The Wilpons’ financial crunch, brought on by being taken in a Ponzi scheme by their friend Bernie Madoff, almost cost them the team a couple of years ago. It did cause them to take loans with restrictive terms, both from banks and from Major League Baseball. That in turn pushed payroll way below that which a team in a market like New York should be. It’s been something of a depressing slog, frankly.
But now, according to the New York Post, there’s some reason to hope of a financial thaw. It comes in the form of a new $250 million loan which will refinance an existing loan that had a massive principal payment looming early this year. The interest payments will remain about where they were before but (a) no principal payment will be due for seven years; and (b) payroll restrictions built in to the current loan will be gone.
This doesn’t mean that the Mets will suddenly sport $150 million payrolls, but it does give the team breathing room to add players who actually make some money at some point.
Of course, it also means that the Wilpons will not be forced to sell the team due to a cash crunch, paving the way for the Mets’ own version of Magic Johnson to swoop in and make a broke franchise immediately flush. And I know many Mets fans who really, really wish that would have happened.
On Monday, Major League Baseball announced some changes aimed at improving the game’s pace of play, something that has been a pet cause for commissioner Rob Manfred. Among the changes was a limit on mound visits whether from managers and coaches, the catcher, or other defenders. Each team will have six non-pitching change mound visits per game and one additional visit each inning in extra innings. Craig wrote more in depth on the changes here if you happened to miss it.
Angels catcher Martin Maldonado says he is going to do what’s necessary to stay on the same page with his pitchers. Via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, Maldonado said, “If the game is on the line, I’m going to go out there. If we’re at six [visits], and it’s going to be the seventh, I’m going to go out there, even if I have to pay a fine. I’m there for the pitchers.”
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said as much on Tuesday. Per Josh Frydman of WGN News, Contreras said, “What about if you have a tight game and you have to go out there? They can’t say anything about that, that’s my team and we just care about wins. If they’re going to fine me about number seven mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”
Exhibition games haven’t even started yet, but two notable backstops — the lesser-known Maldonado won a Gold Glove last year — are clearly not happy with the rule change. As Craig alluded to in his article yesterday, arguments between catchers and umpires (and, subsequently, managers and umpires) are probably going to become more frequent, which would likely end up nullifying any pace of play improvements.
Update (4:43 PM ET): In response to this, Manfred said that if a catcher or coach made a seventh mound visit, there would have to be a pitching change (via Fletcher). However, chief baseball officer Joe Torre said (via SB Nation’s Eric Stephen) that the seventh visit cannot trigger a pitching change. The umpire would simply have to prevent the seventh mound visit.