By Mike Steffanos
I received an email last night from The New Yorker magazine plugging an article about Fred Wilpon that would be coming out today. To be honest with you, I expected a fairly boring read with the standard denials of foreknowledge regarding Madoff's Ponzi scheme.
As I'm sure you know by now, Fred Wilpon elected to go the non-boring route. In the process took a situation that was already bad and made it worse, taking shots at Wright, Reyes, Beltran and Mike Pelfrey and actually referring to the Mets as a "shitty team."
Reaction to this piece has run the gamut from bewilderment to amusement to anger. I thought Steve Popper got it right when he said Fred Wilpon came across "like a bitter caller to talk radio" in the more infamous comments, and I thought Popper's conclusion was dead on perfect:
I've got some bad news for Fred. If he thinks he's got a - let's soften this up and say, 'lousy,' team with Wright, Beltran and Reyes, how's the team going to look without them?
If Fred's plan here was to continue to show himself to be a dupe, as he tries to portray himself in the Madoff mess, bravo. But good luck to Sandy Alderson trying to pick up the pieces from this mess.
You know, it isn't like Wilpon didn't say things that most of weren't already thinking. I personally set the bar high for bequeathing "superstar" status on an athlete, and Wright doesn't clear that bar. There are legitimate injury questions with Jose Reyes when you consider the possible length of his next contract. Mike Pelfrey can be frustrating to watch at times. Beltran undoubtedly did up his payday with that awesome playoffs just before his free agency.
On the other hand, Wright, Reyes and Beltran are excellent ballplayers who have been really good soldiers for this joke of an organization. Indeed, despite their shortcomings they've all done a better job performing their duties than the Wilpons have in operating this team. If the Mets have become a shitty team, then Fred Wilpon -- the man who has hired the key decision makers that put the team together -- is as culpable as anyone.
There is speculation that Wilpon made these negative comments about the players to try to build support for a fire sale. If that's the case, I think it's safe to say it didn't work. It probably hasn't helped the perceived value of these players to potential trade partners, either. For Sale: Shitty Players. Cheap!!! Inquire Within.
I'm not going to spend a lot of time taking shots at Wilpon here. I just marvel that a 74 year old man born in this city and with 30 years' experience in this media market would make the basic public relations mistakes that Wilpon made in that article. But then again, Fred and Jeff Wilpon -- for all of their business smarts -- really never seem to grasp the most basic fundamentals of interacting with the New York media.
In fairness to Wilpon, I thought most of the article came across as human and sympathetic, but it's hard for someone like me who is really struggling to get back on track financially to feel too sorry for a billionaire who is paying an admittedly steep price for some really bad decisions.
For what little it's worth, I never believed Fred Wilpon was a conspirator with Bernie Madoff. It never rang true based on everything I've read about the man. I also always believed that he cares what happens with this team. This article certainly hasn't changed that belief.
Wilpon has a reputation as a good guy, and that comes across in this article. Even the mild profanity in this article made Wilpon seem more human and likeable to me.
I don't wish the man ill at all. I just wish he would sell the team to someone better equipped financially and temperamentally to own a sports franchise in this market. Watching Fred Wilpon shoot himself in the foot has become a really unpleasant facet of my Mets fandom.