Embattled New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon is going to get a lot lighter in the pocket.
The Mets owners had the book, or at least a lengthy chapter, thrown at them Monday as they were ordered by Judge Jed S. Rakoff to pay $83 million immediately to trustee Irving Pichard, who initially sued the Mets for $386 million.
The Wilpons are not out of the water, however. With a court date set for March 19, if a jury finds the Wilpons guilty of negligence about the Madoff investments, then Pichard will walk away with $303 million of the Mets riches, and, almost certainly to the glee of Mets fans, spell the end of the Fred and Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz regime.
Meanwhile, Judge Rakoff said he found it dubious that the case will end in favor of Pichard. "The court remains skeptical that the trustee can ultimately rebut the defendants showing with good faith, let alone bad faith, to all the defendants." He added that the evidence against the Wilpons was not great.
That is bad news for Mets fans who watched Fred Wilpon laugh in their faces last week, stating that he plans to own the franchise for a very, very, very long time. If the jury finds little evidence to convict Fred and Jeff Wilpon then Met fans can forget about seeing them sell off more shares, and they can also forget about the Wilpons eventually selling off their majority stake. In short, get used to watching ownership continue to spend money on aging players who have nothing left in the tank, and, basically, trot out a Double-A baseball team on a major league field.
If a jury allows the Wilpons to walk, it would be a great injustice. Evidence has poured in over the past two years that shows the Wilpons knew, or at least were ignoring the fact that Madoff was a risky gamble. Remember the story that came out when Saul Katz was informed about Madoff's sleazy practices, but he allowed the movement of a financial transaction to Madoff's desk? Throw the book at 'em jury!
It's not like the Wilpons and the Mets will be free to spend money like it's 2006 again after this trial is over. The Wilpons are already in to OPM (other people's money) for $40 million to Bank of America, $25 million to MLB, and now $83 million to Pichard. The only shares that they have "sold" for the team are shares they bought themselves through SNY. Moreover, the team has lost $70 million at the box office last year, and that number will likely hit $100 million as sad sacks like Lucas Duda, Dan Murphy and Dillion Gee will likely lead the Mets to a 90-plus loss season and into the toilet of the NL East, and Major League Baseball.
All Mets fans can hope for, other than a bizarre and miraculous season that results in the team winning 85 games this year, is that the jury throw the book at the Wilpons and force them to sell. Keep your fingers crossed Mets fans.