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An in-depth profile of Fred Wilpon, with bonus Reyes, Beltran and Wright-ripping

May 23, 2011, 8:45 AM EDT

File image of New York Mets chairman and CEO Fred Wilpon talking to reporters at a news conference in New York Reuters

If you have the time — and if you don’t, I suggest you make the time — go read this profile of Fred Wilpon in The New Yorker. It’s easily the most in-depth thing I’ve ever read about him, his life, his ownership of the Mets and — of course — his dealings with Bernie Madoff.

My biggest overall takeaway: Wilpon seems like a very nice and thoughtful man who truly loves baseball, and the story of his journey form Bensonhurst to the top of the real estate and sports world is impressive.  You can see why Bud Selig — who also fits that description, minus the Bensonhurst — is far more willing to work with Wilpon and help see him through his ownership issues than, say, Frank McCourt who is off-putting in just about every way imaginable. You can also see that, if it ever comes to that, Wilpon will probably do very well with a jury, even if he certainly has to hope it never comes to that and if the author of the story, Jeffrey Toobin, believes that a settlement of the case is inevitable.

None of this really changes the basic situation with Madoff and the lawsuit — that’s a story about numbers and risk-management, and what someone in Wilpon’s shoes should have known and when, not a story about personalities — but the story certainly does put a human face on a situation that is so complex that it is often rendered in the most cartoonish terms.

On the baseball side, the biggest takeaway is probably going to be what he said about Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran.  Of Reyes: “He thinks he’s going to get Carl Crawford money … he won’t get it.” Wright: “A really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar.” Also, when a supposed “Mets curse” was mentioned, Wilpon pantomimed Carlos Beltran not swinging at the famous Adam Wainwright curveball that ended the 2006 NLCS and he called himself a “schmuck” for giving Beltran his $119 million deal.

Of the Mets overall, Wilpon said “we’re snakebitten, baby” and referred to them as “a shitty team.”  You can understand where the “let’s kill our best players” mentality and the self-loathing that surrounds the Mets comes from.

Oh, and this paragraph, which has little to do with Wilpon’s overall story, is nonetheless a key insight into the baseball ownership business:

He and his partners bought the Mets just before the real-estate market began a sustained boom. And he didn’t anticipate that owning the Mets would boost his seemingly unrelated business interests. “No one had heard of us before we bought the Mets, and afterward the change was dramatic,” Wilpon told me. “I don’t think someone has not returned one of my telephone calls in thirty years. It’s a small club, owning a baseball team, and people want to be near it.” As Katz told me, “You take the chairman of the board of a bank, with his grandson, on the field to meet David Wright, and make that grandfather a hero, and you do business the way we do business, it opens up everything.”

The business of baseball ain’t all about tickets sold.

Anyway: clip and save this story and read the whole thing when you get the time.

  1. Jonny 5 - May 23, 2011 at 9:05 AM

    And let’s not forget money being forked out to Bobby Bonilla, that guy hasn’t produced in years……….

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 23, 2011 at 9:18 AM

      While I can’t remember the exact specifics of the contract, paying someone $30M in one year is a worse investment than paying someone $1M for 30 years starting 10 years from now. With the present value of money, inflation and interest the deal isn’t necessarily as bad as everyone makes it out to be.

      • kopy - May 23, 2011 at 9:27 AM

        The Bonilla contract actually just about evens out. If the Mets took the money they owed him initially and invested it, the return they would receive would be enough to take out the $1 million-plus they are paying him each year and give it to him, and they wouldn’t run out of money in the fund until just amount the time he’s paid off.

      • Jonny 5 - May 23, 2011 at 9:47 AM

        I guess you all missed the sarcasm, but I’ll bite anyway.

        Well it all depends on if you actually have the money to pay him or not on the timing of it all. They probably had much more to use back when they made that deal actually.

