not see the benefit of allowing such access.

Yesterday, a PR nightmare occurred when it was revealed that the Mets decided they didn’t like Megdal’s reporting, so they revoked his access. This, after Megdal’s access was used not only to cover the team, but to publish a book detailing the financial mess.

Maybe I’m in the minority here, but to me, when a reporter publishes a story that is for sale only, it dilutes the story and adds an agenda tone to every word I read. Remember when Selena Roberts published her book in which she outed Alex Rodriguez? It’s the same thing.

A reporter reports a story they think everybody should know. They don’t publish books in an attempt to break news. To me, that is self-promotion, and not in the best interest of the reader, but solely in the best interest of the writer.

Imagine if every credentialed reporter published a book about the Mets, filled with things they see in the clubhouse that you or I do not see on a day to day basis. Imagine a Boston beat writer publishing a book detailing the collapse of last year, rather than just reporting on it. How do you think that reporter would be viewed from that day forward by the team?

For those who have access to my Twitter feed, you will have seen the following statements made to me from Megdal when I made similar statements to what I have mentioned above:

  • “Ah, I see you haven’t read my book. Wrote accurately about legal/financial issues facing ownership.”
  • “If you think the significant legal/financial issues facing the team should be off limits, we’ll agree to disagree.”
  • “And if writing an accurate book that tells that story isn’t respectable in your opinion, we see role of reporter differently.”
  • “If you can speak to specifics in my book that are either inaccurate or not germane to the operation of the Mets, do so.”
  • “Until you do that, quit wasting my time with nonsense like claiming telling the truth about ownership is somehow not respectable.”
  • “Have you read my book?”
  • “Like I said, get back to me when you have specific criticisms about the reporting, and actually know what you’re talking about.”

Funny enough, many of these were sent to me after I had ended the conversation, so I must have hit a nerve with Megdal.

Megdal believes that by not having media credentials the Mets are in turn controlling what is written about them. Which is funny because at no point does it appear he used his Mets credentials to write his book since he doesn’t use any team sources.

If you haven’t read his “book”, I suggest you simply read Adam Rubin’s account on ESPNNewYork.com because it will save you money, and Megdal didn’t challenge you to read it.

My issues with his “book”, is that first and foremost, he comes to conclusions about the Madoff-Wilpon case even before a court of law has done so.

There are aspects of the book that suggest Wilpon’s money to buy the Mets in 2002, came “thanks to” his fictitious money with Madoff. Yet, no evidence of that being true is given? No mention of the fact that maybe Wilpon earned money in other places, like being a 50% owner of the Mets for over 15 years. This statement is made to read as though Fred Wilpon had no other way to make money without Madoff, and that is unfair.

My biggest problem with the book is that it comes off as Wilpon being guilty before his day in court. It also draws conclusions to this saga as though they are inevitable, without giving any examples or quotes to support his theory.

For example,

“In all likelihood—whether because of Irving Picard’s lawsuit, the massive debts Wilpon had incurred to keep his financial empire standing, or most accurately, a combination of the two—Fred Wilpon isn’t going to be the owner of the New York Mets anymore. That’s going to happen soon, and it means the business he was certain he would pass on to his children and grandchildren will belong to somebody else. It’s not clear that Fred Wilpon has acknowledged this fact, even to himself.”

And this one:

“Simply put: Fred Wilpon turns over 100 percent of the New York Mets to the trustee, who would then run the team as an investment to generate profit for the Madoff victims in the medium term—say, ten years.”

This is not reporting, this is editorializing and writing rumors and assumptions and passing them off as facts.

Megdal mentions Arthur Friedman suggesting that he had reasons to be suspicious of Madoff but then the SEC would always be there to put them into “relax mode.” This is significant to Megdal because it suggests the Wilpon’s knew more about Madoff’s dealings since these investigations were not public.

Again, this comes off as Megdal writing the book for Picard against Wilpon and not reporting on events that happened. What if the Wilpon’s knew somebody within the SEC? What if the other investors had heard through the grape vine that everything was okay with Madoff and they relayed that message?

Instead, we jump to the conclusion that the Wilpon’s are liars before they have their day in court.

What I always found so odd about the Picard suit, and Megdal details this in the book is:

If your argument is that the Wilpon’s knew about Madoff, so much so that they created their own separate account called Sterling Stamos, why would they not move all of their funds away from Madoff? As Megdal points out, they moved “approximately half” of it.

So if we’re assuming the Wilpon’s knew that Madoff was up to this scheme and the potential for them to lose everything they had was inevitable, why only move approximately half?

If we’re talking today about how much financial trouble they are in NOT ONLY because of the Picard suit, then are we suggesting the Wilpon’s were so careless with their money that they were willing to lose over half of their money with Madoff? How does that make sense?

I won’t deny that Howard Megdal did a nice job with his book. It was very detailed, but it was also very, very one-sided. Even in the case of Selig striking the provision that could eventually lead to Einhorn owning the Mets, there’s no source mentioned, no apparent attempt to contact the Commissioner’s office for a comment on this accusation. So in turn, what appears to be an informative piece, turns into rumors.

And it appears that Megdal did not have any team source, nor did he reach out to the Mets for comment prior to publishing this piece.

Despite Mr. Megdal’s attempts to act as though the Mets hid behind closed doors when his book was published. Megdal said, “The book’s reporting, incidentally, has not been challenged.”

He must have missed it when a Mets spokesperson said,

“The author’s desperate self-promotional campaign for relevance has led to perpetuating baseless speculation and complete inaccuracies.”

It’s no wonder the Mets “do not care for his reporting.”

Megdal does nothing in his book but assume the worst in the Wilpon’s by presenting one side (his side) and showing little to no interest in finding out the other side of the story, something a reporter does, but something somebody looking to sell books does not.

So I ask, if Megdal is going to write whatever he wants without reaching out for the other side of the story and is looking to make money off of the financial problems of the Mets ownership, what is in it for them to continue to grant him access to their team?

What has he done to prove he deserves access to the Mets?

I don’t know the whole truth to the Wilpon/Madoff saga, but I do know it’s fashionable to be down on the owners right now, and I refuse to take part in an attempt to tell only one side of the story (any story) in an effort to promote one person’s “reporting.”

If the day comes when the Wilpon’s are cleared of Picard’s case against them, it may be a good thing that Megdal sold so many e-books because he may need a lawyer.

About the Author ()

Michael Branda grew up a Mets fan watching the mid 1980's teams and his favorite Met of all-time is (and was) Wally Backman. When it comes to sabermetrics versus old school thinking, he's in the middle and believes adopting new ways to get answers is helpful, especially when the old way has not produced results.

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