The long reach of ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff included Fred Wilpon, owner of the New York Mets. The numbers here are insignificant because they are so astronomical, but let’s suffice it to say that Wilpon’s former pal is still affecting the man and the team he owns. Those bilked out of their savings are seeking to get assets from Wilpon because he invested money with Madoff and actually made a profit. Can he still be considered a victim? Apparently not by those injured parties who seek justice anywhere they can get it.
Now it is reported that Wilpon is considering selling up to a quarter stake in the team. This is because of the lawsuits that could come from Madoff’s victims (most of whom did not make money with Madoff the way Wilpon did). There are lots of people interested in buying into the Mets, but therein lies the biggest problem. Up to this point the Mets have been owned exclusively by the Wilpons (since 2002). Not even the Steinbrenner family can say that about the Yankees (they own less than 50% of the team).
Some Mets fans might argue that the Wilpons haven’t done such a great job lately, so maybe some new blood is needed. They could argue that the Steinbrenners built a winner with lots of other fingers in the pie, but we also know that old George (and now his sons) controlled that team anyway. So maybe we Mets fans shouldn’t worry all that much.
Still, I am worried because Wilpon has deep Mets roots: they go all the way down and curl around the carcass of Ebbetts Field. Wilpon is a dear friend of Sandy Koufax, the Dodger pitching legend. The Brooklyn Dodger’s blue blood and the New York Giant’s orange blood were the transfusion that gave life to the Mets, a hodgepodge team that was the Frankenstein monster of baseball for a while. Still, despite the sewn up parts of other teams that made up the limbs of that early franchise, those fans came along and stayed loyal – most of them all these years.
So in essence Wilpon is the keeper of the flame. He’s the gotta in “You gotta believe!” He’s the go in “Let’s Go Mets.” We know what we get with him, even if it is not an awful lot at times, and we know he loves the team as much as we do (when we’re not hating them too).
What is at stake here is not just selling off a piece of the pie, but the legacy of this franchise. If some “investors” come in and buy up a quarter of the team, what’s that going to do to the Mets? What will happen could be something most of us dread: they might become something like those arch enemies across the river, and don’t go thinking that will be a good thing.
II think the worst fear of a Mets fan is not the Yankees beating the Mets so much as the Mets becoming like the Yankees. I don’t mean in terms of winning; I mean in everything else. We don’t want that corporate nightmare where winning at all costs means people-very good people-like Bernie Williams, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and many others get pushed out the door like damaged goods. Hey, that’s like Popeye becoming Bluto, or Batman becoming the Joker. Mets fans would never stand for that.
So my idea is that we, the fans, should start putting money up to buy that quarter of a stake. I’ve got my twenty-five dollars ready to throw in the pot. Anyone else in?
Fred Wilpon – NY Times
The Joker – comicbookmovie.com