The Week That Was: Goodbye Fred, Hello Steve?

     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 team. Fred Wilpon has had an equity stake in the Mets for nearly 40 years when he and Nelson Doubleday purchased the team from its original owners, the Payson family, for $20 million which did seem like a lot of money for a sports franchise at the time. Of course that was before the cable television explosion, that would be followed by the advent of satellite radio and streaming services.

     The scuttlebutt surrounding the sale seemed to be that CEO Fred Wilpon who just turned 83 didn’t want to do it but he 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 CEO whenever Fred formally stepped down. Apparently there was opposition from Fred’s brother-in-law Saul Katz, who is the president of the team, 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 New York sports media, were told to be delirious over this change in the owner’s suite. To borrow the title from another HBO show, they may be wise to curb their enthusiasm.

    The press release used the phrase “in negotiations” which means that nothing is a done deal and talks can breakdown at any time. Even if all goes according to Hoyle, the Wilpons will have a controlling interest in the Mets for the next five years.

     Steve Cohen is 63 and grew up a huge Mets fan just across the northeast Queens border in Great Neck. He made his fortune running a hedge fund and is allegedly for Damian Lewis’s Bobby Axelrod character from 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 for failing to manage an employee who indulged in illegal insider trading activities. If he gets into trouble that results in a prison sentence all bets will be off.

     A lot of tabloid headlines made nasty fun of the Wilpons as soon as this story broke. Fred Wilpon is a very decent man whose biggest mistake, like sadly many others, was getting involved with rogue fiancier and Far Rockaway native Bernard Madoff. Yes, that limited the Mets’ ability to spend on quality free agents but that doesn’t mean that he should be humiliated after years of running a franchise 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 who 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 Zack 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.

     Le’Veon 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 had Miller, who passed away at age 95 in November 2012, had been honored by Cooperstown when he was alive. They 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.

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