New York Mets: Steve Cohen

Times scrutinizes Mets minority owner

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
8:53
PM ET
Richard Sandomir in the Times wonders how the Wilpons and MLB should handle Mets minority owner Steven A. Cohen after the hedge-fund guru's company, SAC Capital Advisors, reportedly pleaded guilty to insider trading Monday and agreed to a $1.2 billion penalty.

Cohen bought a $20 million, 4 percent share in the Mets when the Wilpons sought partners while having financial difficulties.

The Times notes that Cohen's company, not Cohen himself, pleaded guilty.

“Don’t forget, there’s a big difference between the company being charged criminally and he being charged," former MLB commissioner Fay Vincent told Sandomir. "At this moment, he hasn’t been nicked.”

Wharton School of Business professor Scott Rosner told the Times: “Does this rise to the level where he should be forced to divest himself of ownership? Well, I can tell you if he were a potential buyer, he wouldn’t fly. He wouldn’t survive the due diligence. But he’s an existing owner and he probably has more leeway.”

Mets morning briefing 3.20.12

March, 20, 2012
3/20/12
12:42
AM ET
After an eventful off-day, much of the narrative about the Mets' looming financial ruin is due to take a backseat for the near future.

First, at the U.S. District Courthouse in lower Manhattan on Monday morning, the parties in the Bernard Madoff-related lawsuit against Fred Wilpon and family announced they had settled the case for $162 million. In reality, the Wilpons ultimately will be responsible for repaying far less than that sum, since trustee Irving Picard will allow the family to claim losses of $178 million from other Madoff investments. The Wilpons won't be reimbursed that entire $178 million sum, but the fraction to which they are entitled to recoup after Picard collects money from net winners in the Ponzi scheme will be deducted from the $162 million they owe in the settlement. Also relevant: The Wilpons will not have to pay Picard whatever they ultimately owe until 2016 and 2017.

Secondly, word came that the Wilpons successfully had received a $240 million equity infusion from minority investors, allowing them to pay off a $25 million emergency loan from Major League Baseball and a $40 million bridge loan from Bank of America. The investment -- albeit with at least half coming from SportsNet New York, Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz -- should allow the Wilpons to withstand any 2012 operating losses and meet immediate debt obligations without jeopardizing their ownership of the team in the near term.

Still, this does not mean the days of payroll austerity have ended for the Mets.

More may come Tuesday when the Wilpons are expected to be at Mets camp in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Tuesday's news reports:

• Although the consensus is the Wilpons fared very well with the settlement, both sides had compelling reasons to reach a compromise, which was brokered by former New York Governor Mario Cuomo. Even if the Wilpons felt they did not act in bad faith in their investments with Madoff, a jury could have found otherwise and awarded Picard an additional $303 million aside from the up to $83.3 million to which Judge Jed S. Rakoff already had decided the trustee would be entitled. On the other side, by settling for $162 million -- the Wilpons' profits from certain funds in the six years before Madoff's arrest -- Picard restored that six-year clawback period as the appropriate standard. Rakoff had ruled that Picard could only go back two years, which would have capped the amount Picard could have recovered at $83.3 million -- unless the trustee could have demonstrated to a jury that the Wilpons acted "willfully blind" to Madoff's Ponzi scheme. The Wilpons, as part of the settlement, are free and clear of any bad-faith accusations.

Wrote Anthony M. Destefano and Steven Marcus in Newsday regarding Cuomo's role as mediator:

About 10 days ago, he called Wilpon and Katz again into his office at Willkie Farr & Gallagher in Manhattan for a frank talk. "They came. I spoke to them, I simply made the pitch. 'This is your last chance,' " recalled Cuomo. Then, in the past week lawyers for Picard, Wilpon and [Saul] Katz started to hunker down for some serious deal making. Each knew a trial had risks. "Number one, they may lose. Number two, they may win and then face an appeal. Number three, in either case it's going to cost a fortune," Cuomo said. Lawyers for Picard and the Mets owners swapped proposals and counterproposals through Cuomo, his partner Brian E. O'Connor and firm associate Emma J. James. At times, opposing lawyers talked directly by phone. What solidified the deal for Wilpon and Katz was Picard's willingness to drop his claim they were willfully blind to Madoff's fraud, an allegation that stung them deeply -- and could have cost them $303 million in damages if it stuck.

Read more settlement coverage in the Journal, Times, Daily News, Post, Star-Ledger and Newsday.

