By Rich Coutinho
» More Columns
When the Mets woke up in Chicago this morning, they were likely welcoming a day off after a disappointing Subway Series loss yesterday. By now they have likely all heard the comments Fred Wilpon made in a New Yorker magazine article whose focus was the Bernie Madoff scandal and the rags-to-riches story of the Met owner. And now when the Mets arrive at Wrigley Field tomorrow afternoon, they will be right in the middle of a firestorm. Fred Wilpon, whether he realized or not, threw his star players under the bus.
One by one, he undressed Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Mike Pelfrey and in the process, leaves me scratching my head as to why he did it. First and foremost, David Wright is indeed a superstar if for no other reason than the Mets have put him on that mantle. Time and time again, Wright has been placed in positions that indicate he is the face of the franchise and it is not because the Met third basemen craves the attention. In fact, if you know David as I do, you begin to realize that all he wants to be is a baseball player but he has assumed this “franchise face” role because that is what is expected of him.
The Carlos Beltran issue is pure and simple–Beltran came here because Wilpon signed off on the contract. No amount of persuading on the part of Omar Minaya would have worked unless Fred Wilpon signed off on it. To lay this at the feet of the general manager alone is really not fair–and at the time, I did not hear one person have an issue with it. Beltran would be the first to admit things have not gone according to blueprint here, but the truth is, Beltran had three really good seasons (2006-2008) and might have had more if the Met medical staff did not botch his diagnosis.
The comments about Jose Reyes are extremely troubling because at no point has Reyes or his representatives revealed their demands in the media. All Jose has done is put up numbers this year–never speaking once about the contract. Even if your end game is to trade Reyes, how will this help you get the best value in such a deal? I would think you would build up your assets–not tear them down–if you want to deal them away. If he really felt Reyes did not deserve Carl Crawford money, then put the onus on the team that signed Crawford–don’t insult the player who is on your team.
The whole thing reminds me of how Frank Cashen tore down Darryl Strawberry prior to him leaving via free agency. The fact remains the Mets were not the same for years after that because to Met fans, Strawberry represented a homegrown product who left because of the stubbornness of a general manager who refused to acknowledge how important a homegrown Met is to their fan base.
And to tear down both David Wright and Jose Reyes will not endear the owner to Met fans. Quite honestly, the comments about Carlos Beltran and Mike Pelfrey will not bother them as much because they likely agree with Wilpon and in Beltran’s case, feel the relationship is coming to an end anyway.
What bothers me the most is these comments are so out of character for Fred Wilpon who has always struck me as a person who takes responsibility for the struggles of this franchise. Wilpon rarely, if ever, takes shots at anyone–least of all his best players. It makes me think maybe there is more at issue here–and I can only think of one thing. Sandy Alderson has been given the keys to the car and possibly has already decided the fate of Reyes. And as a consequence, the owner needs to be on the same page with the man he has entrusted the future of his franchise to.
I firmly believe Reyes is superstar and deserves Crawford money. I also question the timing of these comments because it will severely diminish the value of the Met shortstop and that limits what you will receive in exchange for him in the trade market. That is what makes these comments from Fred Wilpon so troubling.
What damage will Fred Wilpon’s comments have on the value of Reyes and others?