Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon

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 The team itself had 16 separate Madoff accounts, from which $90 million was withdrawn and used to help fund the team’s “day-to-day operations.”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.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: