The Missing Piece In The Mets Puzzle

Its no secret that the Mets are in a rebuilding period.  Mired in what will likely be their fourth consecutive losing season, its apparent that change is necessary.  The process by which that change occurs is where the debate begins.  How the Mets should proceed is the topic of countless blog posts and endless radio debate.  Build through free agency, versus building through the draft.  Both avenues have their merits, but neither encompasses the big picture.

Lets take a look at what we know for sure…

  • The Mets payroll was slashed by roughly $50 million dollars heading into the 2012 season.  Whats the outcome of that purge?  As it stands through the middle of August, The Mets appear destined to finish the season with a similar record to last year.  What does that prove?  Have the Mets purged overvalued talent, or proven that the free agent market isn’t all its cracked up to be?  Those debates could go on forever.
  • The Wilpons will still be held accountable for $430 million in team debt, $450 million in SNY debt, and $600 million in Citi Field debt at some point in the not so distant future.  That doesn’t include the Madoff settlement, as the Wilpons can still collect damages through other suits, leaving the exact amount owed in flux.  Bottom line…More than a BILLION dollars is owed to several lenders.
  • Attendance is dwindling!  Should the team fail to put some wins together, a $25 million dollar drop in attendance revenue, compared to last season, is perfectly reasonable before season’s end.  While that is minor in the grand scope of things, it still adds financial stress to the organization.

With the exception of the recent drop in payroll, none of this was ever breaking news.  The large majority of these debts were relatively common knowledge when Sandy Alderson assumed command of the organization’s front office.  That’s the rub…and the real unknown when discussing the future of the New York Mets.

The one thing that you, I, or anyone else whose name doesn’t end in Wilpon doesn’t know is exactly how much money is in the piggy bank.  That’s why any argument slighting Sandy Alderson or the Wilpons is always a shot in the dark.  If there is no money to spend, the team’s farm system is invaluable, explaining why Alderson has been adamant in his attempt to rebuild the system and/or demand top dollar in return for the organization’s prospects.  If the Wilpon’s are telling the truth when they say Sandy has no financial constraints, then its fair to say that Alderson has some serious explaining to do.

Therein lies the problem when discussing the future of the franchise, because we simply don’t know.  I can tell you that at this point in Alderson’s tenure that his minor league position prospect options have just about been exhausted.  Therefore, I certainly hope the money is available to fill the team’s needs both behind the plate and in the outfield.  If that’s the case, than we can anticipate an rather active off-season, but if it isn’t, or even worse if Sandy simply doesn’t want to elevate the payroll for some unexplained reason, the Mets are in for more hard times.

Again, its the unknowns that are scary.  No amount of investigative reporting, ESP or plain guessing is going to give us a good indication of exactly how much money resides in the Wilpon’s checking account.  Is there enough funny money to make the acquisitions necessary to put this team back on the map now that the in-house options have faltered?  The answer to that question is up to your interpretation, but in reality none of us know for certain.

So we can hate the Wilpon’s refusal to concede ownership…or we can bash Sandy Alderson for his hesitance to act.  Which is right?  Until we have an accurate idea of the team’s overall finances, something that may never happen, we all must maintain a degree of rationale when discussing the future.  The comments of both sides must be taken with a grain of salt.  Until that moment when we know for sure, no one has the big picture, and its for that reason that the future of the New York Mets remains in doubt.

Follow me on Twitter at @RobPatterson83.