“Adam Rubin said he had asked people from all 30 teams how one gets into the baseball business, but someone who has covered baseball for more than five years, as Rubin has, should not have to ask how. It has all been there in front of him.” So mused former NY Times baseball columnist Murray Chass (above), who observed yesterday’s circus at Citi Field and in taking a tact similar to that of Amazin Avenue, insists, “of course there™s a conflict of interest.”
I™m not suggesting that Rubin wrote the stories to undermine Bernazard, but whatever his intention was in speaking to Mets™ officials about working in baseball Rubin created a situation that raised questions about his motives. That™s certainly how Minaya saw it, and he was justified in thinking that way. Rubin was wrong for not understanding it.
I sent an e-mail to Leon Carter, the Daily News sports editor, asking if he thought Rubin was guilty of a conflict of interest. He did not reply. Instead I received the newspaper™s statement from the editor-in-chief, Martin Dunn.
œThis was a well-reported, well-researched, exclusive story, and it™s a shame that the Mets deemed fit to cast aspersions on our reporter instead of dealing with the issues at hand. We stand by Adam 1,000%.
The Mets, of course, did deal with the issues at hand. They fired Bernazard. But the Daily News editor-in-chief did not deal with the conflict of interest so I sent another e-mail on the conflict question but got no further reply.
In the meantime, Minaya and Jeff Wilpon came to the press box for news conference Part II. Minaya apologized not for what he said but for when he said it. That was not a proper forum for me to raise those issues, he said.
I disagree. That was the absolutely right forum. When else? When no one was paying attention any longer?
Though mocking Chass is a more popular sport around here than, well, Slamball, he’s not incorrect. There’s little to indicate that Rubin had a score to settle or has ever been particularly interested in making himself the center of attention. But in seeking career advice from Jeff Wilpon (who presumably suggested that Rubin come back to earth after he’s won a genetic lottery), the reporter left himself wide open to implications of impropriety. And while I realize this has nothing to do with Chass’ point, there must be a worse way of currying favor with the Wilpons than repeatedly exposing them to ridicule? It would seem Rubin is just as poor at sucking up to potential employers as Omar Minaya is at crisis management.
Well, not at his former salary, anyway. WFAA sports anchor Dale Hansen walked out on his afternoon radio gig last week with 103.3 FM, an ESPN affiliate. The Dallas Observer’s Randy Whitt reports Hansen was either unaware or chose to ignore a parent company edict that a civil suit against Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger not be mentioned on air.
Last Wednesday Hansen somehow didn’t receive the directive from Bristol, Conn. and spent 20 minutes on his “Hour of Hansen” 6-7 p.m. show dissecting the ramifications before producers read him the office memo during a commercial break.
In other words, his departure was ultimately a combination of ESPN corporate censoring its reporting and ESPN local not relaying that censorship.
“The directive was the fuse, but the fact nobody told me was the match that lit it,” Hansen tells me. “I don’t want to be identified with being one of ESPN’s puppets. I refuse to be anybody’s puppet. Well, Channel 8 might get to pull my strings but ESPN can’t do that for $2,000 a month.”
Hansen ignored Roethlisberger the final half-hour of his show and afterward sent an email to ESPN program director Tom Lee announcing his resignation.
Of course, that was made easy by the fact that for the last six months Hansen worked without a contract.
“I agreed to a new deal with a serious pay cut,” Hansen says. “But for whatever reason they never sent it to me. This was just another example of how I was an afterthought over there. So I finally walked.”
25 year old LHP Alan Merricks was buried on the Brooklyn Cyclones depth chart, but despite being warned by a teammate that if he asked the New York Mets for his release, “they will punish you”, he made that very request of ‘Lil Wilpons skipper Pedro Lopez on June 12. The events that followed seem very much in character, sadly, for deposed VP of Player Development Tony Bernazard. From Mike Silva’s NY Baseball Digest :
Alex and two teammates had attended Game 4 of the NBA Finals in Orlando. Merricks, a huge Lakers fan, knew that if the game ended late he would break curfew and incur a $250 fine. After all, Orlando was two hours away from Port St. Lucie. But Merricks said breaking curfew, and the resulting fine, was œcommon practice with the Mets. Merricks took full responsibility for the evening with the coaching staff, and his conversation with Pedro Lopez had been friendly.
