(Fred, hoping that if his Mets are still playing meaningful baseball games in September, we’ll find a different photo)

Last year, frequent rumors about the state of Fred & Jeff Wilpon’s finances led Mets mouthpiece David “If My Lips Are Moving I’m Not Telling The Truth” Howard to repeatedly deny the club would soon be up for auction.  In Sunday’s New York Post, citing anonymous sources, Josh Kosman claims the Wilpons “are so cash-strapped that they will have to sell the Flushing franchise if the team has a losing season or two and attendance falls.”

There is growing evidence that the owners are in serious need of dough, and the team — saddled with roughly $700 million in debt — is not turning a profit.

* Fred Wilpon, whose family owns most of the team, took a second mortgage on the team, refinancing roughly $375 million in loans, with $75 million of that going to the Wilpons themselves, said a source with direct knowledge of their finances* Speculation is that the Wilpons lost hundreds of millions in the Bernard Madoff swindle and needed liquidity.
* The Mets franchise is losing roughly $10 million a year, including depreciation and interest payments, sources said.
* Attendance at Citi Field is on pace to be 2.6 million this year, 19 percent less than its debut year in 2009 and 35 percent less than the team’s last season at Shea Stadium.
* Standard & Poor’s has rated the bonds issued to finance Citi Field as junk, below investment grade.
* If the Mets were a public company, one analyst who knows the team’s financials said, their rating would also be junk grade because of their enormous debt load

At the time of this cutting and pasting writing, the Mets lead the Reds, 1-0, on Johan Santana’s first major league home run. As is the norm at Citi Field, there’s plenty of empty seats.