• The $240 million equity infusion -- which comes in $20 million blocks each worth 4 percent of the team -- averts any short-term danger of the Wilpons being unable to meet their debt obligations. The only known investor without existing ties to the Mets is Steve Cohen, who is a finalist to purchase the majority share of the Los Angeles Dodgers, which would force him to divest his new share of the Mets.

In addition to paying back the $25 million to MLB and $40 million to Bank of America with the newly infused funds, Josh Kosman in the Post reports, $100 million of the money immediately went to pay down roughly $430 million in team debt. Kosman wrote:

The Mets have not refinanced their remaining loans, but have bought the team goodwill. Last year, team lender JPMorgan wrote a letter warning that the team had breached its debt covenants. The owners first must prove they can come close to hitting their budget after missing it badly the last two years, one source said. In 2011, the Mets lost roughly $70 million. After big payroll cuts in the off-season, the team could break even this year.

Marc Ganis, the president of a prominent sports consulting firm, told Newsday: "This is a good day for the Wilpons, but their financial troubles with the Mets are still very significant. It's really a situation that needs a lot of work before Mets fans can start feeling like a corner has turned."

Read more on the minority ownership sale in the Journal and Daily News.

• Columnist Bob Klapsich believes Mets fans are losers in the settlement. Writes Klapisch:

So it’s fair for Mets fans to ask the Wilpons what’s in store, other than years and years of debt pay-down. The family owes $430 million in principal of a loan against the team, due in 2014. They owe $450 million in principal of a loan against SNY, back in 2015. They owe an estimated $600 million, due in $25 million increments every six months, on the ballpark. These are the fiscal realities that figure to keep the Mets locked in a nasty catch-22. They haven’t had enough extra cash to upgrade the roster, but without enough on-field talent to compete with, say, the Phillies and Marlins, let alone the Braves and Nationals, how are the Wilpons going to generate ticket-sales that would fund a renaissance?

ESPNNewYork.com columnist Ian O'Connor has similar concerns about the Wilpons as owners. Writes O'Connor:

The Mets are a big-market joke with small-market bottom lines, and Wilpon's dreadful decisions in business and baseball are to blame. His fan base wants him out, and even the Mets' loyal, good-natured customers were hoping for some outcome before a judge and jury that left them with a new rich guy in charge. So when Mario Cuomo, the Kissinger of this case, told reporters outside federal court in Manhattan that this resolution would allow Mets owners to "return to normalcy," no season-ticket holder was seen popping open a bottle of chilled champagne. For Mets fans, normalcy is a team in the world's biggest, noisiest marketplace that slashes payroll by more than $50 million.

Anthony McCarron in the Daily News got brief reaction to the settlement. "As players, we’ve never been preoccupied with Madoff, but we understand it’s a huge burden lifted off the shoulders of Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz,” R. A. Dickey told McCarron. Said Terry Collins: "I’m glad this episode is in the past now."

• The Mets return to action Tuesday at 6 p.m. against the Washington Nationals after a team day off. They are winless in their past nine Grapefruit League games and have the worst exhibition record in baseball at 3-11-1. On a positive note, Daniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada are expected to start against the Nats in the middle infield. The two have logged only six innings together in Grapefruit League play because Tejada has nursed a groin injury for the past week. Read more in Newsday.

Andrew Keh in the Times wonders what the settlement means for the future of David Wright. Writes Keh:

The theory was that the Mets, if they found themselves buried in the standings this summer, would be tempted to trade Wright to a contender before the July 31 trading deadline and receive prospects in exchange. But that was before Monday’s settlement did away with the financial threat the trustee posed. Whether Wilpon might now feel more tempted to try to keep Wright for the long term remains to be seen. But he might, if for no other reason than to send a signal to the team’s discontented fan base that he is willing to make at least one investment in the team’s future at some point this season. Jose Reyes was let go this winter without a fight; letting fans know that Wright might be staying put might soothe some wounds.

TRIVIA: Who led the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons in steals last season?

(Monday's answer: The trial was due to begin Monday in the Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse on Pearl Street in lower Manhattan, which was named for the late U.S. Senator from New York.)

Mets morning briefing 2.23.12

February, 23, 2012
2/23/12
6:42
AM ET
With Day 2 of pitchers and catchers on tap, eyes also will be on the U.S. District Courthouse in lower Manhattan late Thursday afternoon. In Judge Jed S. Rakoff's courtroom, oral arguments are scheduled to be heard on Fred Wilpon and family's motion to toss the $386 million lawsuit. There is also a motion by the trustee trying to recover funds for victims of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme to award $83 million -- two years' profits -- even before the scheduled March 19 trial. In Port St. Lucie, Johan Santana throws his third bullpen session of spring training, with special rules that means he does not need to do drills with other pitchers.

