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Cranky Cuss

Cranky Cuss
Location
Ossining, New York, United States
Birthday
February 28
Bio
I am the author of "Send In the Clown Car: The Road to the White House 2012," currently available on Amazon and CreateSpace. I'm currently semi-retired after 23 years in a corporate environment. My motto: The conventional wisdom has too much convention, not enough wisdom. Corollary: Even Einstein was wrong sometimes, and you're not Einstein.

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Editor’s Pick
APRIL 5, 2012 10:46AM

B-B-B-Bernie and the Mets

Rate: 30 Flag

    

If Kermit thinks it’s not easy being green, he should try being a New York Mets fan in the city it shares with the most successful franchise in sports history, the Yankees. To be a Mets fan in New York is to prefer Shemp, to be the guy who bought the Betamax (great, now I’ll have to explain that reference to my daughter), or to be that guy in Wham! who wasn’t George Michael. (What was his name again? Exactly.)  I like to delude myself that supporting the downtrodden Mets over the arrogant Yankees is like supporting the 99% over the 1%, though as you will see, the Mets owner is a charter member of the 1%. 

   

In the 25 seasons since the Mets’ last championship in 1986, the pinstriped, deep-pocketed behemoths from the Bronx have won five, and their appearance in the playoffs has been as certain as death and taxes. Meanwhile, failure for the Mets arrives frequently and often with a degree of infamy.  Ignominious late-season collapses in both 2007 and 2008 left the Mets outside the playoffs on the final day of the season, downfalls leading to the memorable Conan O’Brien bit in which Mr. Met comes home from the stadium, finds Mrs. Met in bed with the Phillie Phanatic, then tries to commit suicide but can’t because his head is too big to fit in the oven or the window.  Only the Mets, as they did in August 2009, could end a game (and a potential game-winning ninth-inning rally) by hitting into an unassisted triple play.  The perplexing inability of reliable sluggers like Jason Bay to hit their way out of a paper bag after coming to Queens has fans wondering if the Mets’ uniforms are made of kryptonite.

  

That 1986 championship team lives under its own tragic cloud.  Just in the last year, besides Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter’s death from a brain tumor:

 

  • Ace pitcher Dwight Gooden, after decades of drug and legal problems, ended up on Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab
  • Charlie Samuels, the team’s clubhouse manager for 27 years, was indicted for criminal possession of team memorabilia, as well as embezzlement and tax evasion charges stemming from team expenses
  • Relief pitcher Roger McDowell, now pitching coach for the Atlanta Braves, was suspended for making homophobic remarks and gestures to fans in San Francisco, leading to a Gloria Allred press conference memorably excerpted on The Daily Show in which one of the insulted fans demonstrates McDowell’s obscene gesture while his young children stand next to him
  • Center fielder Lenny Dykstra was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading no-contest to grand theft auto and charges of filing a false financial statement.  He has also been charged with bankruptcy fraud, identity theft, sexual assault and indecent exposure.

None of these events, however, explains why the 2012 Mets, and probably the teams for the next few years, has an especially dismal outlook.  Rather, it’s because the team’s principal owner, Fred Wilpon, was good friends with Bernie Madoff.  I’m no financial wizard – I have trouble with any dollar amount containing more than one zero – but I’ll attempt to give the Cliffs Notes summary.

 

Wilpon did almost all of his investment through Madoff.  He encouraged his friends, as well as some of the Mets players, to invest with Madoff.  When the team signed a player, any deferred money in the contract was invested with Madoff.  Much of the team’s financial operation flowed through Madoff accounts.  The New York Times later reported:

  

According to an analysis of the list of Mr. Madoff’s 15,000 clients, done by Jamie Peppard, a former financial auditor who has studied the Madoff case, more than 500 accounts can be tied to Mr. Wilpon and Mr. [Saul] Katz [Wilpon’s brother-in-law and part-owner of the team] . Mr. Wilpon had at least 17 accounts just under his name, according to her analysis.