Later that day, Merricks and the two teammates were brought into the office to have a conference call with Bernazard. Merricks knew he was wrong, but didn™t think it was an egregious offense. What happened totally blindsided him. He was told by Bernazard that œHe f***ed the New York Mets, now the New York Mets are going to f*** you! Merricks was suspended for 30 days without pay and fined $500.
During the next month, Merricks said he tried to reach out to the organization, but no phone calls were returned. Meanwhile, the other two players who went to the game were brought back after two weeks. Asked if he was surprised by this, Merricks said, œNo, because they just don™t seem to have it together administratively. Even after 30 days, he was unable to find out where the Mets wanted him to go.
He said that, although the conference call was his first experience with Bernazard, many of his teammates talked of fearing his presence. œEveryone is on egg shells because they don™t want to be on the receiving end of his tirades, Merricks said. Merricks was certain that Bernazard would make him an example and put him in baseball purgatory.
Merricks believes the root of the Mets™ developmental problems are Tony Bernazard and the culture of fear he has created. As Merricks explained the fact that some Binghamton players and coaches denied the Bernazard incident is more a product of them being œscared to death of the guy. Would you come out and say something?
Leaving aside the matter of last night’s 7-3 win over the Wild Card leading Rockies, the Amazins’ third straight, Newsday’s Wally Matthews calls the Mets, ” the only collection of individuals in all of major-league baseball who needed to conduct an internal investigation to discover what everyone else seemed to know – that Bernazard was a foul-mouthed, ill-tempered little cuss with a Napoleon complex and two last-place minor-league clubs on his resume.” As we’ve know come to understand in the aftermath of a bizzare Citi Field press conference, said investigation had to be super thorough, as Omar Minaya couldn’t simply trust the veracity of reports filed by a guy who at one time or another might’ve wondered aloud about working for a baseball franchise. The journalist in question, Adam Rubin of the New York Daily News (above), went toe to toe with Minaya during Monday’s session and later coaxed an apology out of the Mets GM that even Ron Darling opined should’ve been “more forthcoming”. How’s it feel to be at the center of the most embarrassing Flushing Q&A since Vince Coleman offered a strained mea culpa for pelting children with M80′s, Mr. Rubin?
Everything I wrote about Tony Bernazard – bombshell stories that appeared in the pages of the Daily News over the last week – is accurate.
As I told the reporters who descended upon me after Minaya left the press conference, I have never, ever, asked Omar Minaya for a job. Or even career advice. Frankly, I’ve never been very close to him.
What I have done, and what Mets COO Jeff Wilpon acknowledged later yesterday, is ask Wilpon for “career advice.” My question: Is it even remotely feasible for a baseball writer to get into an administrative job with a team – any team – down the road and what would I need for that to be achieved?
Wilpon once invited me to his office at Citi Field for an advisory session. I never took him up on it.
I also appear on the Mets’ television station, and I asked Jeff Wilpon whom I should talk to at the network if I wanted to explore television as a part of my career. He told me to talk to SNY exec Curt Gowdy Jr., who told me basically that I was a bit “too flat.”
But again, none of this had any bearing whatsoever on any reporting that I have done while covering the Mets.
While not letting Bernazard off the hook, Amazin Avenue’s James K. is one of the few ready to raise the spectre of a conflict of interest, writing “asking for pointers on how to break into the baseball business seems like questionable behavior at best and a minor breach of ethics at worst.”