I'll be doing a Mets chat at 2 p.m. Please join me here.

Thursday's news reports:

Terry Collins expressed disappointment shortstop Ruben Tejada did not report to camp early. Position players are not required to report until Saturday, although virtually all of the Mets have been seen at the complex already. Jason Bay, who is in Port St. Lucie, according to a team spokesman, as well as Scott Hairston and Ronny Cedeno also have not yet participated in voluntary workouts or otherwise been visible at the complex ahead of the official reporting date. Bay is expected today. Read more in Newsday, the Post, Star-Ledger and Daily News.

Ike Davis traveled to New York for more extensive testing after his camp physical turned up something that required investigation, a team spokesman said. Collins said Davis already has been cleared to resume working out Thursday in Port St. Lucie, and that the issue was unrelated to the ankle issue that sidelined the first baseman after May 10 last season. Read more in Newsday and the Times.

• Mets owners have commitments for seven of the 10 minority ownership shares they hope to sell for $20 million apiece, the Associated Press reports. Beyond billionaire Connecticut resident Steve Cohen, who also is a bidder for the majority stake of the Los Angeles Dodgers, it is unclear who is buying blocks. The New York Times previously stated four of the $20 million blocks will be purchased by SportsNet New York, of which the Wilpon family is majority owner. Writes the AP:

The sale of the limited partnership units will not take place until all 10 can close at the same time, a person familiar with the negotiations said Wednesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because talks were ongoing. New York owes $25 million to Major League Baseball, a loan whose repayment was extended from November until March, and $40 million to Bank of America. The team chose to sell limited partnerships following the collapse of a deal last summer with hedge fund manager David Einhorn.

Read more in Newsday and the Daily News.

• The Mets plan to watch free-agent left-hander Scott Kazmir throw on Friday, GM Sandy Alderson indicated. Buster Olney reports the Mets are one of six teams pursuing Kazmir.

• Mets hitters got a preview of the new Citi Field dimensions when they hit Wednesday on a back field in Port St. Lucie that has been reconfigured to the Flushing stadium's new dimensions. Read more in the Record, Times and Newsday.

• The Ottawa city council approved spending as much as $5.7 million on improvements to a stadium in order to relocate a Double-A Eastern League team to the city, The Ottawa Citizen reported. The paper reiterated its previous reporting that the Mets' Binghamton affiliate is expected to relocate. B-Mets officials have issued denials. Wrote Neco Cockburn:

No official statements were made before the council vote about the team expected to move to Ottawa, but minor-league sources have indicated it’s believed to be the Binghamton Mets, and that the new owners in Ottawa would be expected to pursue an affiliation agreement with the Toronto Blue Jays. A staff report says a 10-year lease arrangement has been proposed, with two five-year extension options.

Jason Isringhausen signed a minor league deal with the Los Angeles Angels. "Jason brings a great deal of experience," Angels GM Jerry Dipoto told Bill Plunkett in the Orange County Register. "He's a 300-career save guy with a fearless mentality. He's been around. He knows what it takes. We've talked all along about wanting to bring in guys who can make a difference for us on the mound and serve as a mentor in the bullpen situation for our young pitchers. Jason fits that bill -- and it doesn't hurt that he had seven saves, 19 holds and held right-handed hitters to a .498 OPS last year. ... He's coming off a year in which he pitched in 53 games for the Mets from the start of the season until September [when a herniated disc issue arose], and pitched well enough in critical parts of the game to save seven games and have those 19 holds. We're not expecting to get the 2004 version of Jason Isringhausen. What we are expecting is a guy who will come in here and compete for a job."

• New center fielder/leadoff hitter Andres Torres arrived in camp Wednesday. Watch video here. Read more in the Star-Ledger and Post.

Anthony Destefano in Newsday previews Thursday's Madoff-related court hearing involving trustee Irving Picard and the Wilpons. Writes Destefano:

The hearing before Manhattan federal District Judge Jed Rakoff is expected to last at least two hours as trustee Irving Picard and attorneys for the Mets try for the last time to persuade him to end the case in their favor and avoid a March 19 trial. Also on the agenda are challenges to each side's list of expert witnesses.

TRIVIA: Which Hawaiian-born player has appeared in the most games as a Met?

(Wednesday's answer: Coach Matt Galante was the last person in a Mets uniform to wear No. 8, in 2002. Galante currently is a scout for the Houston Astros.)

Seven Mets shares close ... or not

February, 22, 2012
2/22/12
5:18
PM ET
The Mets have completed the sale of seven $20 million minority ownership blocks, Newsday reports.

