The Sports Xchange

MLB Team Report - New York Mets - INSIDE PITCH

NEW YORK -- The popularity of the New York Mets' ownership has dwindled during six consecutive losing seasons. But outgoing commissioner Bud Selig made it abundantly clear Tuesday that chairman of the board Fred Wilpon and his family still retains at least one very important ally.

"I'm satisfied that this franchise is doing it the right way," Selig said during an occasionally tense press conference at Citi Field prior to the Mets' 9-1 win over the Miami Marlins.

Selig, who is retiring after a 22-year reign as commissioner and will be replaced by Rob Manfred on Jan. 20, 2015, stopped by Citi Field as part of his farewell tour of Major League Baseball parks.

Unlike most of his visits, though, this one was not publicized until Selig was on the premises -- an attempt, perhaps, to minimize the number of questions Selig would face about Fred Wilpon, the chairman of the board for the Mets and Selig's longtime friend, and the Mets' ownership situation.

The Wilpon family has slashed payroll by almost $70 million since 2009, shortly after their investments were impacted in the Ponzi scheme executed by longtime family friend and advisor Bernie Madoff.

Wilpon, Mets president Saul Katz and Sterling Equities the real estate company co-founded by Wilpon in 1972, were sued for $1 billion by a Madoff trustee, though they eventually settled in March 2012 and paid $162 million.

At that time, Wilpon said the Mets were on sound financial footing, but the payroll has continued to decrease. The Wilpons have repeatedly borrowed against SNY, the Mets' network in which the family retains a 65 percent stake, in order to finance the Mets' payroll.

But in 2011, Selig refused to allow embattled Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt to sell the team's TV rights to Fox and obtain a $200 million loan from the broadcasting giant.

Selig said Tuesday that the two cases were entirely different and that the Mets, unlike the Dodgers under McCourt, have followed all of Major League Baseball's financial rules.

"I don't have any problem with the Mets' financing, with what's going on," Selig said. "As far as all of our economic rules -- and we have a myriad of them -- they are in compliance with them. They're doing fine. The Dodgers were not in compliance with any of them."

Selig then went into an unprompted defense of the Mets' low-budget, build-from-within philosophy under general manager Sandy Alderson, who worked with Selig at the Major League Baseball offices for two different stints totaling eight years. The Mets' Opening Day payroll this season was about $84 million, down from $149 million in 2009.

"As far as I'm concerned, from my perspective, I think that the way the Mets are doing this thing is correct," Selig said. "I know that there are a lot of teams that like to spend a lot of money that don't do well either."

As for the fans losing patience as the Mets (73-79) complete what is likely to be a sixth straight losing season? Selig, the former owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, said he feels their pain and that he'd be the first to speak up for a fanbase if he thought ownership wasn't doing enough to put a winning product on the field.

"Look, I'm a fan at heart," Selig said. "It takes time and it takes time to build. So yes. I understand fan frustration.

"The fact of the matter is I do monitor every team. And honestly, if I felt -- and I mean this very sincerely -- that there was a team really not doing what I thought they should do, in the best interests of the sport, they'd hear from me. They'd hear from me."


MLB Team Report - New York Mets - NOTES, QUOTES