Bud Selig monitors every major-league franchise to ensure it is operating in the best interests of baseball, but his view of the low-budget, big-market Mets clearly is at odds with that of fans critical of frugal owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon. Known for his cozy relationship with the Wilpons, the outgoing commissioner Tuesday practically described the Mets as a model franchise.
Selig was at Citi Field as part of a farewell tour of nearly all of the 30 MLB franchises before he is succeeded as commissioner by newly elected Rob Manfred. He spoke to the media Tuesday night before the Mets' 9-1 victory over the Marlins.
Questions focused on the Mets' payroll, which is $82.2 million and ranks 23rd in MLB, according to figures compiled by ESPN.com.
"Do I have any problem with the Mets' finances?" Selig said. "None."
Selig remains close with Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, who worked with him at MLB offices before being hired by the Wilpons after the 2010 season. He suggested payroll is not as important as the job Alderson or any GM does building a productive farm system.
"I do a lot of rating of farm systems," Selig said. "And I'm satisfied that this franchise is doing it the right way, in my baseball judgment."
In 2011, Selig rejected former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt's television rights deal believed to be worth close to $3 billion with Fox as not being in the best interests of baseball. The commissioner cited MLB's debt-service rule, which doesn't allow a franchise to borrow from future assets to pay current bills. He said the deal was "structured . . . for the personal needs" of McCourt.
Asked how that differs from the Wilpons, who suffered a major financial setback related to the Bernard Madoff scandal and sold minority shares to help defray personal debt that has affected their operating budget, Selig emphatically defended the Mets' owners.
"I don't have any problem with the Mets' financing," Selig said. "[The Dodgers] were out of compliance with every one of our internal economic rules. The Mets are in compliance with all of them. Big difference."
At the time of McCourt's financial troubles, Selig criticized the Dodgers for their $83-million payroll in a major market. They since have been sold and now lead MLB with a payroll of $238.8 million, and they lead the NL West.
"That was only one of many factors," Selig said of the Dodgers' formerly low payroll.
Asked if he could understand the frustration of Mets fans with the lack of spending by the Wilpons, Selig said this season has produced more competitive balance among teams from big and small markets.
"Unless I read the standings wrong today, it looks to me like the Baltimore Orioles may win the American League East this year," Selig said hours before they actually clinched it. "Anybody predict that on April 1? I don't think so. I rest my case."
Selig declined an opportunity to comment on the social issues besetting NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, but he said he's monitoring the gender discrimination suit brought by a female former Mets employee who accused Jeff Wilpon of firing her because she got pregnant out of wedlock.
"That's employment litigation," Selig said. "There were a lot of charges there. Jeff denies them vigorously. In this particular case, they're going to court, and we're just going to have to see how that plays out."