The Wilpons are looking to sell a minority stake in the Mets

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As everyone know, Fred Wilpon was taken for a bunch of money in the Bernie Madoff scam.  Yeah, he “broke even” in the sense that he got back his investment, but that was just because he was one of the early lucky ones who got their ponzi scheme money back.  It wasn’t real investment earnings, and because of the way the law works with respect to ponzi schemes, Wilpon is probably going to be on the hook to give back the phony earnings Madoff gave him in order to make those who truly lost their shirts whole again.  There’s a lawsuit to that effect pending right now, and eventually Wilpon will likely have to fork over an awful lot of money.

It is then little surprise that today the Wilpons announced that the Mets ownership group is looking for “strategic partners” to “provide additional assurance that the New York Mets will continue to have the necessary resources to fully compete and win.”  Translation:  we’re looking to sell a stake in the team so we can get some cash.

The Wilpons say in their statement — the entirety of which is reprinted below — that they intend to maintain majority control of the team.  Of course, as in war, no battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy, so it’s not like they can promise that they’ll keep control.  If someone is willing to bail them out in a highly beneficial manner but demands majority control of the team, the Wilpons would have to consider it, right?

It’s been known for some time that another shoe could drop with respect to the Madoff business, and this is apparently it.  In the short term, however, it shouldn’t have much of an impact on the Mets as a baseball team.  They were already facing big payroll obligations for 2011 and have set out on something of an austerity plan in light of it.  They haven’t made big moves this winter and clearly aren’t poised to do so until the payroll goes down.

In the long term: this could mean major changes for the Mets franchise.

Fred Wilpon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the New York Mets, and Jeff Wilpon, Chief Operating Officer of the New York Mets, issued the following statement:

As Sterling Equities announced in December, we are engaged in discussions to settle a lawsuit brought against us and other Sterling partners and members ofour families by the Trustee in the Madoff bankruptcy. We are not permitted to comment on these confidential negotiations while they are ongoing.

However, to address the air of uncertainty created by this lawsuit, and to provide additional assurance that the New York Mets will continue to have the necessary resources to fully compete and win, we are looking at a number ofpotential options including the addition of one or more strategic partners. To explore this, we have retained Steve Greenberg, a Managing Director at Allen & Company, as our advisor.

Regardless of the outcome of this exploration, Sterling will remain the principal ownership group of the Mets and continue to control and manage the team’s operations. The Mets have been a major part of our families for more than 30 years and that is not going to change.

As we have said before, we are totally committed to having the Mets again become a World Series winner. Our fans and all New Yorkers deserve nothing less.

MLB to crack down on sign stealing

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We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.

As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.

Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.

As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.

While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.

Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.