PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Fred Wilpon's media blackout has dragged on for more than two years. But behind closed doors, the Mets' principal owner has been doing plenty of talking lately.
The latest example came Monday, when, in a rare move, Wilpon addressed the team during a clubhouse meeting with players and the coaching staff.
With a week to go until Opening Day, Wilpon spoke about his desire to win, according to people who sat through the morning meeting.
"The expectations are there," said one witness, who likened Wilpon to a patriarch addressing his extended family.
But Wilpon wasn't the only one talking. Some of the team's veterans chimed in about creating a winning culture. First-year Met Michael Cuddyer talked about his experience with the Twins, who made the playoffs six times during his tenure there from 2001-11. Team captain David Wright shared his memories from 2006, the last year the Mets made the playoffs.
Tim Teufel, the only member of the coaching staff with a direct link to the franchise's last World Series winner, also spoke to the group. Teufel described the excitement that bubbled in New York as the 1986 Mets stormed toward a championship.
The overarching message didn't stray from one that Wilpon has been pushing since the offseason, manager Terry Collins said. In conversations with Wright and Collins, Wilpon has been upfront about his expectations.
According to Collins, he and Wright invited Wilpon to address the club. "We asked him," Collins said. "He didn't ask us."
According to one player, Wilpon has spread his message during one-on-one conversations throughout spring training. The only difference this time was the setting, which left an impression.
"He cares," another witness said.
Collins refused to share details of the conversation. So did Wright, who referred questions to Wilpon.
Said Wright: "When we have those types of meetings, what happens in those meetings stays in those meetings."
As has been his stance the last few years, Wilpon declined to speak with the media, walking past reporters.
With the Mets struggling on the field and with ever-present questions looming about the team's finances, Wilpon has not discussed the Mets publicly since February 2013. But his increased presence in camp has been noticeable.
Earlier in camp, Wilpon dropped into Collins' office, spending nearly 20 minutes after a game going through the team's roster and its deficiencies.
The 78-year-old owner also has been a regular behind the cage during batting practice and on the back fields during workouts. Addressing the players as a whole appeared to be a natural extension of Wilpon's involvement.
"Any time you have those types of meetings, you can take a lot out of it," Wright said. "I think everybody in here took a lot out of it."
Wright said he couldn't remember the last time Wilpon spoke to the fully assembled team in a clubhouse setting. During the session, Wilpon even engaged in what Wright described as "quite a bit of back and forth" with players.
"When you have limited meetings about baseball like we have, when somebody speaks, the message I think comes through a little clearer," Wright said.
Expectations around the Mets have risen thanks to the return of Matt Harvey and a lineup that has roared to life during camp. Against that backdrop, Wilpon has made himself more visible.
His words Monday only drove home that point.
"I thought it was very, very impactful," Collins said. "And I think the players reacted very positively to the whole thing."
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