The Widening NFL Bounty Hunt; Hideous Home Run Structure Under Siege

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Today in sports: Some Miami Marlins worry the team's new $2.5 million center-field statue will blind left-handed hitters, the NFL is expanding the investigation into the New Orleans Saints bounty pool, and another legal setback for New York Mets ownership.

U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff ruled Monday that the lawsuit against New York Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz by Irving Picard, the trustee for the victims of Bernie Madoff, will indeed go to a jury trial starting March 19. Rakoff also ruled Picard can reclaim $83.3 million in "fictitious profits" from the club without the trial, effectively putting a floor on what Wilpon and Katz will have to pay. Picard can pursue as much $386 million at trial, but Rakoff -- who will decide the final amount Picard receives, not the jury -- noted that will only happen if Picard can prove Wilpon and Katz "willfully blinded" themselves to Madoff's Ponzi scheme in order to continue reaping its benefits. For the already cash-strapped, debt-ridden Mets, this is another $83.3 million albatross.  [AP]

St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has been summoned to New York today for another round of interviews with NFL security officials about the bounty pool (aka, a "cheap shot fund") he admitted running over the past three seasons as an assistant with the New Orleans Saints.  According to Fox Sports NFL reporter Jay Glazer, the league will begin handing out punishments stemming from the Saints investigation by March 25, the day before the NFL owners' meetings begin. Meanwhile, an NFL official confirmed to The Washington Post over the weekend that an investigation into allegations Williams had a similar program in place from 2004 to 2007 when he coached the Washington Redskins defense. [ESPN]

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Miami Marlins players are dropping not-so-subtle hints that the flamingo-adored $2.5 million sculpture in center field of the team's new ballpark that lights up after every home run may be doomed, because it's distracting to batters. Marlins utility man Greg Dobbs, a left-handed hitter, says it's in his field of vision and expects players on other teams to complain. Catcher John Buck has admitted the sculpture "might be trouble" for lefties. Right now, the team insists the 72-foot-tall neon green monstrosity -- which computer imaging predicted would look like the retina-burning structure pictured on your right -- is "not an issue," possibly because the season hasn't started yet. [Miami Herald]

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Joshua Cribbs, for one, thinks last Thursday's ESPN report about Browns running back Peyton Hillis' desire to quit football and join the CIA was manufactured by agent Kennard McGuire, who Hillis fired last week. The logic is sound, but Adam Schefter's story attributes the CIA story to "team sources," who theoretically could have picked up the information second-hand and after-the-fact. Hillis denied the CIA report in an interview on Friday with the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, noting, not incorrectly, that it "[M]akes me sound insane." [PFT]

Reeves Nelson, the former UCLA power forward whose rough practice habits and gruff treatment of assistant coaches comprised much of Sports Illustrated's recent takedown of the school's basketball culture, is unhappy with the article, on the grounds it "makes me look like a scumbag." He says reporter George Dohrrmann "never asked me for my version of any event at all," which SI responded to in a statement, saying that it supports Dohrrmann's reporting "unequivocally" noting his reporting included a "detailed conversation with Mr. Nelson in which he was given an opportunity to respond to the facts and, to his credit, he did." [ESPN]

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