Ken Davidoff's baseball insider

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The Mets on trial

Since December 2008, when we've discussed the Mets having a "good day" or "bad day," it more often than not has referred to off-the-field matters. Financial, to be more specific.

And yup, yesterday was a good day for the Mets, thanks to U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, who denied Irving Picard's appeal of Rakoff's recent ruling that decreased the Mets' potential Madoff clawback payment from $1 billion to $386 million.

What yesterday's ruling also did, however, was set in motion the trial for this case, which is scheduled to begin on March 19 _ and proceed right into the start of the baseball season.

The trial figures to be highly entertaining, far more so than the 2012 Mets. Terry Collins might as well start rehearsing his lines to the media: "Nah, I'm not really following the trial. I've got a ballclub to run here!" He'll smile as he says this, of course.

I'm not going to pretend to be qualified to appreciate every nuance of the determining laws here. But this is a jury trial, which means that more than the letter of the law will come into play. Performance matters. Delivery matters. An ability to connect with the jury matters.

And now Fred Wilpon - who is widely liked and respected throughout both the baseball community and the business community, but not gifted with great PR skills - will have to deliver the performance of his life. Same goes for his brother-in-law, Saul Katz, who has preferred to remain out of the spotlight, with the very notable exception of his self-assessment in the infamous New Yorker story.

You can't imagine that Wilpon and Katz are going to gain much sympathy with the "We generally savvy businessmen were duped!" narrative. They'll have to, if they want to not only save the roughly $300 million - crucial in their efforts to retain the Mets - but preserve their reputations.

If Wipon can prevail in this trial, then for as much as anyone suspects wrongdoing, then Wilpon can just say, "Scoreboard." Just as Barry Bonds can do, now that Bonds has successfully turned back all of the federal charges that linked him to the usage of illegal performance-enhancing drugs. The one guilty count on Bonds, currently under appeal, is merely for dodging a prosectutor's question.

A Wilpon victory also would make it far easier for Bud Selig to continue his vocal support of his pal.

So the stakes are high and fascinating _ more so than, say, who will be the Mets' Opening Day second baseman. There are sure to be many more good days and bad days for the Mets this season, only some of them tied into the National League East standings.

Tags: Fred Wilpon , Saul Katz , Bud Selig , Jed Rakoff , Irving Picard , Bernie Madoff

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