Have the Mets lost track of their declarations of financial health?
At some level, you have to feel sorry for Jeff Wilpon.
The Mets' chief operating officer, whose declarations of financial health were once treated as useful informational objects by the media, has to convince skeptical reporters that he's telling the truth this time, all while trying to keep track of what he told everybody the last time, and the time before, and the time before that.
So when Wilpon told reporters on Tuesday that the Mets weren't working with the financial restrictions of the recent past, it is fair to wonder if he remembered the recent past, when he's repeatedly claimed the Mets were working without any financial restrictions at all, a message that dates back to just after the Bernie Madoff fraud was discovered, and has been rendered ridiculous by all the debt, restructuring and resources drained from the team ever since.
There was approximately one moment of truthfulness, however incidental.
"I can't tell you exactly what's going to happen, though," Wilpon said. "As we get further into the offseason, we'll know a little bit better."
This uncertainty is very real, because nothing significant can move forward until the terms are set for any refinancing of their $250 million debt against the team, due next June.
Meanwhile, Wilpon created another little mess for general manager Sandy Alderson to clean up by asserting only four Mets, David Wright, Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee, were secure in their spots for next season, giving the impression that the Mets needed to overhaul virtually their entire roster. They do, but it will largely be up to Alderson to sell the public on it if they don't.
Alderson, who was publicly calling for a $90-100 million payroll way back in June to force ownership's hand (was this the recent past Wilpon meant?), is far more circumspect these days, talking like a general manager who knows he's not getting that money.
So Alderson dismissed Wilpon's remarks as "off-the-cuff," but he didn't define things any differently, which makes sense. Generally, it isn't great for teams to publicly declare which of their players are useful, if they intend to either trade or hold on to them.
Alderson did say this amorphous thing: "Finances are always an issue, with every team. But, certainly, we have a lot more flexibility than we’ve had in the past."
Which past? Last January, he explained that "the reason we haven't spent the money is not because of Fred Wilpon. It's because of me."
So like Wilpon, Alderson has been making these declarations for a long time now.
It'll be up to Alderson, whose contract ends next season, whether he wants to keep on making them, just as it will be up to JPMorgan Chase whether they plan to let the Wilpons keep making such statements.
Baseball's official Quiet Period began with the last out of the World Series, and ends next Tuesday. At that point, expect 29 other teams to start talking with their checkbooks.
What will the Mets say then?