Wilpon and Katz served as buffers between investors and Madoff

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Maybe Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz didn’t know anything about Bernie Madoff’s fraud, but after reading this in today’s New York Times do NOT tell me that they were “just like everyone else who was duped.”  Because as far as I know, no one else who was duped served as a buffer between everyday investors and Madoff, shielding him from any inquiries:

Mr. Wilpon and Mr. Katz marveled at Mr. Madoff’s record of success and talked of returns that would consistently outperform the market. But to be among those referred by the Mets’ owners, one had to agree to odd and puzzling terms that restricted direct contact with or questioning of Mr. Madoff. Sterling Equities, the family company that owns the Mets, would administer all the referred accounts and handle the transactions between the investors and Mr. Madoff’s firm.

Those invited into this rarefied club — including relatives of Sterling management, an investment banker who is also a supper club entertainer, a technology entrepreneur and a theater industry executive — would not send money to Mr. Madoff. Instead, it would be filtered through the Sterling partner and the Mets board member Arthur Friedman, a certified public accountant with a law degree who served as the liaison to Mr. Madoff’s operation.

Even if they hadn’t a reasonable doubt about Madoff in the world, the fact is that Wilpon and Katz were not mere victims like others were. They were a key part of his operation, however unwitting to the fraud, and they had higher duties than did common investors, and thus they have a greater responsibility to the other investors.

Report: Padres interested in Maikel Franco

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The Padres may have some interest in acquiring Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco, according to a recent report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. It seems unlikely that the team would deal their starting third baseman with J.P. Crawford (fractured left hand) sidelined through July; to that end, however, they signed infielder Danny Espinosa as minor league depth on Friday and have reportedly been eying the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre, among other veteran options.

Franco, 25, entered Sunday batting .255/.297/.425 with nine home runs and a .721 OPS in 229 plate appearances this season. While he has yet to live up to the .280+ average, 1.9+ fWAR he posted during his rookie campaign, he’s been a solid 20+ home run producer over the last few years and shown some stability at the hot corner. He’s also under team control for the next three years and could provide some much-needed insurance behind the Padres’ current third base option, 27-year-old Christian Villanueva.

Rosenthal notes that the Phillies could strike a deal for one of San Diego’s relievers, though no one specific has been connected to the team yet — and the club probably wouldn’t be able to finesse a one-for-one deal given the quality of the Padres’ pitchers. The Phillies’ bullpen has looked downright abysmal over the last month, placing 11th-worst in the league with a collective 5.34 ERA and 0.3 fWAR. Their failure to procure a viable reliever beyond Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano and Edubray Ramos lends a certain urgency to any potential deal they make over the next few weeks, though the official trade deadline is still over a month away.