If the Mets Have to Go Broke, Now’s the Time to Do It

To read the Times story about the relationship between Bernie Madoff, the Wilpon family, and the Mets’ finances is to be witness to a slowly moving collision between two bull-pen cars. It is one thing to learn that the Wilpons are being sued for the money they made off of Madoff. It is another altogether to see the Mets actually putting deferred contract money into a Madoff “fund.” If you are one of the hundreds of people Madoff defrauded, and you are also a Mets fan, there must be something uniquely enraging to realize that Bobby Bonilla will be making $1.2 million every July 1 until 2035 in part with money given to Madoff. That money was protected, but yours wasn’t. Just has to make you feel awesome.

Much hay has been made of new GM Sandy Alderson’s conference call the other day, in which he said the Madoff situation was one he was aware of, and that it won’t affect what decisions he makes. (Except for maybe those involving Jose Reyes, ahem.) But we thought today’s Daily News story about Alderson’s showing a glimmer of regret about taking this Mets job was more revealing. He said he wouldn’t have even gone for the job had Bud Selig not encouraged him to do so.

“Absent (Selig) asking to go ahead and pursue this, and to some degree urging me to pursue it, I’d still be in Santo Domingo studying Spanish.”

For what it’s worth, when even Bud Selig can tell your franchise is in trouble, and all but begs one of his top deputies to come in and fix it, you have some issues.

Alderson also downplayed his “$145 million and $150 million payroll is probably too high” comment, because that plays into the exact fears everyone’s having about the Mets’ finances right now. But he was absolutely correct. If the Mets were going to stumble into this financial shitstorm, this is the best time for it to happen.

As of right now, the Mets payroll is $133,145,000 for the 2011 season, for a team that, if everything falls right, will end up five or six games over .500 this year. Obviously, that’s too high. Next year, obligations drop to $65.8 million. The year after that: $44.9 million. (Numbers via the invaluable Cots Baseball Contracts.) Sure, that’s still awfully high for two years from now — it’s higher than the Padres’ and Pirates’ full payrolls last year — but it’s something he can work with. (By comparison, the Yankees’ obligations in two years? $125.9 million.) Barring a sudden splurge on three Albert Pujolses (“Pujoli,” actually), the Mets payroll wasn’t going to be $133 million in two years anyway. Alderson is too smart of a GM to let it go that crazy.

Which means that if the Mets are gonna find themselves in a money crunch, it might as well happen now. Alderson is going to rewire the farm system, overhaul operations, clean house, essentially. He and Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi didn’t go into this job thinking they had Yankees money, that they were just going to start going nuts on free agents. That’s not how winning teams are being built these days anyway. The Mets are going to hack back on payroll over the next few years, and that’s something that was going to happen even if the Wilpons won 40 consecutive Powerballs. Alderson knows this, which is why he’s so calm about all this. The Mets have all kinds of issues to resolve with their roster, their farm system, their organizational structure. Alderson is here to fix them. He has a huge job ahead of him. And, frankly, money, at this point, is the least of his concerns. They’ll deal with that later. There’s a franchise to fix, first. He wasn’t gonna spend all that money anyway.

If the Mets Have to Go Broke, Now’s the Time to Do It