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: Blue Jays and Josh Donaldson agree to two-year, $29 million extension

Toronto Blue Jays' Josh Donaldson celebrates his two run home run against the Kansas City Royals during the third inning in Game 3 of baseball's American League Championship Series on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015, in Toronto. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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The Blue Jays and 2015 American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $29 million contract, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca.

Donaldson was arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter. He filed for $11.8 million and was offered $11.35 million by the Blue Jays when figures were exchanged last month. It wasn’t a big gap, but since the Blue Jays are a “file and trial” team, they bring these cases to an arbitration hearing unless a multi-year deal can be worked out. They were able to get it done in this case. Donaldson was a Super Two player, so he’ll still have one year of arbitration-eligibility once this two-year deal is completed.

The 30-year-old Donaldson is coming off a monster first season in Toronto where he batted .297/.371/.568 with 41 homers while leading the American League with 123 RBI.

Giants and Brandon Belt have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Wednesday

San Francisco Giants'  Brandon Belt reacts after being called out on strikes by home plate umpire Jim Joyce to end the top of the first inning against the Colorado Rockies in a baseball game Friday, Sept.. 4, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Brandon Belt filed for $7.5 million and was offered $5.3 million by the Giants when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. That’s a pretty sizable gap. While there’s still a chance that an agreement will be worked out at the last minute, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that an arbitration hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

The Giants haven’t gone to an arbitration hearing since 2004, when they lost to catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Schulman hears from one person involved that because of the gap between Belt and the Giants, there’s a real chance this will break that string and require a hearing.

Belt batted .280/.356/.478 with 18 home runs and 68 RBI over 137 games in 2015, but he dealt with concussion symptoms for the second straight season. An arbitration hearing could bring some unpleasant conversation to the surface.

Padres sign veteran utility player Skip Schumaker

Cincinnati Reds' Skip Schumaker is tagged out at home plate by San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey during the seventh inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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The Padres have inked veteran utility player Skip Schumaker to a minor league contract, per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.

Schumaker, who turned 36 last week, has spent the last two seasons with the Reds. He batted .242/.306/.336 with one home run and 21 RBI over 131 games last season while making starts between all three outfield spots and second base. Cincinnati cut ties with him in November after declining a $2.5 million club option for 2016.

While Schumaker had to settle for a non-guaranteed deal here, it would be no surprise to see him land a bench job with the Padres come Opening Day.

Report: MLB, union making progress on new slide rule at second base

New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada falls after a slide by Los Angeles Dodgers' Chase Utley during the seventh inning of an NL Division Series baseball game Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, in Los Angeles. (John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News via AP)
John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News via AP
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After Ruben Tejada suffered a fractured right fibula on a takeout slide from Chase Utley during the playoffs, there was momentum for a new rule about slides at second base. We haven’t heard much about it since the Owners’ Meetings in November, but ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that talks between MLB and the players’ union are making progress and a change is expected for the 2016 season.

The exact wording of the new rule is still unclear, but Olney hears that there’s a focus toward “ensuring that sliding runners either touch the base or make an effort to touch the base.” Below are some more details:

Sources said that in the union’s internal discussions, players made it clear they had been taught since they first began playing baseball to go into second base with the intent of breaking up double-play attempts. Although the union wants to improve safety for middle infielders, it does not want to eliminate players’ aggressiveness on slides or the ability to break up a double play.

However, there is a desire on both sides to eliminate slides on which a baserunner goes beyond the effort to reach second to make contact with middle infielders.

There’s already a rule in place for a situation like we saw with Utley, but it’s rarely, if ever, enforced. It’s unfortunate that Tejada’s fractured fibula had to be the catalyst for change or clarification with the rules, but hopefully this will result in fewer injuries in the future. Similar to the “Buster Posey Rule” for plays at home plate, get ready for life with the “Chase Utley Rule.”

Here’s the video of the Tejada/Utley play:

And here’s the video of another high-profile play from 2015 which resulted in a torn lateral meniscus and a fractured tibia for Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang: