Selig Should Step In, Get Wilpons Out

In the early 1900’s there was both a National and American League Commission, each controlling and governing their respective league. Many of the members of the National Commission had conflicting interests, as they served as members of the commission but also had vested interest in the club they owned.

The 1919 Black Sox Scandal disgraced the sanctity of Major League Baseball. Eight members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox took bribes to intentionally throw the World Series in favor of the Cincinnati Reds. President of the Cincinnati Reds, August Herman, also served as the chairman of the National Commission. When the scandal was revealed, he was slow to investigate it, as he wanted to believe his team, the Cincinnati Reds, were able to win without the Sox throwing the series.

It became evident after his slow investigation that a change had to be made. The National League voted to remove the National Commission and replace it with one Commissioner for all of baseball. Although the American League first disagreed, primarily because the National League refused previously to acknowledge it as equal when they changed their name from Western to American, they did strike a deal on January 12, 1921 in which the position of the Commissioner of Baseball was created.

Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis was voted as the games first commissioner. When Landis took the job, he was given new authority, the Commissioner now had the power to “investigate, either upon complaint or upon his own initiative, an act, transaction or practice, charged, alleged or suspected to be detrimental to the best interest of the national game of baseball, (and to determine and take) any remedial, preventive or punitive action (he deemed appropriate).”*

The New York Mets organization is in dire straights at the moment. Their finances, due to the Madoff Ponzi scheme are worse than those of the Pittsburg Pirates! With the Wilpons in severe debt, and pending law suit, Commissioner Bud Selig should step in and act in the best interest of the game.

Just as in basketball where Commissioner David Stern has acknowledged the importance of the Knicks having success in the big market of New York, baseball too must flourish in this market. For a league to be successful, it needs to have great interest in the major markets of California and New York, as well as up and around the Mississippi River, in markets like Chicago and St. Louis.

There is no way for the Mets to be successful currently with Sterling Equities, the real estate firm owned by Mets principle owner Fred Wilpon and brother in law Saul Katz, can possibly withstand the blow that settling for a sum of $300 million, let alone lose the case due to possible knowledge of Madoffs plan.

The trustee, Irving Picard, responsible for gaining funds back to the losers in the scheme, is not only looking for the $300M in ficticious profits, but also a “penalty” of over $700M, for either knowing, or turning the other cheek.

It is unfathomable that with the $700M debt for Citi Field, and the $425M debt on SportNet New York(SNY), the Wilpons will be able to retain a majority stock in the team, given the at least $300M payment they will need to give Picard. There is just no way they will 25% of the team, because no investor will pay the roughly $250M to buy into an investment in which they will see no return in profits, nor a say in the team.

According to many legal sources, if they settle out of court, it could take 3-6 months for the transaction to be complete, yet the court case could take over a year. Then, the likely scenario will be a sale of a majority stake in the team, which could also take tons of time. The New York Times has been trying to sell their 17.5% stake in the Boston Red Sox for years, yet have been unable to find a bidder at their price.

Bud Selig met with Met owners Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz last week to get the full information regarding the lawsuit, before it was unsealed to the media Friday. Selig and the Wilpons have been friends for years, they have had a great relationship. The relationship was so good that the Mets before last season had a history under the Wilpon tenure of not going “overslot” to sign a draft pick- something out of favor with the commissioner. Yet, Bud must put the best interest of the game before his friendship.
Under the current ownership, there is no possible means of success, and if Bud wants the league to make money, he needs to step up and realize the Wilpons due to the Madoff scandal are “detrimental to the game of baseball.” He can not let this drag out- instead he should absorb the Mets, ala the Texas Rangers and have an auction- let the highest bidder win- as long as his name is Mark Cuban.

*mlb.com

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