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Mets GM: We're not sweating financials
I’m a sucker for underdogs.
Starting with the Sons of Liberty (no, not a sports team, people. Read your history books) to Lawrence of Arabia, underdogs have always captured my imagination. “Breaking Away” is my favorite movie. I’m always the one rooting for the little guy whose chances are slim to none — and yes, slim just left town.
For those of us raised in LA, picking sides in the UCLA-USC battle is part of our genetics. You go the way your ancestors went, even if you never went to either school. In my house we had to pick UCLA. Not only was my dad a professor at UCLA Medical School, but also the Bruins were more often than not on the underdog end of the battle, and we were taught to root for the underdog.
From the 1980 US “Miracle on Ice” Olympic hockey team to “Rudy” Reuttiger, the 5-foot-6 kid from Illinois who, through sheer will and persistence, achieved his dream of playing football for Notre Dame, the sports world is rife with examples of the underdog who, against all odds, takes the prize. Muggsy Bogues, anyone?
So here’s my question: Will the New York Mets join the ranks of heroic underdogs? Or will the tidal wave of difficulties, many of them financial, swamp the perennially poorly performing pup?
This week’s news that the financially challenged Mets took out a $40 million bridge loan had the sports world talking. The team lost $70 million last year after taking out a $25 million loan in 2010. If you were their dad, you’d take away the car keys and ground them on these financial data points alone.
But in a Fox Business exclusive interview, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson told me that the team is financially stable and sound, and there is no way any comparison should be made between the Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers, who this year filed for bankruptcy and had Major League Baseball appoint an overseer for the team’s finances.
Alderson says the recent loan and some pending news indicate the Mets are sound.
“With this infusion of cash together with the possibility — I think the strong likelihood in the next two or three months — that there will be additional investors in Mets ownership, we should be good to go over the next couple of years,” Alderson said.
Alderson told Fox Business that while he can’t say for sure that the team will have an announcement in the near future about minority shareholders emerging to float the team by an estimated $200 million, he noted, “As far as I understand, I think things are moving forward and expect a successful investment closure.”
Yet, even without solid news on the shareholder front, Alderson told me the Mets will make their payroll, and, in spite of losing star shortstop Jose Reyes to the Marlins, they will hold on to players who can make this team solid. David Wright, perhaps?
“David’s going to be with us awhile, so I wouldn’t be worried about losing David and Jose in the same year,” Alderson said with a smile.
But can the Mets pull a “Moneyball” move, a reference to the 2003 Oakland A’s team that became extraordinarily competitive with a relatively tiny, $41 million payroll?
“‘Moneyball’ was about finding value, and whether that was finding value at lower prices or finding value in players that command higher salaries, the same point is made,” Alderson said. “We need to make good decisions with respect to players that don’t make a lot of money, but we need to make good decisions with respect to players who do. And if we invest lots of money in high salary players, we need to be right most of the time, just as we need to be right when we spend fewer dollars.”
But with how things stand financially, with the team reportedly owing its bankers at J.P. Morgan some $500 million, are the Mets in peril of not meeting payroll?
“Oh no. That’s not an issue,” Alderson said.
But can they win with what they have now, both financially and in terms of personnel?
“(In) 2012 we won’t be favored in the National League East. The National League East is pretty stacked, probably the toughest division in baseball at this point, but we’re going to be fun to watch,” Alderson said. “The nice thing about baseball is that anything can happen. It’s not necessarily the highest payroll that wins … it’s very often somebody that’s put together a team based on not just resources but also quality decisions. Teams like Tampa Bay are a good example of that, and certainly it can happen here too.”
Anything can happen, but should you hold your breath for the Mets? Don’t ask me. I’m a Cleveland Indians fan.
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