Commentary

Wilpon rips Mets, sinks to new low

Fred's public relations ploy backfires as owner knocks players, team in interview

Updated: May 24, 2011, 7:55 AM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

No matter how low you set the bar, the New York Mets can find a way to limbo under it.

Just a week ago, the Yankees had the public drama for a change, with the front office squabbling with Jorge Posada over his self-removal from the lineup.

Then the injury-riddled Mets clawed back from 5-13 to .500 with a Subway Series-opening win in the Bronx on Friday.

Two subsequent losses were a dose of reality.

[+] EnlargeWilpon
Noah K. Murray/US PresswireFred Wilpon's rags-to-riches PR campaign turned into a rag-on-your-team nightmare Monday.

Now, Mets fans have to wake up to this: Principal owner Fred Wilpon -- who at 74 years old still very much has all his faculties -- goes for the nuclear option.

In a lengthy magazine piece -- which the organization undoubtedly thought would help the ownership family's image by telling Wilpon's rags-to-riches tale -- you first learn about how brother-in-law Saul Katz's, um, chutzpah contributed to the building of the family's real-estate empire.

But the part that's buried in the New Yorker article is what will have the Big Apple airwaves abuzz Monday and beyond.

Wilpon decides to mock nearly all of his top players, while comparing his team to a pile of poop.

The principal owner says free-agent-to-be Jose Reyes ain't worth Carl Crawford money (seven years, $142 million) because he's always injured. He gives a backhanded compliment to David Wright, calling him a nice guy and very good but not a superstar. Wilpon saves his best material to describe Carlos Beltran.

The owner called himself a "schmuck" for giving Beltran a seven-year, $119 million deal off a record postseason with the Houston Astros in which Beltran slugged eight homers in 12 games.

Wilpon calls his team snakebitten and all but mocks Beltran for taking that infamous curveball from Adam Wainwright that eliminated the Mets in Game 7 of the 2006 National League Championship Series.

Fans may think those very things, with the possible exception of Reyes' financial worth. (Give Reyes whatever you have to in order to retain him, fans largely believe.) But the owner cannot say such stuff.

It was charming when the late George Steinbrenner publicly picked fights with players, but that was his personality quirk and designed for motivation. In Wilpon's case, it's just pathetic.

You would think having owned a New York baseball team for three decades, and with his cadre of public relations advisers, Wilpon would know better. But the Mets consistently have made the worst choices in presenting themselves to the public.

If you grant hours and hours of access to a reporter, you'd better be incredibly polished and stay on the message you're attempting to put out -- your rags-to-riches tale and how Bernie Madoff betrayed you. If you let your guard down and this comes out, well, beware the backlash.

Reyes may be a goner at the trading deadline or after the season, but Wilpon did himself no favors in the interim as far as their relationship, not to mention how the comments will be received by fans. Beltran is a goner too. But Wright is the face of the franchise.

It's been quietly whispered for some time by team officials that Wright is viewed by the organization as an elite complementary piece but cannot be the guy. But why say it publicly and antagonize Wright, who happened to play with an undiagnosed broken back for a month because he is such a gamer?

Irving Picard, the trustee suing the Wilpon family for more than $1 billion, should seriously take a step back and wonder if he really needs to keep sending out press releases to help his cause. The Mets' own self-destructiveness will take care of his public relations.

Wilpon uses the term "snakebitten" to describe the franchise.

Unlucky with some injuries? Definitely.

Snakebitten? No way. You largely make your own luck.

Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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