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Bernie and the Mets

📸 Photo Credit: Bill Menzel/ Latino Sports

The death of rogue financier and Far Rockaway native Bernard Madoff last Wednesday unleashed painful reminders about the suffering of those who lost their life savings. While their emotional pain cannot compare with what the real victims of his Ponzi schemes endured, most Mets fans pumped their fists in the air when they learned of Madoff’s demise.

If you ask longtime Mets fanatics what the worse thing to happen to their beloved franchise was, the first answer would be when in a fit of pique fusty team president M. Donald Grant traded Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds for four players on June 15, 1977. Nothing against the players the Mets got in return, but they were the equivalent of pennies on the dollar.

As much as the misbegotten Seaver trade set the Mets back for the late 1970s and early 1980s, an argument can be made that Bernie Madoff was a worse plague on their team because he hamstrung them financially for a decade.

Former Mets CEO Fred Wilpon met Bernie Madoff because their sons were high school friends. Wilpon started investing with Madoff Securities and was understandably thrilled to be getting 15% returns even in years when the stock market was tanking. While he clearly had no idea, Madoff was operating a Ponzi scheme there were some red flags. Wilpon’s brother-in-law, Mets team president Saul Katz, was a certified public accountant. He should have read the Madoff Securities annual report and wondered why they used a small CPA firm in Rockland County to audit their financial statements instead of a major accounting firm such as Ernst & Young.

The Mets were not prototypical victims of Madoff’s swindling. Irving Picard was the court-appointed trustee who represented the victims who oversaw the “clawback” of funds from those who were on top of the financial pyramid. They kept their funds at the expense of those on the bottom of the pyramid. Picard believed that Fred Wilpon and his companies were ahead of the game although Wilpon vehemently denied that. In 2012 Picard and the Mets ownership agreed the team would fork over $162 million to his victims’ fund.

Madoff’s phony big returns did have a deleterious effect on the Mets which has become a lasting scar. In 1999 the Mets offered Bobby Bonilla a deferred annuity which would pay him $1.19 million from 2011 through 2035 in lieu of him taking his $5.9 million salary. The Wilpons thought they would come out ahead by investing Bonilla’s salary with Bernie and get a 15% return. The Mets were “only” going to give Bonilla an 8% return.

The Mets have been handing over an annuity check to him every July 1. New Mets owner Steve Cohen displayed a sense of humor by saying he’d invite Bonilla to Citi Field that day to collect his check.

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The Mets’ 4-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies in the first game of a doubleheader in Denver Saturday against the Colorado Rockies was arguably their most important win of the season until that point.

The Rockies are not a good team as they only have a handful of players most of us have ever heard of. What made the win so crucial was the fact Jacob deGrom had struck out 14 batters through six innings, including nine in a row at one point, and the Mets were still losing, as per custom with him on the mound, going into the final inning. The perennial lack of support for deGrom had long been a topic of conversation for both fans and the sporting press but SNY announcers Gary Cohen and Ron Darling confirmed it had become a conversational issue among Mets players.

After countless games where deGrom was the hard-luck loser, the Mets managed to score two runs in the seventh inning and make him the beneficiary of a rare comeback win which was his first “W” of the 2021 season. That emotional win probably left the Mets drained for the second game of the doubleheader as they were as flat as a bottle of ginger ale which had been left open for a week as they lost 7-2. To their credit, they did eke out a 2-1 win on Sunday to give them a rare series win in Denver.

In January the struggling sports subscription publication, the Athletic, garnered a lot of buzz by breaking a story of how Mets general manager Jared Porter harassed a female sportswriter in Chicago in 2016 with a bombardment of text messages and a damning photo of a part of the male anatomy. Porter was fired by team president Sandy Alderson 24 hours later.

On Friday, the Athletic decided to revisit the Mets for another Me Too story. This time it reported how a former female Mets employee accused three of her than male co-workers of creating a toxic work environment. The New York tabloids had a field day repeating her characterization of one of the men as be4ing a “creep.” which is a meaningless subjective term in my opinion.
While I am in no position to confirm or deny the substance of the charges the complainant, I do know two of the men who are mentioned in the article and I can attest they have always acted professionally with me. Sandy Alderson articulated what a lot of people have secretly been thinking but have been afraid to articulate when he told the Athletic reporter, “Not every man-woman interaction is a capital offense which has to result in a firing.”

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Jay Bruce announced his retirement which came as a surprise to most. He had signed a minor league contract with the Yankees during the off-season and made the team when Luke Voit got hurt. He had struggled, like a lot of his Bronx teammates have in the early going of the 2021 season.

Bruce was always very accommodating to me when I needed a good quote or quip when he was with the Mets. When the Mets re-signed him as a free agent in January 2018 I was touched when he gave me a shout-out during his press conference at Citi Field when I was called on to ask a question. Clearly, Jay Bruce didn’t feel he could be the player he once was and would rather go out on his terms.

Yankees fans were probably shouting “May Day!” even though it is still April after their team was swept by the Tampa Bay Rays in the Bronx over the weekend. My advice is for them to relax. The odds are this slow start will be a distant memory come September.

The 2021 Major League Soccer season got underway Saturday. The New York Red Bulls lost to Sporting Kansas City 2-1 at Red Bull Arena located in Harrison, NJ.

I spoke last month with Ryan Meara who is the backup goalie for the Red Bulls. Meara grew up a Mets fan in Yonkers, where he still lives and attended college at Fordham University. He will be inducted into the Fordham Athletic Hall of Fame this fall.
Surprisingly the 2021 season was delayed by a month, not because of COVID concerns but because the MLS Players Association, in which Meara, is highly active, had to reach a collective bargaining agreement with America’s premier professional soccer league.

MLS games have long been broadcast on ESPN, but Meara admitted he and most of his union’s rank and file have concerns about the Worldwide Leader in Sports getting the broadcasting rights for the National Hockey League starting this fall. The NHL has long been America’s fourth professional sport in terms of popularity, but Major league Soccer has worked hard to try to overtake it. MLS players fear they will be an afterthought for ESPN, and instead of continuing to bridge the gap, they will fall further behind the NHL in terms of popularity.

“King of Queens” star Kevin James will play New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton in a Netflix film about how he got banned from the NFL for a year for instituting a bounty program that gave bonuses to Saints players who injured key opposing players.

Mother’s Day is quickly approaching and here are a pair of fun food and beverage gift ideas. Bailey’s, the famous Irish liqueur distiller, has teamed up with BlendJet, the manufacturer of streamlined portable blenders, for a limited-edition Baily’s Colada BlendJjet, which featured Bailey’s logo. The joint venture is a way for Bailey’s to promote its new pina colada flavored Irish cream which can be enjoyed as a smoothie or as a cold cocktail.

In another corporate partnership, the high-end stationery company, Papyrus, is combining forces with the premium chocolatier, Godiva for a Mother’s Day promotion. Gift givers can fill out a Mother’s Day card from Papyrus when they purchase Godiva’s Goldmark gift box.
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