Calling his team “sh---y” and “snakebitten,” Mets owner Fred Wilpon bashed the Amazin's and some of their star players in a lengthy New Yorker profile released yesterday, adding yet another public relations disaster to the team's stream of letdowns.
Wilpon, 74, who faces a $1 billion lawsuit for his involvement in Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, says third baseman and clubhouse leader David Wright is a "very good player," but "not a superstar." He adds that shortstop Jose Reyes has "had everything wrong with him" and that right fielder Carlos Beltran is "sixty-five to seventy per cent of what he" used to be.
Referring to himself, he also said of Beltran, "We had some schmuck in New York who paid him based on that one series,” alluding to the switch-hitter’s great playoff series while with the Astros.
The evaluations aren't necessarily inaccurate, but for the team's owner to say them is downright foolish, some observers said.
"You just can't say these things," said Eno Sarris, a blogger at Amazin' Avenue. "You can't say your superstar is not a superstar. ... It doesn't inspire confidence for the team, and it doesn't inspire interest for fans."
Adam Garnett of Mets blog Rising Apple agreed.
"When people get older they sort of lose their filter and become sort of brutally honest," Garnett said. "He basically devalued his top three assets, and when is that good for business?"
Maury Brown, sports business analyst and president of bizofbaseball.com, added that the players probably aren't happy about the comments, but they'll get over it.
“I don't think somebody standing at the plate is thinking about what their owner said about them," he said.
The comments reminded some of late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who often made similar remarks to motivate players. That tough-love was OK because it was in Steinbrenner's character, but with Wilpon, it was so atypical that it was simply irresponsible, some observers said.
"When you talk about your team, and your brand, and your new field, you've obviously crossed the line," Sarris said.
Still, not everyone thought Wilpon was in the wrong.
“One of the worst sins of ownership is to live too much on hope and belief in your players,” said Robert Boland, sports management professor at NYU. “The fact that Wilpon is look at his players realistically probably bodes well for the team's future."
In an email to the Daily News, Wright said that Wilpon "is a good man and is obviously going through some difficult times. There is nothing more productive that I can say at this point."
Reyes' agent, Scott Boras, told the Times, “This is not the Fred Wilpon I know. Any major league owner would be very pleased to have a player performing at the level at which Carlos Beltran is performing this season.”
A spokesman for the Mets said the team is "handling the matter internally."