Mets GM unlikely to fire controversial Bernazard
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WASHINGTON - The Mets did not announce any disciplinary action Wednesday against Tony Bernazard, the club's vice president of player development, after he reportedly bullied the Double-A team in Binghamton early this month and challenged the players to a fight in the clubhouse.
But general manager Omar Minaya, in a six-minute dugout news conference, did say Bernazard has essentially been grounded until the club has completed its investigation, possibly by the end of this weekend. Bernazard usually travels to the team's minor-league affiliates. Instead, he will remain at his New Jersey home until Minaya has a chance to further discuss the matter with him.
"I've talked to him and I'll continue to talk to him," Minaya said. "We'll sit down and talk this weekend. I've notified him we'll investigate these things and then I'll sit down with our owners and ask how are we going to handle this."
A person familiar with the situation said Minaya had no intention of firing Bernazard after the Daily News story surfaced Wednesday morning and that his stance is unlikely to change in the coming days. Minaya has considered Bernazard a loyal lieutenant and always has been reluctant to fire colleagues.
Minaya tried unsuccessfully to protect Willie Randolph in his final days last season. Bernazard was one of Randolph's loudest detractors. Even if Minaya does go to bat for Bernazard, he could be powerless to save him - just like Randolph - if the Wilpons want Bernazard removed.
Clearly, the brash Bernazard has made many enemies within and outside the organization. It also was revealed Wednesday that recently Bernazard got into a shouting match with Francisco Rodriguez on the team bus.
"He's a loose cannon," a baseball executive said. "He does whatever he wants, so I don't see it stopping anytime soon."
That depends on what details emerge in the coming days. Bernazard had cultivated a close relationship with COO Jeff Wilpon, and a person familiar with the situation said Wilpon always valued Bernazard's opinion in staff meetings.
But like Randolph, who was undone by negative momentum, a continuing buildup of embarrassing evidence could doom Bernazard. On occasion, he would be the stand-in for Minaya on road trips, and he accompanied the team to Atlanta last weekend.
Bernazard also was a fixture on trips to Washington when his close friend Manny Acta was the Nationals' manager. Minaya also said assistant GM John Ricco will go with the Mets to Houston this weekend, and that he will visit the team's affiliates before meeting with Bernazard.
Minaya deflected a barrage of questions with variations of the same answer involving the word "investigations." He refused to say if the allegations against Bernazard were sufficient grounds for firing or if it was unacceptable conduct for a Mets official.
"We do take these matters very seriously and we are going to investigate these reports," Minaya said.
With the Mets in a tailspin and 10 games behind the Phillies, Minaya was forced to deal with another distraction.
"You never like to have these reports out there," he said. "But when you have a big department, these things happen. I'm staying focused on the team and how we are going to continue to improve this team."
With Evan Drellich