“Madoff’s Curveball,” Uncovered

If ever one article generated a deafening buzz, it is Jeffrey Toobin’s article, “Madoff’s Curveball,” in the May 30, 2011 edition of The New Yorker. The article outlines the problems faced by Met’s owner, Fred Wilpon, who allegedly had knowledge of Bernie Madoff’s infamous scandal, and who could be hit with a near-billion dollar judgement.

I finished the eleven page article Tuesday afternoon, and found it both comprehensive and entertaining. The legal allegations are nothing that requires further reading – they have already been adequately covered. But the insights into the lives of both Fred Wilpon and Bernie Madoff uncover some interesting questions and leave you hungry to witness the result of this pending battle.

Beyond the more academic aspects of this article, some facts left me stunned and amused. Did you know, for example, that Fred Wilpon was responsible for getting Sandy Koufax to join his high-school baseball team?

Of course, one cannot examine this article and ignore the highly covered comments made by Wilpon in regards to some of his players. I read an ESPN article last night that outlined the comments, and came away rather stunned. However, after reading the article, I was anything but stunned.

Here is the full excerpt from the article where Wilpon makes these comments:

In the game against the Astros, Jose Reyes, leading off for the Mets, singled sharply up the middle, then stole second. “He’s a racehorse,” Wilpon said. When Reyes started with the Mets, in 2003, just before his twentieth birthday, he was pegged as a future star. Injuries have limited him to a more pedestrian career, though he’s off to a good start this season. “He thinks he’s going to get Carl Crawford money,” Wilpon said, referring to the Red Sox’ signing of the former Tampa Bay player to a seven-year, $142-million contract. “He’s had everything wrong with him,” Wilpon said of Reyes. “He won’t get it.”

After the catcher, Josh Thole, struck out, David Wright came to the plate. Wright, the team’s marquee attraction, has started the season dreadfully at the plate. “He’s pressing,” Wilpon said. “A really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar.”

Wright walked.

When Carlos Beltran came up, I mentioned his prodigious post-season with the Astros in 2004, when he hit eight home runs, just before he went to the Mets as a free agent. Wilpon laughed, not happily. “We had some schmuck in New York who paid him based on that one series,” he said, referring to himself. In the course of playing out his seven-year, $119-million contract with the Mets, Beltran, too, has been hobbled by injuries. “He’s sixty-five to seventy per cent of what he was.” Beltran singled, loading the bases with one out.

Ike Davis, the sophomore first baseman and the one pleasant surprise for the Mets so far this season, was up next. “Good hitter,” Wilpon said. “Shitty team—good hitter.” Davis struck out. Angel Pagan flied out to right, ending the Mets’ threat. “Lousy clubs—that’s what happens.” Wilpon sighed. The Astros put three runs on the board in the top of the second.

“We’re snakebitten, baby,” Wilpon said.

It is important to read that full excerpt without any snips. The term “taking it out of context” is in full force right here.

Last night on The Seamheads.com Radio Hour, I was astonished by Steve Lenox’s – a Met fan – reaction to this news. Is Fred Wilpon really going to get away with this, I thought?

But these comments were not made in order to bash his players. Rather, they were comments made in the midst of a came – a sort of commentary. Wilpon spoke just as any fan would during a game, and, if anything, it signifies his commendable fan-like, hands-on approach to ownership.

While the article was virtually bare of any startling points that could have any ramifications on the actual story, one, particular fact stood out. Twice throughout the article, the argument was made that Wilpon really couldn’t have had any knowledge of Madoff’s operation. Why would he have kept over $500 million in the account?

That, along with the genuine relationship Wilpon shared with Madoff lead the reader to believe that Wilpon really is innocent. Even Madoff, as he sat in prison, went to bat for his friend. And, it turns out, Wilpon was never warned to pull his funds from Madoff’s control.

For any fan interested in the legal battle, the backstory of the scandal, or an insightful look into the life of Fred Wilpon, this is required reading.

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