The report was immediately disputed. Brian Costa of The Wall Street Journal wrote via Twitter: "Firm commitments, but $ not yet in hand. Mets want to line up three more buyers and close on all 10 sales at once, for total of $200 million, says source with knowledge of process. That said, I'd be surprised if it took much longer. 'They can see the finish line,' source said."

Newsday's Steven Marcus wrote:

The source said the seven units are "signed and sealed." Another source identified one of the investors as billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen. The Mets declined to comment on the status of the sales or Cohen's involvement. A spokesman for Cohen declined to comment.

Either way, it's not clear how much of the investment blocks will be entirely new money with no ties to the organization aside from Cohen. The New York Times previously reported four of the shares will be purchased by SportsNet NewYork, the regional sports channel of which Fred Wilpon and family are the majority owner. Chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and team president Saul Katz already have purchased shares, according to team sources.

The team issued a statement that read: "As has been our practice, we will not comment on any aspect of the limited partnership sale process."

Report: Back to drawing board on owner

May, 11, 2011
5/11/11
11:59
AM ET
Hedge fund guru Steve Cohen, declared the frontrunner for a minority share in the Mets by the Post, has now lost interest in buying into the team, the newspaper reported. The Post added that Fred Wilpon and partners are now reapproaching bidders whose inquiries were originally rejected. The report also suggested it's now impractical for the minority partner to be identified by the upcoming ownership meetings.

The reports states:

Cohen may be falling from his leadership position because MLB, which must approve his investment, has some questions about the reported federal probe into trading activity at Cohen's SAC Capital, a source close to the situation said. The Wall Street Journal last week reported that prosecutors are investigating trades in Cohen's personal account at SAC Capital since he made trades recommended by former associates who have pleaded guilty to insider trading.

Mets morning briefing 5.7.11

May, 7, 2011
5/07/11
9:51
AM ET
Andre Ethier extended his hitting streak to 30 games, and can match the Dodgers franchise record on Saturday. But the Mets got the victory, topping Los Angeles in the series opener, 6-3, behind a three-run homer from Jason Pridie and Ike Davis' solo shot.

On walking Davis ahead of Pridie's game-tilting long ball, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told reporters: “Your last thought is a three-run homer there, especially in this ballpark. There were some balls that were crushed that didn’t go out tonight.”

Saturday's news reports:

Steve Cohen, who is named in reports as the frontrunner to buy a minority share of the Mets, likely would be scrutinized by Major League Baseball, the Times reports. Writes Richard Sandomir:

Cohen, who used to shun the spotlight, is a hedge fund manager whose profits have been consistently lucrative and whose trading records are now being examined as part of a discovery request by federal prosecutors in an insider-trading investigation. ... Cohen’s background, which includes a nasty divorce from his first wife, and financial wherewithal have been vetted by baseball. But if he advances to a deal with the Mets, he will face a final level of approval, from Commissioner Bud Selig. Selig alone rules on the sale of minority interests in teams. ...

Selig’s recent experience with another hedge fund manager, Andrew Herenstein, led to a change in policy. Herenstein became involved in the tangled and troubled finances of the Texas Rangers a year ago when he acquired more than $100 million in team debt. That led baseball, concerned about the lack of transparency that prevails in the hedge fund world, to require hedge funds to seek approval before doing things like buy debt.

• Read game stories in the Star-Ledger, Times, Record, Daily News, Post and Newsday.

Angel Pagan reinjured his troublesome left oblique and will not return to the Mets on Saturday as planned, or in the near future. Read more in Newsday, the Record and Star-Ledger.

Dillon Gee may -- may -- get Sunday's start.

• Record columnist Bob Klapisch says Mattingly, who worked under Joe Torre, is handling the Dodgers' ownership saga well. Writes Klapisch:

Mattingly is embarrassed -- what Dodger employee wouldn’t be? -- but here’s where the years of mentoring from Joe Torre come in handy. Mattingly is acting as the buffer between McCourt and his players, reminding them that the franchise’s Enron-like crisis has nothing to do with the wins and losses, even if the Dodgers are struggling to reach .500. “Don’t let this become an excuse,” is the line Mattingly has repeated to his players, a message delivered without a gimmick or agenda.

Daily News columnist Filip Bondy also opines about Mattingly. Writes Bondy:

Mattingly has been receiving his paychecks. "Direct deposit," he said.

