Sandy Alderson, the Mets' general manager, knew his job wasn't going to be easy when he took over. But he is learning that it can be more difficult than he might have imagined.
Alderson has been left to try to perform damage control after a pair of troubling articles surfaced with principal owner Fred Wilpon creating a firestorm. In the New Yorker, Wilpon criticized three of his best players and decried the entire team with an expletive. Alderson worked to defuse that Tuesday night. And by Wednesday Alderson had caught up with the more troubling story for his job -- a Sports Illustrated story in which Wilpon finally admitted what he had denied for more than a year, that payroll could drop to about $100 million and, in a worst-case scenario that continues to linger not far out of reach, he could lose ownership of the team.
Alderson joked, "I was thinking, if the world had ended on Saturday the way it was supposed to, we wouldn't have to deal with these things."
The criticisms of the team can be solved with an apology -- and were -- but the bigger problem for the Mets is the plummeting payroll and financial troubles.
"With respect to the payroll, if you noticed the article, there was no quote from Fred on the $100 million, whatever the number they quoted," Alderson said, although Wilpon did clearly speculate on a $100 million payroll. "From my standpoint that's not a number we discussed, and I would expect our payroll to be somewhere above that number and somewhat below where we are now, if you look at the $140-so generally attributed to our payroll for this year.
"I don't want to get into any specifics because I do think that where that number ultimately falls is going to be a product of a number of different things, and I think it's too early to accurately predict exactly what it'll be. Within that range, I think that's a fair statement as something I could rely on. There's a potential minority investor that may come on board. It may depend on how we end up this season. So there are a lot of other factors."
What is clear is that the job has steadily been more difficult than the one Alderson signed on for. Payroll is being reduced -- by whatever number they eventually agree upon. And the $1 billion clawback lawsuit being brought by Irving Picard, the trustee for the victims of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, could signal the end of the Wilpon ownership.
"I've said that the financial situation is somewhat more challenging than I had originally anticipated," Alderson said. "I didn't expect this to be an easy task. At this point I've said a number of times, none of these financial issues have affected any of the decisions we've made. Now whether that will happen, that effect will occur down the road, we'll see. But you know, a payroll of $100 million-plus, that's still a substantial amount of resources for us."
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