PORT ST. LUCIE FL - FEBRUARY 17: Owner Fred Wilpon of the New York Mets addresses the media during spring training at Tradition Field on February 17 2011 in Port St. Lucie Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
After allowing the initial shock to subside from Jeffrey Toobin's article in this week's edition of The New Yorker regarding the Wilpons and the collateral damage from the Madoff scandal, I found myself asking a lot of questions.
I wasn't necessarily asking questions like, "When will we trade Jose Reyes?" or "Did Fred Wilpon's comments hurt Carlos Beltran's trade value?" I found myself asking about Toobin's interest in the Wilpons and his approach.
So, I went to the source. Toobin, a lawyer that doubles as a legal analyst for CNN and regular contributor for The New Yorker, agreed to a brief email interview to address whether the Mets knew what was coming with his article, his thoughts on the merits of the Madoff trustees' lawsuit, and his personal reaction as a Mets fan to Fred Wilpon's player appraisals.
It won't talk anyone down from any ledges nor end the calls for a Wilpon banishment. Hopefully, it provides you with a bit more perspective on the situation as we sort through the fallout.Matthew Artus: How has the reaction been to your article thus far? Have you received any reaction from the persons cited in your article?
Jeffrey Toobin: There certainly has been an intense reaction in the news media - traditional and web. I have not heard from any of the people mentioned.
MA: Did the Wilpons or the Mets have an opportunity to review the content before the article's publication this week?
JT: The article went through the customary fact-checking process. A fact-checker called and spoke to everyone quoted in the piece.
MA: What brought you to choose Bernie Madoff and the Wilpons as your subjects?
JT: It's a natural subject for The New Yorker - a major legal and financial crisis at one of the home baseball teams.
MA: You summarize Fred Wilpon's defense against the Madoff trustees lawsuit by saying he "must prove that he was a dupe rather than a crook." So, what would you conclude - dupe or crook?
JT: The evidence I saw pointed strongly toward dupe.
MA: Given the significant monies being sought in the lawsuit, you don't appear to give Irving Picard's case much weight. Does he have much of a case? What do you believe are Picard's motives in pursuing the case against the Wilpons?
JT: I don't have access to all the evidence, but the evidence I've seen favors Wilpon's position. I can't speculate about personal motives on Picard's point, but he obviously wants to obtain as much money as possible for Madoff's victims.
MA: A Sports Illustrated article this week cites Fred Wilpon as stating that the Mets could lose as much as $70 million this year. From your experience, what did you observe regarding the present state of the Wilpons' finances?
JT: The Mets are in a significant short-term bind. They are paying high salaries, including to several players who are no longer on the team, and attendance is declining. But the long-term prognosis for the team is good - as illustrated by the high value of the franchise.
MA: In your opinion, will Fred Wilpon be forced to sell the Mets?
JT: Not if he can resolve Picard's lawsuit on favorable terms.
MA: You disclosed your affinity for the Mets in your article. As a Mets fan, what was your reaction to Fred Wilpon's appraisals of his players and team as he made them?
JT: I thought Wilpon's assessments showed that he is a savvy and realistic evaluator of the talent on his team.
MA: Did Fred Wilpon's appraisals come as answers to your questions, or were they more like spontaneous utterances?
JT: It was part of a conversation that went on during the game.
Thanks beaucoup to Jeffrey Toobin for taking time from his busy schedule for this exchange. You can also listen to a great interview Toobin gave on the Brian Lehrer Show by visiting the WNYC website.