Brian Costa of The Wall Street Journal speaks with Doug Mirabelli, the former personal catcher of Tim Wakefield, to discuss catching the knuckleball in the wake of Josh Thole's recent issues. Mirabelli even told Costa to pass along the message that Ronny Paulino should feel free to call him if he needs any tips. Writes Costa:

Doug Mirabelli ... twice led the majors in passed balls. And he is regarded as the best knuckleball-specialist catcher of all-time. When he was first traded to Boston in 2001, Mirabelli said he was so nervous about catching Wakefield, he would lose sleep the nights before games. But he became adept at catching him in two ways. The first had to do with technique. Rather than holding his glove out like a target, Mirabelli would start with it between his knees, keeping his hand loose. He would also tilt his body toward first base, making it easier for him to reach over to his right with his glove, which he wore on his left hand. The second part was mental. "You just have to be able to free your mind," Mirabelli said by phone from Traverse City, Mich., where he works as a real estate agent. "Once I was able to let go of the fact that passed balls were going to be part of my game and I wasn't going to be able to catch all of them, it allowed me to relax a little bit, which in turn lessened my amount of passed balls."

Lenny Dykstra has been indicted on charges that could keep him in prison for as long as 60 years if fully convicted. Read more in the Daily News.

BIRTHDAYS: A pair of cup-of-coffee Mets celebrate birthdays. Catcher Brook Fordyce (three games in 1995) turns 41. Reliever Manny Hernandez (one perfect inning in 1989) turns 50. ... Dick Williams, the Hall of Fame manager of the 1973 Athletics, who beat the Mets in the World Series, turns 82. -Mark Simon

Mets morning briefing 5.6.11

May, 6, 2011
5/06/11
9:30
AM ET
After salvaging the series finale against the San Francisco Giants behind Mike Pelfrey's season-high 7 2/3-inning performance, the Mets welcome Don Mattingly, Andre Ethier and Ethier's 29-game hitting streak to Citi Field.

Friday's news reports:

• The Post anoints hedge-fund guru Steve Cohen the frontrunner to buy a minority share of the Mets. The newspaper reported he had a dinner meeting scheduled with Mets owners for last night. The report states:

While Cohen's investment, if he is selected and chooses to invest in the team, could solve many Mets' off-field problems, the reclusive Long Island native comes with some baggage. The investor's $12 billion SAC Capital hedge fund operation said in a letter to investors last November that it had received an "extraordinarily broad" subpoena from federal prosecutors probing insider trading on Wall Street. In a Dec. 31 letter, the Post has reported, Cohen promised those investors that he would pick up the tab for SAC's costs in cooperating with the feds. SAC has not been charged or named in any action.

Mike Sielski of The Wall Street Journal takes a look at the newly instituted paternity-leave policy in Major League Baseball. The new policy allows a team to replace a player on the roster for two games while the player leaves the team for the birth of a child. Jason Bay became the fourth player in the majors to take advantage of the new policy. By allowing the Mets to replace Bay with Lucas Duda for two games, it avoided Bay having to make a tough choice between missing his child's birth and leaving his team shorthanded. Kurt Suzuki, Colby Lewis and Ian Desmond also have taken advantage of the new policy.

• Newsday's Jim Baumbach reviews the bumpy beginning to Mattingly's tenure as Dodgers manager -- from MLB stepping in to oversee the team, to trying to succeed Joe Torre, to having an ineffective and now injured closer in Jonathan Broxton, to other injuries including to Casey Blake.

• Despite repeatedly allowing baserunners, Francisco Rodriguez actually is seven for eight in save conversions. Newsday's David Lennon looks at how K-Rod is trying to stay sharp with a slow pace of usage, far off the rate when he amassed 63 saves with the Angels."I have to find a way -- one way or the other," Rodriguez tells Lennon about his sharpness. "It's been a battle the past three years here. I used to pitch day-in and day-out. But one thing I've learned is that's something I cannot control. I've just got to be ready when the time comes and not blow it."

By the way, in K-Rod's 13 relief appearances, he has allowed a baserunner all but one time. The only exception: a two-pitch effort on April 10 in a 7-3, 11-inning win against the Washington Nationals. That day, Rodriguez entered with two out in the ninth and Danny Espinosa on second base. K-Rod retired Jerry Hairston on a fly ball and departed for pinch-hitter Carlos Beltran the following half-inning.

• Read game stories from Thursday's 5-2 matinee win against the Giants in Newsday, the Times, Record, Post and Star-Ledger.

• Newsday's Anthony Rieber said Beltran, who has played in 19 straight games, is making himself a trade commodity too. Beltran does have a no-trade clause, but you would hope that would not be much of an impediment. He is making $18.5 million this season. Salaries are calculated based on a 183-day major league schedule, so each day of the season, Beltran makes $101,092.90.

