The Wilpons Finally Have Someone In Their Corner

Bernie Madoff says Wilpons knew nothing about fraud

By Josh Alper
|  Wednesday, Feb 16, 2011  |  Updated 6:04 PM EDT
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Jeff Wilpon: "We're Not Giving Up Control."

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Jeff Wilpon: "We're Not Giving Up Control."

In a wide ranging interview, Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon weighs in on the Madoff scandal, the impending sale of a minority stake in the team, and how all this affects the product on the field.
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It hasn't been a very good year for the Wilpons.

Their baseball team appears to be headed for another finish out of the money, which could be doubly painful as it may be one of the last years it is their team because of a lawsuit that threatens their ability to hold onto the team. That lawsuit, alleging they should have known that Bernie Madoff was a scam artist, has turned them into punching bags and laughingstocks, even as they scream from every rooftop that they knew nothing.

No one has been buying their angle, until right now. As part of his first interview to appear in print since December 2008, Madoff stood up in support of the Mets owners, even as he told the Times that banks and hedge funds were willfully ignorant about what he was doing.  

"They knew nothing. They knew nothing."

This creates something of a conundrum for those of us trying to figure out what this means for the Wilpons. On the one hand, Madoff is a liar on a scale that goes far beyond most of what any of us have ever encountered. On the other hand, his lies always served to benefit him in some way. There's no benefit for him to lie in this case since there's nothing the Wilpons or anyone else can do to get him out of the monumental mess he's created for himself and his family.

All of that seems less significant than what Madoff said about some of the banks and hedge funds that propped up his criminal scheme, however. If those outfits "had to know" what Madoff was up to, why would the Wilpons be any different? They had serious money invested and didn't do anything to raise alarm about the returns they were getting, even as they were given warnings.

Irving Picard, the trustee suing the Wilpons, does not only allege that the Wilpons knew Madoff was a fraud. He believes they "knew or should have known" and most of what Madoff said in his interview backs up the notion that they should have known what was going on.

Of course, all of this is meaningless if you think Madoff is a totally non-credible person whose ramblings are interesting without being illuminating.

None of it gets us any closer to knowing what the future holds for the Mets, either. It is, however, a nice break from the even more fanciful allegations that Oliver Perez is going to be worth something this season.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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