Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen before a game between...

Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen before a game between the Mets and the Washington Nationals on Aug. 10, 2020. Credit: AP/Kathy Willens

A multitude of teams, across every sport, released powerful, heartfelt statements Thursday regarding their stand on racial-justice issues.

The Mets gave us a hot mic video.

If not for the deadly-serious circumstances, all of this coming in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, we could add this to the decades-long blooper reel that unspools daily in Flushing. The Mets tend to be an easy, reliable punchline.

But this is no time for levity. And for that reason, the behind-the-scenes glimpse into the conflict that occurred Thursday afternoon between Van Wagenen, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon and commissioner Rob Manfred was disturbing to witness.

There was a masked-up Van Wagenen -- the unexpected hero of this video -- explaining to an off-camera Harold Kaufman, the team’s executive director of communications, and another person his battle with Manfred and Wilpon over the players wanting to sit out Thursday’s game against the Marlins.

In short, Manfred and Wilpon come off as trying to manipulate an emotional, genuine movement -- which grew organically from the NBA a day earlier before sweeping the nation’s sports landscape -- into one that apparently better fit the commissioner’s needs from a logistical standpoint. Van Wagenen is seen playing with a chair as he wrestles with his conscience.

Evidently someone left the camera on in the Zoom room. Or switched it on for the good stuff. Here’s the scene (thanks to the video provided by Nick Albicocco (@NickCocco18) on Twitter)

VAN WAGENEN: “Baseball is trying to come up with a solution to say, you know what would be super-powerful -- the three of us here, can’t leave this room -- they’re saying, you know it would be really great if you just have them all take the field, then leave the field, and then they come back and play at 8:10. And I was like, What?

KAUFMAN: “Who said that?”

VAN WAGENEN: “Rob ... [then switches to a different voice] and Jeff [says] scheduling is going to be a nightmare and there’s so much at stake. And I said, ‘Jeff, that’s not happening. These guys are not playing.’”

KAUFMAN: “They’re not dealing with reality.”

VAN WAGENEN: “They’re not playing. But that’s Rob’s instinct and Rob -- (turns to the other person) exactly what you and I were talking about -- at the leadership level, he doesn’t get it. He just doesn’t get it.”

We spelled that all out because of what came next. Brodie’s (secret?) video was the only word from the Mets, intentional or otherwise, in the lead-up to Thursday’s scheduled 7:10 start. A half-hour before first pitch, players began warming up on the field, with no public resolution as to whether or not the game would actually happen.

Finally, the Mets did take the field -- neither pitcher warmed up -- and soon after, the Marlins lined up outside their dugout, with all of the players removing their caps and bowing their heads. What followed was a 42-second moment of silence, then the players disappearing into the dugouts for good.

Minutes later, the Mets did release a statement. Only it was from Van Wagenen, who sounded like he was forced to put his name to a script delivered straight from baseball’s HQ in midtown. Brodie labeled his performance as a “misunderstanding” of a conversation between Wilpon and Manfred.

“They discussed the challenges of rescheduling the game,” Van Wagenen said in the statement. “Jeff proposed an idea of playing the game an hour later. I misunderstood that this was the Commissioner’s idea. In actuality, this was Jeff’s suggestion. The players had already made their decision so I felt the suggestion was not helpful.

“My frustration with the Commissioner was wrong and unfounded. I apologize to the Commissioner for my disrespectful comments and poor judgment in inaccurately describing the contents of his private conversation with Jeff Wilpon.”

Manfred, for his part, issued a statement as well, denying that he tried to influence the Mets’ plans for Thursday’s tribute.

“I have not attempted in any way to prevent players from expressing themselves by not playing, nor have I suggested any alternative form of protest to any club personnel or any player,” Manfred said. “ Any suggestion to the contrary is wrong.”

Hours later, both Fred and Jeff Wilpon issued separate statements blasting Van Wagenen — spelling his name Brody — and praising Manfred. Fred said he was “stressed and disappointed” over his GM’s “disrespectful and inaccurate” comments about the commissioner. Jeff called the misunderstanding of the private conversation “inexcusable.”

Draw your own conclusions. But Van Wagenen didn’t look like the bad guy to us. Quite the contrary. This may have been his shining moment as Mets’ GM, and it was interesting -- as my Newsday colleague Tim Healey pointed out -- the leaked 70-minute video was blank except for the few minutes Brodie was fending off Jeff Wilpon and Manfred.

Did the former agent Van Wagenen -- or someone close to the GM -- want the world to see him doing right by his players? Brodie also says later that Jeff Wilpon “has to be the messenger for Rob and throw that to us.” Not much to misinterpret there. Also, the GM sticks up for Wilpon at another point, saying that “Jeff wants to support the players, first and foremost.”

Ultimately, that’s what happened Thursday at Citi Field, but not without some avoidable turbulence -- and a distasteful distraction from the players’ noble cause. In the grand scheme of things, Van Wagenen running interference may have helped. And if that was the case, he has nothing to apologize for.



“I am very stressed and disappointed to learn tonight that our General Manager, Brodie Van Wagenen, made disrespectful and inaccurate comments about our Commissioner, a long-time close friend of mine. I hold Rob in the highest regard and in no way are Brody’s remarks reflective of my views or the organization’s. Rob continues to be a great leader of Major League Baseball. I apologize for any harm this incident has caused Rob.”


“To clear up any misunderstandings, it was my suggestion to potentially look into playing the game later because of scheduling issues. Brody’s misunderstanding of a private conversation was and is inexcusable. We fully respect our players and the Marlins players decision to not play tonight and appreciate the sincerity of all those who wish to draw attention to social injustices and racial inequalities that must be addressed. The entire Mets organization remains committed to creating meaningful change in our society.”


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