SBD/May 24, 2011/Franchises

Mets co-Owner Fred Wilpon Feeling Heat After Criticizing Players, Team

Wilpon's comments on Mets players have elicited a wide range of opinions

Mets co-Owner Fred Wilpon criticized his team and several of his players in an extensive piece by Jeffrey Toobin of the NEW YORKER. During an April 20 game against the Astros at Citi Field, Wilpon said of SS Jose Reyes, who is a free agent at the end of the season, “He thinks he’s going to get Carl Crawford money. He’s had everything wrong with him. He won’t get it.” Wilpon said of 3B David Wright, “A really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar.” He added of 1B Ike Davis, “Good hitter. Shitty team -- good hitter.” When Carlos Beltran came up to bat, Toobin mentioned his "prodigious post-season with the Astros in 2004," just before he went to the Mets as a free agent. Wilpon, referring to himself, said, “We had some schmuck in New York who paid him based on that one series.” Mets President Saul Katz said, "Fred suffers. He really thinks they should go one sixty-two and oh.” Former Mets GM Omar Minaya said, "He's happiest when he's talking baseball, arguing about baseball" (NEW YORKER, 5/30 issue). 

MIXED RESPONSE: In N.Y., David Waldstein reports Wilpon's criticisms of Mets players "were received with a mixture of surprise and disappointment."  Wright said via text message, "Fred is a good man and obviously he's going through some difficult times." Mets P R.A. Dickey: "Fred has been nothing but encouraging and steadfast in his support of the team. ... He’s the owner of the New York Mets, and he’s entitled to his opinion. But any time the owner of a team speaks out, people are going to take notice because it is so rare." Mets P Mike Pelfrey: "I think guys will be upset. But we're all a family: ownership, coaches and players. Sometimes people say things they regret" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/24). Agent Scott Boras, who reps Beltran, said, "Regarding owners, their critiques, their evaluation, certainly they're entitled to them. It's just that they should be kept internal to try to create a successful environment." He added, "It's not the Fred Wilpon I know. I think that he'll reflect back on this and certainly wish that those comments were made internally to his staff" (ESPNNY.com, 5/23). Mets VP/Media Relations Jay Horwitz said, "We're dealing with this internally" (N.Y. POST, 5/24). Mets COO Jeff Wilpon has "reached out" to Beltran, Reyes and Wright following the "comments attributed to his father" (SI.com, 5/24). But ESPN's Jay Crawford said, "I'm sure they won't be giving many 'Let's go win one for the owner' speeches in the Mets clubhouse" ("First Take," ESPN2, 5/23).

CRITICAL ANALYSIS
: In N.Y., Harvey Araton writes, "Although Wilpon is no mean-spirited autocrat, he reveals himself to be a why-me whiner and a first-rate revisionist" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/24). Also in N.Y., Mike Lupica writes, "This is the way [George] Steinbrenner used to do business, in a lot of years when he was a bad owner talking about players performing a whole lot better than he was. Wilpon throws some punches but is like a fighter leaving himself wide open as he does" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/24). The N.Y. POST's Mike Vaccaro: "If Fred Wilpon hoped this story would change the way his fans looked at him, he was right. Before yesterday, they merely hoped he would sell the team eventually. Now they demand it, and sooner rather than later" (N.Y. POST, 5/24). ESPN N.Y.'s Stephen A. Smith wrote Wilpon's comments are the "latest preponderance of evidence pointing to the Mets' desperate need for new ownership more than new players" (ESPNNY.com, 5/23). In N.Y., Joel Sherman writes, "Wilpon essentially found the worst time in his personal and franchise history to give you this message: My players are not very good. Thus, he is telling a fan base with diminishing interest in going to Citi Field that it is actually a good idea to stay away" (N.Y. POST, 5/24). On Long Island, David Lennon writes under the header, "Wilpon Creates Another Distraction" (NEWSDAY, 5/24). FOX SPORTS' Ken Rosenthal wrote while Wilpon's comments were "ill-advised," his involvement with Bernie Madoff is the story that "likely will determine the future ownership of the franchise" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/23). Denver Post columnist Woody Paige: "Here's a guy that lost $16 million in the Ponzi scheme and he's talking about the players not being any good? He's not very smart himself" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 5/23).

TELLING IT LIKE HE SEES IT: In N.Y., Tyler Kepner wrote, "It is unlike the gentlemanly Wilpon to mock his players in public, but then again, it is unusual for Wilpon to speak at all anymore. It is not exactly leadership; taking the risk of offending his players might not help their performance. But it is passion, and fans want to know that the owner cares" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/23). Also in N.Y., Bob Raissman writes, "Wilpon can't win. Face it, for years, in times of Mets turmoil, he's been hammered for being PR'd up and carefully choosing his words. Now, when he flaps his yap, the heat comes down. In reality, Wilpon was just parroting what plenty of fans, and media types, have already said" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/24). In Newark, Jeff Bradley writes, "As much as we crave honest, frank and, yes, critical opinions from people in high places, we also love to throw gasoline on them when they're given." Perhaps the "only assessment of Wilpon's that is off the mark is what he had to say about Wright" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 5/24). NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra: “Wilpon SHOULDN'T have said that stuff. No owner should. Just find the honesty from an owner refreshing” (TWITTER.com, 5/23). WFAN-AM’s Joe Benigno said, "I don't think he was wrong about anything he said there, to be very honest with you. I actually, as a Met fan, actually like it. It shows me a little life, it shows me that he's ticked off about the underachieving that has gone on here in the last six years" ("Daily News Live," SNY, 5/23). Columnist Kevin Blackistone: "If I'm a Mets' fan I have to be happy because I never knew that Fred Wilpon was so emotionally invested in my team" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 5/23).

TWITTER REAX: The New Yorker piece elicited plenty of opinions on Twitter. Newsday's Ken Davidoff: “Wilpon looks like a baseball dope in the New Yorker piece, but not complicit re: Madoff. That's probably more important to him.” Newsday’s Anthony Rieber: “Mets probably won't be using fred's words about team and players in next e-mail to fans begging them to buy tix.” Wall Street Journal’s Brian Costa: “I cannot believe what I just read.” ESPN’s Buster Olney: “Fred Wilpon made big mistake in cooperating with this story.” SI’s Jon Heyman: “Sounds like fred wilpon was caught off guard. Now will he explain to reyes, wright and beltran?” Newsday’s Lennon: “New Yorker story initially was set up to be sympathic press Wilpons couldn't get elsewhere. And now its only made things worse. Incredible”  (TWITTER.com, 5/23).

WHY SUCH A BIG DEAL? Jeffrey Toobin, who wrote the New Yorker article, said, "The idea that this is some sort of outrageous statement by him is just preposterous. He was just saying what any serious fan of this recognizes. ... To say that Fred is trashing somebody or violating some unwritten rule is ridiculous. He's simply recognizing reality in all of his comments." Toobin added, "It is sad commentary on our media culture that simply telling the truth ... is perceived as some sort of scandal" ("Loud Mouths, SNY, 5/23). ESPN's Michael Wilbon: "This is like a great baseball writers' analysis. Seriously, who would disagree with a word of it?" ("PTI," ESPN, 5/23).

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