Would it be appropriate for a New York Times reporter interviewing Barack Obama to ask for tips on how to enter the world of politics? How about a Wall Street Journal writer asking Warren Buffett how to start a successful financial services firm? No, of course not. Especially if the conversation is kept from the public and not documented in the published work. Such discussion could influence coverage of the subject (either positively or negatively) and give the impression to the public that treatment of the subject is biased.
By asking Wilpon for what amounts to business advice, and continuing to cover the New York Mets for the Daily News, Rubin is saying one thing and doing another. He went on to say: “I don’t know how I’m going to cover the team now.”
The same statement could have been said after Rubin’s inquiries with Jeff Wilpon.
“Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, and Stephen Morris (accompanied by wife Gillian Gilbert), of the popular rock group Joy Division, recently won a cash purse of £350,125 after completing a sweep of five races at a Macclesfield OTB. ‘We kept trying to talk Ian into betting with us’” said Sumner, referring to Ian Curtis, the fourth member of the band, ‘but he simply chose all of the wrong dogs.’ The winning three pooled their money and chose the winner in each of the day’s five races. The winning dogs were listed as: Midnight Tax Return, Debbie Debbie, Funtime Alomar, Bruno S, and Daft As A Brush. ‘After Funtime Alomar won,’ said Morris, ‘I had a feeling we were going to win the whole thing. Plus, I had just eaten a sandwich.’ The group has not yet decided on how they will split up the money, but they do have plans to travel to the USA in the next few months. ‘I hear it’s lovely this time of year,’ said Hook, ‘I’m really looking forward to seeing Wall Drug.’ Curtis could not be reached for comment.”
While the young Barry Bonds might never have packed the same free-association punch as say, Stephon Marbury, You Been Blinded helpfully takes us back to a time when baseball’s all-time HR king was “a normal-sized, media-friendly member of the Pittsburgh Pirates”. From a 1991 Pirates exhibition visit to Buffalo :
In June of ’08, the Associated Press unveiled a new licensing scheme in which rank & file blogging scum would pay as little as $12.50 or as much as $100.00 to quote from an AP story. At the time, Making Light‘s Patrick Neilsen Hayden warned, “welcome to a world in which you won™t be able to effectively criticize the press, because you™ll be required to pay to quote as few as five words from what they publish.” A little more than a year later, headline writers at the New York Times suggest they consider such blogging, “pirated journalism”, with the Gray Lady’s Saul Hansell reporting on one company’s plans to track activity between newspapers and “even the tiniest sites that copy their articles.”
The plan faces many technical and legal hurdles. Attributor wants to take some of the ad money that would have been paid to the pirate site and give it to the copyright owner instead. To do that it needs the cooperation of big advertising networks like those run by Google and Yahoo. So far those companies have reacted coolly to the proposal.
Still, Attributor has been able to attract many major publishing companies to what it calls the Fair Syndication Consortium, which is exploring its ideas. These include The New York Times Company, the Washington Post Company, Hearst, Reuters, Media News Group, McClatchy and CondÃ© Nast.
For now those companies have committed only to receiving data from Attributor about how widely their content is being used on Web sites that don™t pay for it. Later they will decide whether to proceed with the revenue-sharing plan.
Attributor co-founder Mr. Pitkow said a study in January of 250,000 articles from 25 publishers showed that on average, each article appeared on 11 unauthorized sites. Looking at traffic data, Attributor calculated that five times as many people read each article on pirate sites as on the site of the publisher. And it estimated that collectively the publishers were losing $250 million a year from unauthorized copying.
“Everybody knows I got hit on purpose, even their team” demanded Marlins SS Hanley Ramirez, a plunk victim of Wevie Stonder I during the 6th inning of Sunday’s 8-6 victory over the Dodgers (the Fish were leading, 8-0, at the time). As you might recall, Ramirez had previously complained of his pitching staff being a bunch of <strike>pussies</strike> Shawn Estes clones when it came to retaliation, but was quick yesterday to credit Burke Badenhop with “staying together and protecting your teammates.” From the Sun-Sentinel’s Juan C. Rodriguez :
Home plate umpire Bob Davidson ejected Badenhop and manager Fredi Gonzalez in the seventh after the right-hander drilled Orlando Hudson. Badenhop’s backside fastball came in response to Jeff Weaver requiring two attempts to plunk Hanley Ramirez an inning earlier.
