SIPA Trustee Picard speaks during a news conference in New York, announcing the return of $7.2 billion from the estate of Madoff insider Picower to settle civil claims for victims of Madoff's ponzi scheme

500 Madoff victims want Irving Picard to resign

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I missed this yesterday (Wilpon PR people! Where was my head’s up email?!), but the Daily News reports that 500 of Bernie Madoff’s victims wants Irving Picard — the guy who is supposed to be suing to recover money to benefit these victims — to be replaced as trustee.

The reason? According to the lawyer representing these victims, Picard has been dishonest and has withheld information.  The filing specifically cites a settlement Picard reached with a Madoff co-conspirator. I’ve not seen the filing and the Daily News is less than 100% clear about what the victims are alleging, but you would expect to see a filing like this if victims felt that the trustee did not use his best efforts in landing the settlement or did not get enough money out of it.  You would not expect victims to argue that, say, the trustee has overreached and landed too great a recovery.

Yet, despite this, the Daily News then pivots to multiple comments from politicians — most notably Congressmen Peter King and Gene Ackerman — who accuse Picard of being overzealous in going after the Wilpons and the Mets. It seems to me, however, that such claims are not similar to the claims of victims who think that Picard was not zealous enough in recouping their losses. Which is it?

But there is a common thread: dishonesty. The victims claim that Picard withheld information that would have helped them. The Wilpons and their surrogates claimed in their recent motion to dismiss that Picard withheld information that would have harmed his case.  Despite the differences between the victims’ and the Wilpons’ positions, that’s a claim that is worth watching and with which the court will now occupy itself.

One additional note: over at Amazin’ Avenue, Matthew Callan asks why this didn’t get picked up by more people yesterday:

This morning, most of the Mets news centers around Times story that claims the Mets have suffered significant financial losses in the last few years–as much as $50 million in 2010 alone. A big story, definitely, one I’ve heard and seen discussed in multiple media. But the Picard-must-resign story remains curiously unexplored by anyone outside the News.

This gives weight to my conspiracy theory (put forward earlier this week) that the harsh treatment the Wilpons have received from the press in re: Madoff has little to do with justice or financial malfeasance and more to do with raking them over the coals for the team’s performance. Because otherwise, a call for Picard’s resignation would have to be big news. Even if you think the News is totally in the tank for the Wilpons, it’s a story that at least deserves investigation and comment, if only to dismiss it. Doesn’t it? Or am I the only nut who thinks so?

I’ll grant that there is a lot of Mets schadenfreude going on with this story and that — hey — when the story isn’t about something dreadful happening to the Wilpons, some people turn their receptors off.  I’d submit, however, that there is a less conspiratorial reason for this: the Picard-must-go story is only tangentially-related to the Mets.

Rather, it’s about a dispute between Picard and his clients related to a deal that has nothing to do with the Wilpons or the Mets, the grandstanding and irrelevant quotes of Peter King notwithstanding.  While I noted above that there is at least one link — Picard’s alleged disingenuousness — it’s a tenuous link based more on overarching case themes, not the hard news of the day. As a lawyer I find this stuff interesting and relevant, but you can’t look at this story and say, in simple terms, that it affects the Mets in a direct, reportable way. Not yet anyway.

Anyway, that’s my theory.  If the Mets are front-and-center, it gets coverage. If not, it’s simply not a sexy story outside the business and/or legal press.

The Chicago Cubs dramatically jack up ticket prices

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The Cubs won the World Series. Now Cubs fans are going to pay through the nose for the privilege of going to games at Wrigley Field: The club has raised season ticket prices for 2017, on average, 19.5%. The rate increases range from 6% for upper deck seats to 31% for infield club seats.

As a result of the increase, the Chicago Tribune reports, a single infield box seat on the dugout for 81 games will cost $29,089.76, or $359 per game. The cheapest season ticket, for upper-deck outfield seats, is $2,139.20, or $26 per game. Those figures include tax, so it’s practically a bargain.

The Cubs cite “unprecedented demand” for tickets as the reason for the increase. That’s likely true. Cubs tickets are expensive even when they aren’t playing well due to the draw that is Wrigley Field. Indeed, for years, when the product on the field suffered, there was a sense that people would go to the ballpark just for the fun of it in ways that fans rarely if ever do for other teams. The Cubs attendance increased dramatically in 2016 and tickets often experienced an equally dramatic increase on the secondary ticket market. The Cubs would be wise to try to capture as much of that profit as they can rather than see it go to others.

Still, that’s gonna smart for people who can’t afford season tickets and who just want to go to a one-off game with the kids and exacerbates the longstanding trend of baseball tickets becoming luxury items for the well-off.

Minor League Baseball established a political action committee to fight paying players more

DURHAM, NC - JULY 28:  The Chicago White Sox play the Most Valuable Prospects during the championship game of the 2011 Breakthrough Series at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park on July 28, 2011 in Durham, North Carolina.  Most Valuable Prospects won 17-2 over the Chicago White Sox. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
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Josh Norris of Baseball America reports that Minor League Baseball has established a political action committee to continue fighting against a lawsuit brought by a group of former minor league players seeking increased wages and back pay.

You may recall that, earlier this year, two members of Congress — Republican Brett Guthrie of Kentucky and Democrat Cheri Bustos of Illinois — introduced H.R. 5580 in the House of Representatives. Also known as the “Save America’s Pastime Act,” H.R. 5580 sought to change language in Section 13 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. In doing so, minor leaguers wouldn’t have been covered under a law that protects workers who are paid hourly. Minor League Baseball publicly endorsed the bill. Bustos withdrew her support after receiving widespread criticism.

The whole thing started when Sergio Miranda filed a lawsuit in 2014, accusing Major League Baseball teams of colluding to eliminate competition. The lawsuit challenged the reserve clause, which binds minor leaguers into contracts with their teams for seven years. That suit was dismissed in September 2015. However, another lawsuit was filed in October last year — known as Senne vs. the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball — alleging that minor leaguers were victims of violations of state and federal minimum wage laws. Senne et. al. suffered a setback this summer when U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco dismissed class certification. That essentially meant that the players could not file a class-action lawsuit. As a result, the players’ legal team led by Garrett Broshuis amended their case to only include players who play in one league for an entire season. As Norris notes, that means that the included players’ experiences are uniform enough for inclusion in a class-action lawsuit.

So that’s why Minor League Baseball established a political action committee (PAC). A PAC, for the unfamiliar, is an organization created with the intent of raising money to defeat a particular candidate, legislation, or ballot initiative. In other words, they’re getting serious and want Capitol Hill’s help.

Minor League Baseball president Stan Brand said, “Because of procedurally what has happened in the Congress and the difficulties in getting legislation, we’ve got to adjust to that. We were lucky. We had the ability because of the depth of the relationships and involvement in the communities to not have to worry about that. And now we do, I think. The PAC . . . gives us another tool to re-enforce who we are and why we’re important.”

Norris mentions in his column that Phillies minor league outfielder Dylan Cozens received the Joe Baumann Award for leading the minors with 40 home runs. That came with an $8,000 prize. Cozens said that the prize was more than he made all season. The minor league regular season spanned from April 7 to September 5, about six months. Athletes aren’t paid in the other six months which includes offseason training and spring training. They are also not paid for participating in instructional leagues and the Arizona Fall League. Minor leaguers lack union representation, which is why their fight for fair pay has been such an uphill battle.