Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon

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


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.

Erik Johnson likely to open 2016 in the White Sox rotation

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  Starting pitcher Erik Johnson #45 of the Chicago White Sox delivers against the Colorado Rockies during Interleague play at Coors Field on April 9, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the White Sox 10-4.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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With the White Sox losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency, Erik Johnson will likely get a shot to contribute out of the rotation to open up the 2016 season, GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call on Wednesday, per a report from’s Scott Merkin.

“As we sit here today, I think it will be an opportunity for Erik Johnson to convert on sort of the return to form he showed back in 2015 when he was International League pitcher of the year for [Triple-A] Charlotte,” Hahn said. “Obviously, he got some starts in September and continued to show the progress in Chicago he had shown in the Minor Leagues over the course of the last season.

“So if Opening Day were today, then I think Johnson is penciled in to that spot in the rotation right now. In all probability, once we get closer to spring, there will be some competition for him to earn that spot. But if we were strictly looking at today, then I would think Johnson has the inside track on filling Samardzija’s innings.”

Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in September and made six starts, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 32 hits and 17 walks with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. That followed up an impressive five months in the minors where he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 136/41 K/BB ratio across 132 2/3 innings.

Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and each included Johnson on their top-100 prospect lists, ranking him 63rd, 67th, and 70th, respectively. The right-hander was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2011 draft.

Major League Baseball will investigate Yasiel Puig for his role in Miami nightclub brawl

Yasiel Puig
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.

The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.

Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.

As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.

Dayan Viciedo close to signing with Japan’s Chunichi Dragons

Dayan Viciedo
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Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.

Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.

The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.

Blue Jays sign J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million contract

J.A. Happ
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.

*’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.

Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.

The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.

This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.