        Kopy, the Wilpons did invest the money, and they lost it. The theory you suggest is what they banked on, and it obviously back fired. It’s funny when people think as such, Investments= profits. Not always the case, sometimes investments= financial ruin as well, so there’s that.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 23, 2011 at 2:33 PM

        yeah i missed the sarcasm, we need a font for that or something =\

  2. sdelmonte - May 23, 2011 at 9:20 AM

    It does not sit well with me for the owner of a team to publicly bash any of his players. Even if he might be right (though I think is totally wrong about Beltran and Reyes and unfair to Wright). It surely doesn’t seem like much of a motivational tool.

    And wouldn’t such statements undermine trade value?

    • purnellmeagrejr - May 23, 2011 at 11:50 AM

      He’s a worse owner than Beltran/Wright/Reyes are players.

    • genericcommenter - May 23, 2011 at 7:45 PM

      He’s wrong that Reyes isn’t worth Crawford money?

  3. kopy - May 23, 2011 at 9:23 AM

    That flushing sound you hear is the Mets’ chances of retaining their best players.

    No pun intended on the word flushing.

    • hnirobert3 - May 23, 2011 at 10:14 AM

      Flushing, NY?

      • kopy - May 23, 2011 at 10:27 AM

        That’s where they play, but really I just meant that any chances the Mets had of signing these guys, notably Reyes, just went down the toilet.

  4. skane2005 - May 23, 2011 at 11:02 AM

    I didn’t know NBC was allowed to include profanity like that in their articles now.

    • Craig Calcaterra - May 23, 2011 at 11:06 AM

      I don’t traffic it profanity to an excessive degree because I don’t use it in my personal speech to an excessive degree, but given that this is a direct and newsworthy quote from a baseball owner, it’s clearly warranted. To censor that here would be to change the story, and no amount of prudishness should obfuscate the facts.

      • Old Gator - May 23, 2011 at 11:13 AM

        I used to say that to the girls I dated in high school.

      • Old Gator - May 23, 2011 at 11:45 AM

        Coda: I checked the New York Pestilence‘s web site just now. They’re reporting that Wilpon described the team as “crummy,” not “shitty,” but insisted on placing their deliberate misquote in quotation marks, making their obfuscatory prudishness even more egregious. Damn. If you can’t count on the Pestilence to be forthrightly slimeful, who can you count on?

  5. Chris Fiorentino - May 23, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    This article, to me, shows why the Mutts have become what they are. When you have the owner of the team whining that “Reyes wants Crawford money…he won’t get it” and he calls his superstar 3rd baseman, “Not a superstar”, how does that attitude not trickle down from the top?

    I mean…I read those quotes and thought “What an asshole this guy is” Weird that Craig would actually take this “Wilpon seems like a very nice and thoughtful man who truly loves baseball” from the article when I couldn’t get past the other fluffy stuff about him. A baseball team should be a team…I understand that everybody doesn’t have to like each other or hang out with each other. But if it comes down to defending each other, it should be like a family, from the ownership to the freaking bat boy. And for Wilpon to say this is both irresponsible and being a dick. Not to mention he is flat-out wrong, at least about David Wright.

    (damn, did I just defend David Wright?)

    • mcchef - May 23, 2011 at 11:27 AM

      It could have been worse….. I mean the guy could have bashed Beltran, Reyes and Wright, while nominating Francisco Rodriguez for a Humanitarian of the Year Award!!

  6. uuddlrlrbastart - May 23, 2011 at 11:38 AM

    I would like to believe that comments like that about his best players would result in such a backlash from the fans, such extreme bad press, that Wilpon would be all but forced to sell the team. Unfortunately, knowing the mainstream Mets fanbase as I do, I think most are going to nod their heads along with everything he says.

  7. APBA Guy - May 23, 2011 at 11:50 AM

    Talk about a surplus of bad owners, McCourt and the Wilpons in one corner, Angelos, Wolffe/Fisher et al in another, this too is part of Air Bud’s legacy.

  8. gogigantos - May 23, 2011 at 3:52 PM

    the only thing I’ve ever been happy about my relationship with Mr Bud is not having ever bought a car from him.

  9. macjacmccoy - May 24, 2011 at 2:36 PM

    I agree with everything Wilpon said in those qoutes. Reyes is delusional. Beltran is over rated and over payed. Wright is not a superstar. The Mets are a Shi++y team. He’s speaking the truth, baby.

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