If Beltran is traded at the July 31 deadline, there still would be 59 days left in the season. So Beltran's new team would owe him $5.96 million, unless the Mets decided to subsidize it. One fascinating potential tug-of-war could be among the Mets' front office and ownership at that point. Generally, the more money the Mets ask an acquiring team to eat, the lesser the prospect package they would get in return. Eat the whole sum and the trade haul gets a lot better.

David Waldstein of the Times wonders if the Mets might consider sending Josh Thole briefly to the minors to regroup. Thole should be back in the starting lineup Friday night after a two-game absence. Even if the Mets were considering sending Thole down, it would have to wait until after the weekend. Mike Nickeas was demoted for Ronny Paulino's activation last Friday. By rule, he is required to spend 10 days in the minors before returning to the majors, unless a player lands on the disabled list in the interim. Waldstein broached the subject because Mike Pelfrey, when asked, praised Paulino's work with him Thursday. Writes Waldstein:

[Pelfrey] credited Paulino for his leadership and game-calling. “There were times I would have the slider grip already in my glove and he would put it down,” Pelfrey said, “and I’d be like, ‘O.K., let’s do it.’” Pelfrey also noted how Paulino came out to the mound in the top of the third after Pelfrey had just scored from first base on Jose Reyes’s triple in the bottom of the second. Pelfrey said he was exhausted from the 270-foot sprint, so Paulino shrewdly made a visit to the mound before the first batter to give him extra time to rest.

Meanwhile, in addition to the problems Thole, a converted catcher, has had throwing out runners and allowing some passed balls, the Mets have been unhappy at times with some of his pitch calling. On April 6, they were dismayed when Pelfrey admitted to getting away from his two-seam fastball. ... Then last Friday against the Phillies, with Ryan Howard at the plate, Thole called for a fastball from Dillon Gee, instead of his best pitch, the changeup.

Pelfrey's ERA by catcher this year: Paulino, 1.17; Nickeas, 3.75; Thole, 9.56.

In a larger sample size last season, it was: Henry Blanco, 2.81; Thole, 3.27; Rod Barajas, 4.80.

• Daily News columnist Bill Madden notes Pelfrey did not exactly mow down Murderers Row on Thursday. Writes Madden:

Not to disparage Pelfrey's 7 2/3 innings of two-run ball, which lowered his ERA from 7.39 to 6.06 and brought a welcome smile to [Terry] Collins. It's just that, well, when four of the eight position players in the lineup are hitting .211 or worse, the Giants don't exactly have the look of world champions right now. Before the game, Giants manager Bruce Bochy was shaking his head in handing over the lineup to his bench coach Ron Wotus -- a lineup that had .298-lifetime hitting second baseman Freddy Sanchez scratched with a sore right thumb, last year's Rookie of the Year catcher Buster Posey given the day off and two of their most productive players, third baseman Pablo Sandoval and center fielder Andres Torres, on the disabled list.

"You're .500 now," someone told Bochy.

"We are?" the manager said, incredulously. "Well, considering the way we've played I guess I should be very happy with that at this point."

• The Post's Justin Terranova has a Q&A with Ron Darling. One exchange:

Q: Is it weird to see these proud franchises [the Dodgers and Mets] in such desperate situations when it comes to ownership?

A: If you are a fan of both organizations, this is not the rosiest of times. As a Mets fan, you don't know what is going to happen and Dodgers fans have to wonder what the heck is going on. But if you are in the Mets clubhouse every day, I don't think there is ever a discussion about the Bernie Madoff situation. It's a real serious story for both franchises, but it does not affect the players one iota.

BIRTHDAY: Willie Mays celebrates his 80th birthday. Mays hit the final 14 of his 660 career home runs with the Mets after being traded to the team in 1972. He also had the game-winning hit in the 12th inning of Game 2 of the 1973 World Series. -Mark Simon

Mets morning briefing 4.27.11

April, 27, 2011
4/27/11
8:50
AM ET
R.A. Dickey tries to extend the Mets' winning streak to six games when he opposes Nats left-hander Tom Gorzelanny in the middle game of the series.

Wednesday's news reports:

• Newsday's Steve Marcus reports Fred Wilpon expects to select a new minority owner in May, with the sale closing in June and raising $200 million to pay off debt, including a $25 million loan from Major League Baseball. Among the four reported finalists, it is "too close to call" who will be selected, a source tells Marcus. The Post previous identified the finalists as one-time commodity trader Ray Bartoszek, hedge fund operator Steve Cohen, BTIG co-founder Steve Starker and hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci.

