Andrew Cuomo asks Jeff Wilpon: Why Can’t You Play Games Without Fans?

Major League Baseball, like most aspects of American life these days, is shutdown indefinitely. When it will ramp back up and begin the 2020 season is still unknown. In the beginning of spread of the Coronavirus pandemic, Baseball instituted a two-week delay. Then, they shut down operations altogether.

One workaround option is to play the games in empty stadiums.  New York governor Andrew Cuomo, speaking on his brother Chris’ nightly CNN program said he posed the question to New York Mets COO Jeff Wilpon.

“I said why can’t we talk about a baseball season with nobody in the stands? Why can’t you play the game with the players,” Cuomo said “CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time” Wednesday. “I think it would be good for the country. I think it would be good for people to have something to watch and do. To fight cabin fever. I think it’s something I’m going to pursue.”

This is coming from a man who is the champion of social distancing and is leading the resistance of the returning to normalcy campaign being promoted by President Donald Trump. New York is the global epicenter of the pandemic and now are instituting an initiative making masks mandatory in areas where social distancing is difficult to achieve.

“Apparently Major League Baseball would have to make a deal with the players because if you have no one in the stands, then the numbers are going to change, right?” Cuomo asked. “The economics are going to change. But if Major League Baseball and the players could come into an agreement on how to adjust the economics for that reality, I think that would be a good thing. You know we have to start to move to normalcy and people have to see some sort of hope and light.”

Cuomo didn’t provide the answer – if any – that Wilpon gave him.

Playing the games without fans is one option the table. So is the ridiculous plan of have all 30 MLB teams begin the season in Arizona to cut down on travel. Neither is likely to happen but talk is ramping up.

If Cuomo is loosening his stance, that could mean the beginning of restrictions being lifted sooner rather than later. Many experts believe New York will not be able to open things up until the summer given the density of the COVID-19 cases.

We’re all hoping there will be a baseball season in 2020 but things would have to normalize in general for that to happen.

New York Mets’ COO Jeff Wilpon sends letter to the team’s season ticket holders

According to SNY, the New York Mets’ COO Jeff Wilpon wrote a letter to season ticket holders amid the current coronavirus crisis. The United States are among the most heavily affected countries in the world, and the thought of starting the MLB season soon is, despite the league’s efforts and brain-storming, far-fetched.

Here’s the letter written by the Mets’ COO:

“Dear Mets fans:

Let me start by saying that I hope this note finds you and your families healthy and safe.

We are in unprecedented times and the current situation is bigger than any sport. Our priority over all else is the health and safety of our players, employees, fans and all communities, as well as following the recommendations of our public health officials, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Major League Baseball, and our own medical team.

There are so many heroes putting themselves at risk every day in an effort to save lives who deserve our gratitude and applause. Thank you to all of the doctors, nurses, health care professionals and uniformed personnel for being on the front lines around the clock during this pandemic.

As a token of our appreciation, our organization is working with our partners to provide meals and beverages for these selfless workers to help keep their strength and spirits up.

We also recently launched a $1.2M program to provide financial assistance for Citi Field game day staff impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Our hope is that these funds will help to ease the hardship suffered by the many game day staff members who have been impacted by this crisis.

We are confident that baseball will play a role in helping the country recover, as it has so often done in the past. We all look forward to when baseball is able to provide that sense of community for all of us.

Please continue to practice measures that will keep you and your family, friends, and community safe and healthy.

Jeff Wilpon

Mets Chief Operating Officer.”

The Mets are in wait-and-see mode

MLB and the players’ association are considering the idea of playing games without fans as soon as May in Arizona.

There are several spring training complexes there, not to mention Chase Field, the home field of the D-backs.

Meanwhile, the New York Mets’ players keep preparing themselves in their own homes, in most cases. Manager Luis Rojas is monitoring the roster from afar.

Mets: Jeff Wilpon assures fans after Cohen deal falls through

New York Mets, Jeff Wilpon

The New York Mets and their fans are back to square one now that the proposed buyout by billionaire Steve Cohen has fallen through. The deal, in which Cohen would buy 80 percent of the team for approximately $2.6 billion and take control of the team over five years, was pronounced dead last Thursday, leading the club to release this statement.

“The transaction between Sterling and Steve Cohen was a highly complicated one. Despite the efforts of the parties over the past several months, it became apparent that the transaction as contemplated would have been too difficult to execute.”

On Monday, Mets’ scion and COO Jeff Wilpon sent out an additional statement claiming he can’t comment on why the deal is no longer in place but assured fans ownership will continue it’s crackerjack effort to win a championship.

