It was very surprising when the Mets issued a press release last week stating the team’s owners, the Wilpon family, were negotiating with hedge fund entrepreneur Steven Cohen to sell their majority interest in the franchise. Fred Wilpon has had an equity stake in the Mets for nearly 40 years, since he and Nelson Doubleday purchased the team from its original owners, the Payson family, for $20 million, which seemed like a lot of money for a sports franchise. That was before the cable TV explosion, which would be followed by the advent of satellite radio and streaming services.
The scuttlebutt surrounding the sale seemed to be that Wilpon, 83, didn’t want to do it but was facing familial squabbles about the future of the team and who would be heading it. Fred’s oldest son, Jeff, has been the Mets chief operating officer for years and would seem the obvious choice to be the next CEO. Apparently there was opposition from Fred’s brother-in-law, team President Saul Katz, and from Jeff’s siblings: sister Robin and younger brother Bruce. This is an age-old story that is currently the plotline of HBO’s popular drama “Succession.”
Mets fans, through the encouragement of the media, were told to be delirious over this change. To borrow the title from another HBO show, they should curb their enthusiasm.
The release used the phrase “in negotiations” meaning nothing is done and talks can break down at any time. Even if all goes as planned, the Wilpons will have a controlling interest in the team for five years.
Cohen, 63, grew up a huge Mets fan just across the northeast Queens border in Great Neck, LI. He made his fortune running a hedge fund and is allegedly the inspiration for Damian Lewis’ Bobby Axelrod character on Showtime’s “Billions.” Cohen, like most hedge fund honchos, has been in the crosshairs of federal prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC suspended him in 2016 from taking in new money for two years over his failing to manage an employee who indulged in illegal insider trading. Cohen paid a $1.8 billion fine and has not gotten into trouble since then.
A lot of tabloid headlines made nasty fun of the Wilpons as the story on the sale broke. Fred Wilpon is a very decent man whose biggest mistake, sadly like many others’, was getting involved with rogue financier Bernard Madoff. Yes, that limited the ability to spend on free agents but that doesn’t mean he should be humiliated after years of running a team that has given millions a needed diversion.
The Mets did not make a bid to retain the services of starting pitcher Zack Wheeler, who became a free agent at the end of the 2019 season and signed a five-year, $118 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies last week.
You can’t blame Mets management for not trying to meet the Phillies’ offer. Wheeler is a decent pitcher but he’s not worth that kind of financial obligation. I never heard any Mets fan get excited over news Wheeler was starting a game. Yes, he had some fine outings but he also frequently had trouble with his control.
The Mets acquired centerfielder Jake Marisnick from the Houston Astros in exchange for two prospects last week. This is a low-stakes trade for Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, but the reality is that Marisnick is a singles hitter who strikes out way too much for a “good field, no-hit” kind of player. He is not an upgrade over Juan Lagares and should best be viewed as a placeholder at this juncture.
Sunday’s Miami Dolphins-New York Jets game was a weird one as the Jets prevailed by the skin of their teeth, 22-21, thanks to a last-second field goal by Sam Ficken. The Jets’ defense, which was missing injured All-Pro safety Jamal Adams, allowed Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to march up and down the field at will but they never yielded a touchdown as Miami had to settle for seven field goals.
Jets quarterback Sam Darnold was a bit more effective than he was the previous week as the Jets lost to the up-until-then winless Cincinnati Bengals 22-6. Of course that wasn’t much of a bar to measure improvement.
In fairness, Darnold did not have two of his key offensive weapons, running back Le’Veon Bell, who was ill, and tight end Ryan Griffin, who hurt his ankle early in the Dolphins game.
Bell may not have set the world on fire for the Jets this year, but he’s vastly superior to his fellow Gang Green running backs, Bilal Powell and Ty Montgomery.
The Jets were on the Dolphins’ 14-yard line and had three downs to gain one yard to keep their drive alive. Neither Powell nor Montgomery could pick up the measly yard and the Jets had to turn the ball over to the Dolphins.
On Sunday a veterans committee approved the induction of Marvin Miller, the first executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. It would have been nice if Miller, who passed away at age 95 in November 2012, had been honored by Cooperstown when he was alive. The Hall certainly had ample opportunity to do so.
The committee also bestowed the induction honor on catcher Ted Simmons, whose career ran parallel to that of Johnny Bench and had the misfortune of being overshadowed by him.