• The Mets had an uneventful voluntary visit Tuesday morning to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Last year, when Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez did not attend, it caused drama inside the organization that spilled into the media. ("I said I had feelings about [the missing players]. I just didn’t want to talk about it," Dickey tells the Record's Steve Popper about the 2010 situation.) This time, Taylor Buchholz and Francisco Rodriguez did not attend, but both had been permitted to travel to Washington on Tuesday so they could spend the Monday off-day with their families. Read more in the Record, Times, Newsday and Daily News.

• In Newsday's game story, David Lennon asks Jon Niese about a report that the southpaw might have been assigned to the bullpen had he had a poor outing Sunday, with Dillon Gee remaining in the rotation. "With a big-market team, if you don't do your job, they'll find somebody who will," Niese told Lennon. An organization source told ESPNNewYork.com that while the potential move was discussed, it was not overly likely to occur Sunday.

Brian Costa in The Wall Street Journal identifies two benefits of Beltran's ability to play every day and produce. In the short term, it gives the Mets a bona fide No. 4 hitter. Secondly, if the Mets drift out of contention, it gives the organization a viable trade piece. At the July 31 deadline, Beltran still would be owed $5,964,480.87 -- 32.3 percent of his $18.5 million salary. So the Mets may need to pick up a portion. But Beltran has been producing. Even his outs Tuesday were mostly hard-hit, including a shot deep to right-center that Nats center fielder Rick Ankiel needed an extraordinary effort to corral in the first inning. Beltran also had a rocket to right field in the sixth that was caught.

After sitting matinee games in the first four series of the season, Beltran has now started 11 straight games in right field. Of course, there's always the concern that the cumulative pounding of a season will begin to catch up with Beltran's arthritic right knee. Beltran tells Costa: "I've been feeling good, so there's no reason not to play right now. I don't even ice my right knee. I don't think about it. I put my brace on there, but it's kind of like a habit now. I come to the ballpark and put my brace on, but I don't feel anything."

Costa also notes Beltran received a no-trade clause in his original seven-year, $119 million deal. Beltran tells Costa about a potential trade: "I would listen to my agent, because they're going to approach my agent first and then me. There's a possibility that can happen if we're not in contention. I might not be the only one [traded]. There's a lot of players kind of in the same situation."

Chris Young said he felt no discomfort in his shoulder in his first outing back from the disabled list (watch video here). He allowed three solo homers and departed after 4 2/3 innings. Read more in the Record, Daily News, Post and Star-Ledger.

Ryota Igarashi stranded two runners in scoring position inherited from Young by striking out Jayson Werth. David Waldstein in the Times takes you through the Igarashi vs. Werth at-bat.

Johan Santana is throwing at a distance on flat ground up to 120 feet and should be atop a mound within days. The Star-Ledger identifies the potential date as Sunday, which happens to be the precise May 1 date the Mets had targeted when Sandy Alderson outlined a plan at the start of spring training. Other reports said Santana will be on a mound within two weeks.

Andy McCullough delves into Josh Thole's slump, which the catcher may have freed himself from by producing a tiebreaking two-run double and career-high three RBIs in the series opener. Writes McCullough:

Before last night, Thole languished behind the rest of the regulars, burrowing deeper into a slump. His frustration mounted with each swing-and-miss. In the past, Thole avoided strikeouts. Hitting coach Dave Hudgens believes Thole possesses the best plate coverage on the team. In 2010, Thole made contact with 97.5 percent of the pitches he swung at inside the strike zone, according to FanGraphs. In the spring, Thole vowed to change. He tired of tapping two-strike pitches for easy outs. He hoped to add power and stop reaching outside the zone. Through 22 games, the results were unseemly. He entered last night striking out 25.8 percent of the time, more than twice his rate from 2010. “I’ve never struck out this much,” Thole said. “Makes it tough.”

• Daily News columnist (and Dickey co-biographer) Wayne Coffey speaks with new set-up man Jason Isringhausen, who did allow an eighth-inning run Tuesday. Writes Coffey:

Go ahead and ask Jason Isringhausen how his body feels. Watch as he points to a right elbow that has had six operations (including three Tommy Johns), to a shoulder that has had three operations and a hip that has had two. "It's as good as it's going to get," he said. "I'm an old man. It's worn out. I'll keep going until it pops."

