Bad news all around for the New York Mets organization today. For better or for worse, the items are off the field matters.
The first piece relates to the suit brought against Mets owners Saul Katz and Fred Wilpon by Irving Picard, the court-appointed trustee of assets seized from Bernie Madoff. (If you don’t know who Bernie Madoff is, read this.) The New York Times reports that Picard is asserting Katz and Wilpon depended on ten to fourteen percent returns in “profit” from their investments with Madoff.
Depended on how, you ask? The expected returns were budgeted into the business plan for the team, apparently. Katz and Wilpon allegedly invested revenue from ticket sales, concessions, and other sources with Madoff to generate the returns. In addition, the team structured some player salary payouts well into the future so the team could first re-invest the money. For example, Bobby Bonilla, who played for the Mets from 1992 to 1995 and in 1999, is currently collecting an annual salary of $1,193,248.20 from the Mets until 2035.
Irving Picard, representing the victims of the Madoff ponzi scheme, filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Katz and Wilpon, claiming that the owners fraudulently earned profits through their investments with Madoff. Nine of the eleven charges were dismissed last September, and the trial for the remaining two is expected to begin March 19 in federal court in Manhattan.
Now to the second piece. Charlie Samuels served the Mets organization for more than thirty years, and was the team’s clubhouse manager for many of them. Last May, he was arrested on charges alleging he stole nearly $2.3 million worth of team equipment and memorabilia. The indictment included twenty-one charges in all.
Earlier today, Mr. Samuels pleaded guilty to criminal possession of stolen property in Queens County Supreme Court as part of a plea agreement. He also pleaded guilty to criminal tax fraud charges relating to his failure to pay New York State income tax on the items he stole. Samuels is expected to receive five years probation when sentenced on April 16.
Put together, these stories paint a picture of deceit from various angles. Not the best way to motivate a team that finished 77-85 last year.
In sports, winning is the ultimate remedy for a team’s problems. A
typical cynical Mets fan, I don’t expect the team to mitigate these damaging off the field issues with on the field play this upcoming season. Since Linsanity is possible, though, I’ll believe in the Metropolitans while we inch closer towards 2012 Opening Day.