D.A.: The Sports Billionaires Prove Dollars Don't Buy Sense

Jim Crane wasn't the only billionaire owner to embarrass himself recently

Damon Amendolara
February 14, 2020 - 9:50 am

It's been a rough month for the billionaires. The sultans of sport may control the most prestigious properties in our game, but clearly their wealth doesn't incubate them from awful decisions. The Astros, Mets and Knicks have all had their pants pulled down in front of the masses, proving even the most powerful can have really bad days like the rest of us plebes. 

The Astros have proven incapable of getting out of their own way. In the wake of the sign-stealing scandal, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman were arrogant at Fan Fest, guaranteeing they'd be back in the World Series. While their former teammates showed remorse for cheating, the current Astros closed ranks and wagged their fingers at critics. That tack created a furious pushback from fans and media, and as the days counted down to Spring Training the Astros would surely have a different approach. Yet when owner Jim Crane took the podium to address the scandal, his answers seemed orchestrated by the worst law firm on the planet. 

Crane flubbed the most important part, saying "It didn't impact the game." So decoding signals, using an elaborate messaging system like banging on trash cans, breaking baseball rules, and causing the organization to clean house... didn't alter outcomes? "I didn't say it didn't impact the game," Crane responded. Ah, got it. 

The players, after a brief, embarrassing public statement from Altuve and Bregman, also declined to shed much light on the matter. None of them could say exactly what lessons they had learned, nor who was in charge of organizing it. The one fact they were continually clear on however, was the timeline. Every answer began with "2017," clearly a legal loophole to avoid further rabbit traps if more information comes out about other seasons. Caught red-handed in the most damning sports cheating scandal in decades, the Astros delivered a dud. 

Mets fans have long dreamt of the day the Wilpons sell the team. The organization has a penchant for tripping over itself, and for ownership meddling of the highest degree. Under the Wilpons, the Mets sprinkle daily self-inflicted drama over only a handful of winning seasons. When hedge fund manager Steve Cohen appeared to have a deal to buy the Mets, fans across the Big Apple cheered. Here was a born and bred Mets fans with $14B of wealth looking to save the team from itself. Cohen would immediately become the wealthiest owner in the league. The Wilpons could have become heroes by selling to an owner who was willing to push the spending on players to a Yankees and Dodgers level. The Wilpons would've gotten their cash too. They spent about $200M to acquire full control of the team twenty years ago. They would've gotten more than $2B for them now. But the Wilpons couldn't help but get in their own way. 

The Wilpons wanted to retain control for five years as the transaction unfolded, ostensibly to remain in the limelight. Fred Wilpon has allowed his clumsy son Jeff to oversee the operations recently, and undoubtedly the younger didn't want to be shoved aside so quickly. Instead of collecting a $2B profit and finding a new way to not work (skiing in the Alps, safari adventures, swimming in money pits), the Wilpons couldn't help themselves. They reportedly tried to alter the already bizarre transition plan and Cohen balked. Imagine being asked to pump $500M worth of capital into your new venture every year, only to be shut out of ultimate decision-making? Only the Wilpons could think that would fly and Cohen pulled out. The billionaires had once again showed the shrewdness of a country rube. 

The Knicks have made PR mistakes into a mega-brand, from the Isiah Thomas debacle to the Phil Jackson nightmare. Publicly feuding with Charles Oakley and Carmelo Anthony? Retaining the worst GM and president in the sport, Steve Mills and Scott Perry? The Knicks have long been an A-List disaster. This continued last week as a new regime once again took over. "Rebrand consultant" Steve Stoute went on national TV and suggested there would be a new coach next year. Oops. Not only was that premature, but the front office quickly declared Stoute had no influence in that decision. The Knicks then went into damage control, a position they find themselves in almost daily. It's the most valuable franchise in the sport, worth more than $4B, and yet the people running the operation are more lost than a tourist in the Mojave Desert. The "B" in billions must stand for bozo. There's dollars and cents, and dunces and sense. These billionaires prove the bottom line means the two never have to meet. 

Damon Amendolara, known by his fans as D.A., hosts “The D.A. Show,” from 6:00AM-10:00AM, ET, across the country on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. “The D.A. Show” is known for its unique perspective on sports, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, colorful listener interaction, and candid interviews with athletes and coaches. Amendolara also appears regularly on NFL Network as part of the “NFL Top 10” documentary film series, CBS television and SNY TV. He is a Syracuse University grad and native of Warwick, N.Y.