Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Mets morning briefing 3.2.11
By Adam Rubin
Jay Horwitz has no shortage of headaches to deal with this morning. (Oh, by the way, R.A. Dickey faces the Cardinals in Jupiter today.)
Here's a look at Wednesday's news reports:
• The Mets will be receiving no more significant loans from Major League Baseball after borrowing $25 million from that source in November, according to The New York Times.
Writes David Waldstein:
Baseball’s decision to restrict the Mets’ access to further emergency funds probably leaves the team’s beleaguered owners, Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, without their best remaining source of cash as they struggle to maintain control of the team in the face of a $1 billion lawsuit brought by the trustee for victims of the Bernard L. Madoff fraud. ... The two people briefed on the situation said baseball could conceivably re-evaluate its position in the coming months if it thought it needed to protect its larger interests, like trying to avoid a fire sale of one of its elite clubs. In addition, with opening day a month away, baseball could make a modest short-term loan to help the Mets avoid defaulting on certain payments, like player salaries.
• A spokesman for JPMorgan Chase said a New York Post story saying the Mets and MLB were leaning on the bank to extend further loans to the team is "inaccurate." Spokeswoman Jennifer Zuccarelli told Newsday: "We are not in discussions to syndicate any new loans to the team." ... A source did remind ESPNNewYork.com that the Mets' owners have said they are seeking avenues to better liquidity beyond selling a portion of the team.
• Record columnist Bob Klapisch says the Mets need new owners, and he doesn't mean minority partners. Writes Klapisch: The Wilpons insist everyone under the Met umbrella is safe -- they’re good for every last cent in the 2011 season. But who can believe anything this ownership group says anymore? They’ve been lying about their desperate financial state ever since Madoff’s arrest in December 2008.
• With an appeals court scheduled to hear arguments from Irving Picard lawsuit targets about why clawback (money withdrawn over money invested) is an invalid way of determining victims, the Daily News continues to place the responsibility with the Securities and Exchange Commission, writing:
In a letter to SEC chairwoman Mary Schapiro, Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) and three colleagues gave Schapiro six days to furnish the House Financial Services Committee information about what she knew, and when she knew it, about the holdings of David M. Becker, who just left after completing his second tour as the SEC's top lawyer.
Becker's mother had a fund through Bernard Madoff, and her estate was liquidated by the family in 2005, in between Becker tours at the SEC.
As for the appeal, it's based on the Securities Investors Protection Act of 1970, with the assertion being that whatever was on an investor's final statement should be factored in to determining loss. Judge Burton Lifland, who is presiding over the Picard case against Fred Wilpon, has ruled that's an irrelevant number, and money in versus money out should be the standard, since Madoff could have picked any numbers out of the sky to place on his statements.
The Daily News then quotes lawyers supporting the appeal, who say there's a "persecution" of the Wilpons. It apparently found no one who thought Lifland's original ruling was valid. The paper also said interest in buying a minority share of the Mets is going gangbusters. "It is the most hotly pursued sports deal I've ever seen," a source told the newspaper.
• Jeff Pearlman in The Wall Street Journal profiles the "schlump"-ish Horwitz, the Mets' PR man, who was hired by Frank Cashen in 1980 despite spilling orange juice on the Mets general manager during the interview. Horwitz only has missed games after his mother's death and because of the chicken pox during a 31-year career with the club. Plenty of stories have been known before, such as Horwitz as Fairleigh Dickinson sports information director pitching a story about a one-armed soccer player to the New York newspapers.
In 2003, Horwitz decided to attend his 40th high school reunion. The person he was most excited to see was Sandy Penk, a cute majorette who had been his boyhood crush. In anticipation of the big evening, Horwitz broke out his 1986 World Series ring, which he rarely wore. "I wanted to impress her," he says. "To show off a little." One problem: Upon arriving at the site of the reunion, Horwitz was crestfallen to learn that he had the wrong date, and the event had already taken place. "As if that wasn't bad enough," he says, "my fingers had gotten so fat, I had to have the ring cut off my hand. It's sitting in my house somewhere, split in two."
• Steve Popper in the Record says Dwight Gooden made a 10-minute phone call to a fan on behalf of the Mets, hoping that would close a sale on tickets. It didn't. Mets executive VP for business Dave Howard nonetheless says the pace of ticket sales is ahead of last year. "We have actually made major investments in restructuring the department, adding personnel, becoming a more proactive and targeted organization," Howard tells Popper. "We’ve also invested significantly in a new customer relationship management system that will allow to us to pre-qualify leads. The facts are the sales effort in the ticket office has received substantial investment in terms of personnel and money. The net effect results have been good so far. When you look year to date, we’re selling the same types of tickets as last year, and we’ve actually sold more this year that we had at this point last year."
• Mike Pelfrey discusses the death of sports pyschologist Harvey Dorfman with Newsday's David Lennon. Pelfrey spoke with Dorfman regularly after games and even visited him in North Carolina a year ago.
Confrontations were part of the Dorfman method. Pelfrey's best memories involved being challenged by him, like the time he made the mistake of telling Dorfman how locked in he was for that night's start. "You were focused?" Dorfman asked Pelfrey. "Then what did the catcher's glove look like? What kind of glove does he have?" When Pelfrey stammered, "I don't know," the message was delivered. "Then you weren't ---- paying attention!" Dorfman shot back. "You're just feeding me full of BS right now."
Pelfrey's agent, Scott Boras, told ESPNNewYork.com Tuesday regarding Dorfman's passing: "Harvey was someone I've known for really almost 30 years. I saw the benefits of what he was doing with players, and eventually I hired him to be a part of our staff because he was so influential in the structuring and advancing of players' lives and their performances. He really pioneered the introduction of psychology into the mainstream of baseball -- and that's on and off the field, because he helped executives of the teams he worked for as well as the players. He certainly had a major presence in this game, because I think a lot of teams wanted to certainly follow the lead that Harvey Dorfman brought to the game, and his ability to impact players and improve their lives."
• Boras spoke with me Tuesday about Beltran's move to right field as well. He also discussed the matter with the Daily News, telling Andy Martino there's no way Beltran will be a DH next season after becoming a free agent. "Carlos Beltran is a great athlete, and I find it hard to believe that there would be three outfielders on a major league team that would match Carlos on a level to suggest he would be DH," Boras tells the Daily News. "The idea of him being an everyday player [in the outfield] is what we have in mind." As for another client, Oliver Perez, Boras said: "I don't know how to quantify what chance you're being given to make the team, [but] it is certainly in their interest and our interest to have him be a member of the Mets. Ollie showed up in great shape, and he fully understands his situation."
• Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger recaps the reasoning behind scratching Francisco Rodriguez from Tuesday's scheduled Grapefruit League appearance. K-Rod was in New York on Monday to update the course on the completion of the Venezuelan phase of his weekly anger management classes. Because he had not thrown for a couple of days, the Mets pushed back Rodriguez's first 2011 Grapefruit League appearance to Thursday.
• Mike Puma in the Post notes Mets staffers believe Jon Niese will have a better season because he now knows how to pace himself to avoid wilting late in the season.
• The Star-Ledger also takes a look at Niese, who tossed three scoreless innings Tuesday against the Nationals. McCullough writes:
Can he better his performance from last year? The Bill James Handbook projects a similar line: 10 wins, a 4.31 ERA, a 3.82 fielding-independent pitching mark (which removes fielding from the ERA equation). If not spectacular, that sort of production would have value.
BIRTHDAY: Chico Fernandez, who played for the 1963 Mets, was born on this date in 1932 in Havana, Cuba. In recent years, he had been a Mets spring-training infield instructor.