Fred Wilpon is well respected as a gentleman and professional, so most were surprised when the New York Mets' owner's comments were released Monday morning in The New Yorker magazine, ripping star players Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran. In an e-mail to the media, Wright excused Wilpon: “Fred is a good man and is obviously going through some difficult times.” Wright was referring to Wilpon's professional, financial and legal issues, including a countersuit against a trustee to recover funds from the Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme and the Mets needing a loan from Major League Baseball to meet obligations.
As a former GM, the first reaction is damage control. I had this happen to me on multiple occasions in my career, especially during the Marge Schott era of the mid-'90s. Quick communication with the players helped put the issue to bed, and most players considered the source. However, this case is different. This isn’t the Bronx or the Yankees. It’s not George Steinbrenner or Marge Schott. It’s Fred Wilpon, and it wasn't his normal behavior. But while Wright came to Wilpon's defense, I’m not buying it.
Here's what Wilpon was saying through his New Yorker interview: If the major league payroll is no longer affordable and needs to be reduced, then trades must be made. Instead of shocking the fans in July, prepare them now.
And here's what Wilson said about his star players:
On Reyes: “He thinks he’s going to get Carl Crawford money. He’s had everything wrong with him. He won’t get it.”
My response: Jayson Werth got it. Adrian Beltre got it. Jose Reyes will be getting his share, too. Reyes is 27 years old, his injuries are in the rearview mirror, and he is one of the top shortstops in baseball with a chance to develop into a premier lead-off hitter.
Here's what Wilpon said about his star players:
On Wright: “He is a really good kid and a very good player, but not a superstar.”
My opinion: David is a really good kid, a very good player and is developing into a superstar. The huge outfield dimensions at Citi Field have changed his approach and swing. He may not be Albert Pujols, but put him in Great American Ball Park or Citizens Bank Park and he’ll be a 40-homer, 120-RBI superstar in time. He ranks among the top five third basemen in baseball.
On Beltran: “Carlos is 65–70 percent of the player that he was when he signed the seven-year, $119 million contract in 2005.”
My opinion: Mr. Wilpon, he’s been hurt. He’s at 75-80, not 65-70 percent, but only because of injuries, not because of a loss of skills, heart, talent or ability. Eat salary, try to trade him and get younger. We all get it. However, you have to recognize that his decline has mostly to do with health reasons.
Whether Wilpon made these comments to deflect his own personal problems, or whether he made them to prepare the fan base for the upcoming fire sale, it really doesn’t matter. The damage has been done. The public relations blunders has been made. Now Mr. Wilpon, stop talking, go upstairs and let team president Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins do the rest of the talking. Let them handle the damage control, and let them rebuild the relationships with the players.
Then let the trade talks begin, and let’s all look forward to the July wheeling and dealing as the Mets reduce payroll and get younger.
Thanks for reading, as always. I appreciate your comments and feedback. You can follow me on Twitter: @JimBowdenESPNxm.