Jenrry Mejia takes the mound as the Mets open Grapefruit League play on Saturday, but Mets morning briefing needs to snap its one-day streak of no links to Bernard Madoff/Ponzi/Irving Picard/Fred Wilpon stories with the news that the Mets confirmed they received a bailout loan from Major League Baseball in November, reportedly $25 million.
Here are Saturday's news reports:
• Michael S. Schmidt and David Waldstein in The New York Times write: "The Mets have exhausted baseball’s standard bank line of credit -- tens of millions that Mr. [Bud] Selig and the sport’s owners make available to teams for a variety of reasons in the course of any year. They also have more than $400 million in debt on the team. Thus, the additional money provided by Mr. Selig -- done in secret last November -- may well have been crucial in keeping the club functioning."
The reporters go on to assert that the loan could annoy other Major League Baseball owners, and that the existence of the loan -- which has not yet been repaid -- was only disclosed to baseball's executive committee in January. Expert Marc Ganis notes that seeking a loan from Major League Baseball indicates those loans cannot be acquired through normal bank channels because of too much existing debt or other concerns and "could be taken as a sign of very significant problems." The Times also reports that fewer than a dozen prospective owners have expressed their interest to MLB for scrutiny, and to seek the right to look at the Mets' books.
• The Daily News also reported the $25 million loan from MLB.
• Post columnist Mike Vaccaro says Mets owners need to come clean. "This is about the viability and the credibility of men who own the Mets," Vaccaro writes. "And how can you possibly believe either right now? For two years, the Mets insisted that their financial issues wouldn't have a shred of influence on the baseball team, despite overwhelming pieces of anecdotal evidence to the contrary, always citing their bloated payroll as evidence that they were no cheapskates. And now it turns out they needed to essentially turn commissioner Bud Selig into a loan shark because they are -- in a word -- broke?" Vaccaro also takes a swipe at the Daily News, writing: "It's time to stop acting as if [the Wilpons] are the victim of some complicated conspiracy that involves just about everyone except the other tabloid in town, which continues to serve as their personal town crier."
• Newsday, meanwhile, reports that the judge presiding over Picard's lawsuit against Saul Katz and the Wilpons issued a ruling that should trouble the Mets' owners. The report states Judge Burton Lifland ruled in a similar suit that Picard had the right to pursue the "clawback" amount -- money withdrawn over principal -- as well as unspecified damages. "This is a clear sign to the Wilpons that they have not just a rough road ahead, but a very rough road ahead," Anthony Sabino, a St. John's business law professor, tells Newsday. "Lifland has set forth rulings ... where he has time and again affirmed [the] right of the trustee to bring these [clawback] cases. The Wilpons have virtually no chance of getting this case dismissed early."
• The Times' Waldstein caught the end of Mets wind sprints on Friday morning, and said Jose Reyes topped Angel Pagan in a 60-yard dash. Writes Waldstein: "Reyes and Pagan were told to start five yards behind the rest of the staggered crew, and Ike Davis was told to stand a few yards in front. Reyes and Pagan came from their positions on the blocks to pass everyone, with Reyes catching Pagan at the end to win by a fraction of a second."
• Brian Costa of The Wall Street Journal profiles Paul DePodesta, who says the Mets will spend in the draft. Writes Costa: "Only one team has spent less money on signing amateur draft picks over the last five years. But despite the Mets' financial problems, DePodesta said they will look to be 'aggressive financially' in this year's draft. 'When our turn comes to pick in every round, we're going to take the guy that we think is the best player on the board and not worry so much about the signability portion of it,' he said. DePodesta was already preparing for the draft this week. On Tuesday, he drove to nearby Jupiter to watch the top-ranked University of Florida baseball team."
• Friday morning, I snapped a photo of Francisco Rodriguez working with Pedro Beato during the Rule 5 pick's bullpen session. And pitching coach Dan Warthen discussed K-Rod's involvement with me. Newsday's David Lennon goes directly to K-Rod, who says: "We were working on his landing. He's got to take advantage more of his legs to generate more power for his arm. ... When your stride is too short, your body tends to lock up and the ball is going to be flat. It's just going to spin, and the hitter has a better chance to see the ball. It doesn't have that snap on it. ... I'm not selfish. If there's any young guy that wants to ask me how to pitch, I'm going to respond. I'm going to let them know what I've learned in my career."'
• A week ago, Terry Collins mentioned five pitchers on firm footing for making the bullpen: K-Rod, Bobby Parnell, D.J. Carrasco, Taylor Buchholz and Tim Byrdak. In Byrdak's case, Andy Martino of the Daily News writes, he's not viewed as a strict lefty specialist. "We see Byrdak as someone who can be successful against righties and lefties and throw one or two innings," Warthen tells Martino. Sure enough, Byrdak was used for two innings in Friday's intrasquad game. After allowing a homer to the first batter he faced, Scott Hairston, Byrdak retired Brad Emaus on a sharp lineout to first base. Lucas Duda then ripped a double, but was stranded when Nick Evans popped out and Fernando Martinez flied out. The following inning, Byrdak went 1-2-3, striking out Zach Lutz and retiring Chin-lung Hu and Raul Chavez on groundouts.
• Ryota Igarashi is owed $1.75 million this season, although he already has cleared waivers and is off the 40-man roster. He was impressive in retiring all six batters he faced in Friday's intrasquad game. Read more in Newsday.
• The Post's Mike Puma reviews the favorable impression Jason Isringhausen is making in camp. Puma notes Isringhausen played for both Bobby Valentine and Tony La Russa. Says Isringhausen on that subject: "[Valentine] was very smart -- sometimes too smart. Kind of like Tony La Russa. Those guys are just so smart, they sometimes outthink the game too much, but you're never going to get something by them. They are so far ahead of everybody else, it seems like."
BIRTHDAYS: Jose A. Reyes -- not the Mets shortstop -- turns 28. The catcher played for the Binghamton Mets in 2007, and briefly appeared in the majors with the Chicago Cubs the previous year. ... Dave Howard -- not the Mets' executive VP -- was born on this day in 1967. He played for the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals from 1991-99.