Prior to last night’s 6-4 loss to the Phillies at Citi Field —- in which Francisco Rodriguez proved to be (in the words of one broadcaster) “only human” (don’t worry, no senior citizens were slugged) — the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner took stock of Mets owner Fred Wilpon’s recent P.R. blitz in the New Yorker and Sports Illustrated. While noting the franchise’s treatment of David Wright (“you could hardly blame him if he wanted out of a lousy, snakebitten organization”) is in stark contrast to Philadelphia and Milwaukee’s efforts to overpay reward Ryan Howard and Ryan Braun respectively (hey, neither of those teams is said to be in danger of missing payroll), Kepner is unsparing in his evisceration of Wilpon, who was M.I.A. last night after “an orchestrated publicity push” that’s mostly blown up in his face.
It was not appropriate to rip Beltran, Reyes and Wright, even if the criticisms were valid. And it was completely unfair to Collins, who has the team playing hard, to characterize the team as a whole the way he did. But if that is the kind of owner Wilpon wants to be, the George Steinbrenner model, then he should play the part.
Instead, Wilpon has gone into hiding. He has said through a spokesman that any issues resulting from his comments would be handled internally. That is his right, of course, but it is cowardly, and it undercuts whatever good will he hoped his candor would achieve with the fan base. The lack of accountability is galling.
Maybe Wilpon believes he said all he needed to say in the magazines, in which he does acknowledge some of his own mistakes. Or maybe he is simply talked out; he has not yet made contact with Wright, exchanging messages with his $14 million player and leaving it at that.
“Basically, he called to just say that he misspoke and he appreciated the response and that he loves the team and the organization and would never do anything to try and embarrass us,” Wright said.
Wright spoke patiently at his locker for 15 minutes, never once seeming squeamish, answering every question. He had a right to be hurt by Wilpon’s comment, and he did not pretend that it pleased him.
But he also did what you wish more athletes would do, acknowledging that the organization had treated him well and made him very rich. He said he had no plans to scale back community appearances on the Mets’ behalf, and he acknowledged his own shortcomings. In other words, Wright acted like a grown-up