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


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.

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
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
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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.