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Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Mets morning briefing 2.28.12

By Adam Rubin

Terry Collins addressed his players and the first full-squad workout is in the books. Now, the countdown to Grapefruit League games begins. The Mets' opener is Monday night, with Dillon Gee getting the start against the Washington Nationals at Digital Domain Park in Port St. Lucie.

Tuesday's news reports:

• Principal owner Fred Wilpon gave a 22-minute interview to reporters Monday morning, as the Mets took the field for the first full-squad workout. Wilpon said the Mets will, in fact, sell as many as 12 minority shares in the team, each at $20 million for 4 percent. He acknowledged, however, that two have been bought by immediate family, Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz. He also said another four are being purchased by SportsNet New York. Seven of the up to 12 blocks already have been approved by Major League Baseball and the money is in escrow. He also stated his family will remain majority owners for the long haul.

He said David Wright's future will be a front-office decision, and that Jose Reyes' departure was a prudent move based on the perils of long-term contracts. He tried to put the onus for the payroll dive on that being Sandy Alderson's preference before allowing that he sets the parameters. He also said he remains "optimistic" the 2013 All-Star Game will be held at Citi Field as planned, and that the delay in a formal announcement is because New York City officials and MLB are negotiating over picking up expenses.

Read the transcript of Fred Wilpon's interview here.

Column Mike Vaccaro in the Post was turned off by Fred Wilpon pulling out the roll of bills with $5 on the outside. Writes Vaccaro:

If nothing else, the Mets should have the common sense and the common decency to realize their fans are not idiots, that if there are real financial concerns hanging like a millstone around the Wilpons’ necks -- and no matter how much Fifth Avenue Freddie tries to spin it, every few minutes, it seems, another bill for another few million comes due -- then it is particularly stupid to taunt their customers so blithely, and so blindly. Alderson can get away with it. For one thing, he has a better sense of humor and a better sense of timing. His Tweets land and they get retweeted by thousands of anxious Mets fans who think they’ve got an ally, who think Alderson’s voice represents their own, and it’s one that says: Yes, we have cash issues. And you know what? Either we laugh about it or we cry about it.

Writes columnist Ken Davidoff in Newsday:

Even if the Mets' owners prevail in the Madoff mess, however, they still face an uphill climb. They have not yet closed on the 10 to 12 shares (4 percent each, at $20 million a pop) they need for a cash infusion, which will allow them to pay back loans to MLB ($25 million) and Bank of America ($40 million). And there's the issue of so little money coming in from the actual team. "We've got to win the fans back," Wilpon said. "No, strike that: Win the fans and the customers back. ... The only way we're going to get that revenue is if we have a competitive, interesting team on the field." The problem lies deeper than that, though, as Wilpon joked. According to Michael Weinstat, an investment adviser / portfolio manager from Woodbury who owned Mets season tickets from 1987 through 2009, about 25 percent of Mets fans are rooting for the team to lose to expedite the Wilpons' departure.

Writes columnist Bill Madden in the Daily News:

Listening to Fred Wilpon delivering his impromptu State of the Mets address Monday, he sounded far less concerned about becoming one poor owner than he did about assuming the dubious distinction of being one dumb owner. For obvious legal reasons, Wilpon could not discuss the court case looming in the wake of the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme -- which reportedly could cost his family from $83 million to $386 million in clawbacks -- other than to say he was "optimistic -- I'm always optimistic." But when it came to the significantly shrunken Mets payroll, a hot button topic of conversation ever since Jose Reyes split for Miami for $105 million, Wilpon reiterated the company line that the estimated $50 million reduction from $140 million was mostly a subtraction "of people who weren’t producing" and in no way related to the Madoff situation, but rather the hundreds of thousands of empty seats at Citi Field.

Fred Wilpon tried to put the onus on a fiscally conservative Alderson for a $91 million payroll, but it seems pretty clear the GM would have spent somewhat more if it were available. Tyler Kepner in the Times quotes Alderson saying: "There's no question success is a function of two things: good management and resources. If you have both, you can have a pretty long and successful run. If you don't have both, your run is going to be short or it's never going to happen. But if you have resources and you have good management and execution, then we've got a shot. Resources are always going to be important, but they don’t need to be determinative."

Here are Jon Heyman's take at CBSSports.com and Howard Megdal's take at Capital New York.

Read recaps of the principal owner's comments in the Star-Ledger, Times, RecordJournalPost, Daily News and Newsday.

• The Mets distributed orange T-shirts to the players with the "Underdog" logo. The idea was Jeff Wilpon's, according to Collins. Read more in the PostStar-Ledger, Newsday, Daily News and Record.

• Right fielder Lucas Duda's power is on display in camp ... and he's becoming slightly less introverted, according to teammates. Collins, by the way, said he is not entertaining flipping No. 6 Duda and cleanup hitter Ike Davis in the order at this point. Read more in Newsday.

• Wright donned a University of Michigan football jersey for Monday's workout after losing a Sugar Bowl bet with Jeff Wilpon.

Neil Best in Newsday chats with Josh Lewin, the new sidekick to Howie Rose on Mets radio broadcasts. Lewin, 43, called games on TV for the Texas Rangers in 2004, after the departure of Alex Rodriguez and what was the largest single-season payroll slashing in MLB history until the Mets decided to drop $52 million this offseason. "There were zero expectations that year, everyone crying about the payroll and kind of negative," Lewin told Best. "I'm not going to make any wacky predictions, but I've seen this movie before and it came really, really close to a happy ending. ... At the risk of being Pollyanna, I don't think it will be terrible." Writes Best:

Josh Lewin feels your pain, Mets fans. It is an emotion earned the hard way, as a youngster in Rochester who in 1978 favored the last-place Mets over the two-time World Series champion Yankees. "For whatever reason, the Mets seemed to resonate more," said Lewin, the team's new radio voice opposite Howie Rose. "Reggie [Jackson] was hitting three home runs and all that, but I was a Willie Montaez guy. And I loved Nino Espinosa's hair. There was something about the Mets and the underdog-ness. They were the Jan Brady to the Yankees' Marcia. I always was a Jan guy when I got a little older."

TRIVIA: Who has surrendered the most homers to the Mets among active pitchers? (Hint: He once was a Met.)

(Monday's answer: Before Ruben Tejada and Manny Acosta, left-hander Bruce Chen was the last Panamian-born player to appear with the Mets, in 2001 and '02. The lone other play born in that country to play for the Amazin's: Juan Berenguer, from 1978 to '80.)