Lots of reasons for Mets to fire Bernazard - Newsday

Lots of reasons for Mets to fire Bernazard

Mets owner Fred Wilpon, left, and Tony Bernazard, Mets owner Fred Wilpon, left, and Tony Bernazard, watch spring training workouts in 2005. Photo Credit: AP

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Wallace Matthews Newsday columnist Wallace Matthews

Matthews writes on professional sports, with a specialty in professional boxing.

If the Mets needed a reason to fire Tony Bernazard, there was no need to conduct any sort of "internal investigation.''

It would not be necessary to debrief the Binghamton Mets, who by their familiar lack of fight, seem on the fast track to becoming New York Mets.

There would be no need to look into what happened in the front-row seats in Flushing last week, when Little Caesar apparently bullied a low-level Mets executive, or to question some of the Mets scouts, who have whispered about being intimidated by him into rushing prospects up the ladder, or even to look back at what Bernazard's role was in the assassination of Willie Randolph, a firing that now looks like a mercy killing.

All the evidence the Mets would need to get rid of this sawed-off wannabe tough guy is right there in his job title: vice president for player development.

Now, I ask you: What Mets player, exactly, has Tony Bernazard developed?

In fact, aside from developing the reputation of being a back-stabbing lunatic, what has he developed at all?

His value to the franchise is questionable, at best, and his record, not unlike that of his boss, Omar Minaya, would probably be enough for most organizations to fire him for cause.

On his watch, the Mets' best prospects are Mike Pelfrey, Daniel Murphy, Nick Evans and Fernando Martinez. Case closed.

And the two top teams he has "developed,'' the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons and Double-A Binghamton Mets, both entered Wednesday more than 20 games under .500 and languishing in last place in their divisions.

Bernazard also gets credit for ''recruiting'' Carlos Delgado and Billy Wagner, two guys who are eating up $26.5 million of the Mets' payroll without contributing a thing.

And let's not forget Tony B.'s people skills, which are so extraordinary that his first attempt to persuade Delgado to come to the Mets resulted in him signing with the Florida Marlins.

None of those things cost Little Caesar his job, so it should surprise no one that an incident so trivial as stripping off his shirt and challenging an entire clubhouse to a fight would not be grounds for termination with the Mets.

After all, this is a team whose GM shrugged off the 2007 collapse by pointing out that the Mets had been in first place "for more days than any team in baseball,'' conveniently neglecting to mention what place they wound up in on the last day.

And justified last year's finish as not a collapse but an "overachievement,'' considering all the turmoil the club had gone through, conveniently neglecting to mention his, and Bernazard's, role in creating that turmoil.

The way the books are kept around here, getting beat, 4-2, on the last day of the 2008 season, rather than 8-1, as they were on the last day of 2007, is viewed as a sign of progress.

If anything, the Mets probably will spin Tony's Tirade as a way of motivating the Double-A team, or, more accurately, of applying a unique sort of aptitude test on its readiness for the trip to Flushing.

Any team that can lay down as readily as the Binghamton Mets did before Bernazard is clearly on its way to Flushing.

The funny thing is that in the course of Bernazard's 10-year major-league career, his most memorable accomplishment was going 0-for-44 with the Cleveland Indians, matching the longest hitless streak by a non-pitcher in a half-century.

Odds are he wasn't going to hit anybody even if he tried.

Word out of Washington Wednesday was Minaya was "fighting'' to save Bernazard's job, and it makes sense. At the end of this season, the Mets, and especially Minaya, are going to need another lamb to slaughter and Bernazard is a made-to-order scapegoat.

Why sacrifice him now when you are going to need someone to blame in September?

But, that, too, may backfire on Minaya. The way things tend to develop around the Mets, their pugnacious VP for Player Development has a very good chance of becoming their next general manager.

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