Forgive me if I’m not optimistic about the Wilpons’ chances of finding “strategic partners” who will gladly fork over millions in exchange for a minority share of the team, leaving the Wilpons in control. Why am I skeptical? Because the last time a baseball owner was in deep financial trouble and sought minority investors, it didn’t quite turn out the way he planned:
“I’ve been quietly looking for minority investors to come back into the ownership of the Rangers as a way to be prudent in a bad economy,” [Tom] Hicks said. “I’m doing the same thing with the Stars. At the end of the day, I’ll still have 51-to-60 percent of the ballclub and have new partners. That doesn’t change anything.
A little less than a year later Tom Hicks was being squeezed out completely while Mark Cuban and Chuck Greenberg fought tooth-and-nail for total control of the Texas Rangers.
It’s just a simple fact of investment life: minority shares in non-public entities are not worth anything close to what a controlling interest is worth. Perhaps the Mets, who likely have a much better potential cashflow than most teams, will still be an attractive investment who is merely interested in saying they own a piece of the team. But if the Rangers example is any indication, there aren’t a whole hell of a lot of people who want to be silent partners when the majority owner asking for a handout is in financial distress.
The Mets are an extremely valuable property. Their owners are in financial trouble. This is what most savvy investors call “an opportunity.” It strains credulity to think that people won’t make some offers for control of the Mets that the Wilpons find awfully hard to refuse.
Last week as the Manny Machado trade drama was playing out, I and a lot of other people suspected as early as Monday and into Tuesday morning that the Orioles already had a deal in place for Machado and that they were just keeping it under wraps in order to get through the All-Star break (a) without any awkwardness; and (b) with the Orioles still having an All-Star representative. It would be Wednesday morning before the Orioles would make it official.
Turns out we were wrong. Machado was actually traded before Monday morning. Basically anyway, with the Orioles going so far as to pull him out of last Sunday’s game early because of it. And, of course, they lied about it. From Bob Nightengale of USA Today who spoke with Machado following his debut weekend with the Dodgers:
It was a week ago Sunday when Machado homered for the 24th time this season, the Orioles playing the final game of the first half against the Texas Rangers, when he was removed after the fourth inning after a 26-minute rain delay.
The Orioles told reporters after the game it was simply for precaution, making sure Machado didn’t get hurt playing on a wet field.
They may have fibbed to everyone else, but they told Machado the truth.
“That’s when they had told me I had been traded,’’ Machado said. “They said they pretty much had a deal done. They just wanted to wait until after the break to get all of the medical stuff done.
That didn’t stop all of the usual rumor-mongering reporters from tweeting stuff about this or that team “being in the race” or “taking the lead” or three or four teams in the “debry” or “sweepstakes” as it entered “the home stretch.” A bunch of track announcers calling a race that wasn’t even being run.
In the final analysis this is all benign. Teams lie about stuff all the time and a day or two in either direction made no difference to anyone involved. Still, it says a lot about how the trade rumor business works.