  

Wilpon was warned by some acquaintances that Madoff’s continuing high rate of return smelled fishy, but he continued to trust his friend.

  

When Madoff’s Ponzi scheme collapsed in December 2008, it was estimated that the Wilpon family lost $700 million (Wilpon insists it was much less).  Since the Mets, who were still considered a contending team at the time, were only weeks from opening their brand new stadium, Citifield, it was disastrous timing. 

  

However, the Wilpon losses weren’t the only problem. He had also made money over the years, cashing out some of his Madoff returns.  This triggered a lawsuit by Irving Picard, the trustee who was representing Madoff’s victims. Picard’s suit alleged that Wilpon should have known, and possibly did know, that Madoff’s business was corrupt.  With the possibility of a legal judgment of up to $1 billion, the Mets’ assets were effectively frozen and the club was quickly transformed from one of baseball’s bigger spenders into a penny-ante organization.

  

As we Mets fans watched the Yankees’ free-spending ways with disdain (that hides more than a touch of envy), we sighed as our team completed the largest single-season payroll slash in baseball history, from $142 million to $90 million (granted, still a larger payroll than many teams). All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran was traded away in the middle of the 2011 season.  The team’s best player, N.L. batting champion Jose Reyes, walked away as a free agent after the 2011 season to the divisional rival Miami Marlins without the Mets making even a token offer. There is speculation that its best remaining offensive player, third baseman David Wright, will be traded in midseason to avoid having to sign him to a lucrative contract extension.  My once free-spending team treated the free-agent market like a Salvation Army shopper looking for the least damaged merchandise. 

 

Many Mets fans, including me, desperately wished the Wilpons would sell the team or be forced out by Commissioner Bud Selig. The sad reality of being a sports fan, however, is that no matter how much you live and die with your team – I’m probably wearing my Johan Santana #57 T-shirt as you read this – you are merely an observer with no say in matters.  The team is the rich man’s toy, and often just one of many. 

  

Unlike former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, who stripped his team’s assets to fund his lavish lifestyle and that of his now ex-wife, Wilpon has not been an abrasive presence and has kept the best interests of the league in mind.  Therefore, Selig stood by Wilpon, giving the team emergency loans to stay afloat and make payroll, and giving Wilpon time to resolve the matter. Two weeks ago, Wilpon settled the Picard lawsuit for $162 million, bringing some long-term stability to the franchise’s finances, but leaving the short-term picture bleak.

  

Still, today is Opening Day and this afternoon our ace pitcher, Santana, returns to the mound following 19 months spent recovering from shoulder surgery.  I will spend the afternoon with a fellow Mets fan, switch the TV on and root, root, root for the home team.  However, I won’t be surprised if by the eighth inning, we’re scouring the cable channels for a Three Stooges film.  They might be showing one featuring Shemp.

    

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Comments

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Give it up, Cranky. Become a Yankee fan. With Steinbrenner gone it's not so bad. The Yanks may be arrogant and throw their money around but they play in the same market as the Mets with the same access to revenue. At least the Yanks spend lavishly on ballplayers, and not on con artists.......well, not counting Jason Giambi. R
Bah, just give up on baseball in general and watch Women's Volleyball!!

Better for the heart!! ~:D
Even where I live here in Bumfuckt, Eqypt, we are aware that Mets fans just don't somehow measure up, because we are the original home of Donnie Baseball. He grew up here.
Curling.. now thats a real sport. :-D
loved the comment about shemp.
What can I say? Anything this Yankees' fan says in response to a Mets' fan bemoaning his fate can only be viewed as rubbing salt in one's blue and orange wounds. Just hope for the best, because, as we all know, "hope springs eternal."

I do, however, find your Shemp comment to be a little out of bounds. While Shemp was the least funny of the Howard brothers, he was still far funnier than Joe Besser or Curly Joe DeRita.

