DALLAS -- Don't blame Jose Reyes. He did what he was supposed to do in taking the best offer.
Don't even blame New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson. It doesn't matter how many former GMs he has collected in the front office -- if there's no money to spend, you're swimming in the guppy pool.
So whom do you blame for Reyes defecting to the Miami Marlins -- the Miami Marlins -- for six years, $106 million? To whom should the anger be directed at for a New York team not having the means to retain one of its homegrown stars?
Commissioner Bud Selig, principal owner Fred Wilpon and family, former GM Omar Minaya and swindler Bernie Madoff -- probably in that order.
And the fans suffer as a result, because the current budget constraints that are strangling the Mets are not a one-offseason obstacle. Alderson admitted as much in a nighttime meeting with New York media in his 12th-floor suite at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas on Sunday.
"Bernie Madoff and his specter are always referenced in these situations," Alderson said. "I don't really think Madoff has that much to do with it. But when a team loses $70 million, irrespective of Bernie Madoff or anyone else, that's probably a bigger factor in our approach to this season and the next couple than anything else."
You read what Alderson said? The Mets lost $70 million.
And the seasons required to wriggle free of the spending constraints?
The next two.
The dirty little secret -- no matter how much Alderson protests that the Mets are not "punting" 2012 -- is that the Mets won't have money a year from now, either.
Ticket prices are going down. Attendance is going down, too. And they'll owe Johan Santana, Jason Bay and David Wright even more in 2013 than in 2012 -- $66 million, up from $55 million, assuming options for 2014 do not vest and are not exercised.
So why is Selig No. 1 on the list to blame?
The commissioner forced out Frank McCourt from the Los Angeles Dodgers, yet he has given the Wilpons a lifeline, extending them credit with no firm date to repay and allowing the sale of small ownership shares in the form of certificates of deposit. If Selig stops that, a full sale is forced.
The Wilpons' culpability is self-evident. They set the payroll.
Madoff? The Wilpons may not have paid out anything other than legal fees yet as they face a $386 million lawsuit from the trustee trying to recover funds for Madoff victims. But the fact of the matter is that the Wilpons thought they had $500 million invested when Madoff was shut down. Madoff swindling them took away the Mets owners' ability to sustain losses now by upping their payroll and spending their way out of the rut.
As for Minaya, the new Padres executive? Well, there are two factors in having no flexibility to sign Reyes. One is the Wilpon-imposed payroll. The other is the contracts doled out under the past administration, including Bay's albatross.
So if the Mets don't spend their way out of this mess, what happens? Do they just wait until the farm system pays dividends and bide their time until then in last place?
"If this is going to be a baseball business seminar 101, we need a little more time than we have tonight," Alderson said.
After that zinger, Alderson added about waiting for the farm system: "It's partly that. It's partly how successful we are with other players, how successful we are in keeping players on the field who don't get injured, finding people like Chris Capuano and others. There are lots of ways to approach it."
In reality, the Mets should just admit that they're rebuilding, with an eye toward, say, 2014, when pitching prospects Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia may be contributing in the majors.
Trade Wright and get more prospects like the Carlos Beltran-for-Wheeler deal in July.
Punt. It makes more sense than going for it on fourth-and-14 on your own 30 in the second quarter.
"Well, if you're referring next to David Wright, I don't think anything Jose does or doesn't do over the next few days has any impact on David Wright. Period," Alderson insisted. "As an example of what a team might do if it embraced your concept, right now we don't contemplate trading David Wright.
"Look, I'm not conceding anything with respect to 2012. OK? It doesn't matter how you ask the question. We're here for the next four days to figure out how to put the best possible team on the field for 2012, whether it includes Jose Reyes or not. We're not conceding anything about 2012. The Diamondbacks didn't concede anything about 2011. The Cardinals didn't concede anything about the month of September. Stuff happens in baseball."