Bankruptcy trustee: Mets owners reaped $300 million in phony Madoff profits

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The bluff has been called, the documents have been unsealed and the allegations of just how deeply the Wilpons, Saul Katz and the Mets were in with Bernie Madoff is fairly staggering.  The entire lawsuit can be read here.

Among the allegations: the Wilpons, Katz, their families and their business reaped $300 million in fictitious profits. The team itself had 16 separate Madoff accounts, from which $90 million was withdrawn and used to help fund the team’s “day-to-day operations.”  And then there’s this, with “the Sterling Partners” referring to the Wilpon/Katz business:

“The Sterling partners were simply in too deep—having substantially supported their businesses with Madoff money—to do anything but ignore the gathering clouds,” the suit said. “Despite being on notice and having every resource at their disposal to investigate the litany of legitimate questions surrounding Madoff, the Sterling partners chose to do nothing.”

Not surprisingly, the Wilpons slammed the allegations today, calling them lies and strong-arm tactics and characterizing the trustee’s entire suit as “an abuse of power.”  Their statement:

“The conclusions in the complaint are not supported by the facts. While they may make for good headlines, they are abusive, unfair and untrue. We categorically reject them. We should not be made victims twice over—the first time by Madoff, and again by the Trustee’s actions.”

In other news, non-Mets related allegations suggest that at least one bank — J.P. Morgan — knew that Madoff’s whole operation was a Ponzi scheme.

Yes, they are just allegations.  But many of them — specifically those related to just how much money the Mets and the Wilpons lost to Madoff — are pretty darn specific.  And they can certainly be true even if the ultimate conclusion the trustee makes — that the Wilpons knew or should have known it was all a scam — is shown to be false.

We’ve played some back and forth here about what the Wilpons knew and that’s all fun and worth watching, but this is most  relevant for our purposes for the practical effect it will have on the Wilpons and the baseball team.  Given the thermonuclear nature of the allegations and the sheer amount of money involved, it’s hard to sit here today and say that the Wilpons will simply be able to sell off a quarter of it, cut a check to the trustee and continue on their merry way.  Indeed, such an assumption is now bordering on the naive.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.