It must be hard playing for the New York Mets. You’re constantly in the shadow of the Yankees. You have a huge payroll, but have made the playoffs just once since being in the 2000 World Series, making you an easy target for an impatient and disgruntled fanbase. And once again you’re below .500 and looking up at the rival Philadelphia Phillies.
If that wasn’t tough enough, now your owner is killing you in the press.
As part of a wide-ranging interview with the New Yorker, Mets’ owner Fred Wilpon called his club a “sh—- team” and said they were “snakebitten”.
After the catcher, Josh Thole, struck out, David Wright came to the plate. Wright, the team’s marquee attraction, has started the season dreadfully at the plate. “He’s pressing,” Wilpon said. “A really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar.”
When Carlos Beltran came up, I mentioned his prodigious post-season with the Astros in 2004, when he hit eight home runs, just before he went to the Mets as a free agent. Wilpon laughed, not happily. “We had some schmuck in New York who paid him based on that one series,” he said, referring to himself. In the course of playing out his seven-year, $119-million contract with the Mets, Beltran, too, has been hobbled by injuries. “He’s sixty-five to seventy per cent of what he was.” Beltran singled, loading the bases with one out.
Ike Davis, the sophomore first baseman and the one pleasant surprise for the Mets so far this season, was up next. “Good hitter,” Wilpon said. “Sh—- team—good hitter.” Davis struck out. Angel Pagan flied out to right, ending the Mets’ threat. “Lousy clubs—that’s what happens.” Wilpon sighed. The Astros put three runs on the board in the top of the second.
“We’re snakebitten, baby,” Wilpon said.
In reality, Wilpon isn’t saying anything that just about every other Mets fan (or baseball writer in general) hasn’t already said about the team. But it never helps when people in the highest reaches of management are crushing their players publicly. Whether it’s Dan Gilbert firing off angry emails like a dumped high school sophomore or Donald Sterling sitting courtside to heckle his own starting point guard, when the guy signing the checks starts acting like the drunk fan in the upper deck, nothing good happens.
An owner has every right to be unhappy with an underperforming team. Chances are your boss wouldn’t be eager to treat you to a steak dinner if you weren’t getting your job done. But what makes Wilpon look childish is that he has a lot to do with how the team is currently constructed. He admitted as much with his comment about “some schmuck in New York” signing Carlos Beltran to an enormous contract based on one great playoff series he had seven years ago. He also gave former general manager Omar Minaya a long leash in adding high-priced free agents that have saddled the team with bad contracts and worse production.
By the way, there’s that little issue with Bernie Madoff (which was the actual focus of the New Yorker article). A trustee for Madoff’s victims have filed a lawsuit seeking $300 million and it has forced Wilpon to look at selling a minority stake in the franchise. It’s just another financial headache that Bud Selig and MLB will have to take a hard look at…once they’ve finished cleaning up behind Frank McCourt in Los Angeles.
But this episode of verbal flatulence by Wilpon could have some benefits in that it could help ease some financial burdens. Players will take notice and definitely remember this. David Wright is doing his best to remain professional, but his comments belie a sense of frustration, disappointment and anger.
“Fred is a good man and is obviously going through some difficult times. There is nothing more productive that I can say at this point.”
Well Fred, the good news is that you may not have any new big money free agents to kick around in the near future.