The part where Wilpon says they’ll be working hard to “maintain everyone’s confidence and trust” is comical. Of all the MLB ownership groups, the Wilpons are among the least trusted and respected.

Some are speculating that Cohen rethought the deal which would have kept the Wilpon family in power five years into his stewardship and possibly beyond. The deal made no sense from the get go. Why he would agree to it is nuts. It appears that he didn’t.

There is a possibility Cohen comes back to the table with a new offer but it doesn’t seem as if the Wilpons are willing to simply hand over the keys under any circumstances. They still want some type of control regardless of their ownership stake.

No one is going to agree to those terms. It looks like Met fans are stuck with the Wilpons for the foreseeable future.

New York Mets Still Want to Sell Team… But Who Will Buy?

New York Mets, Robinson Cano

I reported earlier in the week, when talks of salvaging the sale of the New York Mets to Steve Cohen were at its highest, that the deal was dead. It was confirmed in the past 24 hours that, yes, the sale to minority owner, Steve Cohen, was no more. The Wilpon’s are still set on trying to sell the team. But based on what’s coming out about the deal, who will honestly bite?

Ceremonial Roles Aren’t So Ceremonial

The two Wilpon’s, after surrendering majority control to Cohen in 2025, would still keep the roles they currently have with the team (Fred as managing general partner, and Jeff the COO). Everyone, including Cohen, thought that the Wilpon’s would serve as the Royal Family to the Mets. You know how Queen Elizabeth is queen, but the monarchy hasn’t had legitimate legislative power in real long time? Every New York Mets fan assumed that would be the case here, and were fine with that. But the language the Wilpon’s worked in, late in finalizing the deal, stated clearly that Cohen would still be ceding the authority to make decisions as to the managing general partner, and as the COO to both Wilpon’s till at least 2030.

So why would anyone want to buy a team, to only have the owners stick around making key baseball decisions till 2030, and not surrendering control of the team till 2025?

Could you imagine if CBS still were making decisions with George Steinbrenner as the owner of the Yankees for 10 years after George became the owner? That’s basically what the Wilpon’s are trying to do. If you’re going to sell the team, SELL THE TEAM! Cut ties, rip the band-aid off, end all communications with the people who took over your job.

The desire for the Wilpon’s to establish this precedent will surely dampen any prospective buyers from taking ownership of the Mets. And at an asking price of $2.5 billion (half the value of the Yankees, but more than double the cost Derek Jeter bought the Marlins for), it seems unrealistic that the Wilpon’s will find a buyer, willing to settle for their terms much before the end of the 2020 season.

Wilpons end talks with Cohen but still intend to sell the New York Mets

New York Mets

According to the New York Mets‘ beat writer for MLB.com Anthony DiComo, the team will not be selling a majority stake to Steve Cohen. The Queens’ squad confirmed the news. The hedge fund manager was looking to acquire his favorite ballclub since December, but talks recently hit a snag and they ultimately decided not to continue with the negotiations.

The Mets explained that they still intend to sell the team, just not to Cohen and his group. In fact, they announced the hiring of a local investment bank to assist with the process. As it turns out, the New York Mets will be exchanging hands relatively soon.

Earlier in the week, reports started to come up about the snag in the negotiation process, ongoing since late last year. The parent firm of the Wilpon, Sterling Equities, confirmed that much.

“The transaction between Sterling and Steve Cohen was a highly complicated one,” the statement said. “Despite the efforts of the parties over the past several months, it became apparent that the transaction as contemplated would have been too difficult to execute.”

The terms of the Mets’ sale that fell apart

What we knew before the negotiations fell apart was that the proposed deal included a transition period of five years. Over that timeframe, Fred and Jeff Wilpon would still manage the Mets’ operations and decisions. That setting, according to DiComo, “became a point of contention between the Wilpons and Cohen during negotiations.”

In Thursday’s early hours, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred called “the assertion that the transaction fell apart because of something the Wilpons did … completely and utterly unfair.” He also said that at the time, he didn’t think a deal would happen. Time proved him right.

The Wilpons hired the services of Allen & Company, a local investment bank. The idea is for the firm to help them manage the sale of the Mets to another group. The Wilpons and Saul Katz (the team’s president) have been the majority owners since 2002, with Jeff Wilpon as the COO since that year.

New York Mets: What We Learned From the Hiring of Luis Rojas

The Houston Astros cheating scandal put an unneeded variable in the future of former New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran. It brought questions on his credibility, and he eventually lost his job. General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen had to act quick and smart with two different owners overlooking every move.

