Most of the talk about Fred Wilpon’s comments to The New Yorker has been about what he has said about the players. However, Wilpon said much more than that and it is important that the whole story, both his comments about Reyes, Wright, and Beltran as well as the rest of the story is addressed.
It has long been known that Jackie Robinson has been a personal hero of Wilpon’s, so much so that they Brooklyn Dodgers influence has been seen in the Mets organization while it has been under Wilpon’s ownership.
When constructing Citi Field, Wilpon gave the architects the plan for Ebbets Field and told them that he wanted the Citi Field rotunda to look exactly like the one at Ebbets Field. Wilpon finally acknowledged that this was a mistake. He said “all that Dodger stuff – that was an error in judgment on my part”.
It is nice to hear this admission from Wilpon, but it does not change the fact that until the Mets get a new stadium, the influence of the Brooklyn Dodgers and Ebbets Field will prevent the Mets from having their own unique image.
Reading Wilpon’s comments, it is apparent that he really loves owning the team. He wants to do everything he can to make the Mets a winning team. They are a huge part of his life and he wants to see a World Series victory parade in Queens.
One of the more interesting pieces in the article is about the impact that Wilpon had on star pitcher Sandy Koufax. The two were high school friends and the only reason that Koufax joined the team was so that he and Wilpon could hang out more. Koufax also stated that he didn’t even go out for the baseball team until his senior year of high school.
It is clear that Wilpon has been around baseball for his whole life and that he loves the game. He played in high school, got drafted, but then decided to play at the University of Michigan.
While Wilpon was involved with his real estate holdings to make money, that never seemed to be the case with the Mets. He roughly broke even every year. He wanted to see the team win. Making money was secondary. Wilpon still enjoys the simple joys of being at the game such as having a burger and hot dog from Shake Shack. It is clear that the Mets are more than just a business venture.
Omar Minaya noted that Fred was “happiest when he’s talking about baseball, arguing about baseball”. That is exactly what fans should want from an owner. Someone that is involved with the game. Someone that loves the sport. The Mets have exactly that with Fred Wilpon.
As a part of his love of the game, Wilpon likes to talk about his players. These comments are the ones that have created the most controversy.
The first player addressed by Wilpon is Jose Reyes. In regards to Reyes, Wilpon said, “he thinks he’s going to get Carl Crawford money”, referring to the seven year, $142 million mega deal the current Red Sox outfielder received this off-season. Wilpon then continued by saying, “he’s had everything wrong with him. He won’t get it”.
Is this really an outlandish claim to make? It would seem not. Talk has been that Reyes will be lucky to get a five-year, $90 million deal. This talk has come from the blogs as well as some of the top MLB sources. There is really not a problem here. Wilpon knows what Reyes’ value is. The only mistake he made here was publically making this comment.
From there, Wilpon went on to discuss David Wright. He said that Wright is “a really good kid. A very good kid. Not a superstar.” This comment is much more controversial than the one he made about Reyes.
Wright has appeared in five All-Star Games, won two Gold Gloves, and two Silver Sluggers in his first seven seasons with the Mets. His career 162 game averages are 27 home runs per year, 106 RBI, and a .302 batting average. These are superstar numbers.
Wilpon had no right or reason to call Wright out. He is a great player who is going through a tough streak. This is an issue that Wilpon should have addressed with Wright privately. He should not have aired his feelings to the media. Think of what it does to the Mets chances of signing free agents in the future if they know that the owner will openly criticize them.
Wilpon also addressed Carlos Beltran’s performance. It is good to see that Wilpon was also willing to shoulder some of the blame for the Mets past decisions. He noted, “we had some schmuck in New York who paid him based on that one series”. That schmuck in this case was Wilpon. He is the one with the checkbook and he went out and got a player that he wanted.
In its own right, that is great to see. The “Freddy Coupons” label has stuck around Wilpon for so long. The Mets payroll has been over $100 million every year since 2005 and the $142 million dollar total this year is the second highest in the Mets history. Yet all of this is still not enough.
Wilpon then continued to opine that Beltran is “sixty-five to seventy percent of what he was.” Beltran was a star during his three of his first four years with the Mets. Then, the injuries struck. Beltran has seemingly returned to form this year, but he no longer is a threat on the base paths or a top-flight center fielder.
While Beltran has had his ups and downs with the Mets, it is clear that he earn a big deal with more than just his performance in the 2004 playoffs with the Astros. In 885 games with the Royals and Astros, he hit 146 home runs, good for one about every six games, and stole 194 bases while hitting .284.
In just 785 games with the Mets over seven years, 100 less games than he played with the Royals and Astros over the same time period, Beltran has 142 home runs, 97 stolen bases and is hitting .279. The only change has been in Beltran’s ability to steal bases and in his defensive prowess.
When looking at the numbers, it would be hard to argue that Beltran is just sixty-five to seventy percent of what he was. Once again, that is not the issue. The problem is that Wilpon is making these comments publicly. He is devaluing his own assets.
The actual comments, when in context, are not that bad. He is simply voicing his opinion about his player. The problem is that he made these comments knowing that they would be published.
This is the same situation as if a boss was making negative comments about a worker to another executive. This is certainly acceptable and happens all the time in the business world. Wilpon is the boss of the Mets and he certainly has the right to discuss his underperforming employees with others in a position of power. But the reporter he spoke to was not a Mets executive. This is the issue. It is a problem if that same boss had decided to announce the negative comments about his employee so that the whole workforce, and the whole world could here them. That is where a line is crossed.
The bigger implication from Wilpon’s comments is the impact it will have on the team’s future. What free agents are going to want to sign in New York knowing that their owner may very well publicly call them out? How can the Mets be a winning franchise when there is tension between the front office and the players?
The answers to these two questions are obvious. To the first, the answer is none. No baseball player wants to be subjected to that. The answer to the second question is that they can’t. The team can’t win if everyone is not on the same page.
It is pretty clear that Wilpon’s comments came out of his frustration with the team. He wants to see the Mets win, but yet they cannot produce. Wilpon gets frustrated with the team just as all the fans do. Fans can complain and believe it is their right to do so because they shell out money to support the team. It certainly is their right to do so.
However, it is forgotten that Wilpon also spends money on the Mets. He spends way more money than any fan does. And yet he hasn’t complained when there has been a bad product on the field for the past three years, he has spent money trying to improve it. His frustration has been building up, and he finally let some of it out in the interview.
Were Willpon’s comments right? No. Should he have made them publicly? Absolutely not. However, just understand that Wilpon is actually coming from the same place as the fans are. He wants the Mets to win. He has always wanted the Mets to win. The team has been run that way and not run like a business for all of the years it was under his ownership. That is why he breaks even every year. Wilpon has made his money in real estate. All owners know that you don’t get into sports to make money. You do it because you love the team or the game.
At the end of the day, Fred Wilpon wants the same exact thing that every Mets fan wants: a New York Mets World Series Championship.