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.