The Wilpons are gradually taking a backseat to the day to day moves as Steve Cohen begins to assume majority ownership of the organization. While the transition is occurring, there is increasing uneasiness among the executives who worked under the Wilpon regime. Every executive is under the microscope as Cohen tries to revamp the future of the Mets.

Brodie on the Hot Seat?

Van Wagenen had a tough choice to make when selecting Luis Rojas. The decision was more than simply hiring someone to replace Beltran. If Van Wagenen hired someone they initially refused to interview, such as Dusty Baker or Buck Showalter, it would be a bad look on him. It shows Van Wagenen’s role as a puppet for the Wilpon’s instead of someone thinking on his own.

Cohen will not be the control freak the Wilpon’s have been since they assumed majority ownership. Van Wagenen is trying to stay above water with Cohen. New owners usually bring in their crew of guys and quickly moves on from the old regime. Van Wagenen has made plenty of bold moves during his two offseasons as GM. The leash is very short, and the only person who can extend it is Van Wagenen himself.

The hiring of Rojas is a good move bottom line. Van Wagenen had to stay inside of the organization with Spring Training quickly approaching. Rojas prior managing experience in the minors put him in line to become a future big-league manager. Almost every player on the roster has high praise for Rojas, and he has a good relationship with the young players he worked with in the minors.

Urgency to Win

The “win now” motto of Van Wagenen has never carried the significance it has now. His future with the Mets is on the shoulders of Rojas. No matter the outcome this season, he will have a job in 2021. Cohen is going to provide Van Wagenen with the freedom he did not have under the Wilpon’s.

Despite having freedom, the offseason is all but over. The only thing left as an evaluator of Van Wagenen will be the success the Mets have in 2020. If the season starts the same way 2019 did, it is hard to see Van Wagenen making it to the All-Star break.

Report: Wilpons would rather sell Mets than have Jeff run the team

New York Mets, Jeff Wilpon

The Wilpons’ sudden decision to sell the majority interest in the New York Mets is apparently the result of an internal family squabble that has been going on for years.

With patriarch Fred Wilpon now 83 years of age, the prospect of his heirs running the team in the future must have spooked him into selling rather than have them, son Jeff in particular, squander the family’s prized asset.

In a report from the New York Times, the family feud between Jeff and his brother, Bruce, goes back years and without Fred around to mediate and mitigate, it is feared the franchise would be in incapable hands. Thus, the agreement to have billionaire minority owner Steven A. Cohen increase his stake in the team in increments over the next five years was made.

Form the Times:

With Fred Wilpon, 83, and his siblings aging, their children were increasingly wary of having Jeff Wilpon, their aggressive, short-tempered relative, in charge of the family’s most valuable heirloom. That issue will go away with a deal to sell Cohen 80 percent of the franchise that will give the family a huge profit, considering what the Wilpons paid each time they increased their stake in the Mets.

 

Tensions between Jeff Wilpon and his relatives have been brewing for years. Many of them work with Sterling Equities, the family’s closely held umbrella company, but the baseball team, which last won a World Series in 1986 — before the family took full control — was largely Jeff’s domain.

 

For years, some family members have questioned his choices behind the scenes.

The disdain for Jeff goes back even before the Wilpons took control of the team from partner Nelson Doubleday in 2002.

During the years he controlled the team, Nelson Doubleday had insisted that neither his children nor Wilpon’s have a role within the team. Insiders at the time said it was well known that the purpose of the rule to was exclude Jeff Wilpon, who had played baseball at Palm Beach State College and was even drafted twice by major league organizations.

 

“Doubleday was very hard on Jeff,” one executive said.

Met fans can thank Fred for his foresight. Had he not made the choice to sunset his family’s interest out of Flushing, the fans would have been subject to an unfettered era of Jeff running the team with no governor to control him.

Now, we don’t know what kind of owner Cohen will be, but we do know he is a genuine billionaire without the entanglements Fred had (see Madoff) but he also doesn’t come with a pristine past. Cohen was slapped with a $1.8 billion fine in 2013 for insider trading.

NYC Baseball: Mets’ sale puts Yankees on notice

New York Mets, Jeff Wilpon

The New York Yankees have owned the baseball market in New York City for the past quarter decade. Their five World Championships to their crosstown rival New York Mets’ none says it all. The Yankees are approximately worth twice as much as the Mets as a result ($4.6 billion to $2.3 billion) but that should  be changing now that billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen has agreed to buy controlling interest in the Mets from the Wilpons.

