Fred Wilpon Throws Sandy Alderson Under the Bus

So now we have three stories from Fred Wilpon:

1. Letting Jose Reyes walk was a “baseball decision”

2. The reduced payroll was the result of cutting “underperforming assets”

3. Cutting payroll has nothing to do with the Mets’ financial troubles — it was all Sandy Alderson’s idea.

Hmm … so in other words, Sandy is the fall guy. Sandy is the one who decided that offering Jose Reyes a contract would be a bad idea. Sandy might even believe Reyes was one of those players who wasn’t fulfilling his contract, for all we know. Sandy is also the one who has tightened the purse-strings, and believes low payroll is the best plan for a NYC team. Yes, this cut in spending is all in the name of advancement: “spend less for success” may be emblazoned on a paperweight on Alderson’s desk, for all we know.

Right, said Fred.

At this point, I don’t know what to make of Fred Wilpon. His comments in the SI and New Yorker articles last spring were difficult to understand in terms of motivation. Many, though, gave him a pass, figuring he was just an old fogey who didn’t realize he was being fleeced by an over-enthusiastic journalist. But Wilpon’s more recent comments and actions leave little room for empathy.

I was going to write my feelings on this, but then realized that Mike Vaccaro already expressed pretty much what I — and many other Mets fans — are feeling. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I chose to re-post pieces of his story, in case you missed it:

Mets fans can appreciate a good sense of humor, even with times as dire as they are.

They don’t appreciate being made fools of, though.

“I’m OK,” Fred Wilpon said yesterday, upon greeting an assemblage of news media. “I’ve got fives!”

He pulled out a roll of $5 bills. Showed them to reporters.

If nothing else, the Mets should have the common sense and the common decency to realize their fans are not idiots, that if there are real financial concerns hanging like a millstone around the Wilpons’ necks — and no matter how much Fifth Avenue Freddie tries to spin it, every few minutes, it seems, another bill for another few million comes due — then it is particularly stupid to taunt their customers so blithely, and so blindly.

And here’s the thing: Fifth Avenue Freddie knows that you know. He no longer plays the part of the benign, avuncular, absent-minded professor, shrugging his shoulders and sloughing off questions about the way Mets fans perceive him. He knows. You’d better believe he knows.

“They shouldn’t be concerned about us owning the franchise, because we intend to own the franchise for a very long time,” Wilpon said. “Whether they’re happy about that or not, I don’t know.”

Yes, he does. Of course he does. He knows what the people back home think of him, and his family, and the way they have continuously misinformed the world about how deep their financial woes run. Remember when the Wilpons not only dismissed the notion the Madoff scandal would affect the Mets’ business, they also dismissed the very questions themselves?

That was $52 million worth of payroll ago.

And counting.

“We weren’t being sued then,” Wilpon said.

Maybe not. But everything about the way the Mets were operating then was based upon Madoff and his funny money. At the least, the Mets knew that much, even if Fifth Avenue Freddie wants you to believe he’s been dumber than Mortimer Snerd through this whole process.

And here’s the pity: We should be allowed to feel bad for what’s become of Fred Wilpon. Basic human compassion should be at work here. And would be. But Wilpon continues to wave the Mets as a stick at fed-up fans. And now doesn’t mind sharing a giggle or three at their expense.

What a joke.

And not the funny kind.

That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? Fred Wilpon has managed to turn himself into an unlikeable figure. I’m not sure that process is reversible.

What’s your feeling? Is Vaccaro being too hard on Fred? Do you have a different perspective? Air it out in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Eric Schnipper March 1, 2012 at 7:02 am
    The Wilpons continually lie and are seemingly in denial about their
    financial straits and the impact it has had on the team.  Ask Fred
    whether Madoff has had a roll in reducing payroll, and he cannot admit
    that simple fact.   Blame it on Alderson, Reyes’ injury history, say
    money doesn’t buy you wins, etc.  But they’ve been lying about the
    impact Madoff has had on their finances for 4 years now.

