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Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Update: Pitchers & Catchers? Nope. Lawyers & judges? Report Date

By Andrew Marchand

Mets' pitchers and catchers may be reporting on Feb. 20, but the next most important dates in the team history are actually Feb. 16th and Feb. 23.

Feb. 16th is  the deadline for submission of final reply briefings  for a ruling by Judge Rakoff' whether the Wilpons are only on the hook for two years and $83 million as opposed to the $295  million over six years that Irving Picard currently seeks. This is a chance for Picard to try to have an important partial victory on Judge Rakoff's playing field.

If Judge Rakoff so chooses, he could have a packed house for the oral arguments on the subject on Feb. 23rd. Shortly, thereafter, he could  issue a final  opinion and order.

So Feb. 16th and Feb. 23rd are the vital dates. But in this game is always feels like it is not over until it is over because ... they can still appeal more if they so choose after a trial and to other other courts.

Still, in terms of the future ownership of the Mets, these two Febuary dates are very significant. Even with Bud Selig in their corner, it is unclear if the Wilpons could survive a major loss in this case without being forced to sell the  team.

There is a belief among some that settlement talks are going on. Even with the Wilpons owning the upper hand based on last week's  and earlier Rakoff rulings and  the possibility that they  may only (relative term) lose $83 million, they may want to avoid having their family and business finances exposed to the world in  such a trial.

In the end, no one knows for sure if there will be a trial that is set right now for March 19th.

"Because of the complexities of issues and hardening of positions by the adversaries, I think the likelihood is there will be a trial," said lawyer Michael J. Kline of Fox Rothschild LLP in Princeton.