Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon

The Wilpons test their defense in the pages of the Daily News


As has become standard practice, the day after the New York Times says something bad about the Wlipons/Madoff case, the New York Daily News has a story — sourced, quite clearly, by Wilpon’s lawyers — endeavoring to counter it.  Today’s story: explaining the Wilpon defense.

And that defense:  “hey, if the Securities and Exchange Commission had no clue that Madoff was a fraudster, how on Earth could the Wilpons be said to have “known or should have known” that things weren’t on the up-and-up?”

And you know what? That defense has some surface appeal.  It’s the SEC’s job to sniff out such frauds. If they can’t do it, why should the Wilpons be expected to?  But here’s my problem with it, provided by Daily News itself:

In attacking the SEC, the Wilpons are echoing the claims in a civil suit brought against the commission in 2009 by Phyllis Molchatsky and Steven Schneider, two alleged Madoff victims who claim the SEC’s “negligence, incompetence, inexperience, inattentiveness and laziness” is to blame for the epic scandal.

“For at least 16 years, the SEC’s failure to follow basic investigative procedures and practices, or even to observe simple common sense, allowed Madoff to perpetuate his scheme, drawing in innumerable new victims who were totally unaware that the government agency sworn to protect them had fallen down on the job,” their suit says.

As lawyers annoyingly say sometimes, that argument proves too much.  It’s one thing to say that the SEC was itself hoodwinked and unable to uncover Madoff’s crimes, which is how a defense attorney unrelated to the Wilpons characterizes the defense in the story.  If that’s the case — if the SEC, using all of its investigative powers and native experience and intelligence hit a dead end — of course the Wilpons shouldn’t have been expected to do better. But it’s another thing altogether to say the SEC didn’t even try and was epically incompetent, and thus the Wilpons should be judged by that standard too.

Indeed, the other side of the accusations in that above quote is that anyone who “was able to observe simple common sense” or anyone who wasn’t “negligent, incompetent, inexperienced, inattentive or lazy” could have figured Maddof’s fraud out. Just because the federal agency charged with looking into Madoff was utterly incompetent doesn’t mean that reasonable, sophisticated investors with better information at their disposal about Bernie Madoff than the SEC had shouldn’t have been expected to do the basic kinds of due diligence the Wilpons are accused of not doing.

Put differently, if the city cop on the corner “fell down on the job,” people on the street aren’t permitted to break the law and can’t point to the face-down cop as a defense when the more attentive county sheriff comes to arrest them.  People still have a duty to act in a reasonable manner and behave the way the law expects them.

I’d have a lot more faith in the Wilpons’ defense if it was the SEC going after them. Because, yeah, it would take a lot of nerve for the SEC to say “you should have done better than us.”  But it’s not the SEC going after the Wilpons. It’s a trustee appointed to represent the interest of people who were wronged by Madoff. His claim isn’t that the Wilpons should have done better than the SEC. It’s that the Wilpons should have done better than the did based on the information they had at their disposal.  As such, pointing at the SEC as their defense doesn’t totally do it for me.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.