Judge’s ruling a hit with Wilpons

Just in case you haven’t heard, a federal judge took a significant bite out of the lawsuit against the Mets ownership.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff ruled recently that Sterling Equities is only on the hook for $386 million, not the full $1 billion sought by court-appointed trustee Irving Picard.

Picard sued the Wilpons, Saul Katz and other team owners for $700 million in principal and $300 million in profits last December in connection their investments with Bernie Madoff.

But on Tuesday, Rakoff dismissed nine of 11 counts of fraud against Sterling Equities. Picard, he said, can only seek $300 million in principle and $83.3 in alleged false profits. The judge also declared that the trustee can only claim the principle if he can prove the owners were aware of the fraud.

So what does that mean to the team? It’s far too early to get into specifics, especially with the case still in court and rumors of a settlement abound, but this is very good news for Fred and Jeff Wilpon. If they keep the team, there’s more capital to work with it. And if they sell the team, they have more money in the bank for their real estate investments.

The situation is a lot less lucid for fans. To some, it’s great news as the owners suddenly have more money to play with as GM Sandy Alderson talks about $110-120 million payroll in 2012. On the other hand, there’s a sizeable contingent of fans who abhor the Wilpons’ and were looking forward to seeing them replaced as soon as possible.

The divide among fans is present even among your trusty blog writers. Take a gander through some of the most recent pieces and it’s crystal clear that some of my colleagues would rather never see the Wilpons’ again. I am the Serbia to their Austria-Hungary in that I don’t mind having them writing blue and orange checks.

From what I can tell through casual research online, Mets’ fans are livid with Fred and Jeff for a variety of reasons. Apparently there’s some concern about meddling in baseball decisions, not firing more personnel after the 2007 debacle, signing Karim Garcia and Shane Spencer over Vladimir Guerrero in 2004 and letting former GM Omar Minaya run the team into the ground.

In my eyes, the Wilpons agreed to back off once they signed Alderson, Paul DePodesta and JP Ricciardi as the team’s new front office leadership. At the same time, they’ve nothing short of dump money into the team, even if it wasn’t always spent as efficiently or intelligently as possible. According to Cot’s, payroll has been over $100 million seven times from 2001-2011, and has never dipped below $90 million.

I’d rather have owners that care about the team and are willing to spend money (albeit not carelessly) than owners who pocket their proceeds and build a shell of a team. But what do you think?

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