Give credit to Badenhop (above) and the Marlins for their handling of the situation. Badenhop, who said he “yanked” a fastball, kept the pitch low and Hudson took his base without incident.
“It’s up to the umpire whether there’s a warning or ejection,” Gonzalez said. “The safe way is to just go warning. [Weaver] missed him one time. We play the game the right way. I understand we got an eight-run lead and the whole thing, but we’re not stealing bases or hitting and running. We’re playing the game the right way and for him to do that… it puts everybody in a situation where it’s not good baseball the rest of the game.”
Dodgers’ manager Joe Torre chose not to directly address the incident either, saying: “I can’t comment because I’m not sure where it’s going to come from, the criticism I’m talking about. So I’d rather not comment as opposed to telling you something you’re not going to believe.”
Badenhop had gone 51 innings without hitting a batter. He tapped danced a bit when asked about the fanfare upon his return to the dugout.
“I’m sure they don’t like to see Hanley get hit,” he said. “It is what it is.”
(from Newsday.com, 2:5pm. The Daily News opted for “Tony Loses His Shirt)
A MESSAGE FROM METS GENERAL MANAGER OMAR MINAYA
I wanted for you to hear directly from me today regarding an update on the investigation of Tony Bernazard, our Vice President of Player Development.
Prior to a series of articles published in the media, our Baseball Operations and Human Resources departments had begun looking into several matters involving Tony. Once those reports became public, we accelerated our investigation. We wanted it to be thorough and complete it as quickly as possible while still being fair to Tony. That process concluded over the weekend.
Yesterday, I met with Tony in person to have a frank conversation about what we had learned following interviews with numerous people. I also wanted for Tony to have the opportunity to give his side of the story.
After meeting with Tony, and giving a lot of thought to the facts, I came to a decision on Tony’s status which I shared with Ownership last night. My recommendation was that we needed to part ways with Tony, as his behavior in his interaction with others was inconsistent with our organization’s values. Ownership agreed with my assessment and accepted my recommendation.
I spoke with Tony this morning and informed him of my decision to terminate his employment with the Mets.
Personnel decisions are never easy. And one can’t make them without giving it a lot of thought. It’s even harder when you know someone as I do Tony. Tony and I go back a long time. He is a dedicated baseball man who loves the game, someone I like and respect, and someone who has contributed to the Mets. In the end, however, I just told him I couldn’t leave him in his position after all that had transpired.
As General Manager of the Mets, I am fully accountable for our Baseball Operations department — on and off the field — and stand by this decision.
Thank you for your ongoing support of the Mets.
During Minaya’s SNY’s televised press conference earlier today, the Not-so-Amazin GM suggested he was slow to act on reports of Bernazard’s misbehavior because said tales were being spun by the New York Daily News’ Adam Rubin ; a circumstance that gave Minaya pause because Rubin had allegedly lobbied the Mets for a job (a charge later denied by Rubin who wondered aloud, “I don’t know how I’m going to cover the team now”)
Under what possible circumstances would Rubin’s career prospects improve by burying Minaya’s right-hand man? Short of signing Angel Berroa, this is one of the more curious recent decisions from Minaya, who has zero to gain in attacking the credibility of a well-regarded journalist. If any part of Rubin’s reporting smacked of a vendetta or was inaccurate, why did Minaya fire Bernazard? When Francisco Rodriguez joined the chorus of those totally-fucking-fed-up with Bernazard, was he too, trying to secure a front office job? When it comes to lousy clean-up jobs, Dave Matthews’ bus driver has nothing on Omar Minaya.