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.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.