    Here’s my take on why:  To admit that they are operating on the cheap
    now would be to admit that all of their good fortune and riches were
    because of Madoff, a fraud.  Therefore, if the entire Wilpon empire
    was created on the back of a Ponzi scheme, this would devalue Fred,
    Saul, and Jeff’s “brilliance”, business “acumen”, and “visionary
    talent”, and therefore internally and subconsciously they would have
    to come to realize that what they are are a bunch of idiotic,
    uneducated buffoons.  In other words, Fred is no different from Jeff
    but had the good fortune to meet Bernie Madoff as an adult.  So if
    they admit that Madoff was an ATM machine for them and that otherwise
    they have would never have had sufficient liquid assets to operate a
    ballclub, they are admitting that they were frauds and that the Wilpon
    mismanagement of this franchise operationally from 2002-2012 is closer
    to reality.  In the high altitude air that they operate in at the MLB
    table with geniuses like John Henry and Stuart Sternberg, or in the
    environs of Greenwich and Locust Valley, this would be wholly
    unacceptable to acknowledge.

    This is different in my opinion from the Mark Madoff suicide, which to
    me was an admission that operating with a net worth of $5M and the
    stigmata of the name was a fate worse than death for him.

  2. Tommy2cat March 1, 2012 at 7:15 am
    Mike Vaccaro is among the sports journalists that I most respect.

    I want to be careful with what I say because I absolutely believe that the Wilpons historically have wanted for the Mets to be a top contending team.

    Until Alderson arrived, it appeared that the Front Office was impatient and truly lacked baseball acumen. They were as reckless with their prospects as they were in doling out big dollars to undeserving free agents. I could not think of a better way to put a baseball organization in a bind than did the Mets since Nelson Doubleday’s departure.

    My philosophy has always been that you build a baseball organization from the ground up, which may require that you exercise patience and take some lumps, and that you add as needed once your primary pieces are set.

    We could go on and on, but impatience manifests itself in different ways whether from imprudent trades such as Kazmir for Zambrano, or throwing away tens of millions of dollars toward Ollie Perez and Luis Castillo. While the moves are different, the mindset is the same – that you can skip these steps necessary to compete annually at a high level.

    Sandy Alderson’s commanding presence and superior baseball acumen has created a contrast that exposes the Wilpon’s ignorance. This contrast is exacerbated by Fred’s current public persona, he is being cavalier at a time when he should be most humble.

    I think that’s all I have to say.

  3. Tommy2cat March 1, 2012 at 7:20 am
    Like Eric said…
  4. DaveSchneck March 1, 2012 at 9:35 am
    Fred and Co. are paying Sandy Alderson $3 mil a year to take those hits. Not bad work if you can find it. Vaccaro is a bit harsh but accurate. As a Met fan, I have been insulted by Fred and Jeff lying to us based on their “spin”. This preceeds the Madoff mess. When the Mets collapsed in 2007 and 2008, Jeffy promised the fan base they would play like a big market team, and they did partially by signing Santana. However, despite claims to an “open budget”, they had no pitching depth. If they had anything, they would have won the division 3 years in a row, perhaps a World Series, and things would be much different today. They could have done that with another million or two added to a $140+ million payroll, but chose not to. They gave away Billy Wagner to save $3 million, losing important draft picks. Cheap, regardless of “having a top 5 payroll”, Fred’s mantra. Now, Fred may be technically correct that the Madoff problem hasn’t effect payroll, since they haven’t had to payback anything yet, but anyone with a brain realizes that is baloney. Eric above is very accurate regarding their Madoff investing – Fred made money in real estate (unlike his son), but the Madoff connection propelled them from minority owner wealth to majority owner wealth, and now they refuse to give up that “power”, primarily because Jeff may have to get a real job, perhaps for the first time in his life. Oh well, I guess we can still root for the team from a distance, vent in the blogosphere and hope things change for the better.
  5. Dan B March 1, 2012 at 10:37 am
    You would think we could like the Wilpons. Like many of us, he loves the Mets. Like many of us, he has money problems. Like many of us, he thinks it is great to own the Mets. And when he has money, he spends it on the Mets. But too often he insults us. I don’t accept the idea that you cut payroll just because it’s good baseball. I don’t accept the idea that our farm system is so much better then others that it will, on its own, deliver us. I don’t accept the idea that your son is a smart enough baseball thinker to run the team. And I don’t accept the idea that the Wilpons respect and understand the fans.
  6. joe March 1, 2012 at 10:56 am
    Ive been a Met fan my entire life, and the Wilpons have basically put the fork in this team. They have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and have made a mockery out of a feeble club that shares a city with the Yankees. Talk about polar opposites. I hope the remaining Met fans boycott the team, dont go to games or provide the Wilpons not one penny. Maybe then they will get the hell out of the baseball business and us long suffering Met fans may get an ownership group that can appreciate the fact that there is still such a thing as Met fan. Its been an unreal ride, where they can take such an important moment for Met fans, such as saying goodbye to Shea, opening up a brand new ballpark and making it a shrine to a team that left New York City in the 50s. I love and admire what Jackie Robinson did for baseball, and what that poor man endured, but he was not and will never be a Met. The fact that there is nothing for Gil Hodges thou, shocks me. The team plays in Queens, not Brooklyn…etc. Please Bud, make them sell the team while theres something left of a fanbase.
  7. gary s. March 1, 2012 at 11:26 am
    A roll of fives??Senile imbecile.If you wanted to project wealth, at least wave a roll of hundreds in front of the press.I lost all my respect for Collins yesterday when i read about him calling Freddie Wilponzi a “great man”.I know he gave you a job, but does anybody in management have a clue of how sick the fanbase is of reading and watching this incompetence go on and on?
  8. Joe March 1, 2012 at 12:31 pm
    “so in other words, Sandy is the fall guy”

