I hope the victims of Bernie Madoff get every penny they lost back.
But should the Mets owners face a civil trial this month in connection with Madoff earnings? I don’t know what the Wilpons really owe (who does?) but they’ll have to hand over $83 million, and that may cover things.
The Mets owners in the past (not the Wilpons) have committed some real crimes, like trading Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan. But this case? Madoff trustee Irving Picard initially wanted $1 billion from the Wilpons and Saul Katz. A federal judge cut that down to no more than $383 million. And now Judge Jed Rakoff says $83 million should do. He is allowing a civil trial to pursue more money, but Rakoff expressed real doubts about whether Picard can make his case that the Mets ownership was “willfully blind” to the scheme.
The Wilpons and their underlings have been willfully blind to a lot of things through the years: pitching, defense, etc. But Rakoff says he is really skeptical that the Wilpons were blind about Madoff.
After all, the SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] didn’t know, and they were warned. And the Wilpons are not financial geniuses, as evidenced by the last two years at the new Citi Field. According to Newsday, Citi Field revenues have dropped more than 30 percent since 2009. Sales of top tickets are down 50 percent. Attendance: down 26 percent. Concession revenue: down 28 percent since 2009, and with that, parking was down 37 percent (20 bucks a spot)!
The man behind this week’s ruling, Rakoff, was appointed by Bill Clinton. But, more importantly, what are his baseball preferences? In my very limited look, I cannot make a clear determination. He was born in Philadelphia, so it’s possible he roots for the Phillies. That would be bad for the Wilpons.
But let’s look more closely: He went to Harvard Law, and these days that would make him almost certainly a Knicks fan.
There are scant baseball references in his opinions, but I found a few (I didn’t look at that many)!
Talking about a mail fraud statute, he said this: “To federal prosecutors of white-collar crime, the mail fraud statute is our Stradivarius, our Colt .45, our Louisville Slugger, our Cuisinart, and our true love. We may flirt with other laws, and call conspiracy laws ‘darling,’ but we always come home.”
Uh, okay. I think that’s not, uh, too weird. But note the reference to Louisville Slugger. In other comments, he said, “The price of being a nice guy is too high — in terms of the system of justice.”
Okay, perhaps that’s a passing reference to the famous, “Nice guys finish last” from Leo Durocher.
For the record, Durocher says his most famous quote was taken out of context. Durocher, the then-Dodger manager, says his actual words, about his cross-town rivals, The New York Giants, were: “Take a look at them. They’re all nice guys, but they finish last. Nice guys. Finish last.” A period that changes the meaning.
I’m rooting for the Mets and the Wilpons. They’ve been, for the most part, nice guys. But this year, they both might finish last.