Mad(off) Money: Mets Owners Given ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ Card by Judge

As if being a Mets fan weren’t difficult enough given the team’s play on the field, the scandalous truth behind Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme hit especially close to home for New York fans. Madoff’s major clients included Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, the team’s owners, who included the team in Madoff’s business ventures. In December of 2010 Wilpon and Katz were sued by Irving Picard, the trustee for Madoff’s victims, for more than $1 billion.

With a trial looming, the owners struck a court settlement on Monday that orders $162 million be paid to Picard’s clients in exchange for all other charges against Wilpon and Katz be dropped. Of added bonus is that payments will not begin for another three years and that funds from the payments can come from the $178 million in claims the owners have against Madoff’s estate.

Reaction from financial experts and baseball writers has been nearly unanimous: the Mets caught a huge break. The uncertainty surrounding the court proceedings led to speculation Wilpon and Katz would be forced to sell the team. It now appears the club will remain under the same ownership, a fate embattled Dodgers owner Frank McCourt could not avoid following his messy divorce.

Whether the same ownership is a good thing or not is a topic up for debate, but what’s undeniable is the Mets can finally turn their attention back to the field rather than the courtroom. General manager Sandy Alderson likened the settlement to a cloud being lifted from the organization. The settlement also improves relations between the team and Major League Baseball, which handed out emergency loans to the team to help pay legal fees.

The question now becomes how aggressive the Mets become in player contracts. The Madoff fiasco could not save the team from losing star shortstop Jose Reyes, who signed with the Miami Marlins for $106 million. Third baseman David Wright will likely command high interest this offseason when his contract is up and a $16 million club option is due. Alderson alluded to the fact that the team will have to continue to cut back in spending, saying “we’ve lost quite a bit of money over the last couple of years.”

Mets fans are used to torture but remain among the most loyal in baseball. They could use some good news, and they got that in court on Monday. The next challenge is delivering something good on the diamond.

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