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02/26/11 6:04 PM EST
Commissioner mum on Mets loan issue
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Commissioner Bud Selig declined to comment Saturday on the details of a reported $25 million loan Major League Baseball recently gave to the financially embattled Mets to use for operating expenses.
After reports surfaced on Friday, first in the New York Daily News, the Mets released a statement saying MLB had loaned the club money last November to help with what it described as "liquidity issues." They elected not to confirm the amount of the loan to reporters.
"I don't have any more to add to that," Selig said during a media conference to announce that Joe Torre had been named MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, just prior to the first game at the new Salt River Fields facility between the Rockies and D-backs. "I have always said that issues between owners and me, and clubs and me, best remain between us. And I hope you'll understand that."
Selig did express fondness for Mets owner Fred Wilpon, who, along with co-owner Saul Katz, is fighting a lawsuit filed by a trustee, who is seeking at least $300 million in restitution for money earned in investments made with convicted broker Bernard Madoff. Wilpon announced earlier this year that he was willing to sell up to a 25 percent minority share of the franchise to help meet his operational obligations.
The Mets have a player payroll in excess of $140 million and Michael Weiner, the executive director of the Players Association, said after meeting with Mets players earlier this week at their camp in Port St. Lucie, Fla., that he has been told those obligations will be met.
"We have been assured through the Commissioner's office that's the case, so there's no concern there," Weiner said. "As far as the broader questions, it's in the interests of everybody associated with baseball that the National League franchise in New York be a strong franchise, and the Wilpons have always attempted to field a competitive team. They've had success doing that during their tenure, and we certainly hope they are in a position to continue to do that."
MLB and the players union are about to begin collective bargaining for a new Basic Agreement; the current deal expires on Dec. 11.
Selig acknowledged that he and Wilpon have had a long and strong relationship. Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday purchased the Mets for $21.1 million on Jan. 24, 1980, when Selig was still the owner of the Brewers. Wilpon bought out Doubleday in August 2002, at which time Katz, his brother-in-law, became the team's president.
Selig has been MLB Commissioner since Sept. 10, 1992, when he replaced Fay Vincent on an interim basis. Selig was asked if it's tough to separate the friendship and business side of relationships.
"Well, as the Commissioner you learn to do that after awhile," Selig said. "It takes a long time. I wish I knew in 1992 what I do today. I do have great affection for Fred Wilpon, make no mistake about that. I have great affection and I have great respect. I have great faith [that the issue will resolve itself]. Each year, I have a set of problems and hopefully next year, I'll have a different set of problems."