    Some focus on him around here like SA is the problem seems to suggest that if that is the idea, it is partially working, but Wilpon really should stay on the down low more. He’s ruining it.

  9. John D. March 1, 2012 at 12:59 pm
    Vaccaro is spot on. The Wilpons are the most tone-deaf ownership in major league sports. With Fred’s recent comments, I can see from where Jeff gets his obtuseness. Pulling out a few fives to joke that he has money when the team is dying on the vine from a lack of funds is an “f*** you” to the fan base. The fact that your fans have share the city with the Yankees and their bottomless pit of money just adds insult to injury. To claim that the decision not even make an offer to Reyes had nothing to do with money is further proof that Fred and Jeff think that Mets fans are idiots (what really bothers me about Jeff is not that he’s an idiot, its that he thinks everybody else is an idiot, too). Unless tickets fall into my lap, I’m not going back to Citifield until they sell the team.
    • joe March 1, 2012 at 1:16 pm
      I’m with you John D. I hope more come to this conclusion…Maybe Fred and Jeff are right…we are idiots….first step out of a bad thing, is acknowledging it…thanks, IM CURED!
  10. Steven March 1, 2012 at 1:37 pm
    Unfortunately, there is no way they will ever give up the team. This is their entire identity and the only thing that makes them a player in the world they want to belong too. We should not have any illusion that Fred and Jeff actually read these blogs and care what the average fan things. They dont care about us basic fans, but there is a lot that benefits them in the elite by being the owner of a major league baseball team. Based on what is happening with the Dodgers, it appears that the Mets may be worth close to $2billion in the open market. Which means that even if Madoff wins his suit completely and obtains a judgment for $400 million, the Wilpons will probably be able to obtain a loan for that amount, and thus retain ownership of the team
  11. Paul Festa March 1, 2012 at 1:42 pm
    He’s Captain Queeg. He blames others for his own failures.
  12. gary s. March 1, 2012 at 1:53 pm
    They may be obtuse to criticism, but they are not immune to empty seats.
  13. derek March 1, 2012 at 2:01 pm
    it also helps that fred operates the team knowing he has bud selig in his back pocket….

    all those years of never paying for draft picks, why didnt we pay a little extra instead of signing overpriced free agents…we stuck to the slot and now selig is gonna stick by the wilpons…we r f’d

    but i think sandy has to let the team fade and get rid of pieces b4 he can really rebuild…i wish we had non guaranteed football contracts but we dont.

  14. argonbunnies March 2, 2012 at 4:06 am
    The Wilpons do care about the Mets and will do what they can to field a winner.

    Of course we won’t get a straight answer from them when it turns out that “doing what they can” may not be enough. If they don’t have what it takes, that’s simply unacceptable to the fans, and admitting it won’t help their cause. If they do have what it takes, or they don’t know, then they get upset at the speculation. In either case, they get defensive and say some dumb stuff.

    As Pelfrey pointed out, the Wilpons haven’t had the same media training players get. Maybe they ought to, for their own good.

  15. DaveSchneck March 2, 2012 at 9:39 am
    There’s only two paths to new ownership – Picard wins big time in court and/or customers stop buying the product.
  16. BklynCowpoke March 2, 2012 at 4:16 pm
    Unfortunately the Wilpon’s are not the only bad apple owner/decision makers in the Mets historic past. Do you remember Mr. M. Donald Grant? It is truly amazing that the Mets have done as well as they have in the past, considering the people who have controlled their fortunes. We just have to remember “This too will pass”. Hopefully in my lifetime.