Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon

Judge tosses all but two of the bankruptcy trustee’s claims against the Wilpons

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The judge has issued a ruling in the bankruptcy case involving the Fred Wilpon, Saul Katz and the Bernie Madoff fraud.  Full reports aren’t out yet, but it sounds like a bit of a mixed-bag, but generally good news for Wilpon and the Mets:

  • Good news for Wilpon and the Mets: all but two counts brought by the bankruptcy trustee, Irving Picard, have been dropped;
  • Bad news for Wilpon and the Mets: one of the two claims that remain — fraud — could, theoretically speaking, still leave them on the hook for a $1 billion liability, should the trustee prove his case;
  • Good news for Wilpon and the Mets: there appears to be a higher burden of proof placed on the trustee than he had originally sought in order to make such a recovery: he has to prove that “the defendants willfully blinded themselves to Madoff Securities’ fraud” as opposed to having to show that they could have been aware of it had they exercised good judgment.

There is still risk here, but the risk of the massive, Mets-killing award of $1 billion is much lower, because the trustee will have to show some serious bad acts on the Wilpons’ and Katz’s part in order to get there, not just that they were generally unaware.  And while, yes, there are many people who are skeptical that sophisticated business people like Wilpon and Katz had no reason to investigate Madoff’s investments further, there hasn’t been any suggestion that I’m aware of that they ignored actual evidence that a fraud was afoot and played the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil trick with respect to it.

So where does that leave things? Both sides seem to have risk here. The trustee has had most of his case blown away and, while there still exists the potential for a home run, it’s no sure thing at all. The Wilpons still have that giant potential liability there, but it’s not imminent. This is generally where parties to a big money suit take a step back and try to settle. It might be the best course for both parties here.

Shapiro, Murray defend Dellin Betances after arbitration feud

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Dellin Betances #68 of the New York Yankees and the American League pitches against the National League during the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The dust hasn’t quite settled after right-hander Dellin Betances‘ arbitration hearing with the Yankees on Saturday. The case was decided in the team’s favor, awarding Betances with a $3 million salary for the 2017 season instead of the $5 million he initially requested. Yankees’ president Randy Levine held a press conference to voice his outrage over the figure presented by Betances and his agency, saying it had “no bearings in reality” since Betances does not have the elite closer status required for a salary bump of that magnitude.

Needless to say, the comments caused some consternation within Betances’ camp. The reliever publicly addressed the outburst, telling the press that he was prepared to put his differences with the team aside until he heard what Levine had to say. Via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:

Players union executive Rick Shapiro and Betances’ agent, Jim Murray, also spoke out in the right-hander’s favor. Shapiro presented Betances’ case during the hearing on Saturday and called Levine’s comments “an absolute disgrace to the arbitration process and to all of Major League Baseball.” In a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Shapiro added: “The only thing that has been unprecedented in the last 36 hours is that a club official, after winning a case, called a news conference to effectively gloat about his victory – that’s unprecedented.”

Murray spoke exclusively to Rosenthal, accusing the president of effectively bullying the 28-year-old during the arbitration process and claiming that Levine had both mispronounced Betances’ name throughout the hearing and blamed the reliever for “declining ticket sales and their lack of playoff history.” Like Betances, Murray said that the agency was ready to accept the arbiter’s decision and move on before Levine’s decision to air his grievances to the media. “The only person overreaching in this entire situation is Randy,” Murray told Rosenthal. “He might as well be an astronaut because nobody on earth would agree with what he is saying. Even the others in the room would disagree with him.”

Royals will experiment with Alex Gordon in all three outfield spots this year

CLEVELAND, OH -  MAY 7: Alex Gordon #4 of the Kansas City Royals reacts to a fan while on first base during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on May 7, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Royals’ manager Ned Yost is shaking things up in 2017, starting with left fielder Alex Gordon. Yost told MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan that “every scenario is open,” and expects to utilize Gordon in right and center field this spring while he figures out where to position Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss.

Gordon, 33, hasn’t manned right field since a three-game experiment with the Royals back in 2010 and has yet to play center field during any regular season to date. The focus, however, isn’t on Gordon’s capabilities. Among the three outfielders, he carries the best defensive profile and appears to be the most versatile of the bunch.

According to Flanagan, Soler and Moss are average on defense and will continue working closely with Royals’ coach Rusty Kuntz as the season approaches. One arrangement could see Gordon in center field, flanked by Soler in right field and Moss in left, though Yost foresees Soler taking some reps at DH if his defensive chops aren’t up to snuff.

While Moss is prepared to see starts at either outfield corner, Yost appears to be set on keeping Soler in right field, at least for the time being. The club is hoping for a bounce-back season from the 24-year-old outfielder, who was acquired from the Cubs in December after batting a lackluster .238/.333/.436 and sustaining a slew of minor injuries throughout the 2016 season.