Mets Are Squandering Their Fortunes This Season

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 20, 2009

The day before the New York Mets were to open the second half of their rapidly deteriorating season, GQ magazine ran a small item that quoted newsman Larry King as saying pal Fred Wilpon -- the Mets' (once-)deep-pocketed owner -- had lost $700 million in the infamous Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. As the news also came some two weeks before the July 31 trade deadline, Mets fans could be forgiven for wondering if their team had suddenly shifted from the "buyers" to the "sellers" column.

Of course, the Mets' players were doing a fine job of that themselves, perpetrating a deep summer swoon that, as the Mets prepare to visit Washington for a three-game series beginning Monday, has their once-promising season on the verge of collapse.

Squandered fortunes? Indeed, much about the Mets' season can be defined by big, staggering dollar figures that suggest massive losses:

-- $136 million: The team's 2009 Opening Day payroll, tops in the NL and second to the Yankees in all of baseball. As things stand, at 43-48 after Sunday night's loss in Atlanta, the Mets are the most expensive fourth-place team in history. On Saturday, when the Mets won and the Phillies were rained out, it marked the first time since July 2 that the Mets gained ground on the NL East lead -- and they were still eight games back entering Sunday.

-- $58.35 million: The amount of talent the Mets have withering on the disabled list, including core players Carlos Beltrán ($18 million salary this season), Carlos Delgado ($16 million), Billy Wagner ($10.5 million), José Reyes ($5.75 million), J.J. Putz ($5 million) and John Maine ($2.6 million). Even 20-year-old Fernando Martinez, the Mets' best young player, is out another two months following knee surgery.

-- $6 million: The total amount owed to Manager Jerry Manuel and General Manager Omar Minaya under the terms of the contract extensions they signed last winter, making it unpalatable for the Wilpons to fire either of them.

The uncanny rash of injuries, naturally, has provided a focal point to the Mets' season thus far: How could a team so talented on paper be so far out of the playoff hunt? The injuries. Who is to blame? The injuries. How does everybody keep their jobs? The injuries.

"We need those guys to come back," ace lefty Johan Santana said last week. "Injuries you can't control. I think that's what happened to us this year."

But at least one still-healthy Met, in a bit of long-overdue frustration, finally lashed out at the injury-excuse-makers and asked that the excuses cease immediately.

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