David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Fred Wilpon had plenty to say Monday at Tradition Field, where the Mets' principal owner has been more visible this year than during any other spring training in recent memory.
Starting at 8 a.m., Wilpon held court in a clubhouse meeting, a rare event that was attended by the players and major-league staff. Wilpon later was spotted chatting with Matt Harvey's parents near the auxiliary bullpen, talking with David Wright behind the backstop and even schmoozing with a few fans while signing autographs.
"We see him a lot," Wright said. "He's around a lot. We talk to him quite a bit."See alsoGuess the over/under on 2016 Mets
In fact, Wilpon has spoken to just about everyone during the past six weeks, with one notable exception.
And that's not right.
We don't usually get worked up about people refusing to talk to the media. It's their prerogative. The interviews are better when the person chooses to answer the questions, but whatever. This isn't a courtroom. We can't do much more than ask.
In Wilpon's case, however, we've been patient long enough. More importantly, so have you.
If Hal Steinbrenner can speak to reporters on a semi-regular basis and appear on two New York radio stations, as he did last week, then Wilpon can step away from batting practice for a few minutes to address a few of the Mets' issues.
At the very least, some basic stuff, just to let the paying customers know that ownership is not completely tone-deaf to the feelings of a fan base that has felt increasingly alienated.
We're all very familiar with the Madoff-created financial duress the Mets have been under for the past five years or so. But with Sandy Alderson still besieged by payroll questions and sell-the-team billboards popping up like spring tulips, it's about time for Wilpon himself to give us an idea of what's really going on.
Just in a general sense. We're not talking about bank records or tax returns or even the contents of Fred's wallet, which he revealed a few years back by waving a $5 bill at the media throng surrounding him.
That was fun, wasn't it? Heck, show some teeth, be defiant.
When Carlos Beltran, standing at his Shea locker, was asked about Mets fans trashing him in his first season, he replied, "If they want to continue to boo, they can do it. I'll be here for seven years."
Take a page from Beltran's book, Fred. Tell us you're not going anywhere. Tell the billboard-backers to send those checks to charity instead. Something, anything, to replace the cheerful hand wave and silent treatment we've been getting. That's not cutting it.
When a reporter attempted to stop Wilpon in the clubhouse Monday, he got out only a half-sentence. Wilpon never broke stride, breezing through the middle of the media pack with zero acknowledgment. The scene was so ridiculous that a smiling Wright, standing a few feet away, remarked, "So how'd that go?"
If it wasn't so comical, we'd be offended.
We're told the reason the elder Wilpon has been around the Mets so much is that he has high hopes for this club, that he likes this group, enjoys these players. Good for him. Back when Wilpon used to talk to us, he'd always say he bleeds blue-and-orange, that no one is a bigger fan of his franchise.
Then he should understand what we're talking about. Steinbrenner obviously realizes the importance of getting the message out, to show that the man in charge of the Yankees' billion-dollar empire is not some invisible man behind a pinstriped curtain.
Hal, unlike his dad, isn't much into the back-page bombast. But his words, though measured, carry weight.
Fred's would, too.
His family has endured some tough times lately -- partly of their own doing -- and the Mets have suffered as a result. There's no reversing that now. What's done is done.
But here's an idea. With the Mets finally turning a corner on the road back to respectability -- and maybe playoff contention -- Wilpon actually has a window to use some of this positivity as a springboard. To try to reconnect with a fan base that wants to buy back in.
That's way more important than talking baseball with the players or Terry Collins on a daily basis. This is about business and accountability -- and Wilpon ending his public silence is long overdue.