The Mets had money trouble even before the Madoff lawsuit

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The Mets’ talking points have been that, were it not for the Madoff lawsuit, everything would have been hunky dory financially speaking.  The New York Times reports this morning, however, that such is not the case:

When the owners of the Mets said in late January that they would seek buyers for up to 25 percent of the club, they cited “the air of uncertainty” created by the $1 billion lawsuit brought by Irving H. Picard, the trustee representing the victims of Bernard L. Madoff’sPonzi scheme.

But a look at the team’s financial condition — gleaned from public financial documents and numerous interviews — suggests the team may well have needed the proceeds from selling part of the team regardless of the suit.

The Times says that the team realized significantly lower revenues upon moving into Citi Field than they had anticipated and that combined with (a) the overall financial downturn; and (b) less-than-stellar on-the-field performances led to the Mets seeking investors on the down low prior to the lawsuit and their public announcement that they were looking for a cash influx.

The lawsuit is there now, of course, and that certainly trumps whatever cash flow issues the Wilpons were facing before in terms of financial uncertainty. But potential investors aren’t going to be on the hook in the lawsuit. They are, however, going to depend on Mets’ cash flow in order to vindicate their investment. If it’s less rosy than we suspect, it may be harder to justify taking the plunge.

DOJ settles antirust lawsuit against cable companies who don’t carry Dodgers games

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Last November, the U.S. Department of Justice sued AT&T, accusing its subsidiary, DirecTV, of being the ringleader in a plot in which it conspired with Cox Communications, Charter Communications and AT&T cable (then a separate company), to refuse to carry SportsNet LA, the Dodger-owned TV channel in violation of antitrust laws.

Now that lawsuit is over. The DOJ settled with AT&T last night.

The bad news: no part of the settlement obligates DirecTV or any of the other alleged co-conspirators to carry Dodgers games or to even negotiate to that end. There is likewise no fine or truly substantive penalty. It’s basically a “do not do this again!” agreement with some antitrust training requirements for executives and some orders to monitor their communications about these things.

“We are pleased to have resolved this matter to the satisfaction of all parties,” an AT&T spokesman said yesterday, likely in the tone of a guy who is pretty happy to have had a major antitrust suit against him settled so quickly.

When the suit was filed, I anticipated a settlement, as most antitrust suits brought by the DOJ are settled. Such a settlement could’ve featured a cash penalty or, more significantly, a brokered agreement between the parties in question in lieu of a cash settlement that could’ve led to Dodgers games being carried on more channels. After all, more competition is the end game of the Antirust Division.

As it is, however, it’s hard to see this as anything other than a surrender by the DOJ and a victory for the those carriers who coordinated their efforts to not carry the Dodgers.

An open question, unanswered in anyone’s statements yesterday, is whether this settlement is 100% about the merits of the case — keeping in mind that the DOJ tends not to file antitrust suits unless they think they can win, instead preferring to negotiate first — or whether it represents a new set of laxer priorities when it comes to antitrust enforcement from the Trump Administration and AG Jeff Sessions.

Video: Jake Arrieta hits a 465-foot home run off of Zack Greinke

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Jake Arrieta‘s bat is in midseason form already. The Cubs’ ace swatted a solo home run to center field off of Zack Greinke in Thursday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition game, his first homer of the spring.

The blast went 465 feet, according to MLB.com’s Daren Willman.

Arrieta has hit two home runs in each of the past two seasons. Madison Bumgarner (eight) and Noah Syndergaard (four) are the only other pitchers to match or exceed his output in that department.

Greinke, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back after a miserable 2016 season. He finished with an uncharacteristic 4.37 ERA in 26 starts in his first year with the Diamondbacks.