Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon

Wilpon and Katz fire back. Which provides an opportunity for perspective.

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Sticking with the legal beat, Fred Wilpon, Saul Katz and the Mets fired back at the bankruptcy trustee in the Madoff case yesterday, filing a 94-page brief  (a copy of which is available at their website if you’re curious) accusing Irving Picard of — and there’s really no other way to put this — of being a liar:

“After months of leaks, false accusations and withholding of evidence, we can finally legally respond to the work of fiction created by the trustee. Let us be very clear: we did not know that Madoff was engaged in a fraud. There were no red flags and we received no warnings.”

That wasn’t in the brief actually. That was an official statement which came in a lengthy email which contained an outline of the “false allegations” from Picard rebutted with “the facts” as seen by Wilpon, Katz and the Mets, set out in clear and plain terms for media consumption by someone at the Abernathy MacGregor Group, Inc., who are handling the Wilpons’ “strategic communications.”  Someone spent a lot of time on it.

I mentioned in Friday’s post that I got Wilpon’s last statement from his P.R. people too. I’m quite tickled, actually, that the obviously sophisticated P.R. machine of the Wilpons saw fit to include me in their propaganda efforts.  It’s likewise amusing to me that the relatively primitive P.R. operation of the bankruptcy trustee — who relies on more austere press releases and not mini-legal briefs like Wilpon’s P.R. firm cranks out — is still winning the P.R. battle as far as I can tell. Most people, rightly or wrongly, are assuming that Wilpon and the Mets are screwed. It has me wondering exactly why that is this morning.

This is a highly complex case involving some very technical and rather esoteric areas of law and a lot of financial data to which we’re either not privy or, even if we are, isn’t easily understood or interpreted. At trial it will require tons of expert testimony for a jury to figure out if Picard is right or if Wilpon and Katz are. I have a legal degree and 11 years of experience, but in this kind of case I and most lawyers who lack bankruptcy law experience would be malpractice on wheels. Yet so many — even those who couldn’t define the terms “hedge fund,” “fraudulent transfer” or who have never encountered the term “bankruptcy” outside of a game of Monopoly — are sure that they have a handle on it.

And on some level I get that. Assuming the worse about things involving the Mets is almost hard-wired in people these days.  Anyone who was friendly with a criminal like Madoff tends to become the subject of suspicion among most people. And while we like to pretend that we live in a classless society, ignoring the distrust and disdain between rich and poor (and poor and rich) is rather silly.  You put the Mets, the Wilpon-Madoff relationship and some good old fashioned class resentment in a pot and you’re bound to have something like the environment which currently exists begin to simmer.

But it doesn’t get us any closer to the truth, and anyone who isn’t neck-deep in this case — which includes everyone but the lawyers for the parties at this point — doesn’t know enough to say highly intelligent things about where the case is headed. We can (as I have) say that it’s much better to not have this suit pending against you if you’re Wilpon than to have it pending against you. We can make some general assumptions about what it could all mean if the case goes bad for them.  We can voice skepticism about one claim or defense or another in a manner that stops short of certainty.  Beyond that, however, we’re just guessing. Or else we’re being taken for a ride by the people who issue those press releases and who send those emails.

My interest in covering this is because it has implications for the Mets, so I’m going to continue to cover it.  But I’m not going to get into the business of regurgitating the details of the press releases of the trustee or the emails from the Wilpons’ P.R. firm.  Some overview and a juicy quote or two is where I’m going to draw the line.  I’d urge you as readers to not get too hung up on these details yourselves. Partially because it’s pretty depressing business. But mostly because there isn’t much out there at the moment that isn’t being pushed by someone with a public relations agenda. Give me a judge’s ruling over bullet-pointed and spoon-fed talking points.

Besides. Baseball games that count start in just over a week, and that’s a way better pursuit on which to spend one’s energies.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.