The Wilpons may save some money

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No, not by cutting Jeff Francoeur into pieces and selling him for scrap, but by virtue of a law winding its way through Congress that could allow them to hold on to $48 million that, under current law, they might have had to forfeit as a result of their connection to the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme.

The law — the details of which are are much better spelled-out in Dan Freed’s column at TheStreet.com — would prevent trustees cleaning up after Madoff-like scams from from collecting earlier investors’ “gains” and redistributing them to later, less lucky investors.  Such a move is called a clawback, and this proposed law would limit the maneuver. The Wilpons actually came out of the Madoff scam with a bit more money in their account than they
started with — $48 million, actually. Under present law, they’d be subject to clawbacks. If the law passes, the Wilpons will likely be in the clear.

Which isn’t necessarily an injustice or anything. On a very basic level, the Wilpons were victims just like the other investors. That they happened to be in earlier than others and thus got the benefit of Madoff’s phony investment gains as opposed to getting the shaft is not their fault. And besides, just because they got more money back than they put in doesn’t mean that they weren’t losers too. Indeed, they thought they were doing way better than their $48 million gain they got and likely structured their lives and businesses accordingly.  Because of this sort of thing clawbacks are controversial and problematic.  I can’t really speak to the merits of this particular law (I’m a bit out of my depth here), but the beliefs that clawbacks often work to unwittingly unjust ends is pretty widely held.

But I do know this much: as things currently stand, the Wilpons, if they have a bit of business sense, have $48 million mentally socked away to be given up in clawbacks later. If the law passes, however, it will be theirs to spend once again.

Maybe — just maybe — they’ll spend it on the Mets. 

Tommy La Stella talks about his refusal to report to the minors in 2016

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In late July of 2016, Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella was demoted to Triple-A. It wasn’t personal. It was a roster crunch situation and La Stella had options left so, despite the fact that he had been an effective player to that point of the season, it made sense to send him down.

La Stella didn’t take the demotion well. In fact he refused to report to Iowa and went home to New Jersey instead. It was not until August 17 that he finally reported and then only after prolonged discussions with the Cubs and the assurance that he’d be back in the majors once rosters opened up. Which he was, after spending just over a week down on the farm.

Such a move by a player would, normally speaking, make him persona non-grata. His teammates would shun him and the organization would, eventually, cut bait, with the press characterizing him as a me-first player as he walked out the door. That did not happen with La Stella, however, who remains with the Cubs two years later and, by all accounts, is a popular and important guy in the Cubs’ clubhouse, even if he’s not one of the team’s big stars.

Today Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has an in-depth story about La Stella, what went down in 2016 and how he and the Cubs have proceeded since then. The story is subscription only, but the short version is that there was a lot of understanding and empathy on the part of the Cubs organization and their players about what was going on in La Stella’s head at the time and how everyone allowed everyone else the space to work through it.

I’m happy to read this story, because all too often we only hear about such incidents as they occur, with little followup. To the extent the story is told, most of the time its completely one-sided, with the player who acts out being treated like a bad seed with little if any explanation of his side of things. And, yes, there are always two sides to the story. Sometimes even more.

Kudos to Rosenthal for telling this story. Here’s hoping the next time a player is involved in a controversy that, in the moment, makes him appear to be a bad seed or have a bad attitude, we hear more about it then too.