• The Mets are 5-0 since Jason Bay returned to the lineup. Bay's wife Kristen is soon due with the couple's third child, although the birth is expected during the Mets' home stand next week, which would not disrupt Bay's play, the Post writes. As for being unbeaten since his return, Bay tells Dan Martin: "I'd like to take all the credit, but it's obviously more complicated than me coming back and everyone all of a sudden hitting. We've got a lot of good hitters, and it was only a matter of time before a few of them started clicking."

BIRTHDAY: Co-tallest Met Eric Hillman turns 46. Hillman, a lefty, measures 6-foot-10, the same height as Young. Hillman was 4-14 in his Mets career from 1992 to 1994. Amazingly, there are six pitchers with worse career winning percentages for the Mets than his .222 (minimum 10 decisions). -Mark Simon

Mets morning briefing 4.25.11

April, 25, 2011
4/25/11
6:41
AM ET
With their winning streak at four games after a series sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Mets take a day off before opening a series in Washington on Tuesday. Read the series preview here.

Monday's news reports:

• Post columnist Joel Sherman writes the Mets were contemplating putting Jon Niese in the bullpen if he did not have a credible outing Sunday. Writes Sherman:

The Mets were concerned Niese was dismissing his changeup (he had thrown just nine in four starts), which reduced him to more of a reliever-like repertoire of fastball and curve. That the Mets were even pondering such a move shows just how dedicated they are early this season to win rather than play for the future. They further demonstrated that by announcing after yesterday's 8-4 win over Arizona that they were keeping Gee to pitch out of the pen and demoting D.J. Carrasco, the only free agent they gave a multi-year contract to in the offseason. Niese halted talk of moving him to the pen by ending what was an eight-start winless streak dating to last year. And he hardly needed his changeup to do so.

Jim Baumbach of Newsday catches up with Double-A manager Wally Backman, whose team is back on track after opening the season 2-6. (The B-Mets are still tied for the Eastern League's poorest record at 5-8.) Writes Baumbach:

Losing was tough enough, but what really bothered the gritty, fiery former Mets second baseman was when players didn't take the game seriously. In a telephone interview, Backman said a few players on his team were simply "going through the motions" during the losing streak. Stuff like not hustling during games or not taking batting practice seriously, Backman said, that's what ate at the competitor inside him. Backman knew he had to stop that type of behavior right away or face the prospects of a long season of uninspired play. "You got to do it as quick as you can," Backman said, "or else players will fall into a pattern."

• The Post's Josh Kosman and Lenn Robbins report the sale of a minority share of the Mets could be weeks away. The article includes:

Sources close to some suitors suspect that the Mets' auction may not be going as well as advertised, although the Mets maintain it is. Suitors who made it past the first round include: former Glencore commodity trader Ray Bartoszek; hedge fund honcho Steve Cohen; a group led by Steve Starker, co-founder of trading firm BTIG; and hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci.

David Wright had the 16th multi-homer game of his career Sunday, further distancing himself from last week's 0-for-20 drought. Wright tied Dave Kingman and Carlos Beltran for third on the franchise's multi-homer game list. Darryl Strawberry is the leader at 22, followed by Mike Piazza with 17. Read more in Newsday and the Journal.

D.J. Carrasco, not Dillon Gee, was dispatched to Buffalo after Sunday's game to make room for the activation of Chris Young (biceps tendinitis) for Tuesday's start in Washington. Carrasco received the lone multi-year deal for a free agent from Sandy Alderson during his first offseason as GM -- two years, $2.4 million. Alderson said Gee in the bullpen may last only seven to 10 days. Read more in the Star-Ledger, Record, Daily News and Newsday.

Jason Pridie delivered his first major league homer. He received the souvenir from the three-run shot off Armando Galarraga because it landed in the bullpen. "I've been waiting for a couple of years to get to the big leagues and be on a team where it matters, not just a September courtesy call-up," Pridie said.

• Read game stories from Sunday's 8-4 win in the Star-Ledger, Times, Record, Daily News, Post and Newsday.

BIRTHDAY: Former Mets reliever Brad Clontz turns 40. Clontz pitched in three games for the 1998 Mets. He is better known for throwing the wild pitch that scored the winning run for the Mets in a 2-1 win over the Pirates on the final Sunday of the 1999 season. Wins by the Mets and Reds forced a one-game playoff in Cincinnati, which the Mets won to clinch the wild card. -Mark Simon

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Juan Lagares
BA HR RBI R
.314 1 7 8
OTHER LEADERS
HRL. Duda 3
RBID. Wright 10
RE. Young Jr. 14
OPSJ. Lagares .816
WC. Torres 2
ERAJ. Niese 2.84
SOB. Colon 18

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