Cohen grew up a Mets fan (not a Dodgers fans like Fred Wilpon) in Great Neck and won’t sit idly by while the top free agents land in the Bronx, Boston, L.A. and other destinations. The Wilpons’ financial troubles (see: Madoff) have been well documented and without question have precluded them from acting as a major market franchise.

From the New York Post:

A person who had seen the email expects Cohen’s financial influence to be felt immediately, saying, “He grew up a Mets fan [in Great Neck]. He went to games in the Polo Grounds. He has deep pockets. He is a passionate fan. If I were a Met fan, I would expect that means more money [for payroll].”

 

He who controls the purse strings controls the kingdom — not someone with titles. And if Cohen is approved by the other owners — likely but no slam dunk because of his past ties to insider trading — he will control the purse strings.

 

There are no guarantees how someone will run a team and whether they will be a good owner or a bad owner once they actually are in charge. But what would shock — absolutely shock — those spoken to in the aftermath of the news that Cohen is intending to go from a minority Met owner to owning 80 percent or more of the team is that he will squeeze pennies and play to the worst of the Wilpon stereotype. The expectation is the Mets will join the Yankees and Dodgers and Red Sox among the major league payroll leaders, perhaps not in 2020, but soon.

Of course, money doesn’t always equate to happiness but it doesn’t hurt. It will all depend on who is making the baseball decisions. There has been no rumblings on whether the front office will be affected in the near future but you can bet the Mets will become a proactive organization under Cohen, not a reactive one.

New York Mets: The Third Round of Interviews

New York Mets, Jeff Wilpon

While half the teams searching for managers have made hires already, the New York Mets are conducting their third round of interviews to find their next leader. The list of names was cutdown between rounds one and two, but barely changed for round three. They still feature Eduardo Perez, Tim Bogar, Carlos Beltran, Luis Rojas. Pat Murphy‘s name emerged as a mystery candidate over the weekend, but it is unknown if he is receiving a third interview.

Murphy has been the Brewers bench coach since 2016 and spent 20 years coaching college baseball. He came to the major leagues in 2010 where he was working throughout the Padres organization. He managed them to a 42-54 record in 2015 after Bud Black was let go. The still unknown “bombshell candidate” is still in play as well.

These interviews will feature Fred Wilpon, it what seems like the boss battle in a video game. The Mets interview process is one of the most extensive in baseball and rightly so after Mickey Callaway’s time as a Met was a disaster.

Manager Interviews or March Madness

At this point, we may need bracketology to keep track of the remaining candidates. It is a good sign to see the Mets go this far for their candidates though. It is better for them to be thorough than to pick anyone…even though Joe Girardi was the right man for the job.

What continues to make the dynamics of these interviews interesting is the amount of involvement the front office likes to have. At times during Callaway’s tenure, it seemed like he was stuck with whatever in game decisions they wanted. Since we do not know the questions from the interview, the power of the next manager is up to speculation.

When the season begins, we will receive a better idea. If the team is managed the same way as Callaway, it will be obvious the front office has control. Potential managers like Perez and Rojas have plenty of experience and should deserve the ability to manage the game without the front office’s hand up you know where.

New York Mets: Eduardo Perez vs Tim Bogar

Simeon Woods-Richardson

Reports suggest the New York Mets are leaning towards hiring Eduardo Perez as their next manager. Other reports say the search is not quite complete. Tim Bogar is still high up on the totem pole of potential managers.

Rumors state Perez could have the job within the next couple of days. Half the teams who were searching for new managers have already made their hirings. It has featured an interesting mix of experienced and brand new managers. The biggest issue surrounding the future Mets manager is the unknown amount of power they will receive.

Mickey Callaway Finds a Job

Former Mets manager Mickey Callaway has moved on to the Angels as their new pitching coach under new manager Joe Maddon. Callaway came into the Mets organization as a “pitching guru” but it never quite showed through his two years in Queens. Callaway played two seasons in LA when Maddon was their bench coach and should be able to help out a weak Angels pitching staff.

The new Mets manager will have an interesting relationship with Brodie Van Wagenen and Jeff Wilpon, much like Callaway. Since Terry Collins was replaced, we have seen their increased involvement in every aspect of the team. This led to Callaway garnering criticism he may not have deserved.

The one thing Van Wagenen and Wilpon will not have any input in is the clubhouse atmosphere. Perez is known for his great character throughout baseball. He has a very extensive background in the game and is one of the best baseball personalities the Mets could interview.

The on field decisions is a different discussion. Perez certainly has the knowledge to manage, but will the front office trust him enough to leave him alone?