And Andrew Ridgeley is the answer to the other half of Wham!, just in case you care.
Yeah, yeah, try being a life-long Astros fan then you can talk to me about suffering.
Hey Cranky. I got news for ya. The Mets ain't the Sox - and they ain't cinderella, either.
Oh, Cranky, I feel your pain. Just so you know... you're crackerjack in my book even if you are rooting for the Mets. :)

I hope you and your friend enjoy opening day!

XOXOXO

P.S. Please send my best regards to your lovely wife.
Oh lord, I remember going to see the Mets in their first couple of years during Spring Training in St. Petersburg. That was back in the days when spring training more resembled a workout by a high school team having tryouts. And it was free! Which was good because we didn't have much money. I still remember Casey Stengel interacting with fans--including an 11 year old like me who revered "the perfesser".
But that was when baseball was baseball not business. I can't afford baseball anymore. Or more appropriately, the cost of the product far exceeds the value of the product.
Of course, living in the San Diego area, the value of the major league baseball product here is about 5 bucks. At best.
Truly outstanding post, Cranky.
Cuss, you live in the heart of Yankeeland--give it up. Your social life will improve and you will get fewer glares on the MTA. Yankee fans can spot a Met fan from far away. Its in their downcast eyes as they read the sports section on the train, or the way they flinch when a fan in a Chuck Knoblauch Jersey passes--if only that they can't spell his name.

Cast away that Orange feeling, man, or move to Queens. And remember not to buy into the $$ thing. The Yankees don't win because they have money; they have money because they win!!

But seriously, I wish your nine luck.
"LOL!"
Almost forgot. I've been to three Mets games, and the one I enjoyed was played at the Polo Grounds. Casey Stengel danced with Cleo the dog on the dugout roof. Tito, the original Francona hit a triple to dead center. But the crowning jewel came when my idol Jimmy Piersall hit his 100th career home run. He ran the bases backwards...but in proper order.
Almost forgot. I've been to three Mets games, and the one I enjoyed was played at the Polo Grounds. Casey Stengel danced with Cleo the dog on the dugout roof. Tito, the original Francona hit a triple to dead center. But the crowning jewel came when my idol Jimmy Piersall hit his 100th career home run. He ran the bases backwards...but in proper order.
Happy Opening Day.
When I was a single mom one of my sons was a Yankee fan and one a Mets fan. It was the 80s, and I felt sorry for my frustrated Mets-fan son. I remember his most exciting day was banner day. He designed a banner that said "MET-amorphosis! It got lots of attention!
Much later my older son became involved in business -- and law suits-- with (ugh) Lenny Dykstra. (He wrote about it in his book, The Zeroes.) So now when I think of the Mets I think of a really crazy guy.
@Bob: In 2008, the Yanks failed to make the playoffs for the first time in a decade. They then spent $423.5 million on 3 free agents (Sabathia, Burnett, Teixiera) who helped them win the World Series the next year. What was that about not winning because they have money?
@Bob et al: I always snort when Yankee fans tell me they don’t win because they have more money to spend than everyone else. Of course they do. So do the Red Sox, and to a lesser extent the Phillies. Until recently, the Mets had a financial advantage over many teams too. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s the baseball economic system, the only major sports without a salary cap. If a Yankee fan tells me, “Well, we’re just playing by the rules,” I answer, “You’re absolutely right.” But when they tell me money has nothing to do with it, I roll my eyes. If I had the power, I’d sentence every Yankee fan to spend a year as a Kansas City Royals fan to see how the other half lives.
One of the best sports books I ever read (and I'm no big baseball fan) was Jimmy Breslin's "Can't Anyone Here Play This Game?" that was all about the original Mets and their thorough-going ineptitude on and off the field. The title, of course, was famously spoken by an exasperated Casey Stengel. It looks like the "curse" continues.

Congratulations on the EP.
I can get my hands on a copy of Moneyball -- book or movie, take your pick -- if you'd like to send it to the Met's front office. :D
Oh, and congrats on the EP! Who'd you have to ... never mind.

Lezlie
I've never been interested in football
Mets are tied for first place!

