Saturday, February 5, 2011
The Mets and Madoff As if you need another reason to dislike the serial Ponzi-schemer Bernie Madoff, now it turns out the swindler was a New York Mets fan. Figures. According to a lawsuit filed against the Mets' owners, the Wilpon boys and Saul Katz, the team and owners allegedly reaped $300 million in fictitious profits from Madoff's various schemes. I guess in Metsland that's at least enough to buy a journeyman left fielder. As the Wall Street Journal reports, "The suit, which also described a more than 25-year relationship between Mr. Madoff and the co-owners of the Mets, said Messrs. Wilpon, Katz and Madoff served on the boards of the same charities, and had season tickets near one another at Mets games. They traveled together with their wives when the Mets played exhibition games in Japan one year, according to the lawsuit, and Mr. Wilpon even helped Mr. Madoff when he was looking for new office space." In August of 1921, then-Baseball Commissioner Keneshaw Mountain Landis banned for life eight Chicago White Sox ballplayers who had been acquitted in a jury trial where they were accused of throwing the 1919 Major League Baseball World Series. Landis, a federal judge as well as the commissioner, issued a terse statement: "Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ball game, no player who undertakes or promises to throw a ball game, no player who sits in confidence with a bunch of crooked ballplayers and gamblers, where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will never play professional baseball." Alrighty then. The Mets' owners, as far as we know, didn't undertake to throw games. Why would they, the Mets win so infrequently anyway, but the owners certainly did "sit in confidence" with a bunch of crooks in the person of Bernie Madoff and his crew all the while ignoring warning signs that something wasn't right here. The Mets' best defense, as Buster Olney cracked, may be that "we signed Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo to $60m deals-and WE were supposed to sniff out Ponzi scheme?" Let's call it the stupid rich guy defense. Commissioner Bud Selig, not that he ever would, should move immediately to ban the Met owners. The trial, the attending soap opera, the greed and avarice sure to emerge will, all by itself, be detrimental to the game. Baseball, considering the steroids scandal and the unbelievably slack response to that outrage, could benefit from holding to a higher standard and a higher standard could start with zero tolerance for the owners of a Major League franchise sitting in confidence with one of the greatest crooks in American history.