As if there hasn’t been enough drama surrounding the Mets with their pending lawsuit in the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme, employing two people who were caught distributing steroids in their clubhouse and stealing team memorabilia, and their epic failures on the field since the end of the 2006 season, owner Fred Wilpon has certainly created more. In an article for the New Yorker (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/05/30/110530fa_fact_toobin?currentPage=all), Wilpon spoke to Jeffrey Toobin about Bernie Madoff and their history. While that topic in itself is controversial, it was the more casual words spoken by Wilpon about three of his premiere players that has garnered a lot of attention.
Fred Wilpon chews on the fact that he has disgraced himself.
Wilpon provided three honest but critical assessments of his players. Regarding the Mets’ prized possession and pending free agent shortstop, Jose Reyes, Wilpon said he “He’s a racehorse. He thinks he’s going to get Carl Crawford money,” (referring to the Red Sox’ signing of the former Tampa Bay player to a seven-year, $142-million contract. “He’s had everything wrong with him,” Wilpon said of Reyes. “He won’t get it.” Then David Wright, the face of the Mets, was assessed. “He’s a really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar.” Finally, it was Carlos Beltran’s turn – the same Beltran who still has his bat frozen on his shoulder as Adam Wainwright’s curveball crossed the plate for strike three to end the 2006 NLCS. The same Beltran who parlayed a magical playoff run with the Hosuton Astros in 2004 into a seven year, $119 million contract before the 2005 season. Wilpon, clearly exhibiting regret about this decision, said referring to himself: “We had some schmuck in New York who paid him based on that one series. He’s sixty-five to seventy per cent of what he was.”
Taken at face value, everything that Wilpon said about Reyes, Wright and Beltran is accurate and true. I agree with his evalaution. But I am not the one who owns the team and signs these players’ paychecks. I am not the one trying to test the market knowing full well that these assets will likely be moved. I can voice my opinion about these players and there are no repercussions. But as the owner of the Mets, he has a responsibility to his colleagues, employees, and paying customers to maintain professionalism in both good times and bad. Whatever the circumstances were behind Wilpon’s disclosure of his opinions, he should know better than to rely on any false sense of security.
Already disgraced by his association with Bernie Madoff and the precarious financial predicament he is currently in, Fred Wilpon continues to drive a wedge between himself and the Mets fan base. In 2009, Mets fans anxiously went to Citi Field to see the new state of the art stadium that was replacing the old dump known as Shea Stadium. Much to Mets fans surprise and chagrin, it looked like the second home of the Dodgers. It took an entire year before the organization rectified the lack of tribute to the home team. This issue has been beaten to death, but it is part and parcel to the argument that Fred Wilpon has no idea how to connect with his paying customers. His recent comments about Reyes, Wright and Beltran are proof of this as well.
While Reyes, Wright and Beltran have played vital roles in the Mets monumental failures over the last several years, they have also been stand-up citizens and representatives of the team. They have withstood their fair share of injuries, but it cannot be argued that they have given their all during their tenure. None of them have ever had any off the field issues. None of them have ever been linked to performance enhancing drugs (besides Reyes dabbling with his own blood platelets). None of them have ever appeared to have given up. They have been loyal to the team in both good and bad times. And it is highly likely most, if not all, of them will not be a Met after the end of the 2011 season. Say what you want about their lack of results, but they do not deserve to be criticized in such a carefree manner by the team’s owner.
Over the last few years, Mets fans have been trying to pinpoint the source for their failures. Willie Randolph and Omar Minaya came in as manager and general manager, respectively, before the 2005 season and improved the team’s record by 12 games in each of their first two seasons. But Randolph’s style and managerial skills were called into question in 2008 when he was classlessly fired after a victory and after flying out to Anaheim to manage a game. Then Jerry Manuel was given the job and he was nothing more than a humorous soundbyte. Omar Minaya and his lack of vision was sent packing after the 2010 season. The common denominator in all of this, besides the players, is Fred Wilpon and the current ownership. Wilpon has made his fortune in the real estate industry. Now it’s time for him to put on his realtor cap and sell the team. If only Mets fans had an opportunity to discuss their opinions of him as an owner in a prominent magazine