Good luck to your guys, CC.
Cranky, I'm from Chicago. Feel better?
If you really wanna be an underdog fan, the Brew Crew has some pretty neat T-shirts.
I know less than nothing about baseball, but Andrew Ridgeley was the other guy in Wham.
Great to see Opening day again. I'm more a fan of the AL so have nothing against the Mets. Good luck and after today's game, have you renewed your Johan Santana Fan Club membership?
Don't ever be anything but what you are. I hate the Mets with every fiber of my Philly being but I get this whole thing.
I feel your pain and still feel the sting of Ryan Howard falling down mid first base stretch in the biggest last game of the season last year. Like a woman scorned I WONT forgive. I did not watch the opening game today. However. I know Halladay won.
Drink a beer, grab some peanuts. It's opening day. Game on.
I know nothing of this. Red Sox nation here. I think. Rah!
It was way windy today for opening day in Chicageee!
there is life west of NYC. The Tigers won today. Verlander for President.
Well, the Mets won on Opening Day - Santana looked great and the bullpen, which I still expect to suck, were lights-out. They are tied for first place and they will still be tomorrow, since none of the NL East teams play. By the end of the weekend, I am sure I will have returned to reality.
I commend your loyalty to your team. Nice story too.
As an Orioles fan I understand your 'disenfranchise' with the Yankees. But, on this, our opening day, let's just enjoy the smell of hot dogs, the taste of hot dogs and peanuts as we all start basically even. Love your prose.
Crank--

You need to become a Green Bay Packers fan, except I don't think you'll be able to find anyone will sell you a share in the team. They're the only sports business enterprise I know of with any meaningful public ownership and participation.

The Boston Celtics were once a master limited partnership and people could buy certificates that they'd hand on their office walls to look at whenever they became disgusted with their miserable lives and wanted to fantasize about being a sports team owner.
You just did the impossible. You made me, a Cubs fan, feel sorry for Mets fans.
I'm a Yankees fan, but my dad loves the Mets so I hope they exceed expectations this year.
Cranky, I am a Mets fan too. What is a Queens-bred girl to do? Wow, I had no idea that their troubles ran so deep. Congratulations on the Editor's Pick and Happy Easter to you and your family!
Somewhere, in the bottom of a box somewhere, I have an old Mets program with Ed Kranepool's picture in it. My first baseball games were in Shea because my grandparents lived in Queens.
@Nick: They won a game. They've already exceeded my expectations.
Cranky I meant to address the money situation, where here in Philly we only began our big turn around when they began to invest big money into the pitching. It continued with Amaro Jr. who is willing to take risks and go for the high salaried players. I agree it's all about the money in the background, and picking the talent.
@Rita: Yes, in baseball it is about the money, more than any other sport. I don’t mean to bemoan the Mets’ situation too much, because in the long run it’s just a blip on the screen. They’ve been big spenders in the past, and they’ll be big spenders in the future. In fact, the other day, they signed one of their young pitchers, Jon Niese, to a 5-year contract extension, which had me scratching my head. My only explanation is that now that the Madoff lawsuit has been settled, ownership wanted to demonstrate its willingness to start spending again.

But I never try to forget that New York teams have a big advantage because of the large local population. Both the Yankees and Mets have their own cable networks which are very lucrative and provide a lot of revenue for their payrolls. I wonder how a team like the KC Royals can ever compete with that.
Go Mets! I've been a fan since...forever. Sure they break your heart but what beautiful thing doesn't? I lived in NYC in 86 and that wonderful night I was out on the street after the win. It was Amazin'! Saw Gooden as a rookie, batters walking away from a strikeout, shaking their heads. Strawberry hitting ropes. Keith putting more spin on the ball than a pool shark. Go Mets!
The Mets are perfect through 4 games and lead the Division by 2 full games! Woo-hoo!
As a Phillies fans who suffered through the '60s, early '70s, late '80s, and all of the '90s (with the notable exception of '93) all I can say is: HAHAHAHA!!!! Love the Mets choking in '07 and '08!