(Long Island, N.Y.) Sometimes the truth hurts, especially when it’s your boss giving it to you. When Fred Wilpon said what every realistic Mets fan has been thinking for nearly five years, it was a breath of fresh air. There may be hope for this woe-be-gone franchise after all.
All of the fallout caused by the media made the team chairman and chief executive cave in and issue a public apology. But Wilpon should have stuck to his guns because he is the boss and at the end of the day has the final word. That and he was one hundred percent correct in his assessment of not only the entire team – especially their core trio – but also himself.
Wilpon showed a natural frustration when speaking to Jeffrey Toobin and The New Yorker reporter merely was doing his job by including Wilpon’s comments. The conversation that they had took place during a home game versus the Houston Astros while the Mets were mired in that dreadful 5-13 start. If Wilpon had told Toobin that he was content with his team’s performance, he would have been – and should have – been called either an idiot or a liar. This is a team that has shown no leadership, character or even a resemblance of a winning group since dropping Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, so even the most optimistic of people have to become jaded and fed up at some point in time.
When a team has experienced two monumental September collapses and then followed that up with sub-par performances without making the postseason, their owner should be upset. And the common denominator in all of this has been the three players that Wilpon singled out amongst the crowd.
Expected to be the core that would lead the Mets to at least one championship, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and David Wright have performed well but not at that level needed for the expectations to become a reality. Reyes has been injured often, somewhat inconsistent and has behaved like a very immature individual. He is a talented shortstop and hitter, but has shown no discipline at the plate, on the base paths and towards management. All of this should be a part in contract negotiations and with the impending free agent reportedly looking for a long term, expensive deal, Wilpon doesn’t even need to rely on the team’s shaky financial situation due to the Bernie Madoff scandal to justify saying goodbye to Reyes.
“He thinks he is going to get Carl Crawford money,” Wilpon told Toobin, referring to the Boston Red Sox seven-year, $142 million contract given to the free agent outfielder who has similar offensive skills as Reyes. “He’s (Reyes) had everything wrong with him. He won’t get it.”
When former Mets general manager Omar Minaya signed Carlos Beltran, the Mets thought that they had plucked a budding superstar as he was hitting his peak coming off an impressive playoff performance for the Houston Astros. He has been a very productive player, but his legacy in Queens will in all likelihood be his – and the team’s – final at-bat in 2006, something that Wilpon has obviously not forgotten.
“We had some schmuck in New York who paid him based on that one series,” Wilpon commented to Toobin, after he did a pantomime of Beltran standing with the bat on his shoulders as he did in that fatal turn at the plate against Adam Wainright and his 0-2 curveball.
Beltran has also had problems with his knees and a couple of incidents that can be viewed as questionable at best that have caused him to likely receive offers from fans to help him pack his bags on the way out the door.
Perhaps the one player mentioned by Wilpon that raised eyebrows was his saying that Wright is a “very good player” but “not a superstar.” While this may sound harsh at first, it makes total sense when you look at it objectively; Wilpon was right on the money. Wright is not a ‘superstar,’ per say, whatever the definition of that word may be. People may have different opinions of what makes a superstar, but it’s probably safe to say that one needs to at least be the best player on his team to hold that distinction, and that is arguably not true when it comes to Wright. He is not a slam-dunk answer to that question and that has been the case throughout his career.
Derek Jeter is a superstar and possesses certain intangibles – even at this later stage of his career – that fill that bill. He comes up big in big situations and his presence in the Yankees’ dugout and clubhouse makes a difference, even when his level of play has fluctuated somewhat. Wright has never been and never will be a leader on a team starving for one.
So before you give Wilpon the business for saying not so nice things about your favorite player, give him a break. The guy just told it like it is.