Fred Wilpon: Field of Schemes

Updated: Jul 18


By: Jacob Walters


Stewie Griffin: “So far, Halloween’s been a bigger letdown than being a Mets fan.”

(Cut away to Stewie at the Mets Opening Day game)

Announcer: “Opening Day and here’s the first pitch!”

(Bat cracks)

Announcer: “And the season’s over!”

(Stewie throws his Mets hat down in disgust)

Life as a Mets fan has not been easy. Constant ridicule, mediocre play, raw deals, Mike Francesa yelling as he gets ready to throw his Diet Coke at Terry Collins. Who do you look at as the source of the Mets’ woes and misery? Fred Wilpon!

Born in 1936, Wilpon was initially a minority owner of the Mets in 1980. Eventually, he bought more stock in the team, becoming the majority owner. Wilpon also cofounded Sterling Equities, a commercial real estate development company where he’s currently the chairman. There, they developed townhouses in Tarrytown, a successful suburb in Westchester. Seeking to minimize tax obligations, they bought land in regions with favorable tax placement.

Wilpon and the Mets have done some awful deeds to the local media. First, there’s the ordeal with Francesa, who’s the top of the food chain in New York’s sports radio market at WFAN. Francesa has been critical of the Mets for years, even implying that “THEYYY STINK” in a rather humorous rant. This has resulted in the Mets banning certain members of their organization from talking with Francesa out of fear of criticism from the leader of the Mongo Nation. The Mets have even resorted to banning Francesa from broadcasting at Citi Field!

Francesa responded by calling the ordeal “ridiculous” and implied that Wilpon and the Mets were “acting like a bunch of jackasses.” However, Francesa isn’t the only person who has felt the wrath of Wilpon and the Mets. Wilpon has also been on record criticizing Mets players such as Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, and David Wright. Here are some of Wilpon’s thoughts on his past players and his “sh***y team”:

On Reyes: “He’s a racehorse. He thinks he’s going to get Carl Crawford money. He’s had everything wrong with him. He won’t get it.”

On Mets cornerstone David Wright: “He’s pressing. A really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar.”

On Carlos Beltran: “We had some schmuck in New York who paid him based on one series (2004 against the Astros). “He’s 65 to 70% of what he was.”

Wilpon did issue an apology… in the middle of the night. In fact, Reyes was unaware that Wilpon issued an apology, sleeping through the apology. Wilpon’s persona must’ve put him to sleep. If you want a better reason why Wilpon’s the worst owner, look at his front office moves. During Wilpon’s tenure, the Mets have had seven different managers and nine different general managers (including a triumvirate interim tenure). There’s also the botched sale to Steve Cohen and Wilpon contacting Donald Trump about buying the Mets. You know, the guy who declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy six times. That Donald Trump. Then there’s the current general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, who recently traded two top-100 prospects in Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn to the Seattle Mariners for… Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. The aging Cano has a hefty contract that was worth $210 million that Seattle offloaded to the Mets and Diaz had a 5.59 ERA with a WHIP of 1.38 and seven blown saves last season with New York. It must not help that Van Wagenen and the front office are making the calls for the bullpen. Yeah, it’s that authoritarian in Wilpon’s house.

Now here’s the part you’ve all been waiting for. Buckle up because it’s going to be a wild ride. That’s right, the Bernie Madoff scandal. Madoff, the author behind the $64 million Ponzi scheme (largest in U.S. history, by the way), has some ties with Wilpon. In the aforementioned Sterling Equities ventures, Wilpon invested $3 million with Madoff. Here, it helped ‘anchor’ Wilpon’s Sterling Equites empire and forge Wilpon’s long-running relationship with Madoff. In fact, Sterling Equites had 483 different accounts with Madoff and Wilpon had 17 different accounts with Madoff. According to the New York Times, more than 500 accounts were tied to Wilpon and his brother-in-law (Mets president Saul Katz). Sandy Koufax, a good friend of Wilpon’s, even had an account with Madoff!

Wilpon’s relationship with Madoff was so close that the Wilpons and Madoffs resided in the same city (Rosalyn, New York) and Wilpon, Katz, and Madoff supported each other in their various philanthropic endeavors. So how does this tie in with the Mets? For starters, the Mets had 16 accounts with Madoff. According to Josh Nathan-Kazis of The Forward, cash flow for day-to-day operations were paid out of Madoff accounts.” Every time the Mets signed a big contract, Madoff held that money. This meant that Wilpon could make money off big contracts by deferring that money to Madoff’s investment firm. With that, the Mets could spend money with impunity. When Madoff was arrested, the Mets had the second-highest payroll in baseball. By 2014, that ranking dropped to 22nd in baseball. Speaking of free agents, who could forget…

Bobby Bonilla! As a result of the Madoff-Wilpon relationship, Bonilla got a deferred contract in 2001. The Mets initially bought out Bonilla’s remaining $5.9 million on his contract. Instead of paying Bonilla the $5.9 million at the time, Bonilla would get nearly $1.2 million for 25 years (starting on July 1st, 2011). This included a negotiated 8% interest, with the ultimate goal being to make double-digit returns off the contract if the Madoff account delivered (it didn’t). Bonilla has gotten $1.19 million on July 1st every year until 2035. For every Met fan out there, be sure to somberly mark July 1st as Bobby Bonilla Day to celebrate Wilpon’s shady dealings.

We’ve talked about some of the buffoons posing as sports owners (looks at James Dolan and Dan Gilbert). But we haven’t taken a full look at one of the most corrupt, crooked owners in all of sports. This is especially true when your owner is embroiled in a financial scandal as gratuitous as Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi Scheme. Therefore, you should cast your vote for Fred Wilpon as the worst owner in all of sports.

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